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as may be seen from the following passage in an old French history, intitled, La Chronique de Metz composée par le curé de St. Eucbaire; which will give the reader no bad idea of the furprizing absurdity of these strange representations. L'an 1437 le 3 Juillet (Jays the bonefi cbronicler) fut fait le Jeu de la paffion de N. S. en la plaine de veximiel. Et fut dieu un fire appellé feigneur Nicolle Dom Neufchattel, lequel toit Curé de St. Victour de Metz, lequel fut presque mort en la Croix, s'il ne fût eté secourus; & convient qu'un autre Prê. tre fut mis en la Croix pour porfaire le personnage du cruci. fiment pour ce jour; & le lendemain le dit curé de St. Victour parfit la resurrection, et fit très hautement son personage ; & dura le dit jeu. Et autre prêtre qui s' appelloit mre. Jean de Nicey, qui estoit chaplain de Metrange, fut Judas; lequel fut presque mort en pendant, car le cuer, li faillit, & fut bien hâtivement dependu & porté en voye. Et etoit la bouche d'enfer tres-bien faite; car elle ouvroit & clooit, quand les diables y vouloient entrer et isser ; & avoit deux gross Culs d'Acier, &c." Alluding to this kind of representations arch bishop Harsnet, in his declaration of popish impoftures, p. 71. says, " The little children were never 'fo afraid of Hell-mouth in the old plays, painted with great gang teeth, staring eyes, and foul bottle nofe.' Carew in his survey of Cornwall
, gives a fuller description of them in these words, “The guary miracle, in English a miracle-play, is a kind of interlude compiled in cornish out of some fcripEure-history. For representing it, they raise an earthen amphitheatre in some open field, having the diameter of an inclosed playne, fome 40 or 50 feet. The country people fock from all fides many miles off, to hear and see it. For they have therein devils and devices, to delight as well the eye as the ear. The players conne not their parts without book, but are prompted by one called the ordinary, who folJoweth at their back with the book in his hand, &c. &c.' There was always a droll or buffoon in these myfteries, to make the people mirth with his sufferings or absurdities : and they could think of no better a personage to sustain this part than the devil himself. Even in the mystery of the paf fion mentioned above, it was contrived to make him ridicu. Jous. Which circumstance is hinted at by Shakespeare (whs;
has frequent allusions to these things) in the Taming of the Shrew, where one of the players asks for a little vinegar (as a property) to make their devil roar. For after the spunge with the gall and vinegar had been employed in the representation, they used to clap it to the nose of the devil; which making him roar, as if it had been boly-water, afforded infinite diversion to the people. So that vinegar in the old farces, was always afterwards in use to torment their devil. We have divers old English proverbs, in which the devil is represented as acting or suffering ridiculouily and absurdly, which all arose from the part he bore in these myfteries, as in that, for instance, of Great
and little wool, as the devil said when ke fbeared bis bogs. For the sheep fhearing of Nabal being represented in the mystery of David and Abigail, and the devil always attending Nabal, was made to imitate it by shearing a bog. This kind of absurdity, as it is the properest to create laughter, was the subject of the ridiculous, in the ancient Mimes, as we learn from these words of St. Austin : Ne faciamus ut mimi folent, et optemus à libero aquam, à lymphis vinum*.
These mysteries, we see, were given in France at first, as well as in England, sub dio, and only in the Provinces, Afterwards we find them got into Paris, and a company established in the Hôtel de Bourgogne to represent them. But good letters and religion beginning to make their way in the latter end of the reign of Francis the first, the stupi. dity and prophaneness of the mysteries made the courtiers and clergy join their interest for their suppression. Accordingly, in the year 1541, the procureur-general, in the name of the king, presented a request against the company to the parlia
The three principal branches of his charge against them were, that the representation of the old-teftament-ftories inclined the people to Judaism ; that the new-teftamentstories encouraged libertinism and infidelity; and that both of them lessened the charities to the poor : It seems that this prosecution succeeded : for, in 1548, the parliament of Paris confirmed the company in the possession of the Hôtel de Bourgogne, but interdi&ted the representation of the myfteries. But in Spain, we find by Cervantes, that they contie nued much longer; and held their own, even after good
* Civ. D. d. 4
comedy came in amongst them: As appears from the excellent critique of the canon, in the fourth book, where he fhews how the old extravagant romances might be made the foundation of a regular epic (which, he says, tambien puede escrivirse en prosa como en verlo;t) as the mystery-plays might be improved into artful comedy. His words are, Pues que si venimos à las comedias divinas, que de milagros falsos fingen en ellas, que de cosas apocrifas, y mal entendidas, aitribueyendo a un Santo los milagros de otro I; which made them fo fond of miracles that they introduced them into las comedias humanas, as he calls them. To return;
Upon this prohibition, the French poets turned themselves from religious to moral farces. And in this we soon followed them : The public taste not suffering any greater alteration at first, tho' the Italians at this time afforded many just compofitions for better models. These farces ihey called moralities. Pierre Gringore, one of their old poets, printed one of these moralities, intitled, La Moralité de l'Homme Obftiné. The persons of the drama are l'Homme Obftiné -- Pugnition Divine Simonie' --- Hypocrisie and Demerites-Communes. The Homme Obftiné is the atheist, and comes in blafpheming, and determined to persist in his impieties. Then Pugnition Divine appears, sitting on a throne in the air, and menacing the atheist with punishment. After this scene, Simonie, Hypocrise and Demerites-Communes appear and play their parts. In conclusion, Pugnition Divine returns, preaches to them, upbraids them with their crimes, and, in short, draws them all to repentance, all but the Homme Obsiiné, who perfifts in his impiety, and is destroyed for an example. To this fad ferious subject they added, tho’in a separate representation, a merry kind of farce called Sottie, in which there was un Paysan (the clown) under the name of Sot Commun (or fool.) But we, who borrowed all these delicacies from the French, blended the Moralité and Sottié together : So that the Prysan or Sotcommun, the clown or fol, got a place in our serious moralities : Whose businefs we may understand in the frequent allusions our Shakespeare makes to them: As in that fine fpeech in the beginning of the third act of Majure for Meafure, where we have his obscure passage.
meerly thou art Death's Fool, + B. 4. C. 20,
I 15. 21.
For him thou labour'ft by thy flight to thun,
And yet runn'ft tow'rd him still, For, in these moralities, the fool of the piece, in order to shew the inevitable approaches of death, (another of the Dramatis Persona) is made to employ all his ftratagems to avoid him; which, as the matter is ordered, bring the fool, at every turn, into the very jaws of his enemy: So that a representation of these scenes would afford a great deal of good mirth and morals mixed together. The very fame thing is again alluded to in these lines of Love's Labour loft,
So portent-like I would o'er-rule his state,
Act.iv. sc. 2. But the French, as we say, keeping these two sorts of farces diftinct, they became, in time, the parents of tragedy and comedy; while we, by jumbling them together, begot in an evil hour, that mungrel species, unknown to nature and 39tiquity, called Tragi-comedy.
WARB. Ibid. Like the old Vice] The allufion here is to tbe vice, a droll character in our old plays, accoutred with a long coat, à cap with a pair of ass's cars, and a dagger of lath. Shakespeare alludes to his buffoon appearance in TwelfthNight, Act IV.
In a trice, like to the cld vice;
Cries, ah, ha! to the devil. In the second part of king Henry IV. Act III. Falstaff compares Shallow to vice's dagger of lath. In Hamlet, Act III. Hamlet calls his uncle, A vice of kings: i. e. a ridiculous representation of majetty. These passages the editors have very rightly expounded. I will now mention some others, which seem to have escaped their notice, the allusions being not quite so obvious.
The iniquity was often the vice in our old moralities; and is introduced in Ben. Jonson's play call’d the devil's an ass: and likewise mentioned in his Epigr. CXV.
Being no vitious person, but the vice
But a passage cited from his play will make the following obfervations more plain. Act I. Pug asks the devil “ to lend him a vice.
« Satan. What vice ?
« Pug. Why, any fraud,
• Or old iniquiry : I'll call him hither." Thus the passage Thould be ordered.
« Pug. Why any : fraud,
« Satan, i'll call him hither.
lack a vice? “ Ere his words be half spoken, I am with him in a
trice.” And in his staple of news, act. II.
« Mirtb. How like you the vice i' the play? Expeétation. Which is he? Mirth. Three or four, old covetoufness, the fordid Peniboy, the Money-bawd, who is a flesh-bawd too they say. Tattle. But here is never a friend to carry him away. Besides, he has never a woodendagger! I'd not give a rush for a vice, that has not a wooden. dagger to snap at every body he meets. Mirth. That was the old way, goffip, when Iniquity came in like hokos pokos, in a jugler's jerkin, &c.” He alludes to the Vice in the Ali chymist, act I. sc. III.
“ Subt. And, on your stall, a puppet, with a vice." Some places of Shakespeare will from hence appear more easy: as in the ift part of Henry IV. Act II. where Hal. humorously characterizing Falstaff, calls him, That reverend Vice, that grey Iniquity, that father Ruffian, that Vanity in years, in allusion to this buffoon character. In king Richard III. Act 1:1.
Thus like the formal Vice, Iniquity,
I moralize two meanings in one word.
Thus, like the formal wife Antiquity