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below. I am tempted to transcribe a few lines from the third of these pageants, The Deluge, as a specimen of of the ancient Myfteries.
at the expence of the different trading companies of that city: The Fall of Lucifer, by the Tanners. Tbe Creation, by the Drapers. The Delage, by the Dyers. Abraham, Melcbifedech, and Lot, by the Barbers. Mofes, Balak, and Balaam, by the Cappers. The Saluta. rior and Nativity, by the Wrightes. Tbe Sbepberds feeding their Focks by nigbt, by the Painters and Glaziers. Tbe three Kings, by the Vintners. Tbe Oblation of be three Kings, by the Mercers. The killing of tbe Innocents, by the Goldsmiths. The Purification, by the Blacksmiths. The Temptation, by the Butchers. The last Supper, by the Bakers. Tbe blind Men and Lazarus, by the Glovers." Hesus and the Lepers, by the Corvesarys. Cbriff's Paffion, by the Bowyers, Fletchers, and Ironmongers. Defcent into Hell, by the Cooks and Innkeepers. The Resurrealior., by the Skinners. The Ascension, by the Taylors. The Election of S. Mathias, ferding of the Holy Gbofi, &c. by the Filmongers. Anticbrift, by the Clothiers.. Day of Judgement, by the Websters. The reader will perhaps smile at some of these combinations. This is the substance and order of the former part of the play. God enters creating the world; he breathes life into Adam, leads bim
into Paradise, and opens his fide while Reeping. Adam and Eve appear naked, and not afbamed, and the old terpent enters lamenting his fall. He converses with Eve. She eats of the forbidden fruit, and gives part to Adam. They propose, according to the stagedire&tion, to make themselves subligacula a foliis quibus regamus pudenda. Cover their nakedness with leaves, and converse with
God. God's curse. The serpent exit hilfing. They are driven from Para. dise by four angels and the cherubim with a Aaming word. Adam appears digging the ground, and Eve spinning. Their children Cain and Abel enter: the former kills his brother. Adam's lamentation. Cain is banished,'' &c. Warton's Hist. OF E. P. I. 243.
Mr. Warton observes in a note in his first volume, p. 180, that " if it be true that these Mysteries were composed in the year 1328, and there was so much difficulty in obtaining the Pope's permission that they might be presented in English, a presumptive proof arises, that all our Mysteries before that period were in Latin. These plays will therefore have the merit of being the first English interludes."
Polydore Virgil mentions in his book de Rerum Inventoribus, Lib. 1. c. 2, that the Mysteries were in his time in English. “ Solemus vel more priscorum spectacula edere populo, ut ludos, venationes, -recitare comædias, item in templis vitas divorum ac martyria repræfentare, in quibus, ut cunctis par hit voluptas, qui recitant, vernaculam linguam tantum ufurpant." The firft three books of Polydore's work were published in 1499 ; in 1517, at which time he was in England, he added five more.
The first scenical direction is,-“ Et primo in aliquo Jupremo loco,
five in nubibus, fi fieri poterat, loquatur Deus ad Noe, extra archam exiflente cum tota familia fua."
Then the ALMIGHTY, after expatiating on the ans of mankind, is made to say:
Man that I made I will destroye,
The folke that are herone.
That ever I made man.
Of trees drye and lighte.
To anoynte yt through all thy mighte, &c. After some dialogue between Noah, Sem, Ham, Japhet, and their wives, we find the following stagedirection : “ Then Noe with all his family thail make a figne as though the wrought uppon the shippe with divers instruments, and after that God thall speake to Noe:
Noe, take thou thy meanye,
Is nowe on earth livinge.
By live in that thou bring, &c. “ Then Noe shall goe into the arke with all his Samilye, his wife excepte. The arke muft be boarded
round aboute, and uppon the bordes all the beastes and
Horses, mares, oxen and swyne,
Here fitten thou maye see, &c.
Thou art ever froward, that dare I swere,
For fear left that wee drowne.
And rowe forth with evil haile,
I wil not oute of this toune;
And I may save ther life.
And get thee a newe wife.
Many licentious pleasantries, as Mr. Warton has observed, were sometimes introduced in these religious representations. “ This might imperceptibly lead the way to subjects entirely profane, and to comedy; and perhaps earlier than is imagined. In a Mystery of
2 It is obvious that the transcriber of these ancient Mysteries, which appear to have been written in 1328, represents them as they were exhibited at Chester in 1600, and that he has not adhered to the original orthography.
The Massacre of the Holy Innocents ?, part of the subject of a sacred drama given by the English fathers at the famous Council of Constance, in the year 1417, a low buffoon of Herod's court is introduced, deíiring of his lord to be dubbed a knight, that he might be properly qualified to go on the adventure of killing the mothers of the children of Bethlehem. This tragical business is treated with the most ridiculous levity. The good women of Bethlehem attack our knight-errant with their spinning-wheels, break his head with their distaffs, abuse him as a coward and a disgrace to chivalry, and send him to Herod as a recreant champion with much ignominy: - It is certain that our ancestors intended no sort of impiety by these monstrous and unnatural mixtures. Neither the writers nor the spectators saw the impropriety, nor paid a separate attention to the comick and the serious part of these motley scenes; at least they were persuaded that the folemnity of the subject covered or excufed all incongruities. They had no juft idea of decorum, consequently but little sense of the ridiculous: what appears to us to be the highest burlesque, on them would have made no sort of impression. We must not wonder at this, in an age when courage, devotion, and ignorance, composed the character of European manners; when the knight going to a tornament, first invoked his God, then his mistress, and afterwards proceeded with a safe conscience and great resolution to engage his antagonist. In these Mysteries I have sometimes feen gross and open obscenities. In a play of The Old and New Testament Adam and Eve are both exhibited on the stage naked 4, and conversing about their nakedness ; this very pertinently introduces the next scene ; in which they have coverings of fig-leaves. This extraordinary spectacle was beheld by a numerous assembly of both sexes with great composure: they had the authority of scripture for such a
3 Mss. Digby 134. Bibl. Bodl.
4 This kind of primitive exhibition was revived in the time of King James the First, several persons appearing almost entirely naked in one of the Masks, which was represented before him, his queen, and a large afsembly of the ladies of the court. It is, if I reccollect right, described by Winwood.
representation, and they gave matters just as they found them in the third chapter of Genesis. It would have been absolute heresy to have departed from the sacred text in personating the primitive appearance of our first parents, whom the spectators so nearly resembled in fimplicity; and if this had not been the case, the dramatists were ignorant what to reject and what to retains.”
" I must not omit,” adds Mr. Wartono, “an anecdote entirely new, with regard to the mode of playing the Mysteries at this period, [the latter part of the fifteenth century,] which yet is perhaps of much higher antiquity. In the year 1487, while Henry the seventh kept his residence at the castle of Winchester, on occasion of the birth of prince Arthur, on a Sunday,during the time of dinner, he was entertained with a religious drama called Chrifti Defcenfus ad inferos, or Christ's descent into Hell. It was represented by the Pueri Eleemofynarii, or choir-boys, of Hyde Abbey, and Saint Swithin's priory, two large monasteries at Winchester. This is the only proof I have ever seen of choir-boys acting in the old Mysteries: nor do I recollect any other instance of a royal dinner, even on a festival, accompanied with this species of diversion. The story of this interlude, in which the chief characters were Chrift, Adam, Eve, Abraham, and John the Baptift, was not uncommon in the ancient religious drama, and I believe made a part of what is called the LUDUS PASCHALIS, or Easter Play. It occurs in the Coventry Plays acted on Corpus Christi day, and in the
3 Warton's HIST. OF ENGLISH POETRY. I. pp. 242, et seq. 6 Hist. OF E. P. II. p. 206.
7 "Except that on the first sunday of the magnificent marriage of king James of Scotland with the princess Margaret of England, daughter of Henry the seventh, celebrated at Edinburgh with high splendour, « after dynnar a MORALITE was played by the said Master Inglyshe and hys companions in the presence of the kyng and qweene.” On one of the preceding days, “after foupper the kynge and qweene beynge togader in hyr grett chamber, John Inglyth and hys companions plaid." This was in the year 1503. Apud Leland, coll. iji. p. 300. Append. edic. 1770."
* See an account of the Coventry Plays in Stevens's Monasticon, Føl, 1. p. 238. “ Sir W. Dugdale, speaking of the Gray-friars or