The Play of Wit and Science was written c.1540 by John Redford, choirmaster of St Paul’s. It participates in the genre of educational drama which emerged in the late Middle Ages in Northern European schools; works of classical drama were adapted for the tastes and talents of schoolboys, and Redford's play shares with other school plays ‘an interest in learning and entertainment’. That it does not tell a classical story, and is in English rather than Latin, may be because it was performed by the Children of Paul’s, choristers, not by the boys of Dean Colet's St Paul's Grammar School. The opening leaves are missing, but their action may be guessed from what survives: Wit, son of Dame Nature, has fallen in love with Lady Science, daughter of Reason and Experience. Through Wit's servant Confidence, Science sends Wit a garment of some kind as a sign of her favour, and Wit sends his portrait to Science. Reason sets Wit on a quest to prove that he is worthy of Science's hand: with the assistance of Instruction, Study, and Diligence, Wit must slay the Giant Tediousness and reach Mount Parnassus. The surviving script begins as Reason hands Wit a mirror, the glass of Reason, to aid in the quest. Wit makes various mistakes on his journey and ends up tricked and seduced by Idleness, who dresses him in a fool's coat whilst he sleeps. The jilted Lady Science, meanwhile, declines the services of Worship, Fame, Riches, and Favour: she then encounters Wit, and rejects him as the ‘fool’ he appears to be. He realises what has happened when he looks at himself in Reason's glass, repents and is punished by Shame, and then, restored to his proper appearance, slays the giant and wins his lady's hand.
This plot summary indicates something of the character of Redford's play, which combines an allegorised anatomy of the process of learning with the romance narrative of the young knight setting forth on the adventure by which he grows up and earns a lady's love: ‘The essential metaphor is one of chivalric quest’.