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dramatic authors; wh'ere Hamlet, speaking of a variety of theatrical performances, says, " Seneca cannot be'too heavy, " _nor Plautus too light Jonson, in his comedy'of THE STAPLE OF NEWES, has a satirical. allusion to this practice, yet ironically applied: where CENSURE says, " For my' part, " I' beleeve it, and there were no wiser than I, I would have 'F meer 'a cunning schoole-master in England: I mean a Cun" ning-man a schoole-master; that is, a conjurour, or a '" poet, or that had any acquaintance with 'a poet. They " make all their schollers Play-boyes! Is't not a fine sight " to see all our children made Enterluders? Doe we pay *' our money for this? _Wee send them to learne their - " grammar and their Terence, and they learne their play" bookes. Well, they talk we shall have no more parlia" ments, god blesse us! But an wee have, Ihope Zeale qf " the Land Buzzy, and my gosiip Rabby Trouble-truth, will "_ start up, and see we have painfull good ministers to keepe 3' schoole, and catechise our youth; and not teach em to f' speake Playes, and act fables of false nsiewes, &c'. ss ' _In tracing the history of our flage, this early practice of performing playsin schools and universities has never been considered, as a circumstance instrumental to the growth and improvement of the drama. While the people were amused with Skelton's TRIAL OF SIMONY, Bale's Gon's PROMISES, 'and CHRIST'S DESCENT'INTO HELL, the scholars of the times were composing and acting plays on historical subjects, and in imitation of Plautus and Terence. Hence ideas- of a legitimate fable must have been 'imperccptibly derived to the popular and vernacular drama. And we may add, while no settled or public theatres were known, and plays were chiefly acted by itinerant minstrels in the halls of the. nobility at Christmas, these literary societies supported some idea of a
stage: they afforded the best accommodations for theatrical exhibition, and were almost the only, certainly the most rational, companies' os players that existed.
But I mean yet to trespass on my reader's patience, by pursuing this inquiry still further 5 which, for the sake of comprehension and connection, has already exceeded the limits of a digreffion. ct
It is perhaps on this principle, that we are to account forplays being acted by singing-boys: although they perhaps acquired a turn for theatrical representation and the spectaCUlar arts, from their annual exhibition of the ceremonies of the boy-bishop; which seem to have been common in almost every religious community that was capable of sup
porting a choir ". singing-boys of Hyde abbey
I have before given an in'stance of the
and saint Swithin's priory at Winchester, performing a MORALITY before king Henry the seventh at Winchester castle, on a Sunday, in the year 1487. In the accompts of Maxtoke priory near Coventry, in the year 14'30, it appears, that the eleemosmary boys, or choristers, of that monastery, acted a play, perhaps every year, on the feast of the Purification, in the hall of the neighbouring castle belonging to lord Clinton: and it is specified, that the cellarer took no money 'for their attendance, because his lordship's minstrels had often asiisted this year at several festivals in the refectory of the convent, and in the hall of the prior, without fee or gratuity. Iwill give the article,
V In a small college, for only one provost, five fellows, and fix choristers, sounded by archbishop Rotheram in 1481, in the obscure villa e os Rotheram in Yorkshire, this piece OF mummery was not omitted. The founder leaves by will, among other bequests to the college, " A Myter for the
" barn-bishop os cloth of gold, with two .
" knopps of silver, gilt and enamelled."
office: on the feast os saint Nicholas, but