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of which a particular account will be found below.
Man that I made I will deftroye,
Their children Cain and Abel enter the former kills his brother. Adam's lamentation. Cain is banished," &c. Warton's Hiftory of English Poetry, Vol. I. p. 243.
Mr. Warton obferves in a note in his fecond volume, p. 180. that if it be true that thefe Myfteries were compofed in the year 1328. and there was fo much difficulty in obtaining the Pope's permiffion that they might be prefented in English, a prefumptive proof arifes, that all our Myfteries before that period were in Latin. Thefe plays will therefore have the merit of being the firft English interludes."
Polydore Virgil mentions in his book de Rerum Inventoribus, Lib. V. c. ii. that the Myfteries were in his time in English. "Solemus vel more prifcorum fpectacula edere populo, ut ludos, venationes, recitare comoedias, item in templis vitas divorum ac martyria repræfentare, in quibus, ut cunctis par fit voluptas, qui recitant, vernaculam linguam tantum ufurpant." The first three books of Polydore's work were published in 1499. in 1517. at which time he was in England, he added five more.
A fhipp foone thoú fhalt make thee
Litill chambers therein thou make,
To anoynte yt through all thy mighte," &c.
After fome 'dialogue between Noah, Sem, Ham, Japhet, and their wives, we find the following ftage direction : Then Noe with all his family fhall make a figne as though the wrought uppon the fhippe with divers inftruments, and after that God fhall speake to Noe:
Noe, take thou thy meanye,
Of clean beaftes with the thou take
By live in that thou bring," &c.
"Then Noe fhall go into the arke with all his familye, his wife excepte. The arke muft be boarded round aboute, and uppon the bordes all the beaftes and fowles hereafter rehearsed must be painted, that there wordes maye agree with the pictures."
Sem. Sier, here are lions, libardes, in,
After all the beafts and fowls have been described, Noah thus addreffes his wife:
Noe. Wife, come in, why. ftandes thou there?
Come in on Godes halfe; tyme it were,
♦ Wife. Yea, fir, fet up your faile, And rowe forth with evil haile, For withouten anie faile
I will not oute of this toune;
And I may fave ther life.
They loved me full well by Chrift:
At length Sem and his brethren put her on board by force, and on Noah's welcoming her, "Welcome, wife, into this boate," the gives him a box on the ear; adding, Take thou that for thy note."2 Many licentious pleasantries, as Mr. Warton has obferved, were fometimes introduced in these religious reprefentations. "This might imperceptibly lead the way to fubjects entirely profane, and to comedy; and perhaps earlier than is imagined. In a Mystery of The Maffacre of the Holy Innocents, part of the fubject of a facred drama given by the English fathers at the famous Council of Conftance, in the year 1417. a low buffoon of Herod's court is introduced, defiring 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
It is obvious that the tranfcriber of thefe ancient Myfteries, which appear to have been written in 1328. reprefents them as they were exhibited at Chester in 1600. and that he has not adhered to the original orthography.
3 MSS. Digby, 134. Bibl. Bodl.
with the most ridiculous levity. The good women of Bethlehem attack our knight-errant with their fpinning-wheels, break his head with their diftaffs, abuse him as a coward and a difgrace to chivalry, and fend him to Herod as a recreant champion with much ignominy. It is certain that our ancestors intended no fort of impiety by thefe monftrous and unnatural mixtures. Neither the writers nor the fpectators faw the impropriety, nor paid a separate attention to the comick and the ferious part of thefe motley fcenes; at leaft they were perfuaded that the folemnity of the fubject covered or excufed all incongruities. They had no just idea of decorum, confequently but little fenfe of the ridiculous: what appears to us to be the highest burlesque, on them would have made no fort of impreffion. We must not wonder at this, in an age when courage, devotion, and ignorance, compofed the character of European manners; when the knight going to a tornament, firft invoked his God, then his miftrefs, and afterwards proceeded with a fafe conscience and great refolution to engage his antagonift. In these Myfteries I have fometimes feen grofs and open obfcenities. In a play of The Old and New Teftament, Adam and Eve are both exhibited on the ftage naked, and converfing about their nakedness; this very pertinently introduces the next scene; in which they have coverings of fig-leaves. This extraordinary spectacle was beheld
This kind of primitive exhibition was revived in the time of King James the Firft, feveral perfons appearing almoft entirely naked in a paftoral exhibited at Oxford before the King and Queen, and the ladies who attended her. It is, if I recollect right, defcribed by Winwood.
by a numerous affembly of both fexes with great compofure: they had the authority of scripture for fuch a reprefentation, and they gave matters juft as they found them in the third chapter of Genefis. It would have been abfolute heresy to have departed from the facred text in perfonating the primitive appearance of our firft parents, whom the fpectators fo nearly refembled in fimplicity; and if this had not been the cafe, the dramatifts were ignorant what to reject and what to retain."
“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 refidence at the castle of Winchester, on occafion of the birth of prince Arthur, on a Sunday, during the time of dinner, he was entertained with a religious drama called Chrifti Defcenfus ad inferos, or Chrift's Defcent into Hell. It was reprefented by the Pueri Eleemofynarii, or choir-boys, of Hyde Abbey, and Saint Swithin's Priory, two large monafteries at Winchefter. This is the only proof I have ever seen of choir-boys acting in the old Mysteries: nor do I recollect any other inftance of a royal dinner, even on a festival, accompanied with this fpecies of diverfion." The
5 Warton's Hiftory of English Poetry, Vol. I. pp. 242, & seq. 6 Hiftory of English Poetry, Vol. II. p. 206.
Except, that on the firft funday 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 fplendour, after dynnar a MORALITE was played by the faid Mafter Inglyfhe and his companions