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They sang terli terlow:
So merrily the shepherds their pipes can blow." There is then a song "the women sing :”— "Lully, lulla, you little tiny child;
By, by, lully, lullay, you little tiny child:
O sisters two, how may we do
This poor youngling, for whom we do sing
Herod the king, in his raging,
His men of might, in his own sight,
That woe is me, poor child, for thee,
For thy parting neither say nor sing
The shepherds again take up the song :—
So merrily the shepherds their pipes can blow."
The simple melody of these songs has come down to us they are part songs, each having the treble, the tenor, and the bass". The star conducts the shepherds to the "crib of poor repast," where the child lies; and, with a simplicity which is highly characteristic, one presents the child his pipe, the second his hat, and the third his mittens. Prophets now come, who declare in lengthened rhyme the wonder and the blessing:
"Neither in halls nor yet in bowers
Neither in castles nor yet in towers
The messenger of Herod succeeds; and very curious it is, and characteristic of a period when the king's laws were delivered in the language of the Conqueror, that he speaks in French. This circumstance would carry
This very curious pageant, essentially different from the same portion of Scripture-history in the Ludus Coventric,' is printed entire in Mr. Sharp's 'Dissertation,' as well as the score of these songs.
back the date of the play to the reign of Edward III., though the language is occasionally modernized. We have then the three kings with their gifts. They are brought before Herod, who treats them courteously, but is inexorable in his cruel decree. Herod rages in the streets; but the flight into Egypt takes place, and then the massacre. The address of the women to the pitiless soldiers, imploring, defying, is not the least curious part of the performance; for example
"Sir knightes, of your courtesy,
This day shame not your chivalry,
But on my child have pity,"
is the mild address of one mother. Another
"He that slays my child in sight,
If that my strokes on him may light, Be he squire or knight,
I hold him but lost."
The fury of a third is more excessive :-
But I shall make his brains addle,
We have little doubt that he who described the horrors of a siege,—
"Whiles the mad mothers with their howls con
Do break the clouds, as did the wives of Jewry At Herod's bloody-hunting slaughtermen,”+— had heard the howlings of the women in the Coventry pageant. And so "fynes lude de taylars and scharmen.”
The pageants thus performed by the Guilds of Coventry were of various subjects, but all scriptural. The Smiths' pageant was the Crucifixion; and most curious are their accounts, from 1449 till the time of which we are speaking, for expenses of helmets for Herod, and cloaks for Pilate; of tabards for Caiaphas, and gear for Pilate's wife; of a staff for the Demon, and a beard for Judas. There are payments, too, to a man for hanging Judas, and for cock-crowing. The subject of the Cappers' pageant Henry V., Act 111., Scene 11.
was the Resurrection. They have charges | true drama, has not been preserved. for making the play-book and pricking the songs; for money spent at the first rehearsal and the second rehearsal; for supper on the play-day, for breakfasts and for dinners. The subject of the Drapers' pageant was that of Doomsday; and one of their articles of machinery sufficiently explains the character of their performance-"A link to set the world on fire,” following “Paid for the barrel for the earthquake." We may readily believe that the time was fast approaching when such pageants would no longer be tolerated. It is more than probable that the performances of the Guilds were originally subordinate to those of the Grey Friars; perhaps devised and supported by the parochial clergy. But when the Church became opposed to such representations-when, indeed, they were incompatible with the spirit of the age-it is clear that the efforts of the laity to uphold them could not long be successful. They would be certainly performed without the reverence which once belonged to them. Their rude action and simple language would be ridiculed; and, when the feeling of ridicule crept in, their nature would be altered, and they would become essentially profane. There is a very curious circumstance connected with the Coventry pageants, which shows the struggle that was made to keep the dramatic spirit of the people in this direction. In 1584 the Smiths performed, after many preparations and rehearsals, a new pageant, the Destruction of Jerusalem. The Smiths applied to one who had been educated in their own town, in the Free School of Coventry, and who in 1584 belonged to St. John's, Oxford, to write this new play for them. The following entry appears in the city accounts :"Paid to Mr Smythe of Oxford the xyth daye of aprill 1584 for hys paynes for writing of the tragedye-xiij', vjo, viijd.”
would be curious to contrast it with the beautiful dramatic poem on the same subject, by an accomplished scholar of our own day, also a member of the University of Oxford. But the list of characters remains, which shows that the play was essentially historical, exhibiting the contests of the Jewish factions as described by Josephus. The accounts manifest that the play was got up with great magnificence in 1584; but it was not played again until 1591, when it was once more performed along with the famous Hock Tuesday. It was then ordered that no other plays whatever should be performed; and the same order, which makes this concession "at the request of the Commons," directs "that all the May-poles that now are standing in this city shall be taken down before Whitsunday next, and none hereafter to be set up." In that year Coventry saw the last of its pageants. But Marlowe and Shakspere were in London, building up something more adapted to that age; more universal: dramas that no change of manners or policies can destroy.
The pageant of The Nine Worthies' was often performed by the dramatic body of the Coventry Grammar School; the ancient pageant, such as was presented to Henry VI. and his Queen in 1455, and of which the Leet-book contains the faithful copy t. The lofty speeches which the three Hebrews, Joshua, David, and Judas Maccabeus; the three Infidels, Hector, Alexander, and Julius Cæsar; and the three Christians, Arthur, Charlemagne, and Godfrey of Boulogne, utter in this composition, are singular specimens of the mock heroic. Hector thus speaks :
"Most pleasant princes, recorded that may be,
We regret that this play, so liberally paid «I, Alexander, that for chivalry beareth the for when compared with subsequent payments to the Jonsons and Dekkers of the
It is clear, we think, that the pageants performed by the Guilds were altogether different from the Ludus Coventriæ,' which Dugdale expressly tells us were performed by the Grey Friars.
Most courageous in conquest through the
Sharp, page 145
And Julius Cæsar thus :
"I, Julius Cæsar, sovereign of knighthood
Welcome you, princes, most benign and good." Surely it was little less than plagiary, if it were not meant for downright parody, when, in a pageant of The Nine Worthies' presented a few years after*, Hector comes in to say
"The armipotent Mars, of lances the almighty, Gave Hector a gift, the heir of Ilion:
A man so breathed, that certain he would fight, yea,
From morn to night out of his pavilion.
I am that flower."
And Alexander :
"When in the world I lived, I was the world's commander;
By east, west, north, and south, I spread my conquering might:
My 'scutcheon plain declares that I am Alisalder."
And Pompey, usurping the just honours of his triumphant rival :
"I, Pompey am, Pompey surnamed the Great, That oft in field, with targe and shield, did make my foe to sweat."
BIBLE HISTORIES AND MORALITIES.
We have very distinct evidence that stories | ditory may return made merry in mind, from the Sacred Scriptures, in character perhaps very little different from the ancient Mysteries, were performed upon the London stage at a period when classical histories, romantic legends, and comedies of intrigue, attracted numerous audiences both in the capital and the provinces. At the period which immediately preceded the true drama there was a fierce controversy on the subject of theatrical exhibitions; and from the very rare tracts then published we are enabled to form a tolerably accurate estimate of the character of the early theatre. one of these tracts, which appeared in 1580, entitled 'A Second and Third Blast of Retrait from Plaies and Theaters,' we have the following passage :- "The reverend word of God, and histories of the Bible, set forth on the stage by these blasphemous players, are so corrupted by their gestures of scurrility, and so interlaced with unclean and whorish speeches, that it is not possible to draw any profit out of the doctrine of their spiritual moralities. For that they exhibit under laughing that which ought to be taught and received reverendly. So that their au
*Love's Labour's Lost,' Act. v.
but none comes away reformed in manners. And of all abuses this is most undecent and intolerable, to suffer holy things to be handled by men so profane, and defiled by interposition of dissolute words." (Page 103.) Those who have read the ancient Mysteries, and even the productions of Bishop Bale which appeared not thirty years before this was written, will agree that the players ought not wholly to have the blame of the "interposition of dissolute words." But unquestionably it was a great abuse to have "histories of the Bible set forth on the stage;" for the use and advantage of such dramatic histories had altogether ceased. Indeed, although scriptural subjects might have continued to have been represented in 1580, we apprehend that they were principally taken from apocryphal stories, which were regarded with little reverence even by those who were most earnest in their hostility to the stage. Of such a character is the very curious play, printed in 1565, entitled 'A pretie new Enterlude, both pithie and pleasaunt, of the story of King Daryus, being taken out of the third and fourth chapter of the third book of Esdras.'
"The Prolocutor" first comes forward to explain the object of "The worthy Entertainment of King Daryus:"
"Good people, hark, and give ear awhile,
For of this enterlude I will declare the style.
A certain king to you we shall bring in Whose name was Darius, good and virtuous; This king commanded a feast to be made, And at that banquet many people had.
And when the king in counsel was set
Now silence I desire you therefore, For the Vice is entering at the door." The stage-direction then says, "The Prologue goeth out and Iniquity comes in." This is "the formal Vice Iniquity of 'Richard III.;' the "Vetus Iniquitas" of The Devil is an Ass;' the Iniquity with a "wooden dagger," and "a juggler's jerkin with false skirts," of The Staple of News.' But in the interlude of 'Darius' he has less complex offices than are assigned him by Gifford―" to instigate the hero of the piece to wickedness, and, at the same time, to protect him from the devil, whom he was permitted to buffet and baffle with his wooden sword, till the process of the story required that both the protector and the protected should be carried off by the fiend, or the latter driven roaring from the stage by some miraculous interposition in favour of the repentant offender."* The first words which Iniquity utters indicate, however, that he was familiar with the audience, and the audience familiar with him :
"How now, my masters; how goeth the world now?
I come gladly to talk with you."
And in a most extraordinary manner he does talk; swaggering and bullying as if the whole world was at his command, till
Ben Jonson's Works. Note on The Devil is an Ass.'
Charity comes in, and reads him a very severe lecture upon the impropriety of his deportment. It is of little avail; for two friends of Iniquity-Importunity and Partiality-come to his assistance, and fairly drive Charity off the stage. Then Equity enters to take up the quarrel against Iniquity and his fellows; but Equity is no match for them, and they all make way for King Darius. This very long scene has nothing whatever to do with the main action of the piece, or rather what professes to be its action. Its tediousness is relieved by the Vice, who, however dull was his profligacy, contrived to make the audience laugh by the whisking of his tail and the brandishing of his sword, assisted no doubt by some well
known chuckle like that of the Punch of our own days. King Darius, however, at length comes with all his Council; and most capital names do his chief councillors bear, not unworthy to be adopted even in courts of greater refinement-Perplexity and Curiosity. The whole business of this scene of King Darius is to present a feast to the admiring spectators. Up to the present day the English audience delights in a feast, and will endure that two men should sit upon the stage for a quarter of an hour, uttering the most unrepeatable stupidity, provided they seem to pick real chicken-bones and drink real port. The Darius of the interlude feasted whole nations-upon the representative system; and here Ethiopia, Persia, Judah, and Media eat their fill, and are very grateful. But feasts must have their end; and so the curtain closes upon the eaters, and Iniquity "cometh in singing:"
"La, soule, soule, fa, my, re, re,
I should have been low when I was so high;
Again come his bottle-holders, Importunity and Partiality; and in the course of their gabble Iniquity tells them that the Pope is his father. Unhappily his supporters go out; and then Equity attacks him alone. Loud is their debate; and faster and more furious is the talk when Constancy and Charity come in. The matter, however,
The subject of their dispute was, what is the strongest thing; and their answers, as we are informed by the King's attendants, had been reduced to writing :
"The sentence of the first man is this,
The second also I will declare to you,
The third also I will declare
Women, saith he, is the strongest of all,
Of their respective texts the three young men are then called in to make exposition; and certainly, whatever defects of manners were exhibited by the audiences of that day, they must have possessed the virtue of patience in a remarkable degree to have enabled them to sit out these most prolix harangues. But they have an end; and the king declares Zorobabel to be deserving of signal honours, in his demonstration that, of all things, woman is the strongest. A metrical prayer for Queen Elizabeth, uttered by Constancy, dismisses the audience to their homes*.
The most precise and interesting account which we possess of one of the earliest of the theatrical performances is from the recollection of a man who was born in the same year as William Shakspere. In 1639 R. W. (R. Willis), stating his age to be seventy-five, published a little volume, called 'Mount Tabor,' which contains a passage which is essential to be given in any history or sketch of the early stage :
There is a copy of this very curious production in the Garrick Collection of Plays in the British Museum; and a transcript of Garrick's copy is in the Bodleian Library.
"UPON A STAGE PLAY, WHICH I SAW WHEN I WAS A CHILD.
"In the city of Gloucester the manner is (as I think it is in other like corporations) that, when players of interludes come to town, they first attend the mayor to inform him what nobleman's servants they are, and so to get license for their public playing; and if the mayor like the actors, or would show respect to their lord and master, he appoints them to play their first play before himself and the aldermen and common council of the city; and that is called the mayor's play, where every one that will comes in without money, the mayor giving the players a reward as he thinks fit, to show respect unto them. At such a play my father took me with him, and made me stand between his legs, as he sat upon one of the benches, where we saw and heard very well. play was called 'The Cradle of Security,' wherein was personated a king or some great prince, with his courtiers of several kinds, amongst which three ladies were in special grace with him, and they, keeping him in delight and pleasures, drew him from his graver counsellors, hearing of sermons, and listening to good counsel and admonitions, that in the end they got him to lie down in a cradle upon the stage, where these three ladies, joining in a sweet song, rocked him asleep, that he snorted again, and in the mean time closely conveyed under the clothes wherewithal he was covered a vizard like a swine's snout upon his face, with three wire chains fastened thereunto, the other end whereof being holden severally by those three ladies, who fall to singing again, and then discovered his face, that the spectator might see how they had transformed him going on with their singing. Whilst all this was acting, there came forth of another door at the farthest end of the stage two old men, the one in blue, with a sergeant-at-arms his mace on his shoulder, the other in red, with a drawn sword in his hand, and leaning with the other hand upon the other's shoulder, and so they two went along in a soft pace, round about by the skirt of the stage, till at last they came to the cradle, when all the