صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

Morality I have seen, conclude with a solemn prayer. They are all of them in rhyme; in a kind of loose stanza, intermixed wish disticks.

It would be needless to point out the absurdities in the plan and conduct of the foregoing play: they are evidently great. It is sufficient to observe, that, bating the moral and religious reflection of Pęty, &c. the piece is of a comic cast, and contains a humorous display of some of the vices of the age. Indeed, the author has generally been so little attentive to the allegory, that we need only substitute other names to his personages, and we have real characters and living manners.

We see, then, that the writers of these Moralities were upon the very threshold of real Tragedy and Comedy; and, therefore, we are not to wonder that Tragedies and Comedies, in form, soon after took place, especially as the revival of learning about this tiine, brought them acquainted with the Roman and Grecian models.

II. At what period of time the Mysteries and Moralites had their rise, it is difficult to discover. Holy plays, representing the miracles and sufferings of the saints, appear to have been no novelty in the reign of Henry II. and a lighter sort of interludes were not then unknown *, In Chaucer's time “ Plays

of

* See Fitz-Stephens's description of London, preserved by Stow. Londonia pro spectaculis theatralibus, pro ludis scenicis, ludos habet san&twres, representationes miraculorum,

&c.

of Miracles" in Lent, were the common resort of idle gossips *. Towards the latter end of Henry the VIIth's reign, Moralities were so common, that John Rastel, brother-in-law to Sir Thomas More, conceived a design of making them the vehicle of science and natural philosophy. With this view he published “ A new interlude and a mery of the nature of the iiij elements, declarynge many proper points of phylosophy naturall, and of dyvers straunge landyst, &c.

It

&c. He is thought to have written in the reign of Henry II. and to have died in that of Richard I, It is true, at the end of his book we find mentioned Henrịcum regem tertium ; but this is, doubtless, Henry the Second's son, who was crowned during the life of his father, in 1170, and is generally distinguished as Rex juvenis, Rex filius, and sometimes they were jointly named Reges Angliæ. From a passage in his Chapter De Religione, it should seem that the body of St. Thomas Becket was just then a new acqui. sition to the church of Canterbury.

* See Prologue to Wife of Bath's Tale, v. 338. Urry's edition.

+ Mr. Garrick has an imperfect copy (Old Plays, i, vol. 3.), The Dramatis Personæ are, “ The Messengere (or Pro" logue] Nature naturate, Humanytè. Studyous Desire, as Sensuall Appetyte. The Taverner. Experyence. Yg" noraunce. · (Also, yf ye lyste, ye may brynge in a dyso gysynge.)" Afterwards follows a table of the matters handled in the interlude. Among which are 66 Of certeyn “' conclusions prouvynge the yert he must nedes be rounde, " and that it hengyth in the myddes of the fyrmament,

" and

It is observable, that the poet speaks of the discovery of America as then recent;

- Within this xx yere t6 Westwarde be founde new landes *6 That we never harde tell' of before this,” &c.

The West-Indies were discovered by Columbus in 1492, which fixes the writing of this play to about 1510. The play of Hick-Scorner was, probably, somewhat more ancient, as he still more imperfectly alludes to the American discoveries, under the name of “the Newe founde Ilonde," sign. A. vij.

It appears from the play of The Four Elements, that Interludes were then very common: The profession of PLAYER was no less common; for in an old satire, entitled, Cock Lorelles Bote *, the author enumerates all the inost common trades or callings, as, “ Carpenters, Coopers, Joyners, &c. and among others, PLAYERS, though it inust be acknowledged he has placed them in no very reputable company.

[ocr errors]

b6 and that yt is in circumference above xxi M. myle.”
6. Of certeyne points of cosmographyemand of dyvers
s straunge regyons and of the new founde landys and the
65 maner of the people.” This part is extremely curious,
as it shows what notions were entertained of the new
American discoveries by our own countrymen.

* Printed at the Sun, in Fleet-Street, by W. de Worde, no date, bl. l. 4to.

66 PLAYERS,

“ PLAYERS, purse-cutters, money-batterers,
« Golde-washers, tomblers, jogelers,
« Pardoner's, &c."

Sign, B. vj.

It is observable, that in the old Moralities of HickScorner, Every-Man, &c. there is no kind of stage direction for the exits and entrances of the personages, no division of acts and scenes. But in the moral interlude of Lusty Juventus *, written under Edward VI. the exits and entrances begin to be noted in the margin f : at length, in Q. Elizabeth's reign, Moralities appeared formally divided into acts and scenes, with a regular prologue, &c. One of these is reprinted by Dodsley,

In the time of Henry VIII: one or two dramatick pieces had been published under the classical names of Comedy and Tragedy I, but they appear not to

havę

[ocr errors]

* Described in vol. ii. Preface to Book II. The Dramatis Personæ of this piece are, “ Messenger, Lusty Juventus. Good Counsaill. Knowledge. Sathan the devyll. Hypocrisie. Fellowship. Abominable-lyving [an Harlot.] God's-merciful-promises." ' . + I have also discovered some few Exeats and Intrats in the very old Interlude of the Four Elements.

I Bishop Bale had applied the name of Tragedy to his Mystery of God's Promises, in 1538. In 1540, John Palsgrave, B. D. had republished a Latin comedy, called Acolastus, with an English version. Holingshed tells us, (vol, iii, p. 850.) that so early as 1520, the king had “a

"goodlie

stage

mar:

[ocr errors]

have been intended for popular use : it was not till

the religious ferments had subsided, that the publick vj... had leisure to attend to dramatick poetry. In the reign

I of Elizabeth, Tragedies and Comedies began to apHick pear in form, and could the poets have persevered,

the first models were good. Gorboduc, a regular mages, tragedy, was acted in 1561*; and Gascoigne, in 1566, moral exhibited Focasta, a translation from Euripides, as

also, The Supposes, a regular comedy, from Ariosto : near thirty years before any of Shakspere's were printed.

The people, however, still retained a relish for their old Mysteries and Moralities t, and the popular dramatick poets seem to have made them their models. The graver sort of Moralities appear to have given birth to our modern TRAGEDY; as our COMEDY

evidently took its rise from the lighter interludes of have i

o goodlie comedie of Plautus plaied” before him at Greenwich ; but this was in Latin, as Mr. Farmer informs us in his late curious - Essay on the Learning of Shakspere." 8vo. p. 31.

* See Ames, p. 316.- This play appears to have been first printed under the name of Gorboduc; then under that of Ferrer and Porrer, in 1569; and again, under Gorboduo, 1590.-- Ames calls the first edition Quarto ; Langbaine, O&avo; and Tanner, 12mo.

+ The general reception the old Moralities had upon the stage, will account for the fondness of all our first poets for allegory. Subjects of this kind were faniliar to every

body. llie

atick

[ocr errors]

that

« السابقةمتابعة »