Scene 8 (of 12) : The Parliament Meets

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Diligence introduces Part Two of the play. The Three Estates, Spirituality (the senior clergy), Temporality (the lords) and Merchand (the merchants and burgesses of the towns) enter for the Parliament, walking backwards, led by their respective vices (a symbol that the state has fallen into disorder). When Correction asks them why they are acting so oddly, Spirituality says that this is how they have always behaved, and they see nothing wrong with it.

Spirituality tries to have the Parliament postponed, but is commanded by Correction to remain. Diligence proclaims that anyone one who is oppressed should bring their cases to Parliament. John the Commonweal (representing the people and wellbeing of the Scottish nation) enters, dressed in ragged clothes. He tells a sorry story about his oppression at the hands of the nobles and clergy, and points out the vices hiding among the estates. At John’s request, Deceit, Falset (Falsehood), and Oppression are put in the stocks, Covetousness and Sensuality are expelled. Good Counsel comes to advise the Estates on how to reform the realm. Pauper is invited to aid John in guarding the parliament meeting. The Parliament sets about to improve the condition of the poor. John launches a passionate attack on ‘idle men’, including priests who take vows of poverty but live richly.

Correction instructs Merchand and Temporality to reform themselves, and they agree, making a pact with John to protect his interests in return for a pardon. John, with Pauper’s help, then condemns the clergy for their greed, wealth, and lechery. The other estates join him, and they legislate to deprive the church of its financial privileges. Spirituality admits that he has never read the Bible, and does not preach, but counter-attacks by accusing John of heresy. John declares his faith, but refuses to pledge allegiance to the bishops. Correction intervenes to declare John ‘Ane good Christian man’.

Pauper tells how he lost all his money in the church courts trying to get compensation for a dead horse, being strung along by numerous Latin processes which he couldn’t understand. Verity and Chastity petition Rex to investigate the clergy and expel from office anyone who cannot preach or teach the Gospel. The Scribe questions the humble Sowtar and Tailor and finds that they are well skilled in their trades, whereas the clergy can get rich despite knowing nothing about the Bible or their responsibilities. Diligence is sent away to find educated clerics who can perform the roles of bishops.
Common Thift (Theft) enters, looking for horses to steal. He is tricked by Oppression into swapping places with him in the stocks. Oppressions runs off.

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