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intrath, by me feet, ande piece,) wbden dagger,
introduced. He was usually represented with horns, a very wide mouth, (by means of a mask,) staring eyes, a large nose, a red beard, cloven feet, and a tail. His constant attendant was the Vice, (the buffoon of the piece,) whose principal employment was to belabour the Devil with his wooden dagger, and to make him roar for the entertainment of the populace.
We should, however, err greatly if we imagined, that these exhibitions, the burlesque blasphemy of which no modern audience could tolerate, were witnessed by the rude and simple spectators with any idea of their impropriety, or with other feelings than those of respect and serious curiosity. It is certain that our ancestors, as Warton has observed, intended no sort of impiety by these monstrous and unnatural performances. We may even add with Warton, that these exhibitions had their use in teaching the great truths of Scripture to men, who could not read the Bible, and who if they had been without this instruction, most inadequate as it was, would probably have received no other. Upon this subject Mr. Sharp has copied, after Mr. D’Israeli, a passage from the MS. life of John Shaw, vicar of Rotherham, an honest divine somewhat austerely inclined, which curiously illustrates the state of religious knowledge in Lancashire, even late in the sixteenth century.
"“I found,” says he, “a very large spacious church, scarce any seats in it ; a people very ignorant, and yet willing to learn ; so I had frequently some thousands of hearers. I catechised in season and out of season. The churches were so thronged at nine in the morning, that I had much ado to get to the pulpit. One day, an old man of sixty, sensible enough in other things, and living in the parish of Cartmel, coming to me on some business, I told him that he belonged to my care and charge, and I desired to be informed in his knowledge of religion. I asked him how many Gods there were ? He said, he knew not. I informing him, asked again how he thought to be saved ? He answered, he could not tell ; yet thought that was a harder question than the other. I told him that the way to salvation was by Jesus Christ ; Godman, who, as he was a man, shed his blood for us on the cross, &c.
Oh, Şir,' said he, · I think I heard of that man you speak of once in a play at Kendall, called Corpus Christ's play, where there was a man on a tree, and blood run down,' &c. And afterwards he professed he could not remember that he ever heard of salvation by Jesus, but in that play.”
It is necessary to have the caution of Warton full before us in reading the entries in these account-books of the Coventry Trades, for many of them are couched in terms that might otherwise sound to us as abominably irreverent. Thus in one place we have, “Payd to the players for Corpus xpisti daye; imprimis, to God, ijs." And again ; “ Itm, payd to God, xx. Itm, to the Sprytt of God, xvid. Itm, payd to Robert Cro for pleaying God, iiis. iiijd." And, once more, in another account; “ Tim, to God, iii. iiij.”
Thus the entries of payments to the players are almost always made in the name of the character and not of the performer. În the pageant of the Crucifixion, Pilate was evidently considered the most important character, for we find his personator constantly receiving 3s. 4d. and sometimes 45., the highest sum paid to any player in the same pageants. Herod was also a prominent character, receiving usually 3s. 4d. The “ Devyll and Judas” are paired, with Is. 6d. between them; and “ Peter and Malkus” are similarly coupled for a less sum. At another time, the performer of this last character was rewarded only with four-pence. Once we have a payment of four-pence also to “ Fawston for hangying Judas,” and again to the same accomplished person, “ Itm, to Fawston for coc croying, irija.” Angels and demons,“ savyd and dampnyd sowles," " pattryarkys,” and “wormes of conscyence," are variously paid.
If such were the wages of the actors, it is amusing to learn the rates at which the playwrights were rewarded. " Robert Croo for ij leves of ore pley-boke,” that is, for adding two leaves of dialogue, receives eight-pence. Again, p. 48., some one who had written a new part for a character is permitted to rejoice in the receipt of one penny. Far otherwise was it, however, that the learned Master Smythe was entreated, touching his play of the Destruction of Jerusalem. “ For hys paynes for writing of the tragedye,” he is set down for 131. 6s. 8d., or as Mr. Sharp might have explained it, a proper round bonus of forty nobles, – a goodly reward ! and a mint of money for a poor scholar of those days.
When we proceed next to examine the charges for the DRESSES of the actors, we find the items still more strange, and even revolting, than some of those to which we have referred. We shall pass as lightly as possible over some of them, noticing only such as are necessary for the elucidation of the subject. In one account there are entries, “ God's coat of white leather, six skins, and a cheveril (peruke) for Jesus, gilt.” Also, « a girdle for God :” “ a newe sudere” (veronica) and “a seldall” (seat) both for the same purpose. And under another date, “ Item, payd for v schepskins for God's coot, and for makyng, iij• ;” and “ payd for mendying a cheveril for God, and for sowying of God's kote of ledaur, and for makying of the hands to the same kote,” &c. And again ; “ payd for a peyre of gloves for God, 2d.” And, for our last example of the kind, “a coat for the Spirit of God made of buckram.”
Among a great variety of other items for dresses, there are several very curious and less offensive. Charges for mitres for Annas and Caiaphas are frequent: for, by a strange anachronism, these Jewish high priests seem always to have been arrayed in the habiliments of Christian prelates, and are constantly termed " bysschoppis.” A quart of wine is charged for the hiring of a gown for Pilate's wife; and “ Itin to a reward for Maisturres Grymsby
And under anvoica) and 6 a seldsom," a girdle skins, and a
for lendying off her geir ffor Pylatt's wife, xijd." Items for wine and meat, for drinking, breakfasts, dinners, and suppers of the players, are of perpetual recurrence; and once there appears, “ Paid Pilate, the bishops, and knights, to drink between the stages.” Thus, too, there are charges for wings for the angels, and sundry expences for washing their albs or white surplices. So also we have charges for mending the Devyll's hede (vizor); to a chevril gyld for Petur; to 3lb. of hair for the Devil's coat and hose; and “ for v elves of canvas for shirts and hose for the blakke sowles, and for coloryng the same.”
The black or damned souls,' says Mr. Sharp, (p. 70.) had their faces blackened, and were dressed in coats and hose. The fabric of the hose was buckram or canvass, of which latter material nineteen ells were used in 1556, yellow and black; and probably a party-coloured dress was made for them, where the yellow was so combined as to represent flames. The dresses worn by the wretched victims of the Inquisition at an auto de fé will naturally present themselves to the reader's imagination on this occasion; and it might be conjectured that the habits worn by the damned souls in the Mysteries originally furnished the idea for a dress eminently calculated to impress the spectators with horror.'
The nature of the MACHINERY used in the Mysteries is very fully illustrated in the Coventry books of accounts. It is evident that all the circumstances of the Crucifixion, for instance, were most minutely and indecently copied. The cross, the gallows, thu scourge, and the pillar, are all noticed as required for the repre sentation ; and in one place there is a charge for “ a lase (or beam) for Judas,” and “a corde;" and also for 6 a newe hoke to hang Judas.”
The most favourite part of the machinery of the Mysteries with the spectators was the exhibition of the infernal regions, and particularly in the pageant of Doomsday. Here, accordingly, we have numerous items of charges for material : such as “ the baryll for the yerthequake.” (In what manner this apparatus was applied is unknown.) Also, “ Payd to Crowe for makyng of jij worldys," 3s. 4d. (to be set on fire at successive exhibitions,) and “ payd for settyng the world on fyer,” 5d.; and farther, “ Itm, payd for kepyng of fyer at hell-mothe,” 4d.
This last item proves, that to heighten the terrific exhibition of the infernal regions, the hell-mouth was made to vomit forth real flames to the view of the spectators. But, indeed, the whole history of the religious pageants of the middle ages is full of evidence of the zeal with which the horrors of damnation were exhibited for the edification of the people. Mr. Sharp might have elucidated the history of these spectacles by referring to the famous occasion at Florence, in one of the first years of the fourteenth century, in which the monks converted the bed of the Arno into the scene of hell. People rolled and tossed in it amidst the apparent tortures
of Mr. among the any of paying the
of fire, serpents, and all the arsenal of scenic horrors; and there can be little doubt that it was to some such exhibitions, which were common in the age of Dante, the world is indebted for the idea and plan of the Inferno.
Mr. Sharp, however, has well illustrated the style in which the scenes of the infernal regions were displayed, by several curious plates of devils and hell-mouths, copied from delineations which, he justly observes, as they were coëval with the performance of the Mysteries, may be presumed to bear some resemblance to the manner in which they were then exhibited. In one of these, copied from a series of illuminated drawings of the eleventh century, in the Cottonian library, and illustrative of the Old and New Testaments, the last judgment is represented. There are three crowned heads among the victims tormented by demons; and one of them is a female. Dante, therefore, was not the first who exhibited the evil rulers of the earth paying the penalty of their crimes : though we shall not find any of his mitred sinners and wearers of the triple crown among the victims in these monkish drawings. But another of Mr. Sharp's plates is far more curious. It is a hell-mouth and interior from some ancient frescoes in the chapel of the Holy Cross at Stratford-on-Avon, first discovered during a repair in 1804. The whole of these subjects were published in lithography, and coloured as the originals, by Mr. T. Fisher; but the impressions being limited to one hundred, the work is not commonly to be met with. In the print from the collection engraved for Mr. Sharp's book, the horrid and ludicrous, as he remarks, are so conjoined as to render it difficult to determine which prevails. A demon is approaching the yawning mouth of hell with a whole bundle of the condemned, bound together by a chain, and slung on his back like a huge load of wood. Another demon is dragging in a solitary criminal by the heel; a third is blowing the bellows under a furnace full of the condemned; and other imps are occupied in the various works of torment, or sounding the trumpet of victory over the battlements of the region. The expression in the faces of all these demons is one of inimitable malignity and joy; and the devilish complacency in the air of one of them, before whom a “ dampned soule” kneels in supplication is quite a triumph of rude art. There is a ludicrous keeping in the punishment of several of the criminals, the character of whose damning sin is written over their heads; and one, with the motto superbia, rides into torment perched on the shoulders of a demon. As all the figures are naked, this strange print offers no data to determine its age.
But it is time to quit the subject of the Mysteries; and, sooth to say, we have gleaned from Mr. Sharp's volume almost all the really remarkable particulars which it offers, or at least which the subject can require. He has, indeed, himself dwelt long and verbosely upon it con amore ; and he notices the suppression of these indecent burlesques (p. 34.), at the close of the sixteenth century,
relic the higher ordet sacred suh: times,' savs
with some appearance of regret at the extinction of a favourite theme. . The temper of the times,' says he, was hostile to such exhibitions of sacred subjects, especially among the clergy and the higher orders of society, who had embraced the Protestant religion, and men in power;' but a dramatic historian and critic of our times, whose sound judgment and acute spirit of investigation cannot be too highly commended, has accounted far more justly and satisfactorily for the disuse of the religious drama. 6 The Mysteries and Moralities continued in rival popularity,”
observes Mr. Skottowe, in his admirable Essays on Shakspeare, .66 until the improved understanding of the audience drove both from the stage.”
But we must now conclude by noticing briefly the remaining parts of Mr. Sharp's volume. We have not a word of commendation to bestow upon his laborious industry in publishing from the Play Book of the Shearmen and Taylors' Company at Coventry the whole dialogue of their pageant of the Birth of Christ, the Offering of the Magi, the Flight into Egypt, and the Murder of the Innocents. There is no intrinsic merit in this wretched and doggerel piece to render its publication at all necessary, after the similar specimens given by Mr. Markland of the Chester Mysteries; and it may only vie with some of the “ precious reprints” of the Roxburghe Club. Our author's enquiries, in the next part of his volume, into some of the other pageants and processions of Coventry deserve more respectful notice; and his account of the play of Hox Tuesday, - in which the overthrow of the Danes was represented, — of the religious processions of Corpus Christi and other festivals, and of various gratulatory pageants, exhibited on different occasions, may all prove of some utility in the illustration of manners. So, also, his concluding notice on the Minstrels and Waits of Coventry is full of interest, for the light which it throws upon the state of music in the middle ages.
to best of the shof their parent into
Art. II. Observations sur la Puissance de l'Angleterre et sur celle de la
Russie. Par Charles Dupin, Membre de l'Institut, &c. Paris. In noticing the storm which has long been gathering against the late Autocrat, we trust that the developements made will explain the causes and the nature of the conspiracy, which has signalised the ascent of the Emperor Nicholas to the throne, and at the same time give correct notices of the present state of Russia. · Though Alexander was reckoned a popular sovereign, yet strong, and, for the greatest part, concealed parties were decidedly, vehemently, and resolutely opposed to his views: some of his nobles and of his army imagined that he proceeded too rapidly in his plans of civilisation, while others blamed him for tardiness; and the Tsar, in long steering a middle course, though dictated by intelligence,