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tota familia sua.” Then the ALMIGHTY, after expatiating on the sins of mankind, is made to say:
"Man that I made I will destroye,
"The folke that are herone.
"That ever I made man.
"Therefore, Noe, my servant free,
"Of trees drye and lighte.
"To anoynte yt through all thy mighte," &c.
After some dialogue between Noah, Sem, Ham, Japhet, and their wives, we find the following stage direction; "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,
By live in that thou bring," &c.
"Then Noe shall go into the arke with all his familye, his wife excepte. The arke must be boarded round 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 sitten 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 lest that wee drowne."
Wife. Yea, sir, set up your saile,
"I will not oute of this toune;
"And I may save ther life.
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
Many licentious pleasantries, as Mr. Warton has observed, were sometimes introduced in these reli
* 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 orthograpby.
gious representations. "This might imperceptibly lead the way to subjects entirely profane, and to comedy; and perhaps earlier than is imagined. In a Mystery of 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, desiring of his lord to be dubbed a knight, that he might be properly qualified to go on the adventure of killing the mothers 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 solemnity of the subject covered or excused all incongruities. They had no just 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 antagonist. In these Mysteries I have sometimes seen
MSS. Digby 134, Bibl. Bodl.
gross and open obscenities. In a play of The Old and New Testament, Adam and Eve are both exhibited on the stage naked,' 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 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 so nearly resembled in simplicity; and if this had not been the case, the dramatists were ignorant what to reject and what to retain."5
"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 Winchester, on occasion of the birth of prince Arthur, on a Sunday, during the time of dinner, he was entertained with a religious drama called Christi Descensus ad inferos, or Christ's Descent into Hell. It was represented by the Pueri Eleemosynarii, or choir-boys, of Hyde Abbey, and Saint Swithin's
This kind of primitive exhibition was revived in the time of King James the First, several persons appearing almost entirely naked in a pastoral exhibited at Oxford before the King and Queen, and the ladies who attended her. It is, if I recollect right, described by Winwood.
• Warton's History of English Poetry, Vol. I. pp. 242, et seq.
History of English Poetry, Vol. II. p.
Priory, two large monasteries at Winchester. This is the only proof I have ever seen of choir-boys acting the old Mysteries: 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,
7" Except, that on the first Sunday of the magnificent marriage of King James of Scotland with the princess Margaret of England, daughter of Henry the Seventh, celebrated at Edinburgh with high splendour, after dynnar a MORALITE was played by the said Master Inglyshe and his companions in the presence of the kyng and qweene.' On one of the preceding days, after soupper the kynge and qweene beynge togader in byr grett chamber, John Inglysh and hys companions plaid.' This was in the year 1503. Apud. Leland, Coll. iii. p. 300. Append. edit. 1770."
• See an account of the Coventry Plays in Stevens's Monasticon, Vol. I. p. 238. "Sir W. Dugdale, speaking of the Grayfriars or Franciscans at Coventry, says, before the suppression of monasteries this city was very famous for the pageants that were played therein upon Corpus-Christi day; which pageants being acted with mighty state and reverence by the friers of this house, had theatres for the several 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. effig. 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; b. e. Dramata sacra, in quibus exhibentur historia Veteris & N. Testamenti, introductis quasi in scenam personis illic memoratis, quas secum invicem colloquentes pro ingenio fingit poeta. Videntur olim coram populo, sive ad instruendum, sive ad placendum, à fratribus mendicantibus repræsentata. It appears by the latter end of the prologue, that these