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has religious plays, either the representations rivalled the popularity of the professed players. of miracles wrought by holy confessors, or the Music was admitted into the churches, which sufferings of martyrs.”

served as theatres for the representation of holy Mr. Warton bas remarked, that “ in the farces. The festivals among the French, time of Chaucer, Plays of Miracles appear to called La Féte des Fout, de l’Ane, and des have been the common resort of idle gossips in Innocens, at length became greater favouriles, Lent.

as they certainly were more capricious and “And in Pierce Plowman's Creed, a piece, absurd, than the interludes of the buffoons at perbaps, prior to Chaucer, a friar Minorite the fairs. These are the ideas of a judicious mentions these Miracles as not less frequented French writer now living, who has investigated than market-towns and fairs :

the history of human manners with great com

prehension and sagacity." 'We haunten no taverns, ne hobelen about,

« Voltaire's theory on this subject is also At markets and Miracles we meddle us never.'»

very ingenious, and quite new. Religious The elegant writer, whose words I have just plays, he supposes, came originally from quoted, has given the following ingenious ac- Constantinople; where the old Grecian stage count of the origin of this rude species of dra- continued to flourish in some degree, and the matic entertainment:

tragedies of Sophocles and Euripides were re“ About the eighth century trade was prin- presented, till the fourth century. About that cipally carried on by means of fairs, which period Gregory Nazianzen, an archbishop, a lasted several days. Charlemagne established poet, and one of the fathers of the church, many great marts of this sort in France, as did banished pagan plays from the stage at ConWilliam the Conqueror, and his Norman suc- stantinople, and introduced stories from the cessors in England. The merchants who fre- Old and New Testament. As the ancient quented these fairs in numerous caravans or Greek tragedy was a religious spectacle, a trancompanies, employed every art to draw the sition was made on the same plan; and the people togetber. They were therefore accom- chorusses were turned into Christian hymns. panied by jugglers, minstrels, and buffoons ; Gregory wrote many sacred dramas for this who were no less interested in giving their purpose, which have not survived those inimialtendance, and exerting all their skill on these table compositions over which they triumphed occasions. As now but few large towns existed, for a time: one, however, his tragedy called no public spectacles or popular amusements XPISTOS FUXv, or Christ's Passion, is still were established ; and as the sedentary pleasures extant. In the prologue it is said to be an of domestic life and private society were yet imitation of Euripides, and that is the first time unknown, the fair-time was the season for the Virgin Mary had been introduced on the diversion. In proportion as these shows were stage. The fashion of acting spiritual dramas, attended and encouraged, they began to be set in which at first a due degree of method and off with new decorations and improvements; decorum was preserved, was at length adopted and the arts of buffoonery being rendered still from Constantinople by the Italians; who more attractive, by extending their circle of framed, in the depth of the dark ages, on this exhibition, acquired an importance in the eyes foundation, that barbarous species of theatrical of the people. By degrees the clergy observing representation called MYSTERIES, or sacred cothat the entertainments of dancing, music, and medies, and which were soon after received in mimickry, exhibited at these protracted annual France. This opinion will acquire probability, celebrilies, made the people less religious, by if we consider the early commercial intercourse promoting idleness and a love of festivity, pro- between Italy and Constantinople; and although scribed these sports, and excommunicated the the Italians, at the time when they may be performers. But finding that no regard was supposed to have imported plays of this pature, paid to their censures, they changed their plan, did not understand the Greek language, yet and determined to take these recreations into they could understand, and consequently could their own hands. They turned actors; and imitate, what they saw. instead of profane mummeries, presented stories "In defence of Voltaire's hypothesis, it may taken from legends or the Bible. This was the be further observed, that The Feast of Fools origin of sacred comedy. The death of Saint and of the Ass, with other religious farces of Catharine acted by the monks of Saint Dennis that sort, so common in Europe, originated at

Constantinople. They were instituted, although | 1328 ;* of which a particular account will be perbaps under other names, in the Greek found below. church, about the year 990, by Theophylact,

* MSS. Harl. 2013, &c. “Exhibited at Chespatriarch of Constantinople, probably with a

ter in the year 1327, at the expense of the difbetter design than is imagined by the ecclesias- ferent trading companies of that city. The Fall tical annalists; that of weaping the minds of the of Lucifer, by the Tanners. The Creation, by people from the pagan ceremonies, by the sub- the Drapers. The Deluge, by the Dyers. Abrastitution of Christian spectacles partaking of the ham, Melchisedeck, and Lot

, by the Barbers.

Moses, Balak, and Balaam, by the Cappars. The same spirit of licentiousness.—To those who

Salutation and Nativity, by the Wrightes. The are accustomed to contemplate the great picture Shepherds feeding their Flocks by Nighl, by the of human follies, which the unpolished ages of Painters and Glaziers. The three Kings, by the Europe hold up to our view, it will not appear

Vintners. The Oblation of the three Kings, by the

Mercers, The Killing of the Innocents, by the surprising, lhat the people who were forbidden

Goldsmiths. The Purification, by the Blacksmiths. to read events of the sacred history in the Bible, The Templation, by the Butchers. The last Supla which they were faithfully and beautifully per, by the Bakers. The blind Men and Lasarus, related, should at the same time be permitted by the Glovers. Jesus and the Lepers, by the Corto see them represented on the stage, disgraced vesarys. Christ's Passion, by the Bowyers, Fletwith the grossest improprieties, corrupted with chers, and Ironmongers

. Descent into Hell, by

the Cooks and Innkeepers. The Resurrection, inventions and additions of the most ridiculous by the Skinners. The Ascension, by the Taylors. kind, sullied with impurities, and expressed in

The Election of St. Mathias, sending of the Holy the language of the lowest farce.

Ghost, gc. by the Fishmongers. Antichrist, by · On the whole, the Mysteries appear to

the Clothiers. Day of Judgment, by the Websters.

The reader will perhaps smile at some of these have originated among the ecclesiastics, and combinations. This is the substance and order of were most probably first acted with any degree the former part of the play: God enters creating of form by the monks. This was certainly the the world; he breathes life into Adam, leads him

into Paradise, and opens his side while sleeping. case in the English monasteries. I have al

Adam and Eve appear naked, and not ashamed, ready mentioned the play of Saint Catharine, and the old serpent enters lamenting his fall. He performed at Dunstable Abbey, by the novices converses with Eve. Slie eats of the forbidden in the eleventh century, under the superinten-fruit, and gives part to Adam. They propose, dence of Geoffrey, a Parisian ecclesiastic; and according to the stage-direction, to make themthe exhibition of the Passion by the mendicant Cover their nakedness with leaves, and converse

selves subligacula a foliis quibus tegamus pudenda. friars of Coventry and other places. Instances with God. God's curse. The serpent erit hissing. have been given of the like practice among the They are driven from Paradise by four angels and French. The only persons who could now

the cherubim with a flaming sword. Adam appears read were in the religious societies; and various children Cain and 'Abel enter : the former kills

digging the ground, and Eve spinning. Their circumstances, peculiarly arising from their his brother. Adam's lamentation. Cain is basituation, profession, and institution, enabled nished,” &c. Warton's History of English Poelry, the monks to be the sole performers of these vol. i. p. 243, representations.”

[Since the publication of our last edition, the

history of the “Chester Mysteries” has been ably “ As learning increased, and was more widely illustrated by James Heywood Markland, Esq. disseminated, from the monasteries, by a na- who, in 1818, printed a specimen of them for pritural and easy transition, the practice migrated vate distribution among a select number of friends, to schools and universities, which were formed

the members of the Roxburghe club. To this

specimen Mr. Markland has prefixed an elaborate 90 the monaslic plan, and in many respects re

dissertation, in which, with equal candour and sembled the ecclesiastical bodies."

acuteness, he has rectified the mistakes of Messrs. Candlemas-Day, or The Slaughter of the Warton, Malone, &c. We owe to Mr. Markland's Innocents, written by Ihan Parfre, in 1512, researches, that Higden could not have been the Mary Magdalene, produced in the same year,

author of these Mysteries, but that there are good

grounds to degard them as the production of an and The Promises of God, written by John

earlier ecclesiastic of Chester Abbey, of the name Bale, and printed in 1538, are curious specimens of Randal—that they were in all probability first of this early species of drama. But the most represented between the years 1268 and 1276 ancient as well as most complete collection consequently, that the opinion of Mr. Roscoe, of this kind is, The Chester Mysteries,

which would place them as late as the commeuce

ment of the 16th century, is widely erroneous), which were written by Ralph Higden, a

and lastly, that they were not revived or acted monk of the Abbey of Chester, about the year after the year 1574. C.)

Many licentious pleasantries, as Mr. Warton had not been the case, the dramatists were bas observed, were sometimes introduced into ignorant wbat to reject and what to rethese religious representations. “This might lain." imperceptibly lead the way to subjects entirely “ I must not omit,” adds Mr. Warton, “an profane, and to comedy; and perhaps earlier anecdote entirely new, with regard to the mode than is imagined. In a mystery of The Mas- of playing the Mysteries at this period, (lbe sacre of the Holy Innocents, part of the subject latter part of the fifteenth century), which yet of a sacred drama given by the English fathers is perhaps of much bigher antiquity. In the at the famous Council of Constance, in the year year 1487, while Henry the Seventh kept his 1417, a low buffoon of Herod's court is in- residence at the castle of Winchester, on octroduced, desiring of his lord to be dubbed a casion of the birth of Prince Arthur, on a knight, that he might be properly qualified to Sunday, during the time of dinner, be was engo on the adventure of killing the mothers of the tertained with a religious drama called Christi children of Bethlebem. This tragical business Descensus ad Inferos, or Christ's Descent is treated with the most ridiculous levily. The into Hell. It was represented by the Pueri good women of Bethlehem attack our knight- Eleemosynarii, or choir-boys, of Hyde Abbey, errant with their spinning-wheels, break his and Saint Swithin's Priory, two large monashead with their distaffs, abuse bim as a coward teries at Winchester. This is the only proof and a disgrace to chivalry, and send him to I have ever seen of choir-boys acting the old Herod as a recreant champion with much igno- Mysteries : nor do I recollect any other instance miny.--It is certain that our ancestors in- of a royal dinner, even on a festival, accomtended no sort of impiety by these monstrous panied with this species of diversion. The and unnatural mislures. Neither the writers story of this interlude, in which the chief nor the spectators saw the impropriety, nor characters were Christ, Adam, Eve, Abraham, paid a separate attention to the comic and the and John the Baptist, was not uncommon in serious part of these motley scenes; at least the ancient religious drama, and I telieve made they were persuaded that the solemnity of the made a part of what is called the Ludus Passubject covered or excused all incongruities. CHALIS, or Easter Plays. It occurs in the They had no just idea of decorum, consequently Coventry Plays, acted on Corpus Christi day, but little sense of the ridiculous : what appears and in the Whitsun-plays at Chester, where it to us to be the bigbest burlesque, on them is called the HarrowING OF HELL. The rewould have made no sort of impression. We presentation is, Christ entering hell triumphmust not wonder at this, in an age when cou- antly, delivering our first parents, and the most rage, devotion, and ignorance, composed the sacred characters of the Old and New Testacharacter of European manners; when the taments, from the dominion of Satan, and conknight going to a tournament, first invoked his veying them into paradise.—The composers of God, then his mistress, and afterwards pro- the Mysteries did not think the plain and proceeded with a safe conscience and great reso- bable events of the New Testament sufficiently lution to engage bis antagonist. In these mys- marvellous for an audience who wanted only to teries I have sometimes seen gross and open be surprised. They frequently selected their obscenities. In a play of The Old and New materials from Books which had more of the Testament, Adam and Eve are both exhibited air of romance. The subject of the Mysteries on the stage naked, and conversing about their just mentioned was borrowed from the Pseudonakedness; this very pertinently introduces the Evangelium, or the fabulous Gospel, ascribed next scene, in which they have coverings of to Nicodemus : a book, which together with the fig-leaves. This extraordinary spectacle was numerous apocryphal narratives, containing beheld by a numerous assembly of both sexes infinite innovations of the evangelical history, with great composure : they had the authority and forged at Constantinople by the early of Scripture for such a representation, and they writers of the Greek church, gave birth to an gave matters just as they found them in the endless variety of legends concerning the life of third chapter of Genesis. It would have been Christ and his apostles; and which, in the absolute heresy to have departed from the barbarous ages, was better esteemed than the sacred text in personating the primitive appea- genuine Gospel, on account of its improbabirance of our first parents, whom the spectatorslities and absurdities.” so nearly resembled in simplicity; and if this But whatsoever was the source of these ex

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bibitions, they were thought to contribute so espiinge Christe to arrise, made a continuall much to the information and instruction of the noyce, like to the sound that is caused by the people on the most important subjects of reli- melynge of two stickes, and was therefore gion, that one of the popes granted a pardon commonly called Jack Snacker of Wytney. The of one thousand days to every person who re-like toye I myself, being then a childe, once sorted peaceably to the plays performed in the saw in Powles Church, at London, at a feast of Whitsun-week at Chester, beginning with the Whilsantyde ; wheare the comynge down of the creation, and ending with the general judgment; Holy Ghost was set forthe by a wbite pigeon, and this indulgence was seconded by the bishop that was let to fly out of a hole that yet is to be of the diocese, who granted forty days of pardon: sene in the mydst of the roofe of the great ile, the pope at the same time denouncing the sen- and by a longe censer which descendinge out of lence of damnalion on all those incorrigible the same place almost to the verie grounde, was sioners who presumed to interrupt the due ce- swinged up and downe at such a lengthe, that Jebration of these pious sports. It is certain it reached with thone sweepe, almost to the that they had their use, not only in teaching west-gate of the churche, and with the other to the great truths of Scripture to men who could the quyre staires of the same; breathinge out not read the Bible, but in abolishing the bar- over the whole churche and companie a most barous attachment to military games, and the pleasant perfume of such swele thinges as bloody contentions of the tournament, which burned therein. With the like doome-shews had so long prevailed as the sole species of they used everie wbere to furnish sondrye popular amusement. Rude and even ridi- parts of theire church service, as by ibeir culous as they were, they softened the man- spectacles of the nativitie, passion, and ascenmers of the people, by diverting ihe public sion,'” &c. alteption to spectacles in wbich the mind was In a preceding passage Mr. Warton has menconcerned, and by creating a regard for other tioned that the singing boys of Hyde Abbey and arts than those of bodily strength and savage St. Swithin's Priory at Winchester, performed a valour."

Mystery before king Henry the Seventh in 1487; I may add, that these representations were adding, that this is the only instance he has met so far from being considered as indecent or with of choir-boys performing in Mysteries ; profane, that even a supreme pontial, Pope but it appears from the accompls of various Pius the Second, about the year 1416, com- monasteries that this was a very ancient pracposed, and caused to be acted before him on lice, probably coeval with the earliest allempls Corpus Christi day, a Mystery, in which was at dramatic representations. In the year 1378, represented the court of the king of heaven. the scholars, or choristers, of Saint Paul's ca

These religious dramas were usually repre-thedral presented a petition to King Richard sented on holy festivals in or near churches. the Second, praying His Majesty to prohibit "lo several of our old scriptural plays,” says some ignorant and unexperienced persons from Mr. Warlon, “ we see some of the scenes acting the History Of The OLD TESTAMENT, directed to be represented cum canlu et organis, to the great prejudice of the clergy of the a common rubric in a missal; that is, because church, who had expended considerable sums they were performed in a church where the for a public presentation of that play at the choir assisted. There is a curious passage in ensuing Christmas. About twelve years afterLambarde's Topographical Dictionary, written wards, the Parish Clerks of London, as Stowe about the year 1570, much to our purpose, informs us, performed spiritual plays at Skinwhich I am therefore tempted to transcribe. ner's Well for three days successively, in the ' in the dayes of ceremonial religion, they used presence of the King, Queen, and nobles of the at Wytney (in Osfordshire) to set fourthe yearly realm. And in 1409, the tenth year of King in maner of a shew or interlude, the resur- Henry IV., they acted at Clerkenwell for rection of our Lord, etc. For the which pur- eight days successively a play, which poses, and the more lyvely heareby to exhibite maller from the creation of the world,” and to the eye the hole action of the resurrection, the probably concluded with the day of judgment, priestes garnished out certain small puppettes, in the presence of most of the nobility and representing the persons of Christ, the Watch- gentry of England. man, Marie, and others; amongest the wbich, We are indebted to Mr. Warton for some one bore the parte of a waking watchman, who curious circumstances relative to these Miracle

was

plays, which “ appear in a roll of the Church-sition to real historical personages was natural wardens of Bassingborne, in Cambridgeshire, and obvious.” wbich is an accompt of the expenses and re- Dr. Percy, in his Account of the English ceptions for acting the play of Saint George at Stage, has given an Analysis of two ancient Bassingborne, on the feast of Saint Margaret, Moralities, entitled Every Man, and Lusty in the year 1511. They collected upwards of Juventus, from which a persect notion of this four pounds in twenty-seven neighbouring kind of drama may be obtained. Every Man parishes for furnishing the play. They dis- was written in Ibe reign of King Henry the bursed about two pounds in the representation. Eighth, and Lusty Juventus in that of King These disbursements are to four minstrels, or Edward the Sixth. As Dr. Percy's curious waits, of Cambridge, for three days, vs. vid. and valuable collection of ancient English Poetry To the players, in bread and ale, iijs. ijd. To is in the hands of every scholar, I shall content the garnement-man for garnements and pro- myself with merely referring to it. Many other pyrts, that is, for dresses, decorations, and Moralities are yet extant, of some of which I implements, and for play-books, iss. To shall give titles below. Of one, which is not John Hobard, brotherhoode preeste, that is, a now extant, we have a curious account in a priest of the guild in the church, for the play book entitled, Mount Tabor, or Private Exbook, ijs. viiid. For the crofte, or field in ercises of a Penitent Sinner, by R. W. (R. which the play was exhibited, js. For propyrte- Willis), Esq. published in the Year of his making, or furniture, js. ivd. For fish and Age 75, Anno Domini 1639; an extract from bread, and to selling up the stages, ivd. For which will give the reader a more accurate nopainting three fanchoms and four formenters, tion of the old Moralities than a long dissertation words which I do not understand, but perbaps on the subject. fantoms and devils ----. The rest was expended for a feast on the occasion, in which

“UPON A STAGE-PLAY WHICH I SAW WHEN I are recited · Four chicken for the gentilmen,

WAS A CHILD. ivd.' It appears by the manuscript of the Coventry plays, that a temporary scaffold only was

“ In the city of Gloucester the manner is erected for these performances.”

(as I think it is in other like corporations), In the ancient religious plays the Devil was

that when players of enterludes come to lowne, very frequently introduced. He was usually

they first attend the Mayor, to enforme him

what noblemans servants they are, and so to represented with horns, a very wide mouth (by means of a mask), staring eyes, a large nose, a

get licence for their publike playing; and if the red beard, cloven feet, and a tail. His con

Mayor like the actors, or would shew respect slant attendant was the Vice (the buffoon of to their lord and master, he appoints them to the piece), whose principal employment was to

play their first play before himself, and the belabour the Devil with his wooden dagger,

Aldermen and Common-Counsell of the city; and to make him roar for the entertainment of and that is called the Mayor's Play: where every the populace.

one that will, comes in without money, the As the Mysteries or Miracle-plays “fre

Mayor giving the players a reward as hee thinks quently required the introduction of allegorical fit to shew respect unto them. At such a play characters, such as Charity, Sin, Death, Hope,

my father tooke me with him and made me Faith, or the like, and as the common poetry of stand between his leggs, as he sale upon one of the times, especially among the French, began the benches, where we saw and heard very

well. to deal much in allegory, at length plays were

The play was called The Cradle of formed entirely consisting of such personifica

* Magnificence, written by John Skellon ; Imtions. These were called MORALITIES. The patient Poverty, 1560; The Life and Repentance of Miracle-plays or MYSTERIES were totally des- Marie Magdalene, 1567 ; The Trial of Treasure, titute of invention and plan : they tamely re

1567; The Nice Wanton, 1568; The Disobedien! presented stories, according to the letter of the 1570; The Interlude of Youth, no date; The longer

Child, no date; The Marriage of Wit and Science, Scripture, or the respective legend. But the thou livest, the more Fool thou art, no date; The MORALITIES indicate dawnings of the dramatic Interlude of Weallh and Health, no date; All for art : they contain some rudiments of a plot,

Money, 1578; The Conflict of Conscience, 1581 ; and even attempt to delineate characters, and to Lords of London, 1590 ; Tom Tyler and his

The Three Ladies of London, 1585; The Three paint manners. From hence the gradual tran- Wife, &c.

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