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“ Wulvesey-palace, the constable of Winchester-castle, and all " the monasteries of the city of Winchester, on the festival of “ saint Nicholas.” As to the divine service being performed by children on these feasts, it was not only celebrated by boys, but there is an injunction given to the Benedictine nunnery of Godstowe in Oxfordshire, by archbishop Peckham, in the year 1278, that on Innocent's day, the public prayers thould not any more be said in the church of that monastery PER PARVULAS, that is, by little girls'.
The ground-work of this religious mockery of the boy-bishop, which is evidently founded on modes of barbarous life, may perhaps be traced backward at least as far as the year 867".
At the Constantinopolitan fynod under that year, at which were present three hundred and seventy-three bishops, it was found to be a solemn custom in the courts of princes, on certain stated days, to dress some layman in the episcopal apparel, who should exactly personate a bishop both in his tonsure and ornaments : as also to create a burlesque patriarch, who might make sport for the company W. This scandal to the clergy was anathematised. But ecclefiaftical fynods and censures have often proved too weak to suppress popular spectacles, which take deep root in the public manners, and are only concealed for a while, to spring up afresh with new vigour.
After the form of a legitimate stage had appeared in England, MYSTERIES and MIRACLES where also revived by queen Mary, as an appendage of the papistic worship.
En, iterum crudelia retro
1 Harpsfield, Hist. Eccl. Angl. p. 441. edit. 1622. [See supr. vol. ii. p. 362.)
Surius, CONCIL. iii. 529. 539. Baron. ANNAL. Ann. 869. $. 11. See Concil.
Basil. num. xxxij. The French have a miracle-play, BEAU MIRACLE DE S. NiCOLAS, to be acted by twenty four perfo. nages, printed at Paris, for Pierre Sergeant, in quarto, without date, Bl. Lett.
* Virgil, Georg. iv. 495.
In the year 1556, a goodly stage-play of the Passion of Christ was presented at the Grey friers in London, on CorpusChristi day, before the lord mayor, the privy-council, and many great estates of the realm'. Strype also mentions, under the year 1557, a stage-play at the Grey-friers, of the Passion of Christ, on the day that war was proclaimed in London against France, and in honour of that occafion'. 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 much folemnity. At eight of the clock at night, began a stage-play of goodly matter, being the miraculous history of the life of that faint*, which continued four hours, and was concluded with many religious fongs.
Many curious circumstances of the nature of these miracleplays, appear in a roll of the church wardens of Baffing borne in Cambridgeshire, which is an accompt of the expences and receptions for acting the play of Saint George at Baffingborne, on the feast of faint Margaret in the year 1511. They collected upwards of four pounds in twenty-seven neighbouring parishes for furnishing the play. They disbursed about two pounds in the representation. These disbursements are to four minstrels, or waits, of Cambridge for three days, V, s. vj, d. To the players, in bread and ale, iij, s. ij, d. To the garnementman for garnements, and propyrts', that is, for dresses, decora
y MSS. Cott. Vitell. E. 5. Strype. See LIFE OF SIR THOMAS POPE, Pref.
2 Eccl. Mem, vol. iii. ch. xlix.
• Strype, ibid. p. 379. With the reli. gious pageantries, other antient sports and spectacles also, which had fallen into diruse in the reign of Edward the fixth, began to be now revived. As thus, “ On so the 30th of May was a goodly Mayo
game in Fenchurch-street, with drums, " and guns, and pikes, with the Nine " Worthies who rid. And each made “ his speech. There was also the Morice.
“ dance, and an elephant and castle, and “ the Lord and Lady of the May appear“ed to make up this show." Strype, ibid. 376. ch. xlix.
• Ludovicus Vives relates, that it was customary in Brabant to present annual plays in honour of the respective faints to which the churches were dedicated : and he betrays his great credulity in adding a wonderful story in consequence of this custom. Not. in Augustin. De Civit. Dei, lib, xii. cap. 25. C.
. The property-room is yet known at our theatres.
tions, and implements, and for play-books, xx, s. To John Hobard brotherhoode preeste, that is, a priest of the guild in the church, for the play-book, ij, s. viij d. For the crofte, or field in which the play was exhibited, j, s. For propyrte-making, or furniture, j, s. iv, d. “ For fish and bread, and to setting up the
stages, iv, d.” For painting three fanchoms and four tormentors, words which I do not understand, but perhaps phantoms and devils ... The rest was expended for a feast on the occasion, in which are recited, “ Four chicken for the gentilmen, iv, d.” It appears from the manuscript of the Coventry plays, that a temporary scaffold only, was erected for these performances. And Chaucer says, of Absolon a parish-clerk, and an actor of king Herod's character in these dramas, in the MILLER'S TALE,
And for to thew his lightnesse and maistry
He playith Herawdes on a SCAFFALD HIE'Scenical decorations and machinery which employed the genius and invention of Inigo Jones, in the reigns of the first James and Charles, seem to have migrated from the masques at court to the public theatre. In the instrument here cited, the priest who wrote the play, and received only two shillings and eight pence for his labour, seems to have been worse paid in proportion than any of the other persons concerned. The learned Oporinus,
• Mill. T. v. 275. Urr. Mr. Steevens and Mr. Malone have shewn, that the accommodations in our early regular theatres were but little better. That the old scene. ry was very simple, may partly be collected from an entry in a Computus of Winchefter-college, under the year 1579. viz, Comp. Burs. Coll. Winton, A. D. 1573, Eliz. xv°.-" Custus AULÆ. Item, pro “ diverfis expenfis circa Scaffoldam erigen“ dam et deponendam, et pro Domunculis “ de novo compofitis cum carriagio et re“ carriagio ly joystes, et aliorum mutuato
rum ad eandem Scaffoldam, cum vj linckes “ et jo [uno] duodeno candelarum, pro lu. “ mine expenfis, tribus noctibus in Ludis
e comediarum et tragediarum, xxv, s. viij, “ d.” Again in the next quarter,
66 Pro vij ly linckes deliberatis pueris per M. " Informatorem (the school-master) pro “ Ludis, iij, s." Again, in the laft quarter, “Pro removendis Organis e templo in “ Aulam et præparandis eisdem erga Lu“ dos, v, s." By DOMUNCULIS I ander. ftand little cells of board, raised on each fide of the stage, for dresling-rooms, or retiring places. Strype, under the year 1559, says, that after a grand feast at Guildhall, “ the same day was a Scaffold “ set up in the hall for a play.” ANN. Ref. i. 197. edit. 1725.
in 1547, published in two volumes a collection of religious interludes, which abounded in Germany. They are in Latin, and not taken from legends but the Bible.
The puritans were highly offended at these religious plays now revived. But they were hardly less averse to the theatrical representation of the christian than of the gentile story. Yet for different reasons. To hate a theatre was a part of their creed, and therefore plays were an improper vehicle of religion. The heathen fables they judged to be dangerous, as too nearly resembling the superstitions of popery.
• A very late fcripture-play is, “ A « newe merry and witte comedie or enter. " lude, newlie imprinted creating the his.
tory of JACOB AND ESAU, &c." for H. Bynneman, 1568. 4to. Bl. Lett. But this play had appeared in queen Mary's reign, *An enterlude vpon the history of Jacobe “ and Efawe, &c.” Licenced to Henry Sutton, in 1557. Registr. Station. A. fol. 23. a.
It is certain, however, that the faihion of religious interludes was not entirely discontinued in the reign of queen Elisabeth. For, I find licenced to T. Hac. kert in 1561,
“ A newe enterlude of the “ ij fynnes of kynge Dauyde.” Ibid. fol.
And to Pickeringe in 1560-1, the play of queen Esther. Ibid. fol. 62. b. Again, there is licenced to T. Colwell, in 1565, “A playe of the story of kyng “ Darius from Efdras.” Ibid. fol. 133. b. Also “A pleafauntę recytall worthy of “ the readinge contaynynge the effecte of “ jij worthye squyres of Daryus the kinge " of Persia,” licenced to Grifiths in 1565. Ibid. fol. 132. b. Often reprinted. And in 1566, John Charlewood is licenced to print
cí An enterlude of the repentance *. of Mary Magdalen.” Ibid. fol. 152. a. Of this piece I have cited an antient manuscript. Also, not to multiply instances, Colwell in 1568, is licenced to print " The “ playe of Susanna.” Ibid. fol. 176. a. Ballads on scripture subjects are now innumerable. Peele's DAVID AND BATHSHE.
BA is a remain of the fashion of scriptureplays. I have mentioned the play of Ho. LOFERNES acted at Hatfield in 1556. Life of siR THOMAS Pope, p. 87. In 1556, was printed “ A ballet intituled the histo
rye of Judith and Holyfernes.' REGISTR. ut supr. fol. 154. b. And Registr. B. fol. 227. In Hearne's manuscript ColLECTANEA there is a licence dated 1571, from the queen, directed to the officers of Middlesex, permitting one John Swinton Powlter, to have and use some playes “ and games at or uppon pine severall son. “ daies,” within the said county. And because greate resorte of people is lyke to come thereunto, he is required, for the preservation of the peace, and for the sake of good order, to take with him four or five discreet and fubitantial men of those places where the games shall be put in practice, to superintend duringe the contynuance of the games or playes. Some of the exhibitions are then specified, such as, Shotinge with the brode arrowe, The lepping for men, The Pytchynge of the barre, and the like. But then follows this very general clause, “ With all suche other games, as haue at
anye time heretofore or now be lycensed, “ used, or played.” Coll. MSS. Hearne, tom. Ixi. p. 78. One wishes to know, whether any interludes, and whether religious or profane, were included in this. inftrument.
T appears, however, that the cultivation of an English style
began to be now regarded. At the general restoration of knowledge and taste, it was a great impediment to the progress of our language, that all the learned and ingenious, aiming at the character of erudition, wrote in Latin English books were written only by the superficial and illiterate, at a time when judgment and genius should have been exerted in the nice and critical task of polishing a rude speech. Long after the invention of typography, our vernacular style, instead of being strengthened and refined by numerous compositions, was only corrupted with new barbarisms and affectations, for want of able and judicious writers in English. Unless we except for Thomas More, whose DIALOGUE ON TRIBULATION, and HISTORY of RICHARD THE THIRD, were esteemed standards of style so low as the reign of James the first, Roger Ascham was perhaps the first of our scholars who ventured to break the shackles of Latinity, by publishing his Toxophilus in English; chiefly with a view of giving a pure and correct model of English compofition, or rather of thewing how a subject might be treated with grace and propriety in En lifh as well as in Latin. His own vindication of his conduct in attempting this great innovation is too sensible to be omitted, and reflects light on the revolutions of our poetry.
• As for the Lattine or Greeke tongue, euerye thinge is so excellentlye done in Them, that none can “ do better. In the En lishe tongue contrary, euery thing in
a maner so meanlye, both for the matter and handelinge, that no man can do worse. For therein the learned for the most