Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Cool Clary

Cool Clary. Fifteenth century English market village in which the entire play is set. The play’s richly poetic and often abstract language is rife with details about the tenor and texture of daily social life. Cool Clary is a town whose business is administered by a council and in which every adult has a clear-cut duty—from Mayor Tyson and the chaplain to Justice Tappercoom, the rag-and-bone merchant Skipps, and Richard, the clerk. It is a structured town with strong communal feeling in which everyone seems to know everybody else’s business, but it is also a place easily disturbed from its bland workaday life by nonconformists such as Thomas Mendip and Jennet Jourdemayne.

Fry’s language and imagery amplify the English pastoralism. Cool Clary has fields, gardens, birds, rosebuds, and wheelbarrows in ample supply. But even as the hot sun shines on blackbirds, daffodils, and ponds, there is a rigid orthodoxy at the heart of the town’s life, for Cool Clary is medievally Christian. Its families may form quiet circles of prayer, but there is rank insecurity and fear about the possibility of sin, and Christian superstition leads to fear—as is demonstrated by the community’s generally hysterical and comically confused reaction to the appearance of Mendip the discharged soldier and Jennet Jourdemayne, an alleged witch.