"Devils Are Not So Black As They Be Painted"

Context: Thomas Lodge was a many-sided man. Son of a Lord Mayor of London, he graduated from Oxford in 1577, for which reason he is believed to have been born about 1558. He went on to study law and to make a name for himself in literature with several plays and with euphuistic tales in the style of John Lyly, told in a mingling of extravagant prose and poetry. Shakespeare borrowed from his Scillaes Metamorphosis (1589) for Venus and Adonis, and from Lodge's best-known Rosalynde (1590) for As You Like It. Both were planned and partly written during Lodge's voyages to Terceiras and the Canaries in 1588. Later, in 1591–1593, Lodge accompanied Thomas Cavendish on an expedition to South America. During the voyage, he read a Spanish manuscript in a Jesuit library in Santos, Brazil, that he adapted into A Margarite of America, the Ladies delight and the Ladies honor. The "America" part of the title came because it was written while passing through the Straits of Magellan. As he indicates in a foreword "To the Gentlemen Readers," he found seasickness interfering with composition, so he craved charity from those who perused it. Its elegant and exaggerated style may be traced to Antonio de Guevara (1480–1545) who helped to father Spanish Gongorism. After its completion, Lodge became interested in medicine in which he took two degrees, in Avignon, France, (1598) and at Oxford (1602), after which he practiced medicine for the rest of his life. A Treatise on the Plague was one product of his new career. The complicated story of Margarita begins with a flowery description of "blushing morning," as armies under Emperor Protomachus of Mosco and Artofago of Cuzco prepare for combat. Before they join in battle, however, "an old man whose sober looks betokened his severe thoughts and mournful garments shadowed his melancholy mind" takes a position between the armies and delivers a two page speech quoting Plutarch and Plato in a plea not to destroy mankind. He suggests that Arasdachus, heir to the Empire of Cuzco, visit Princess Margarita of Mosco with a view to matrimony. The emperor greets the suitor with a joust. Earl Asaphus gives a party for the knights and ladies. The Cuzcan Prince is a gay deceiver and, as Lodge put it in the 1596 edition: "Margarita (poore princesse) thinking all that golden which glisters, trusted too long." In reporting the earl's speech, Lodge writes (in modernized spelling):

. . . Since therefore (my subjects) you are at my obedience, and upon my direction are to do homage to love, I give you free license to discourse, free liberty to look, the sweets whereof, after you have gathered, come to me, and after the priest hath hand-fasted you, come touch and spare not, you shall have my patent to take your pleasure. It is a dangerous matter (said Arsadachus) to enter those lists where women will do what they list. Well (said Margarita) devils are not so black as they be painted (My Lord), nor women so wayward as they seem. . . . With that they brake up the assembly, for it was supper time, and the prince entreated them to sit down, where they merrily passed the time, laughing heartily at the pleasant and honest mirth wherein they had passed that afternoon.