Contrary to the definition of his name, Diccon the Bedlman uses his societal, public image to his advantage through the use of manipulation of the characters in the town to satisfy his need for entertainment. As a result, this Bedlam is not the comedic, farcical fool or buffoon of the play, but the catalyst of the continuous humorous situations and actions of the characters. Evidently, he does not care about society's affectations and as a consequence, he is the only logical and intelligent character in the play that uses his wit to manipulate the actions of the characters in the town to concede to his methods of finding Gammer Gurton's needle.
In scene 2.1, lines 66-113 and scene 2.2, lines 1-18, Diccon convinces Hodge that he will find the needle with the guidance of Satan. Hodge hesitantly agrees only to comply with Diccon's pretence that the needle will be retrieved. It appears that the function of this comic disruption motivated by Diccon perpetrates a mockery of the Protestant religious beliefs and practices of the characters in the town. This there by demonstrates that the disregard of the beliefs of the Protestant religion causes social disorder and lack of harmony in the town, not the manipulative actions of Diccon. The dynamic between Diccon and Hodge portrays Diccon as the dominant character. Through the use of his diction, he is the catalyst of Hodge's farcical actions which bring about various elements of rhetorical devices that speculate on the notion that the disorder in the society is the result of Hodge's disregard for the Protestant beliefs.
Diccon's societal image of bedlam is derived from "the Hospital of St. Mary of Bethlehem, used as an asylum for the reception and cure of mentally deranged persons..." ("bedlam" OED). This litotes portrays Diccon's cunning wit which brings about Hodge's baseness to his values and morals when searching for the needle. This commences the rising action and exposes the lack of order in the society. Â Hodge takes an oath swearing his allegiance to Diccon's methods of finding the needle. He states "I, Hodge breechless, /Swear to Diccon rechlessâ€¦" (2.1.71-72). The adjective "rechless" can be defined in modern English as "heedless," which depicts Diccon as a character of "â€¦no heed or attention; careless, inattentive, regardless [and] undeserving of attention," which references Diccon's societal image of bedlam ("heedless" OED). The stage direction indicates that "Here he kisseth Diccon's breech" (2.1). The function of this comical action is to portray Hodge's disregard for his action, which is mocking the belief of worshipping only one God. Diccon's response, "Now, Hodge, see thou take heed/ And do as I thee bidâ€¦," is deriding Hodge's devotion to the needle (2.1.77-78). Diccon's specific use of the word "heed" ridicules Hodge's reference to "rechless," when in effect Hodge should be more attentive to the actions he is willing to commit to find the needle. As Hodge exits the scene, Diccon states "Fie, shitten knave, and out upon thee! / Above all other louts, fie on thee! ..." (2.2.1-2).The use of the noun "lout" emphasizes the litotes of Diccon as bedlam. He satirizes Hodge's character by depicting him as "an awkward ill-mannered fellow; a bumpkin, clown" ("lout" OED). The purpose of the litotes within the comical situation motivated by Diccon is to demonstrate Hodge's disregard for the religious societal expectations held by the townspeople, which signals the rising action of the play. It depicts Hodge's character as one adhering to inappropriate behaviour contrary to the Protestant religion; consequently creating a lack of harmony within the society.
Hodge's allegiance to Diccon's satanic methods of retrieving the needle is ironic because his consent to worship Satan to fulfill his earthly desires does not adhere to the beliefs of the Protestant religion. Furthermore, Hodge willingly agrees to follow the counsel of Diccon, who obtains a lesser societal status than he, solely to obtain Gammer Gurton's needle to fulfill his own desire of enabling her to re-stitch his breeches. Before Diccon explains to Hodge his plan for finding the needle, he asks Hodge to take an oath. Diccon states "Lay thine hand here; say after me as thou shalt hear me do. / Hast no book? (2.1. 66-68). Diccon's reference to the bible is ironic because he is asking Hodge to swear on a religious symbol of the Protestant faith to consummate their agreement. The irony of the agreement is that it will allow Diccon to call upon Satan to find the needle. Additionally, Hodge swears to Diccon referencing another religious symbol. He states "...By the cross that I shall kiss, / to keep his counsel close/...To work that his pleasure is" (2.1.73-76). It is ironic that Hodge did not seek the guidance of a priest within the town, but complies with the advice of bedlam. The fear of Satan overwhelms Hodge that he soils himself. He admits, "By the Mass, cham able no longer to hold it!/ Too bad ich must beray the hall!" (2.1.105-106). Ironically, contrary to Diccon, Hodge appears as bedlam in the scene. The irony is displayed within Hodge's consent to seek Satan which contrasts the beliefs of the Protestant religion. Hodge willingly involves Diccon in the situation for his own motive; resultantly he is to blame for the cause of events that lead to the disorder within the society. Hodge's adherence and response to Diccon's satanic prank exacerbates Hodge's fear of Satan, which as a result appears to parody the Protestant religious beliefs of the society. This is evident through the use of specific symbols which illustrate the association between the Protestant religion and the disorder within the society. Satan and the needle emphasize the lack of commitment to the Protestant faith, there by manifesting a lack of harmony among the characters in the town. The illusion of Satan signifies Hodge's lack of commitment to his faith and his fear of the illusion has a larger influence on him than his morals and values of the Protestant faith. Hodge states, "what, the great devil, Diccon, I say?" (2.1.83). The use of the adjective "great" implies that Satan obtains the power to punish Hodge for his sins; he is transmitting his belief of God's all mighty power to his illusion of Satan. Hodge depicts Satan as obtaining claws and the ability to produce fearful noises, he states, "Gog's sides, Diccon, methink ich hear him!" (2.1.102). Hodge's fearful description of Satan's abstraction intensifies the power he believes Satan obtains. Hodge's disregard for his faith is made evident when he states, "...Canst not tarry a little thought/ Till ich make a curtsy of water?" (2.1.99-100). This action represents Hodge's willingness to continue with Diccon's idea. The phrase "a curtsy of water" signifies Hodge's attribution to Diccon's plan; he will commit to the idea once he prepares some water to clear the environment from impurities. As a result, since Satan signifies the disregard for the Protestant beliefs, the loss of the needle signifies the lack of harmony within the society. Diccon describes the needle as a "...foul piece of wark!" (2.2.9). The use of the adjective "foul" signifies the needle as the "...putridity or corruption" within the society ("foul" OED). The comical function of the symbols of Satan and the needle reveal the societal impurity, which symbolizes the result of Hodge's disregard for the Protestant beliefs which initiates the disorder within the society. Thus it appears that the social disorder within the society is initiated by Hodge's inattention to the Protestant faith that constitutes the societal guidelines for appropriate behaviour. The mockery of the Protestant faith is not the result of Diccon's actions, but of Hodge's immoral decisions. The function of the comic disruption is motivated by Diccon, however through Hodge's farcical, irrational and immoral actions, it appears the social disorder and lack of harmony in the town is created by his inadvertence of the Protestant faith.