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habits of the people. They are called "Miracles," from the supernatural character of the themes and contents, and also "Mysteries," from their hidden meanings and special aim as biblical and devotional. Not only were they written by the clergy, but often presented by them in their own persons. The monastery or the chapel was the playhouse, and the moral education of the public was the prominent object of all scenic display. This special function of the stage as an educator will be fully understood when it is remembered that, in these medieval times, the laity as a class were profoundly ignorant, and necessarily looked to the clergy the learned class for their most elementary enlightenment. The parish conventicle was thus church, academy, and theater in one; the parish priest was preacher, teacher, playwright, and actor; and the Christian Scriptures, with some admixture of legend and tradition, were the common source of all instruction. With all their crudeness and abuses, however, these early combinations served a purpose until, as the old monasteries themselves, they yielded, willingly or perforce, to the demands of a more enlightened age. Anniversaries and special occasions of every sort in the civil and church calendar were devoutly cel

ebrated, and dramatic guilds were established in all of the leading towns of England. With many of these the history of literature has made us acquainted. Any one who has been in the vicinity of London in the suburban towns at the beautiful Whitsuntide festival, may easily form the picture of such outdoor dramatic exhibitions. The magnificent Corpus Christi ceremonies revealed the same order of religious entertainment. It is to this that Chaucer refers, in his natural picture of jolly Absolon, the parish clerk

"Somtyme, to shewe his lightnesse and maistrye, He pleyeth Herodes on a scaffold hye."

In the same connection, in "The Miller's Tale," he refers to the play of "The Flood" and its comic element, when he asks:


"Hastou nat herd,' quod Nicholas, also

The sorwe of Noe with his felaweshipe

Er that he myghte brynge his wyf to shipe?" As historical examples of such plays, we note the York, the Chester, the Wakefield or Towneley, and the Coventry Mysteries, so called from the names of the towns for which they were respectively intended... Written in uncouth verse, they were thus adapted to an uncouth people, and so imbued with the principles of scriptural teaching that they have. been fitly styled the Biblia Pauperum. From time

to time these companies of parish clerks journeyed over the island and gave to their countrymen the most attractive pageants they could present. They were as fully organized and equipped as the traveling bands of modern times. "The Creation of the World," "The Fall of Man," "The Story of the Flood," "The Massacre of the Innocents"— in fine, all the prominent subjects of the biblical narrative were made to appear in due succession, while special pains were taken to set forth in vivid detail the passion and death of Christ. These old Mysteries may still be witnessed in Continental Europe-in Saxon Switzerland, in the Tyrolean Alps, and in parts of Germany where civilization has made but limited advances and the children of nature live much as did their simpleminded forefathers. The representation of "The Passion Play," as given in Oberammergau, in Upper Bavaria, is the most notable instance of its kind. Occurring once a decade, and as an offering of devout thanksgiving for past deliverances, it may safely be affirmed that there is no such imposing assembly in modern times as is gathered in that secluded province to witness this Miracle. Play. Presented in open audience, with scenery and stage accompaniments scrupulously in keeping

with the theme itself, exhibited by actors aware of its providential occasion and sacred import, one can little imagine either the faithfulness with which it reproduces the ancient Mysteries or its singular effect upon native and foreign spectators. It is in reality the thirteenth century of English life represented in the twentieth, and thus serves, among other purposes, social and religious, the distinctively literary purpose of maintaining the connection of the centuries in the sphere of dramatic art.

2. The Moralities. The Miracle Plays at length gave place in the developing drama to what are called the Moralities. Warton, in his "History of English Poetry," thus writes: "As these pieces frequently required the introduction of allegorical characters, and as the common poetry of the times, especially among the French, began to deal much in allegory, plays at length were formed consisting entirely of such personifications." were the Moralities; and it is part of the object of Jeremy Collier, in his elaborate discussion of this subject, to show that this second species of stage presentation is the natural outgrowth of the first. The particular difference is clearly stated when we note that, instead of scriptural and historical characters, the personages were abstract


and allegorical, the prince of evil being the only member of the original dramatis persona that retained his position in each of the forms. It impresses the student of literary history somewhat strangely that the old biblical plays retained their place as long and as firmly as they did. The desire for some change of plan and character was now apparent, alike on the ground of literary novelty and the ever-new necessities of social life. The peasantry of England were earnestly asking for exhibitions suited to their daily experiences and designed to instruct them in the knowledge of human life and manners. There was some indication of growing intelligence in this popular request and it was soon substantially answered in the production of the allegorical. This step was a highly important one in advance of the ancient system in that it embodied so much of that special dramatic character so superbly exhibited in later days. The prevalence of the Moralities may date from the fifteenth century until they finally supplanted the Mysteries. As might be supposed, these representations were no longer under the exclusive control of the Churchmen. The diffusion of intelligence among the laity was becoming more and more general, and as a result they were more

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