A further sequel, The Second Part of the Return from Parnassus, Or the Scourge of Simony, is a more ambitious, and from every point of view more interesting, production than the two earlier pieces. In it we again meet with Ingenioso, now become a satirist, who on pretence of discussing a recently-published collection of extracts from contemporary poetry, John Bodenham's Belvedere, briefly criticizes, or rather characterizes, a number of writers of the day, among them being Spenser, Constable, Michael Drayton, John Davies, John Marston, Christopher Marlowe, Ben Jonson, Shakespeare, and Thomas Nashe; the last of whom is referred to as dead. It is impossible here to detail the plot of the play, and it can only be said that Philomusus and Studioso, having tried all means of earning a living, abandon any further attempt to turn their learning to account and determine to become shepherds. Several new characters are introduced in this part, real persons such as Danter, the printer, Richard Burbage and William Kempe, the actors, as well as such abstractions as Furor Poeticus and Phantasma. The second title of the piece, The Scourge of Simony, is justified by a sub-plot dealing with the attempts of one, Academico, to obtain a living from an ignorant country patron, Sir Roderick, who, however, presents it, on the recommendation of his son Amoretto, who has been bribed, to a non-university man Immerito.
The question of how far the characters are meant to represent actual persons has been much discussed. Mr. Fleay maintains that the whole is a personal satire, his identifications of the chief characters in 2 Return being (1) Ingenioso, Thomas Nashe, (2) Furor Poeticus, J. Marston, (3) Phantasma, Sir John Davies, (4) Philomusus, T. Lodge, (5) Studioso, Drayton. Professor Gollancz identifies Judicio with Henry Chettle (Proc. of Brit. Acad., 1903-1904, p. 202). Dr. Ward, while rejecting Mr. Fleays identifications as a whole, considers that by the time the final part was written the author may have more or less identified Ingenioso with Nashe, though the character was not originally conceived with this intention. This is of course possible, and the fact that Ingenioso himself speaks in praise of Nashe, who is regarded as dead, is not an insuperable objection. We must not, however, overlook the fact that the author was evidently very familiar with Nashe's works, and that all three parts, not only in the speeches of Ingenioso, but throughout, are full of reminiscences of his writings.
The only part of the trilogy which was in print at an early date was 2 Return, called simply The Return from Parnassus, or the Scourge of Simony (1606), two editions bearing the same date. This has been several times reprinted, the best separate edition being that of Professor Arber in the English Scholars' Library (1879). Manuscript copies of all three plays were found among T. Hearne's papers in the Bodleian by the Rev. W. D. Macray and were printed by him in 1886 (the last from one of the editions of 1606, collated with the manuscript). A recent edition (as of 1911) in modern spelling by Mr O. Smeaton in the Temple Dramatists is of little value. All questions connected with the play have been elaborately discussed by Dr. W. Lflhr in a dissertation entitled Die drei cambridger Spiele vom Parnass (Kiel, 1900). See also, Dr. Ward's English Dramatic Literature, ii. 633-642; F. G. Fleay's Biog. Chron. of the Eng. Drama, ii. 347-355.
The two earlier plays were not known until William D. Macray, the librarian at the Bodleian Library in Oxford, discovered them amongst the manuscript collection of Thomas Hearne. He brought out the complete comic trilogy in 1868. The manuscript for The Returne from Parnassus (II) (which titles the play The Progresse to Parnassus) is housed in the Folger Shakespeare Library. The most recent edition of the plays appeared in 1949, edited by the Oxford scholar J. B. Leishman. Currently, students at the College of William and Mary are editing the text in order to make it accessible for an undergraduate audience.
The only book-length treatment of the Parnassus plays is Paula Glatzer's The Complaint of the Poet: The Parnassus Plays published in 1977.