Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

make difference dangerous), that the name was derived from the nature of the character;' and certain it is that he is represented most wicked by design, and never good but by accident. As the Devil now and then appeared without the Vice, so the Vice sometimes appeared without the Devil. Malone tells that ‘the principal employment of the Vice was to belabour the Devil'; but although he was frequently so engaged, he had also other and higher duties. He figured now and then in the religious plays of a later date, and as has been shewn in The Life and Rependance of Mary Magda/en, 1567, he performed the part of her lover, under the name of Infidelity, before her conversion : in King Darius, I 565, he also acted a prominent part, by his own evil impulses, under the name of Iniquity, without any prompting from the representative of the principle of evil. Such was the general style of the Vice ; and as Iniquity he is spoken of by Shakespeare” and Ben Jonson.” The Vice and Iniquity seem, however, sometimes to have been distinct persons,” and he was not unfrequently called by the name of particular vices: thus, in Lusty juventus, the Vice performs the part of Hypocrisy ; in Common Conditions, he is called Conditions ; in Like will to Like, he is named Nichol New-fangle ; in the Trial of Treasure, his part is that of Inclination ; in All for Money, he is called Sin ; in Tom Tyler and his Wife, Desire; and in Appius and Virginia, Haphazard.

they harde hym thus Speke, by his voyce knewe hym well, and opened the gate and lette hym come in. And so all the forsayd feare was turned to myrthe and disporte. By this tale ye may se that men feare many tymes more than they nede, whiche hathe caused men to beleve that Sperytes and devyls have ben Sene in dyvers places, whan, it hathe ben nothynge so.” * I//ustrations of Shakespeare, i, 468, where the merely fanciful etymologies of Hanmer, Warton, and Steevens are considered. * Richard ///, act iii, sc. I. * Staple of Mews, second Intermean. * In the play of Histriomastix, 1610, we rezd the following stagedirection establishing this point:-‘Enter a roaring Devil with the Vice on his back, /mliquity in one hand, and juvestus in the other.’

Gifford designates the Vice ‘the buffoon of the old Mysteries and Moralities'," as if he had figured in the Miracleplays represented at Chester, Coventry, York, and elsewhere : Malone also, in a passage before alluded to, speaks of him as the ‘constant attendant’ of the Devil in ‘the ancient religious plays'. Theobald, in a note on the words ‘the formal Vice Iniquity' in Richard the Third, asserts that before the period of the Reformation there was hardly an old play without a Devil and a Vice. The fact is that the Vice was wholly unknown in our ‘religious plays’ which have hitherto gone by the name of “Mysteries', and to which Gifford, Malone, and Theobald refer. The Life and Repentance of Mary Magda/en and King Darius, already mentioned as containing the character of the Vice, were not written until after the reign of Mary. The same remark will apply to the Interlude of Queen Hester, 1561, which differs from other religious plays, inasmuch as the Vice there is a court jester and servant, and is named Hardy-dardy.”

* Ben Womson's Works, vol. v., p. 9. * Nash, in his Strange Wewes of the intercepting certaine Letters, 1592, laughing at the versification of Gabriel Harvey, says, that it reminds him of the style of the Vice, and he subjoins a specimen, possibly taken from some old Moral –“I will not (he says) rob you of your due commendation in anything. In this sonnet [i. e., upon R. Greene] you have counterfeited the stile of the old Vice in the Morals (Nash does not say Mysteries), as right up and as down may be. ‘Aletter.—Greene the Coneycatcher of this dreame the author, For his dainty device deserveth the halter. Vice.—Hey nan, a non Sir—soft, let me make water; Whip it to go, I'll kiss my maisters daughter. Tum tiddy dum da, falangtedo diddle, Sol lame fasol, conatus in fiddle.’

With regard to ‘Moralities', it is certainly true, that in the most ancient Moral-plays characters of gross buffoonery and vicious propensities were inserted for the amusement and instruction of the audience : but, although we hear of ‘the fool' in Medwall's interlude, performed before Henry VIII in 1516, such a character seems very rarely to have been specifically called ‘the Vice’ anterior to the Reformation.

On the external appearance of the Vice, Douce has observed, that “being generally dressed in a fool's habit', he was gradually and undistinguishably blended with the domestic fool ; and there is every probability that such was the result. Ben Jonson, in his Devil is an Ass, alludes to this very circumstance, when he is speaking of the fools of old kept in the houses of the nobility and gentry :—

“Fifty years agone and six,
When every great man had his Vice stand by him
In his long coat, shaking his wooden dagger.”

The Vice here spoken of was the domestic fool of the nobility about the year I 560; to whom also Puttenham, in his Arte of English Poesie, alludes, under the terms “buffoon or vice in plays’.” In the second Intermean of his Staple of News, Ben Jonson tells us that the Vice sometimes wore ‘a juggler's jerkin with false skirts'; and though Douce is unquestionably correct when he states, that the Vice was ‘generally dressed in a fool's habit', he did not by any means constantly wear the parti-coloured habiliments of an idiot; he was sometimes required to act a gallant, and now and then to assume the disguise of virtues it suited his purpose to personate. In The Life and Repentance of Mary Magdalen, he several times changes his apparel for the sake of deception. In Zhe Zorial of Treasure, 1567, he was not only provided, as was customary, with his wooden dagger, but in order to render him more ridiculous, with a pair of spectacles (no doubt of a preposterous size), which he is desired by one of the characters to put on. The “long coat' worn by the Vice, according to the preceding quotation from Ben Jonson's Devil is an Ass, was doubtless that dress which, Mr. Douce informs us, belonged ‘to the idiot or natural fool'," often of a mischievous and malignant disposition ; and it affords another link of connection between the Vice and the domestic fool. The same observation may perhaps be made upon the “false skirts' spoken of by Ben Jonson in his Staple of News ; and the ‘juggler's jerkin' might be the sort of dress worn by the Vice in the interlude of jack juggler. The ‘flapper' mentioned by Mr. Douce,” as part of the caparisons of the fool, was, perhaps, that instrument which the Vice in All for Money, 1578, wished to form out of the end of the Devil's tail.” The Vice, like the fool, was often furnished with a dagger of lath, and it was not unusual that it should be gilt. Just preceding the mention of the ‘juggler's jerkin' by Ben Jonson, as part of the dress of the Vice, is an allusion to the ludicrous mode in which poetical justice was not unfrequently done to him at the conclusion of a Moral. Tattle observes, “but there is never a fiend to carry him away’; and in the first Intermean of the same play, Mirth leads us to suppose, that it was a very Common termination of the adventures of the Vice, for him to be carried off to hell on the back of the devil:

* ///ustrations of Shakespeare, ii, 305. * Dez/i/ is azt Ass, act i, scene I. * 4to, I 589, p. 69.

* Illustrations of Shakespeare, ii, 321. * Ibid., ii, 319. * In this performance, if not in others, he spoke in two voices, for when All-for-Money requires him to make proclamation, the Vice asks, “Shall I in my mannes voyce, or in my boyes voyce it declare P’ and All-for-Money replies, “So that it be heard I do not greatly care.’

“he would carry away the Vice on his back, quick to hell, in every play where he came’. In The Zonger thou livest the more Fool thou art, and in Like will to Like, the Vice is disposed of nearly in this summary manner : in the first, Confusion carries him to the devil, and in the last, Lucifer bears him off to the infernal regions on his shoulders. In King Darius, the Vice runs to hell of his own accord, to escape from Constancy, Equity, and Charity. According to Bishop Harsnet (in a passage cited by Malone)," the Vice was in the habit of riding and beating the devil at other times than when he was thus hurried against his will to punishment. It is not necessary to enter at all at large into the manner in which Moral-plays were represented. The temporary scaffolds, pageants, or stages required for Miracle-plays, were used in the dramatic performances which to a certain extent superseded them ; and a rude drawing at the end of one of the Macro MS. Morals, written early in the reign of Henry VI, exhibits five scaffolds, and a castle in the centre, with a bed under one, as necessary for the performance of the piece.” In another Moral, of the same collection, it is obvious that an open space or ‘a yard', as it is called in the manuscript, was required for the due exhibition. In general, however, only one scaffold or stage seems to have been employed, and this was erected, either in the street, or upon a green adjoining a town or village, sometimes in the public halls of boroughs and cities, and sometimes in the dwellings of the nobility, or their wealthy, but untitled imitators. • It will be remarked, that not a few of the Morals or Moralplays analysed in the following pages, are called “Interludes',

* Shakespeare by Boswell, iii, 27. It is a quotation from Harsnet's ZOec/aration of Požish Impostures, 1603.

2 A fac-simile of this primitive sketch is given in Sharp's Dissertation on the Coventry Miracle-plays.

VOL. II. O

« ZurückWeiter »