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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,
Beast, worme, and fowle to fey,
For one earth the doe me nye,

The folke that are herone.
It harmes me sore hartefully
The malice that doth nowe multiplye,
That sore it greeves me inwardlie

That ever I made man.
Therefore, Noe, my servant free,
That righteous man arte, as I see,
A shipp soone thou shalt make thee

Of trees drye and lighte.
Litill chambers therein thou make,
And byndinge slytche also thou take,
Within and without ney thou Nake

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,
And in the shipp hie that ye be,
For non so righteous man to me

Is nowe on earth livinge.
Of clean beastes with the thou take
Seven and seven, or thou slake,
He and she, make to make,

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

round

sound aboute, and uppon the bordes all the beastes and
fowles hereafter rehearsed must be painted, that there
wordes maye agree with the pictures."
Sem, Sier, here are lions, libardes, in,

Horses, mares, oxen and swyne,
Neates, calves, sheepe and kyne,

Here fitten thou maye see, &c.
After all the beasts and fowls have been described,
Noah thus addresses his wife :
Noe, Wife, come in, why standes thou there?

Thou art ever froward, that dare I swere,
Come in on Godes halfe ; tyme it were,

For fear left that wee drowne.
Wife. Yea, fir, fet up your faile,

And rowe forth with evil haile,
For withouten anie faile

I wil not oute of this toune ;
But I have my gossepes everich one,
One foote further I will not gone :
They fhal not drown by St. John,

And I may save ther life.
They loved me full well by Chrift:
But thou will let them in thie chitt,
Ellis rowe forth, Noe, when thou lift,

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,

tbe

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.

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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

Franciscans

Whitsun-plays at Chester, where it is called the HAR ROWING OF HELL. The representation is, Christ entering hell triumphantly, delivering our first parents,

and

Franciscans at Coventry, says, before the suppresion of monasteries
this city was very famous for the pageants that were played therein
upon Corpus Chrifti day; which pageants being acted with mighty
ftate and reverence by the friers of this house, had theatres
for the feveral scenes, very large and high, placed upon wheeles, and
drawn to all the eminent parts of the city, for the better advantage of
the spectators.-- An ancient manuscript of the same is now to be seen
in the Cottonian Library, sub. etfig. Vesp. D. 8. Sir William cites
this manuscript by the title of Ludus Coventriæ; but in the printed
catalogue of that library, p. 113, it is named thus: A collection of plays
in old English metre; h. e. Dramaia sacra, in quibus exbibentur
biftoriæ Veteris & N. Teftamenti, introduétis quafi in scenam perfonis
illic memoratis, quas secum invicem colloquentes pro ingenio fingit porta.
Videntur olim coram populo, five ad inftruendum, five ad placendum, a
fratribus mendicaniibus representata. It appears by the latter end of the
prologue, that these plays or interludes were not only played at Coven-
try, but in other towns and places upon occasion. And possibly this
may be the same play which Stow tells us was played in the reign of
King Henry IV, which lasted for eight days. The book seems by the
character and language to be at lealt 300 years old. It begins with
a general prologue, giving the arguments of forty pageants or getti-
culacions, (which were as so many several acts or scenes,) representing
all the histories of both testaments, from the creation to the
chufing of St. Matbias to be an apostle. The stories of the New
Teftament are more largely expressed, viz. The Annunciation, Nati.
vity, Vifitation; but more especially all matters relating to the Paffion
very part larly, the Resurrection, Ascension, the choice of St.
Marbias : after which is also represented the Affumption, and laft
Judgment. All these things were treated of in a very homely ftile,
as we now think, infinitely below the dignity of the subject : But it
seems the gust of that age was not nice and delicate in these matters;
the plain and incurious judgment of our ancestors, being prepared
with favour, and taking every thing by the right and eafieft handle :
For example, in the scene relating to the Viatation :
Maria. But husband of on thyng pray you most mekeley,

I have knowing that our cofyn Elizabeth with childe is,
That it please yow to go to her hastyly,

If ought we myth comfort her, it wer to me blys.
Josepb. A Gods sake, is the with child, sche?

Than will her husband Zachary be mery.
In Montana they dwelle, fer hence, so mory the,
In the city of Juda, I know it verily;

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