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England ". The merchants, who frequented these fairs in numerous caravans or companies, employed every art to draw the people together. They Were therefore accompanied by juglers, minstrels, and buffoons; ctwho were no less interested in giving their attendance, and exerting all their skill, on these occasions. As now but few large towns existed, no public spectaclcs or popular amusements were established; and as the sedentary pleasures of domestic life and private society were yet unknown, the fair-time was the season for diverfion. ln proportion as these shews were attended and encouraged, they began to be set off with new _ decorations and'improvementsz and the arts of buffoonery being rendered still more attractive by extending their circle of exhibition, acquired an importance in the eyes of the people. By degrees the clergy, observing that the entertainments of dancing, music, and mimicry, exhibited at these protracted annual celebrities, made the people less religious, by promoting idleness and a love of festivity, proscribed these sports, and excommunicated the performers. But finding that no regard was paid to their censures, they changed their plan, and determined to take these recreations into their own hands. They turned actors; and instead of profane mummeries, presented stories taken from legends or the bible. This was the origin of sacred comedy. The death of saint Catharine, acted by the monks of saint Dennis, rivalled the popularity of the professed players. Mufic was admitted into the churches, which served as theatres for the represention of holy farces. The festivals among the French, called LA FETE DE Foux, DE L'ANE si, and DES INNOCENS, at length
became greater favorites, as they certainly were more capricious and absurd, than the interludes of the buffoons at the fairs. These are the ideas of a judicious French writer, now living, who has investigated the history of human manners with great comprehension and sagacity.
Voltaire's theory on this subject is also very ingenious, and quite new. Religious plays, he supposes, came originally from Constantinople; where the old Grecian stage continued to flourish in some degree, and the tragedies of Sophocles and Euripides were represented, till the fourth century. About that period, Gregory Nazianzen, an archbishop, a poet, and one of the fathers of the church, banished pagan plays from the stage at Constantinople, and introduced select stories from the old and new Testament. As the antient Greek tragedy was a religious spectacle, a tranfition was made on the same plan ; and the chorusses were turned into Christian hymns'. Gregory wrote many sacred dramas for this purpose, which have not survived those inimitable compositions over which they triumphed for a time : one, however, his tragedy called Xetfloc naoxwv, or CHRtST's PASSION, is still extant "'. In the prologue it is said to be in imitation of Euripides, and that this is the first time the Virgin Mary has been produced on the stage. The fashion of acting spiritual dr'amas, in which at first a due degree of method and decorum was preserved, was at length adopted from Constantinople by the Italians; who framed, in; the depth of the dark ages, on this foundation, that barbarous species of theatrical representation called MYSTERIES, or sacred comedies, and 'which were soon afterwards received in France ".This opinion will acquire probability, if we consider the early commercial intercouse between Italy and Constantinople: and although the Italians, at the time when they may be supposed to have imported plays of this nature, did not understand the Greek language, yet they could understand, and consequently could imitate, what they saw.
Lincoln cathedral on the feast of the Circumcision. Grosi'etesti ErxsroL. xxxii. apud Browne's FASCICUL. p. 331. edit. Land. '6 o. tom. ii. Append. And p. 412. Al o he forbids the archdeacons of his diocese to permit SCOT-ALES in their chapters and synods, (Spelm. Gl. p. 506.) and other um] on holidays. Ibid. Epistol. p. 314. [See supr. vol. i. p. 247.] See in the Msacuu FRANCOIS for September, 1-42, an account of a mummery celebrated m the city of Besancon in France, by the canons of the cathedral, consisting of dancing, singing, eatin and drinking, in the cloisters and churc , on Easter-day, called Bnosstrn, or the Sexc or
'run Sun-nuns; which remained unabolished till the year 1738. From the RlTUAL of the church, pag. 1930, ad ann. 1582. See Carpentier, SurrL. Du Cang. LAT- GLoss. tom. i. p. 523. in V. And ibid. V. Bocnsae, p. 570.
lSee supr. vol. i. p. 244.
m Or. Greg. Nazranz. tom. ii. p. 253. In a manuscript cited by Lambeccius, it is called AFE'spm. xasssl' Eupiwidny. iv. 22. it seems to have been falsely attributed to Apollinaris, an Alexandrian, bishop of Laodicea. It is, however, written with less elegance and judgement than most of Gregory's poetical pieces. Apollinaris lived about the year 370. _ _
ln defence of Voltaire's hypothesis it may be further observed, that the FEAST or FOOLs and of the Ass, with other religious farces of that sort, so common in Europe, originated at Constantinople. They were instituted, although perhaps under other names, in the Greek church, about the year 990, by Theophylact, patriarch of Constantinople, probably with a better design than is imagined by the ecclesiastical annalists; that of weaning the minds of the people from the pagan ceremonies, particularly the Bacchanalian and calendary solemnities, by the substitution of Christian fpectacles, partaking of the same spirit of licentiousness. The fact is, however, recorded by Cedrenus, one of the Byzantine historians, who flourished about the year 1050, in the following words. " Egg/or exert/3, 15 TO vuv x asilav " Nor, er 'rang NZM'ZU'EDUC g dnpolezeazv eaglauc GBE'SESDU rov 320v, lg 'me 'rot &7th (.WWOLC, dice Aoywpaflwv atween-wi' is; yshwlwv, If; 'wagarpong xgowywv, 'renovperwv 'row &els-w riper/wr- (iug sdsisz, pilot XOCIOCAUZEMC is; sin/'letting
" e lclncZem" That is, " Theophylact introduced the prac" tice, which prevails even to this day, of scandalismg god -" and the memory of his saints, on the most splendid and " popular festivals, by indecent and ridiculous songs, and " enormous shoutings, even in the midst of those sacred " hymns, which we ought to offer to the divine grace with -" compunction of heart, for the salvation of our souls. << But he, having collected a company os base fellows, and " placing over them one-Euthymius, surnamed Casnes, whom *' he also appointed the superintendant of his church, ad-*' mitted into thesacred service, diabolical dances, exclama4' tions of ribaldry, and ballads borrowed from the streets " and brothels "." This practice was subststing in the Greek church two hundred years afterwards: for Balsamon, patriarch of Antioch, complains of the gross abominations committed by the priests at Christmas and other festivals, even in the great church at Constantinople; and that the clergy, on certain holidays, personated a variety of feigned characters, andeven entered the choir in a military habit, and other enormous disguises '.
I must however observe here, what perhaps did not immediately occur to our lively philosopher on this occasion, that in the fourth century it was customary to make Christian parodies and imitations in Greek, of the best Greek claffics, for the use of the Christian schools. This practice prevailed much under the emperor Julian, who forbad the pagan poets, orators, and philosophers, to be taught in-zt-he Christian _seminaries_ Apollinaris bishop of Laodicea, abovementioned, wrote Greek tragedies, adapted to the stage, on most of the grand events recorded in the old T estament, after the manner of Euripides. On some of the familiar and domestic stories of scripture, he composed comedies in imitation of Menander. He wrote_christian odes on the plan of Pindar. In imitation of Homer, he wrote an heroic poem on the history of the bible, as far as the reign of Saul, in twenty-four books *'-. Sozomen says, that these compositions, now lost, rivalled their great originals in genius, expression, and conduct. His son, a bishop also of Laodicea, reduced the four gospels and all the apostolical books into Greek dialogues, resembling those of Plato'. ' *
* Cedren. Cournno. Hisr. p. 639. B., P COMMBNT. ad Canon. lxii. SYNOD. edit. Paris. 1647. Compare Baron. Ar'- vi. _in Trullo. Apud Beverigii SYNOnrc. NAL. sub ann. 956. tom x. p. 752. C. tom. i. Oxon. sol. 1672. p. 230. 231. In edit. Plantin. Antw. 1603. sol. return, he forbids the prosesscdplayers to
appear ap on the Rage in the habit of monks. Saint Austin, who lived in the sixth century, reproves the paganising Christians of his age, for their indecent sports on holidays ; but it does not ap *ear, that these sports were celebrated within the churches. " In sanctis " festivitatibus choros ducendo, cantica lux" uriosa et turpia, &c. lsti enim infeliccs " ac miseri homines, qui balationes ac sal" tationes ANTE lPSAS BASILICAS sanc" torum exercere nec metuunt nec erubes" cunt." Sen'M. ccxv. tom. x. opp. S. Augustin. edit. Froben. 1529. fol. 763. B. See also SERM. cxcvii. cxcviii. opp. edit. Benedictin. tom. v. Paris. 1683. p, 904. et seq. '
Butl must not omit a much earlier and more singular specimen of a theatrical representation of sacred history, than this mentioned by Voltaire. Some fragments of an antient Jewish play on the Exonus, or the Departure of the Israelites from Egypt under their leader and prophet Moses, are yet preserved in Greek iambics'. The principal characters of this drama are Moses," Sapphora, and God from the Bush, or God speaking from the burning bush. Moses delivers the prologue, or introduction, in a speech of sixty lines, and his rod is turned into a serpent on the stage. The author
' Socrates, iii. 16. ii. 46. v. 18. vi. 26. Niceph. x. 25.
' In Clemens Alexandrin. lib. i. STROM. p. 344. scq. Eusebius, PRA-ȜPARAT. E-. VAN c. 'c. xxviii. xxix. Eustathius ad st. p. 25. They are collected, and translated into Latin, with emendations, by Fr. Moiellus, Paris. 1580. See also CORPUS POETAR. Gn. 'FRAO'COR- et Courcoa. Genev. 1614.. sol. And Porus CausTIAN. Gnnacx, Paris. 1609. 8vo.