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Bart Van Es introduces his text for the Nashe Edition: Summer's Last Will and Testament

This is Nashe’s only surviving sole-authored drama.  First performed before the Archbishop of Canterbury in September or October 1592, Summer’s Last Will is an allegory on the changing of the seasons filled with songs, formal debates, spectacular costumes, and dances.  The plot is simple: Summer is dying and in the course of the play he must assess the condition of his estate before passing it on to an heir. In various ways, the work is untypical of Nashe’s output.  In contrast to the rest of the canon this is a fairly conventional, non-commercial, private entertainment and it went unpublished until 1600, shortly before or immediately after the author’s death.  

The presence of an on-stage presenter, Will Summers, however, makes the work more complicated than it first seems.  Nashe’s presenter is the ghost of a famous jester at the court of Henry VIII, and through him the author raises questions about the success or failure of the drama, about the presence of plague (which threatens the harvest spirit), about the place of festive excess versus frugality, and about the duties of rich patrons towards the poor.  Always present on stage, Will Summers is a riddling and questioning inversion of Summer’s Will.