(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

While Sir Quintilian Shorthose supervises the preparations for the marriage of his daughter Caelestine to Sir Walter Terrill, three guests arrive to share in the festivities: Sir Adam Prickshaft, Sir Vaughan ap Rees, and Mistress Miniver, a wealthy widow. All three of the older knights are enamored of the widow. When the bridal party enters, the groom-to-be announces that King William Rufus will grace the wedding with his presence. He also announces that he has sent to the poet Horace for a wedding song.

Horace is laboring by candlelight, surrounded by books, when his admiring friend Asinius Bubo visits him. Bubo warns that Crispinus and Demetrius plan to put Horace in a play as a bricklayer. To the great embarrassment of Horace, Crispinus and Demetrius enter and accuse him of unfair attacks on them.

Soon Blunt, accompanied by Captain Tucca, arrives to get the wedding verses, but Horace confesses that he was not able to finish them in the three days allotted him. Captain Tucca blasts Horace with a stream of Rabelaisian abuse for writing satires about him, and Horace, quivering with fear, apologizes and promises future good behavior. The captain tips him generously, and the visitors leave.

At the wedding dance, the three knights urge Mistress Miniver to choose one of them for her second husband, but their talk is interrupted by the arrival of King William Rufus and his train. The king greets the bride with a kiss, obviously taken with her beauty and charm. During the dance he manages to single her out frequently and engages her in risqué banter. When the ladies withdraw, the king dares Sir Walter to postpone the wedding night and to trust his bride at court alone with the king. Goaded by accusations that he lacks faith in her, Sir Walter unwisely promises to send her.

The widow refuses Sir Vaughan, in spite of the love letters he has given her, which he purchased from Horace; she favors Sir Adam. Enraged, Sir Vaughan asks Horace to write a satire on baldness, as Sir Adam is bald. Sir Quintilian, needing a messenger to speak to the widow for him, turns to the raucous, foul-mouthed Captain Tucca....

(The entire section is 876 words.)