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given an Analysis of two ancient Moralities, entitled Every Man, and Lusty Juventus, from which a perfect notion of this kind of drama may be obtained. Every Man was written in the reign of King Henry the Eighth, and Lust Juventus in that of King Edward the Sixth. As Dr. Percy's curious and valuable collection of ancient English Poetry is in the hands of every scholar, I shall content myself with merely referring to it. Many other Moralities are yet extant, of some of which I shall give titles below.” Of one, which is not now extant, we have a curious account in a book entitled, Mount Talor, or Private Exercises of a Penitent Sinner, ly R. W. [R. Willis,) Esqr. published in the year of his age 75, Anno Domini, 1639; an extract from which will give the reader a more accurate notion of the old Moralities than a long dissertation on the subject.
“Upon A STAGE-PLAY which I saw when I was A CHILD.
“In the city of Gloucester the manner is, (as I think it is in other like corporations,) that when players of enterludes eome to towne, they first attend the Mayor, to enforme him what noblemans servants they are, and so to get licence for their publike playing; and if the Mayor like the actors, or would shew respect to their lord and master, he appoints them to play their first play before himself, and the Alderman and Common-Counsell of the city; and that is called the Mayor's play; where every one that will, comes in without money, the Mayor giving the players a reward as hee thinks fit to shew respect unto them. At such a play, my father tooke me with him and made me stand between his leggs, as he sate upon one of the benches, where we saw and heard very well. The play was called The Cradle of Security, wherein was personated a king or some great prince, with his courtiers of several kinds, among which three ladies were in special grace with him; and they keeping him in delights
* Magnificence, written by John Skelton; Impatient Poverty, 1560; The Life and Repentance of Marie Magdalene, 1567; The Trial of Treasure, 1567; The Nice Wanton, 1568; The Disobedient Child, no date; The Marriage of Wit and Science, 1570; The Interlude of Youth, no date; The longer thou livest, the more Fool thou art, no date; The interlude of Health and Health, no date; All for Money, 1578; The Conflict of Conscience, 1581; The Three Ladies of London, 1584; The Three Lords of London, 1590; Tom Tyler and his Wife, &c.
and pleasures, drew him from his graver counsellors, hearing of sermons, and listening to good councell and admonitions, that in the end they got him to lye down in a cradle upon the stage, where these three ladies joyning in a sweet song, rocked him asleepe, that he snorted againe; and in the mean time closely conveyed under the cloaths wherewithall he was covered, a vizard, like a swines snout, upon his face, with three wire chains fastened thereunto, the other end whereof being holden severally by those three ladies; who fall to singing againe, and then discovered his face that the spectators might see how they had transformed him, going on with their singing. Whilst all this was acting, there came forth of another doore at the farthest end of the stage, two old men; the one in blew, with a serjeant at armes his mace on his shoulder; the other in red, with a drawn sword in his hand, and leaning with the other hand upon the others shoulder; and so they went along with a soft pace round about by the skirt of the stage, till at last they came to the cradle, when all the court was in the greatest jollity; and then the foremost old man with his mace stroke a fearfull blow upon the cradle; wherewith all the courtiers, with the three ladies, and the vizard, all vanished; and the desolate prince starting up bare-faced, and finding himself thus sent for to judgement, made a lamentable complaint of his miserable case, and so was carried away by wicked spirits. This prince did personate in the Morall, the wicked of the world; the three ladies, Pride, Covetousness, and Luxury; the two old men, the end of the world, and the last judgement. This sight took such impression in me, that when I came towards mans estate, it was as fresh in my memory, as if I had seen it newly acted.” The writer of this book appears to have been born in the same year with our great poet (1564). Supposing him to have been seven or eight years old when he saw this interlude, the exhibition must have been in 1571 or 1572. I am unable to ascertain when the first Morality appeared, but incline to think not sooner than the reign of King Edward the Fourth (1460). The publick pageants of the reign of King Henry the Sixth were uncommonly splendid; and being then first enlivened by the introduction of speaking allegorical personages properly and characteristically habited, they naturally led the way to those personifications by which Moralities were distinguished from the simpler religious dramas called Mysteries. We must not, however, suppose, that, after Moralities were introduced, Mysteries ceased to
be exhibited. We have already seen that a Mystery was represented before King Henry the Seventh, at Winchester, in 1487. Sixteen years afterwards, on the first Sunday after the marriage of his daughter with King James of Scotland, a Morality was performed. In the early part of the reign of King Henry the Eighth, they were perhaps performed indiscriminately; but Mysteries were probably seldom represented after the statute 34 and 35 Henry VIII. c. 1, which was made, as the preamble informs us, with a view that the kingdom should be purged and cleansed of all religious plays, interludes, rhymes, ballads, and songs, which are equally pestiferous and no/some to the commonweal. At this time both Moralities and Mysteries were made the vehicle of religious controversy; Bale's Comedy of the three Laws of Nature, printed in 1538, (which in fact is a Mystery,) being a disguised satire against popery; as the Morality of Lusty Juventus was written expressly with the same view in the reign of King Edward the Sixth. In that of his successor Queen Mary, Mysteries were again revived, as appendages to the papistical worship. “In the year 1556,” says Mr. Warton, “a goodly stage-play of the Passion of Christ was presented at the Grey-friars in London, on Corpus-Christi day, before the Lord-Mayor, the Privy-council, and many great estates of the realm. Strype also mentions, under the year 1577, a stage-play at the Grey-friars, of the Passion of Christ, on the day that war was proclaimed in London against France, and in honour of that occasion. On Saint Olave's day in the same year, the holiday of the church in Silver-street, which is dedicated to that saint, was kept with great solemnity. At eight of the clock at night, began a stage-play of goodly matter, being the miraculous history of the life of that saint, which continued four hours, and concluded with many religious songs.” No Mysteries, I believe, were represented during the reign of Elizabeth, except such as were occasionally performed by those who were favourers of the popish religion, and those already mentioned, known by the name of the Chester Mysteries, which had been originally composed in 1328, were revived in the time of King Henry the Eighth, (1533,) and again performed at Chester in the year 1600. The last Mystery, I believe, ever represented in England, was that of Christ's Passion, in the reign of King James the First, which Prynne tells us was “performed at Elie-House in Holborne, when Gundomar lay there, on Good-friday at night, at which there were thousands present.”
In France the representation of Mysteries was forbid in the year 1548, when the fraternity associated under the name of The Actors of our Saviour's Passion, who had received letters patent from King Charles the Sixth, in 1402, and had for near 150 years exhibited religious plays, built their new theatre on the site of the Duke of Burgundy's house; and were authorised by an arret of parliament to act, on condition that “they should meddle with none but profane subjects, such as are lawful and honest, and not represent any sacred Mysteries.” Representations founded on holy writ continued to be exhibited in Italy till the year 1660, and the Mystery of Christ's Passion was represented at Vienna so lately as the early part of the present century.
Having thus occasionally mentioned foreign theatres, I take this opportunity to observe, that the stages of France so lately as in the beginning of Queen Elizabeth's reign were entirely unfurnished with scenery or any kind of decoration, and that the performers at that time remained on the stage the whole time of the exhibition; in which mode perhaps our Mysteries in England were represented. For this information we are indebted to the elder Scaliger, in whose Poeticks is the following curious passage: “At present in France [about the year 1556) plays are represented in such a manner, that nothing is withdrawn from the view of the spectator. The whole apparatus of the theatre consists of some high seats ranged in proper order. The persons of the scene never depart during the representation: he who ceases to speak, is considered as if he were no longer on the stage. But in truth it is extremely ridiculous, that the spectator should see the actor listening, and yet he himself should not hear what one of his fellow-actors says concerning him, though in his own presence and within his hearing : as if he were absent, while he is present. It is the great object of the dramatick poet to keep the mind in a constant state of suspence and expectation. But in our theatres, there can be no novelty, no surprise : insomuch that the spectator is more likely to be satiated with what he has already seen, than to have any appetite for what is to come. Upon this ground it was, that Euripides objected to Æschylus, in The Frogs of Aristophanes, for having introduced Niobe and Achilles as mutes upon the scene, with a covering which entirely concealed their heads from the spectators.”
Another practice, equally extraordinary, is mentioned by Bulenger in his treatise on the Grecian and Roman theatres. In his time, so late as in the year 1600, all the actors em
ployed in a dramatick piece came on the stage in a troop, before the play began, and presented themselves to the spectators, in order," says he, to raise the expectation of the audience. I know not whether this was ever practised in England. Instead of raising, it should seem more likely to repress, expectation. I suppose, however, this writer conceived the audience would be animated by the number of the characters, and that this display would operate on the gaping spectators like some of our modern enormous play-bills; in which the length of the show sometimes constitutes the principal merit of the entertainment. Mr. Warton observes that Moralities were become so fashionable a spectacle about the close of the reign of Henry the Seventh, that “John Rastall, a learned typographer, brother-in-law to Sir Thomas More, extended its province, which had been hitherto confined either to moral allegory, or to religion blended with buffoonery, and conceived a design of making it the vehicle of science and philosophy. With this view he published A new INTERLUDE and a mery, of the nature of the iiij Elements, declaring many proper points of philosophy naturall, and dyvers straumge landys, &c. In the cosmographical part of the play, in which the poet professes to treat of dyvers straunge landys, and of the new-found landys, the tracts of America recently discovered, and the manners of the natives are described. The characters are, a Messenger, who speaks the prologue, Nature, Humanity, Studious Desire, Sensual Appetite, a Taverner, Experience, and Ignorance.” As it is uncertain at what period of time the ancient Mysteries ceased to be represented as an ordinary spectacle for the amusement of the people, and Moralities were substituted in their room, it is equally difficult to ascertain the precise time when the latter gave way to a more legitimate theatrical exhibition. We know that Moralities were exhibited occasionally during the whole of the reign of Queen Elizabeth, and even in that of her successor, long after regular dramas had been presented on the scene; but I suspect that about the year 1570 (the 13th year of Queen Elizabeth) this species of drama began to lose much of its attraction, and gave way to something that had more the appearance of comedy and tragedy. Gammer Gurton’s Needle, which was written by Mr. Still, (afterwards Bishop of Bath and Wells,) in the 23d year of his age, and acted at Christ's College, Cambridge, in 1566, is pointed out by the ingenious writer of the tract entitled Historia Histrionica, as the first piece