The Second Shepherds Play goes against many of the characteristics that Horace believes should be in a play. The play does not stay in the boundaries of genres by mixing comedy with seriousness. It is not consistent; it is not without surprises. Finally, the author did not completely believe in Dulce Et Utile or does he carefully weigh the judgment of his work. This play combines a little bit of comedy with extreme seriousness. The play begins with three shepherds guarding their sheep when a character named Mak joins them.
Mak steals a sheep while the shepherds are sleeping and take it home to his wife. When the shepherds arrive at Mak’s house to see if he has stolen the sheep they are fooled into believing that the sheep is a new born baby that Maks wife has just delivered. Even with a close up view of the sheep/baby, the shepherds believe it is just an ugly baby with a big snout. The punishment that the shepherds inflict on Mak when they finally realize the baby is a sheep is quite comical also. Stealing is a serious crime and it has been for quite some time. The shepherd simply place Mak inside a blanket and toss him up and down a few times.
When the shepherds are finished inflicting their punishment on Mak they return to guard their sheep. At this point in the play the plot takes a complete turn from comedy to seriousness. Other than the three shepherds still being characters in the play, the whole plot changes. The three shepherds receive word that baby Jesus is born in Bethlehem. The play goes from one extreme to the other surprisingly fast; it is almost two separate plays.
Dulce Et Utile is a Latin word that means to give pleasure and profit. When a writer has the gift of story telling they should share it by writing and publishing their stories or plays. Someone with a true gift of being able to write will give pleasure to those who read it. When a story or play is published and bought by those who read it, the author makes a profit from it. The author of The Second Shepherds Play is unknown. During the day and age when this play was written it was not the proper profession to have being a writer. If one was lucky enough to have the talent of being a writer they did it without signing their name to it.
Not only did this not reveal the author, but also it prevented the author from receiving any real profit from his works. This is very unlike the Greek and Roman days when the playwright would have a choragos for his play. A choragos is a financial backer that would pay the playwright a salary while he was writing the play and support the performance of it at the festival. If the playwright were lucky enough to win at the festival they would receive more profit from their play. The author of this play did not carefully weigh the judgment of his work. If he had carefully weighed the judgment of his work, he would have been proud of it and signed his name to it.
It is obviously good work or it wouldn’t be published and studied today. Maybe The Second Shepherds Play does go against the characteristics that Horace feels should be included in plays, but then maybe it has characteristics of its own. The author of course will never see the profit that this play has generate from being published and performed, but maybe someday, someone will find out who the author is and give recognition where it is due.