Page images

*PAYMENTS of thér Wages of Corpus Christi been much ornamented. He had a gown Day.

of satin and blue buckram, and carImprimis, to God, ij*.

ried a sceptre. Pilate, to judge by his Item, to Cayphas, iijk. iiija.

wages, was the most important personItem, to Heroude, iija. iiijd.

age in this pageant, yet the principal exItem, to Pilatteis wyffe, ijs

penses into which he led the company Item, to the bedull, irija.

related to the mending of his hat. His Item, to one of the knights, ijs son is comparatively ill paid for his Item, to the devyll and to Judas, acting, as he receives in wages but xviij.

fourpence; and he seems to have been Item, to Petur and Malkus, xvj«.

employed merely to carry some of the Item, to Anna, ij" ijd.

attributes of the father, for the payItem, to Pilatte, iiijs. Item, to Pilatteis sonne, iiija.

ments relating to him regard chiefly the Item, to another knighte, ije

. Sum- repairs of his hat and of a poll-axe and ma, xxviijs.

sceptre. Pilate's wife was a more imThe mynstrell, xiiija.s

portant personage, as she figures in a

dream wh ein she was admonished to Under other dates there are sometimes

warn her husband as to his proceedings entries of payments of subordinate per- with regard to the SAVIOUR. She was formers, of which we give one, because named in the mediæval legend Dame it relates to the same play as the pay- Procula, and, as she was dressed in a ments just mentioned, and because the gown of the first fashion, it seems to duties performed by this particular have been customary to borrow one for player are peculiar. It is this: the occasion from the most stylish

dressing dame in the town. We have pd to Fawston for hangyng Judas, iiijd. pd to Fawston for coc-croyng, iiijd.

an entry to the following effect: Item,

to reward to Maisturres Grymesby for The dresses of the characters appear lendyng of her geir ffor Pylats wyfe, in some cases to have been expensive, xijd. The devil seems to have been and the continual entries of payments dressed in leather ; his head required for mending or renewing them give us a often mending and painting ; fourpence tolerable idea of their character; but is on one occasion paid for a staff for these entries are often made with a him, and there are continual charges for naïveté which shocks our notions of painting his club. It is hardly worth propriety, and show us that the Wyclif- our labor to speak in detail of the dressfite preachers were right in urging that es of the minor characters; it may simthe tendency of such performances was ply be remarked that the canvas of rather to spread a feeling of irreverence* Judas's coat cost two shillings, and that for things sacred than to promote reli- tenpence was paid for making it; that gious feeling. Thus we have frequently Peter had a wig, and apparently a long such items as: 'Item, payd for the beard; and that the beadle was dressed spret (spirit) of Gods cote, ijs. We in a jacket and hood. learn from these entries that God's coat The stage, as we have already stated, was of leather, painted and gilt, and was raised upon wheels, and it consisted that he had a wig of false hair, also of one, two, and sometimes of three gilt. Caiphas and Annas were robed as foors, representing respectively heaven, bishops. Herod appears to have had a earth, and the infernal regions. The mask, which, from the allusions to his contrivances for producing stage effect character, had probably a ferocious look: seem to have been extremely ingenious, there are many payments for mending and sometimes complicated. The reand painting his head, and he had a cords we have been quoting throw little helmet and crest, which appear to have light on this part of the subject, but we learn more from the marginal stage Company relating to their pageant, we directions in some of the manuscripts of see at once that it could not be the same French mysteries of the same date. play they acted. In fact, the substance Thus, in the fall of Lucifer, it is directed of their play is broken into one or two in the margin of one of these that “Lu- smaller ones. These, however, are near cifer and his angels are now to be let enough in subject to allow of a brief down by means of a wheel secretly analysis in illustration of the characters contrived to work upon a screw pivot.' as described in the books, and of the In the performance of the Creation, general plan of these singular composiwhen God separates light from dark- tions. The scene introduces the Sav. ness, the stage direction is: “Now a iour leading his favorite disciples to the painted cloth is to be exhibited, one Mount of Olives, and at first both the half black, and the other half white !' dialogue and acting are a mere paraWhen God separates the waters: “Now phrase of the Gospel narrative.

At must be shown, as it were, a sea, which length he awakens his disciples, and has previously been covered, and fishes tells them that his time was come, and in it.' And when God creates the fowls, that Judas was at hand to betray him. the stage direction is; 'Now must some 'Here,' says the stage direction, 'Jesus one secretly let fly little birds into the with his disciples goeth into the place, air, and place on the stage swans, geese, and there shall come in about ten per. ducks, cocks, hens, with the most un- sons well beseen in white harness and common animals that can be obtained.' brigandines, and some disguised in othIn one of the Coventry books we have er garments, with swords, glaives, and the entry: 'Item, pa for starche to other strange weapons, as cressets with make the storme in the pagente, vjd. fire, and lanterns and torches light; and There are some amusing entries relating Judas foremost of all, conveying them to stage machinery in the same booksto Jesus by countenance.' The Saviour as, for example:

asks them what they seek, and they reIrem, payd for mendyng hell mowthe, ply: Jesus of Nazareth.' On his de

claring that he is the man, they all fall Item, payd for payntyng of bellmought, to the ground, and only rise again at

his bidding. After some further con'Item, payd for makynge of hell mothe tention, Judas kisses Christ, and then new, xxjd.)

his companions rush upon him. It is And again :

at this moment that Peter, moved by

his zeal, strikes Malchus with his sword, 'Item, payd for keepyng of fyer at hell and cuts off his ear; which Christ immothe, iiij.

mediately heals by a miracle, and exWe have somewhere read that on one postulates with Peter for using violence occasion the necessity of making 'hell in his cause. The Jews now seize upon mouth' new arose from an accident in Christ, and lead him away, with a good the management of this fire, which in- deal of vulgar abuse and ribaldry, which volved the infernal regions in a general was calculated for the taste of the mob. conflagration. We have in these same Another scene now opens, in which books the commemoration of an equally Herod appears sitting upon his throne, serious and more deliberate case of in. surrounded by his doctors, or courtiers, cendiarism: 'Item, payd for settyng who greet him with the most abject the world of fyer, pd.)

flattery. When they have concluded, It is curious that, when we compare he addresses the audience in a style of that part of the collection preserved and exaggerated pomposity, which is best printed as the Coventry Mysteries with described by Shakspeare's phrase of the entries in the books of the Smiths' out-Heroding Herod. Herod may be VOL. LXII.


[ocr errors]

truly said to swear like a Turk, for he nesses, Pilate is of opinion that no has nothing in his mouth but Mahom, crime is proved, and is desirous of or Mahomet. He boasts of being the setting Jesus at liberty; but this is greatest and most powerful personage in opposed by the Jews, and after much the world, talks of every body as his contention on the subject, a quibble is slaves, and declares that if any one raised about jurisdiction, and the prisondares to speak without his orders heer is passed over to King Herod. Herod would involve them in immediate and storms and rages considerably, and immense destruction. This impotent causes his victim to be scourged and threatening appears to have been chiefly tormented, and then he sends him back addressed to the audience, and must, no to Pilate with full authority to condemn doubt, have created great amusement. him to death. Pilate was, therefore, We know from Chaucer that it was a considered as a subordinate personage great object of ambition to be thought to King Herod. Meanwhile a new scene worthy and capable of performing the has begun. “Here entereth Satan into part of Herod in the Mysteries. Herod the place, in the most horrible wise.' gives orders to his officers to go and Satan outdoes Herod in his profane effect the capture of Jesus. Another swearing and boasting, and exults over scene introduces to us the two priests, what he foresees will be the fate of Cayphas and Annas, seated in state, Christ, knowing that he would descend and a messenger arrives with tidings of to hell, and believing that he would rethe capture of the Saviour, and gives an main there under his subjection. In account of the whole transaction. Soon his joy, he calls to hell to prepare for afterwards Christ is led in by the Jews, his reception : and witnesses are heard against him,

Helle! helle! make redy, for here ral and he is reviled and beaten. One of

come a gest, the maid-servants accuses Peter of being Hedyr xal come JoeSUS that is clepyd Godone of the disciples, which he denies,

DYS sone, and the cock crows, (Mr. Fawston's And he xal ben here be the oure of none, part.) This is repeated, and then Peter And with the here he xal wone,

And han ful shrewyd rest.' weeps, and goes out, and makes his lament. Cayphas and Annas, mean- The subordinate fiends, however, appear while, despatch a messenger to Pilate, to have had more shrewdness than their to require his presence at the ‘Moot- master, and one of them suggests that Hall,' on account of a great matter' it would be better to keep such a guest that required speed. Judas, in the away. He says, addressing himself to mean time, is seized with repentance, Satan: and, returning to Cayphas and Annas,

Out upon the! we conjure the, offers back the money for which he had That nevyr in helle we may hym se; sold bis Redeemer. They refuse it with For and he onys in helle be, bitter jeers, and, to use the words of the He xal oure power brest!' stage directions, then Judas casteth An entirely new light now breaks upon down the money, and goeth and hang. Satan's mind, and, in his alarm at the eth himself.' We have seen in the books destruction which threatens his own of the Smiths' Company that one of the power, he determines to prevent the subordinate actors assisted the traitor Saviour from being put to death. He in this last act of self-retributive justice. resolves, therefore, to work upon the Next day, in consequence of the sum- fears of Pilate's wife: mons, Pilate takes his seat in the ‘Moot

"To Pylatys wyff I wele now go, Hall,' and Jesus is brought before him

And sche is aslepe a bed ful fast, for trial, Cayphas and Annas acting as And byd here withowtyn wordys mo, accusers. After hearing all the wit

To Pilat that sche send in hast.'

* Here,' says the stage direction, 'shall his master are full of coarse humor. In the devil go to Pilate's wife, the curtain the play of Noah's Flood, the wife of drawn as she lieth in bed; and he shall Noah, instead of obeying the call of her make no din; but she shall, soon after husband to enter the ark, proceeds at that he is come in, make a “rewly' the last moment to the tavern to join noise, coming and running off the scaf- her gossips, to the great annoyance of fold, and her shirt and her kirtle in her the rest of the family, who are eager to hand, and she shall come before Pilate get afloat; they remain drinking, goslike a mad woman, saying thus: siping, and singing, until the danger be"Pylat, I charge the that thou take hede! comes imminent; and, after much mu

Deme not Juesu, but be his frende ! tual abuse, Noah beats his wife soundly, Gyf thou jewge hym to be dede,

or, according to another version, Noah Thou art dampnyd withowtyn ende!' himself is the vanquished. The play of And she goes on to tell her vision ; in the Shepherds, in every collection, gives consequence of which Pilate determines room for the introduction of mirthful to have nothing to do with the persecu- pictures of rustic life. In the play of tion of Jesus, but, after a vain attempt the Slaughter of the Innocents, a laughto persuade the Jews to set him at liber- able scene was always furnished in a ty, he returns him back upon their skirmish between the slaughterers and hands. This seems to have completed the mothers of the victims, who are the Mystery performed by the Smiths' made to indulge to a considerable degree Company. When it was concluded, the in what would now be called 'Billingsstage, or pageant, on which it was per- gate' language. Among the comic charformed, moved forward upon its wheels, acters in these plays, we must not forget and proceeded, no doubt, to recommence the executioners, or, as they are termed in another part of the town, while the here, the tormentors, who are especially next stage in order took its place, and distinguished for their drollery; and the another set of performers acted the various acts of the passion, the scornful Mystery which came next in succes- treatment, the scourging, and the crucision.

fixion of the Saviour, must have kept The play we have thus briefly de- the audience in a roar of laughter. scribed was one of those in which the Lastly, one of the merriest exhibitions Scriptural story was least embellished in the whole course was Doomsday, or with extraneous incidents. The authors the Day of Judgment, in which all of these compositions, however, were not those individuals who are supposed to without reason charged by the moralists have given offence or scandal on earth with seeking mainly to cater to the taste are exposed to popular satire, and in of the vulgar populace, to do which they very popular language. The miller, who found it necessary to introduce comic stole his share of the corn which was scenes and burlesque, or at least droll brought to his mill, and the ale-wife, characters. This was effected most fre- who sold short measure, were among quently by giving the humorous parts to the greatest persecutors of the lower some of the lower personages who be- orders during the middle ages, and are longed to the plot itself; but in some here held up to the bitterest scorn; cases personages are introduced pur- and the people of fashion, who it was posely as humorous characters, who pretended spent on fine clothes the had otherwise no claim to a place in money which ought to have gone to the the story. Thus, in the play of Cain poor, were not spared. It may be reand Abel, in the Towneley collection, marked, that the gross language which an ill-conditioned servant is given to in these plays is put in the mouths of Cain, and the disputes between him and women as well as of men, gives us but a low opinion of the delicacy of manners geant's wife of the injury which her among our forefathers of the fifteenth husband has sustained, and the latter century.

lady rejoices at an accident which she The same humorous scenes, or epi- thinks has deprived him of the power sodes, are found in the French Mys- of beating her. In all these scenes the teries, where they exhibit usually more women are made the object of broadest originality of conception. The charac- satire, and the picture of married life is ters, too, are here more frequently ex- not flattering to the domestic character traneous, or at least unnecessary, to the of our forefathers. The two wives ad. plot. In one of the earliest of these, iourn to a tavern, where they call for the play of St. Nicholas, by Jean Bodel, wine, and make merry, their conversathe merriment was produced by a vulgar tion turning chiefly on the defects of scene between a party of gamblers in a their husbands, who, however, eventtavern. In the Miracle-plays, which ually return upon the stage, and give were more abundant in French than in them practical evidence that they are English, thieves, or persons of the lower neither of them disabled. classes of society in towns, or peasants This is one of the earliest instances in the country, or beggars and other of the application to these scenes of the vagrants, are introduced for the purpose word Farce, derived from an old French of humorous scenes of this description. verb farcer, to make merry, and thereIn one of these, which has for its sub- fore signifying a drollery or merriment. ject the life and miracles of St. Fiacre, In the Towneley Mysteries there is a the humorous scene is introduced in the second play of the Shepherds, the plot form of an interlude, and is called a of which is a perfect farce, and has as farce – cy est interposé une farsse. little to do with the subject of the Mys. This farce consists of five personages, a tery itself as the French farce just debrigand or robber, a peasant, a sergeant, scribed with the story of St. Fiacre. A and the wives of the two latter. The party of shepherds meet on the moors, brigand appears first on the stage, and where their sheep-walks lie, and enter meeting with the peasant, inquires of into conversation on the evil times in him the way to St. Omer. The peasant which they live, their own miserable retorts in the style of clownishness condition, and the inclemency of the which it was then fashionable to ascribe weather. In the midst of it enters an to every one who was born a 'vilan,' or individual of very equivocal character, serf, or who was descended of such who goes by the popular name of Mak, servile blood. The robber, offended, and who joins in the familiar discourse, but putting the most charitable con- and remains with them till they all struction on the first offence, repeats compose themselves to sleep, it being his question, and that with sufficient night. Mak then rises, picks out the politeness, but he meets with a second fattest sheep in the flock, and carries it rebuff, more offensive even than the home to his wife. They consult on the first. Finding him thus uncourteous, best means of concealing their booty, he avenges himself by robbing the peas- and, at the wife's suggestion, they put ant of a capon; but in this conjuncture it in the cradle, and she lays herself bethe sergeant comes up, interposes, and side it, pretending to be just delivered attempts to recapture the capon, and, of a child. At early dawn the shepin the struggle, the brigand strikes him herds awake, visit their flocks, and soon a blow which fractures his, arm. The discover that a robbery has been combrigand escapes, and his two antago- mitted. Their suspicion at once falls nists quit the scene for a moment, while upon Mak, and they trace him to his their wives come forward to occupy it. house, where the various subterfuges of The peasant's wife informs the ser- the offender and his worthy consort,

« PreviousContinue »