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The firft scenical direction is,-“ Et primo in alique fupremo loco,
five in nubibus, la fieri poterat, loquatur Deus ad Noe, extra archam exiftente cum tota familia fua.'
Then the Almighty, after expatiating on the sins 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 shall make a signe as though the wrought uppon the shippe with divers instruments, and after that God shall 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 familye, his wife excepte. The arke must be boarded
sound 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. At length Sem and his brethren put her on board by force, and on Noah's welcoming her, “ Welcome, wife, into this boate," she gives him a box on the ear: adding, “ 'Take thou that for thy note 2.”
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 3, 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 mother's 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 excused all incongrui. ties. 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 antagonift. In these Mysteries I have sometimes seen gross and open obsceni. ties. 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 Mís. Digby 134. Bibl. Bodl.
4 This kind of primitive exhibition was revived in the time of King James the First, leveral persons appearing almost entirely naked in one of the Masks, which was represented before him, his queen, and a large allembly of the ladies of the court. It is, if I reccollect sight, 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 fo nearly resembled in fimplicity; and if this had not been the case, the dra. matifts were ignorant what to reject and what to retains.”
“ I must not omit," adds Mr. Warton", "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 Wincheiter, on occasion of the birth of prince Arthur, on a Sunday,during the time of dinner, he was entertained with a religious drama called Cbrifti 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 Myfteries: 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 Christ, Adam, Eve, Abraham, and John the Baptist, 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
Whitsun s Warton's Hist. or ENGLISH POETRY. I. pp. 242, el sego 6 Hist. or E. P. II. p. 206.
7 “Except, that on the fisft sunday of the magnificent marriage of king James of Scotland with the princels Margaret of England, daughter of Henry the seventh, celebrated at Edinburgh with high splendour, « after dynnar a MORALITE was played by the said Master Inglythe and hys companions in the presence of the kyng and qweene.” On one of the preceding days, “after foupper the kynge and qweene beynge Cogader in hyr grett chamber, John Inglysh and hys companions ploid." This was in the year 1503. Apud Leland, coll. jii. p. 300. Append. edit. 1770."
> See an account of the Coventry Plays in Stevens's Monasticon, çol. 1. p. 338. “ Sir W. Dugdale, speaking of the Gray-friars or
Whitsun-plays at Chester, where it is called the HAR ROWING OF HELL. The representation is, Christ entering hell triumphantly, delivering our first parents,
Franciscans at Coventry, says, before the suppresion of monasteries
I have knowing that our cofyn Elizabeth with childe is,
If ought we myth comfort her, it wer to me blys.
Than will her husband Zachary be mery.