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STUDIES OF SHAKSPERE.

BOOK I.

CHAPTER I.

PAGEANTS AND MYSTERIES.

The city of Coventry, within a moderate | In the play of “The Fall,' Eve sang-distance of Stratford upon Avon, was

“In this garden I will go see amongst the last places which retained the

All the flowers of fair beauty, ancient pageants. Before the Reformation,

And tasten the fruits of great plenty these pageants, “acted with mighty state That be in Paradise ;” and reverence by the friars of this house [the Grey Friars), had theatres for the several In the same play we have a hymn of Abel, scenes, very large and high, placed upon very sweet in its music :wheels, and drawn to all the eminent parts

“Almighty God, and full of might, of the city, for the better advantage of spec By whom all thing is made of nought, tators, and contained the story of the New

To thee my heart is ready dight, Testament composed into old English rhyme, For upon thee is all my thought.” as appeareth by an ancient manuscript, entitled Ludus Corporis Christi, or Ludus Co- In the play of Noah,' when the dove reventric." *

Henry V. and his nobles took turned to the ark with the olive-branch, great delight in seeing the pageants; Queen there was a joyful chorus :Margaret, in the days of her prosperity,

“ Mare vidit et fugit, came from Kenilworth to Coventry privily

Jordanis conversus est retrorsum, to see the play, and saw all the pageants

Non nobis, Domine, non nobis, played save one, which could not be played

Sed nomini tuo da gloriam.” because night drew on; the triumphant Richard III. came to see the Corpus Christi These ancient Coventry plays were fortyplays; and Henry VII. much commended three in number I. The general spread of themt. In these Corpus Christi plays there knowledge might have brought other teachwere passages which had a vigorous sim- ing, but they familiarized the people with plicity, fit for the teaching of an unin- the great scriptural truths; they gave them structed people. In the play of “The Crea amusements of a higher nature than milition, the pride of Lucifer disdained the wor

tary games, and contentions of mere brute ship of the angels, and he was cast down

force. In the boyhood of Shakspere the “With mirth and joy never more to mell.”

same class of subjects was handled by rude

artificers. * Dugdale. + See Sharp's quotations from the manuscript Annals of # See the. Ludus Coventriæ,' published by the ShakeCoventry, Dissertation,' page 4.

speare Society.'

The pageants thus performed by the tion of Jerusalem. The Smiths applied to Guilds of Coventry were of various subjects, one who had been educated in their own but all scriptural. The Smith's pageant town, in the Free School of Coventry, and was the crucifixion; and most curious are who in 1584 belonged to St. John's, Oxford, their accounts, from 1449 till the time of to write this new play for them. The folwhich we are speaking, for expenses of hel- lowing entry appears in the city accounts :mets for Herod, and cloaks for Pilate ; of

“Paid to Mr Smythe of Oxford the xyth daye tabards for Caiaphas, and gear for Pilate's

of aprill 1584 for hys paynes for writing of the wife ; of a staff for the Demon, and a beard

tragedye-xiij', vj“, viijd.” for Judas. There are payments, too, to a man for hanging Judas, and for cock-crow- We regret that this play, so liberally paid ing. The subject of the Cappers' pageant for when compared with subsequent paywas the Resurrection. They have charges ments to the Jonsons and Dekkers of the for making the play-book and pricking the true drama, has not been preserved. It songs ; for money spent at the first rehearsal would be curious to contrast it with the and the second rehearsal ; for supper on the beautiful dramatic poem on the same subplay-day, for breakfasts and for dinners. ject, by an accomplished scholar of our own The subject of the Drapers' pageant was day, also a member of the University of Oxthat of Doomsday; and one of their articles ford. But the list of characters remains, of machinery sufficiently explains the cha- which shows that the play was essentially racter of their performance“ A link to set historical, exhibiting the contests of the the world on fire,” following “Paid for the Jewish factions as described by Josephus. barrel for the earthquake.” We may readily The accounts manifest that the play was got believe that the time was fast approaching up with great magnificence in 1584; but it when such pageants would no longer be was not played again until 1591, when it tolerated. It is more than probable that was once more performed along with the the performances of the Guilds were origin- famous Hock Tuesday. It was then ordered ally subordinate to those of the Grey Friars; that no other plays whatever should be perperhaps devised and supported by the paro- formed; and the same order, which makes chial clergy*. But when the Church be- this concession “at the request of the Comcame opposed to such representations—when, mons," directs" that all the May-poles that indeed, they were incompatible with the now are standing in this city shall be taken spirit of the age—it is clear that the efforts down before Whitsunday next, and none of the laity to uphold them could not long hereafter to be set up.” In that year Cobe successful. They would be certainly per- ventry saw the last of its pageants. But formed without the reverence which once Marlowe and Shakspere were in London, belonged to them. Their rude action and building up something more adapted to that simple language would be ridiculed ; and, age; more universal: dramas that no change when the feeling of ridicule crept in, their of manners or policies can destroy. nature would be altered, and they would be

The Chester Mysteries,' which appear come essentially profane. There is a very greatly to have resembled those of Coventry, curious circumstance connected with the were finally suppressed in 1574. Archdeacon Coventry pageants, which shows the struggle Rogers, who in his MSS. rejoices that “such that was made to keep the dramatic spirit a cloud of ignorance” would be no more of the people in this direction. In 1584 the seen, appears to have been an eye witness of Smiths performed, after many preparations their performance, of which he has left the and rehearsals, a new pageant, the Destruc- following description :--(See Markland’s ‘In

troduction to a Specimen of the Chester * It is clear, we think, that the pageants performed by Mysteries.?) the Guilds were altogether different from the ‘Ludus Coventriæ,' which Dugdale expressly tells us were per

They weare divided into 24 pagiantes formed by the Grey Friars.

according to the cöpanyes of the Cittie; and

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