Nine Day Wonder, I didn’t realize we don’t use that expression in the States, it’s part of my British English baggage. A flash in the pan, about sums it up. After reading Stephen Greenblatt’s superb Tyrant, I wanted to read the Henry VI plays, plus Richard III: the sign of a good critic/commentator, they make you want to the work they’re discussing. I came across this:
2 Henry VI, ii iv: Eleanor, a noblewoman, wife of Gloucester, Lord Protector and uncle to the king, has been foolish and trapped in her folly. Though her life is spared she is banished to the Isle of Man (!), but before she goes she must abase herself by parading the streets shoeless, dressed in a coarse shift, exposed to the mockery and insults of whoever passes by. Her husband comes to bid her farewell. He says:
I pray thee set thy heart to patience. These few days wonder will be quickly worn.
So a wonder was a kind of punishment, a period of public humiliation, like the stocks but moveable?
In 3Henry IV, iii ii, two of the princes are gossiping about the commoner Jack Cade whose rebellion has been put down, and he himself killed. They discuss what punishment he could have been given equal to his crimes had he lived.
Richard: That would be a ten day’s wonder at the least.
Clarence: That’s a day longer than a wonder lasts.
Richard: By so much is the Wonder in extremes.
In life, unlike my play, Kempe (as they spelled his name) danced away from London to Norwich. I have him doing the reverse, but my play is about ambition and his goal consequently must be London. But was he in fact being punished? Or did he take on the name of the punishment to mock himself?