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elegant or more Intelligible. These corruptions! I have preserved the common distribution or I have often silently rectified; for the bistory the plays into acts, though I believe it in almost of our language, and the true force of our all the plays void of authority. Some of those words, can only be preserved, by keeping the which are divided in the laler editions have no text of authors free from adulteration. Others, division in the first folio, and some that are and tbose very frequent, smoothed the cadence, divided in the folio have no division in the preer regulated the measure; on these I have not ceding copies. The settled mode of the theatre exercised the same rigour; if only a word was requires four intervals in a play, but few, if transposed, or a particle inserted or omit any, of our author's compositions can be proted, I have somelimes suffered the line to stand; perly distributed in that manner. An act is so for the inconstancy of the copies is such, as that much of the drama as passes without intervensome liberties may be easily permitted. But lion of time, or change of place. A pause this practice I have not suffered to proceed far, makes a new act. In every real, and therefore having restored the primitive diction wherever in every imitative action, the intervals may be it could for any reason be preferred.
more or fewer, the restriction of five acts being The emendations, which comparison of copies accidental and arbitrary. This Shakspeare supplied, I have inserted in the text; some knew, and this he practised; his plays were times, where the improvement was slight, written, and at first printed in one unbroken without notice, and sometimes with an account continuity, and ought now to be exhibited with of the reasons of the change.
short pauses, interposed as often as the scene Conjecture, though it be sometimes unavoid is changed, or any considerable time is required able, I have not wantonly nor licentiously in- to pass. This method would at once quell a dulged. It has been my settled principle, that thousand absurdities. the reading of the ancient books is probably In restoring the author's works to their intrue, and therefore is not to be disturbed for tegrity, I have considered the punctuation as the sake of elegance, perspicuity, or mere im- wholly in my power; for what could be their provement of the sense. For though much care of colons and commas, who corrupted credit is not due to the fidelity, nor any to the words and sentences ? Whatever could be judgment of the first publishers, yet they who done by adjusting points, is therefore silently bad the copy before their eyes were more likely performed, in some plays with much diligence, to read it right, than we who read it only by in others with less; it is hard to keep a busy eye imagination. But it is evident that they have steadily fixed upon evanescent atoms, or a disoften made strange mistakes by ignorance or cursive mind upon evanescent truth. Degligence, and that therefore something may The same liberty has been taken with a few be properly attempted by criticism, keeping particles, or other words of slight effect. I the middle way between presumption and limi have sometimes inserted or omitted them with
out notice. I have done that sometimes which Sach criticism I have attempted to practise, the other editors have done always, and which and where any passage appeared inextricably indeed the state of the text may sufficiently perplexed, bave endeavoured to discover how justify. it may be recalled to sense, with least violence. The greater part of readers, instead of blamBat my first labour is, always lo turn the old ing us for passing trifles, will wonder that on tert on every side, and try if there be any in- mere trifles so much labour is expended, with lerstice, through which light can find its way; such importance of debate, and such solemnity Bor would Huetius himself condemn me, as of diction. To these I answer with confidence, refusing the trouble of research for the ambi- that they are judging of an art which they do tion of alteration. In this modest industry 1 not understand; yet cannot much reproach them kare not been unsuccessful. I have rescued with their ignorance, nor promise that they many lines from the violations of temerity, and would become in general, by learning criticism, secured many scenes from the inroads of cor- | more useful, happier, or wiser. rection. I have adopted the Roman sentiment, As I practised conjecture more, I learned to that it is more honourable to save a citizen, than trust it less; and after I had printed a few plays, to kill an enemy, and have been more careful resolved to insert none of my own readings in to protect than to attack.
the text. Upon this caution I now congratulale
and wish that I could conAdently produce my I should feel little solicitude about the sentence, commenlary as equal to the encouragement were it to be pronounced only by the skilful and which I have had the honour of receiving. Every the learned. work of this kind is by ils nature deficient, and
The drama before the time of Shakspeare | tracting from various parts of his valuable work, was so little cultivated, or so ill understood, such particulars as suit my present purpose. that to many it may appear unnecessary to | The earliest dramatic entertainments exbicarry our theatrical researches higher than that bited in England, as well as every other part of period. Dryden has truly observed, that he | Europe, were of a religious kind. So early as "* found not, but created first the stage;" of in the beginning of the twelfth century, it was wbich no one can doubt, who considers, that of customary in England on holy festivals to reall the plays issued from the press antecedent present, in or near the churches, either the lives to the year 1592, when there is reason to be- and miracles of saints, or the more mysterious lieve he commenced a dramatic writer, the titles parts of Holy Writ, such as the incarnation, are scarcely known, except to antiquaries; nor passion, and resurrection of Christ. From the is there one of them that will bear a second subject of these spectacles, these scriplural plays perosal. Yet these, contemptible and few as were denominated Miracles, or Mysteries. At they are, we may suppose to have been the what period of time they were first exbibited in most popular productions of the time, and | | this country, I am unable to ascertain. Unthe best that had been exhibited before the ap- doubtedly, however, they are of very great antipearance of Sbakspeare.*
quity; and Riccoboni, who has contended that A minute investigation, therefore, of the the Italian theatre is the most ancient in Euorigin and progress of the drama in England, rope, has claimed for his country an honour to vill scarcely repay the labour of the enquiry. which it is not entitled. The era of the earliest However, as the best introduction to an account representation in Italy founded on Holy Writ, of the internal economy and usages of the Eng- he has placed in the year 1264, when the lish theatres in the time of Shakspeare (the fraternity del Gonfalone was established; but principal object of this dissertation), I shall take we had similar exhibitions in England above à cursory view of our most ancient dramatic ex- 150 years before that time. In the year 1110, hibitions, though I fear I can add but little to as Dr. Percy and Mr. Warton have observed, the researches which have already been made the Miracle-play of Saint Catharine, written on that subject.
by Geoffrey, a learned Norman (afterwards Mr. Warton in his elegant and ingenious abbot of St. Alban's), was acted, probably by History of English Poetry has given so accurate his scholars, in the abbey of Dunstable; peran account of our earliest dramatic poetry per- haps the first spectacle of this kind exhibited in formances, that I shall make no apology for er- | England. William Fitz-Stepben, a monk or
Canterbury, who according to the best accounts * Mr. Reed gives a list of seventy-five plays composed his very curious work in 1174, about to extant, written from the year 1540 to 1600. four years after the murder of his patron ArchThese are exclusive of mysteries, moralities, inter
bishop Becket, and in the twenty-first year of ludes, and translated pieces, and of some dramatic preces which were entered on the books of the
the reign of King Henry the Second, mentions, Stationers' Company, but have not been printed that “ London, for its theatrical exhibitions, has religious plays, either the representations rivalled the popularity of the professed players. of miracles wrought by boly confessors, or the Music was admitted into the churches, which sufferings of martyrs.”
served as theatres for the representation of holy Mr. Warlon has remarked, that “in the farces. The festivals among the French, time of Chaucer, Plays of Miracles appear to called La Fête des Fout, de l’Ane, and des have been the common resort of idle gossips in Innocens, at length became greater favourites, Lent.
as they certainly were more capricious and “ And in Pierce Plowman's Creed, a piece, absurd, iban 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 tbis 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 together. 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 XPITTOS AUTXwv, 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 adoptel and the arts of buffoonery being rendered still from Constantinople by the Italians; why more attractive, by extending their circle of framed, in the depth of the dark ages, on thi exhibition, acquired an importance in the eyes foundation, that barbarous species of theatrica of the people. By degrees the clergy observing representation called MYSTERIES, or sacred co that the entertainments of dancing, music, and medies, and which were soon after received it mimickry, exhibited at these protracled annual France. This opinion will acquire probability celebrities, made the people less religious, by if we consider the early commercial intercours promoting idleness and a love of festivity, pro between Italy and Constantinople; and althoug scribed these sports, and excommunicated the the Italians, at the time when they may h performers. But finding that no regard was supposed to have imported plays of this patur paid to their censures, they changed their plan, did not understand the Greek language, y and determined to take these recreations into they could understand, and consequently coul their own hands. They turned actors; and imitate, what they saw. instead of profane mummeries, presented stories "In defence of Voltaire's hypothesis, it mi taken from legends or the Bible. This was the be further observed, that The Feast of Fod origin of sacred comedy. The death of Saint and of the Ass, with other religious farces Catharine acted by the monks of Saint Dennis that sort, so common in Europe, originated
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 weaning 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. Abra
ham, Melchisedeck, and Lot, by the Barbers. stitution of Christian spectacles partaking of the
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, that the people who were forbidden
Goldsmiths. The Purification, by the Blacksmiths. to read events of the sacred history in the Bible, The Temptation, by the Butchers. The last Supin which they were faithfully and beautifully per, by the Bakers. The blind Men and Lasarus, related, should at the same time be permilled by the Glovers. Jesus and the Lepers, by the Cor
acod vesarys. Christ's Passion, by the Bowyers, Fletlo see them represented on the stage, disgraced
chers, and Ironmongers. Descent into Hell, by with the grossest improprieties, 'corrupted with |
the Cooks and Innkeepers. The Resurrection, inventions and additions of the most ridiculous by the Skinners. The Ascension, by the Taylors. kind, sallied with impurities, and expressed in The Election of St. Mathias, sending of the Holy the language of the lowest farce.
Ghost, &c. 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 vere 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 them
selves subligacula a folüs quibus tegamus pudenda. the exhibition of the Passion by the mendicant
Cover their nakedness with leaves, and converse friars of Coventry and other places. Instances with God. God's curse. The serpent exit 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
digging the ground, and Eve spinning. Their
children Cain and Abel enter : the former kills circumstances, peculiarly arising from their his brother, Adam's lamentation, Cain is basituation, profession, and institution, enabled nished,” &c. Warton's History of English Poetry, the monks to be the sole performers of these vol. i. p. 243.
[Since the publication of our last edition, the representations.”
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 priforai 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 on the monastic 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 commence
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.)