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REPRESENTATIVE ENGLISH PLAYS

REPRESENTATIVE ENGLISH PLAYS

I. THE MIDDLE AGES

MIRACLE PLAYS

Pope Urban IV, when he instituted in 1264 ning process was likely to be thorough; while the church festival of Corpus Christi, be the Cooks, well trained in taking things from ane a real though unwitting patron of the the fire, could present, more fittingly than trana On the continent, Corpus Christi any other craft, the Harrying of Hell, with Das, the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, its delivery of well-roasted prophets and #as 200n established as an occasion for pre martyrs. kating religious plays. In England espe. The performances took place upon pageant ily was the day notable, for the trade wagons, which could be drawn from place to mies, the associations of craftsmen roughly place through the town. At street corners or Tesponding to the trade unions of our open squares stations were assigned for the uy, adopted it as their chief holiday, and acting of the plays. When the play of the

se sted the church in its celebration with creation had been acted at the first station procession through the town. In another the pageant wagon moved on to the second may also they came to the aid of the church station, while the story of the fall of Adam y taking over a form of activity which had and Eve took its place at the first station, or some time been growing in disfavor with

and so on. This method made possible the de church authorities; namely, the per simultaneous production of many plays, each ortance of the liturgical plays. Originally little audience, of course, seeing the entire otruduced at Christmas and Easter for the sequence in the proper order. The wagons dication of ignorant audiences, these be seem usually to have been built with two aIe so popular that their primary didactic platforms, the lower curtained in and serv. curpose was in danger of being forgotten. ing as a dressing room for the actors, the Pe motives in which religion and busi upper as the stage. Stage properties were 2-3 — for the church feast brought visitors of the simplest. Among the most prominent nd trade to town — were oddly mixed, the was Hell mouth, a great gaping pair of jaws uits added pageantry to their procession, at one side of the stage, painted flame color 1.1 жеrе soon giving performances on and belching forth the smoke of the torment, cuba more sumptuous than the church had from which leaped forth the Devil with his 1 reached.

boisterous “ Ho! Ho!" and into which he by the time that the miracle, or, as they pitched the lost souls with his wooden pitchkre sometimes called, mystery, plays passed fork and himself plunged at the end of the To the hands of Mother Church into the play. Some attempt was made at appropri. are of the guilds, they had already developed ateness of costume: God appeared in white Ito a great drama of many acts, covering leather, with gilded face and hair, the Devil postural and apocryphal history from the in black leather, with full equipment of fan of the Angels to the Last Judgment. horns, hoofs, and a tail. But Herod boasted 1:y were, therefore, well adapted for guild the full panoply of a knight of chivalry, and Wtormance. Each guild took one section in general anachronism of attire as well as of tłe Bible story and tried to outdo its of speech was rampant. als in effectiveness of presentation. A We have records of such dramatic activity funt humor often marked the distribution lasting from the thirteenth until far into the in the separate plays among the various sixteenth century, all over England, as well ride. It is not difficult to see why, in the as in Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. Not only

Fx plays, the Shipwrights undertook the the cathedral towns but market towns and b'ding of the Ark, and the Fishmongers the even villages had their collective or indiHis; nor why in the same cycle the Gold vidual miracle plays. The greatest activity, Piths selected the story of the Three Kings, however, seems to have been localized in cer#th their offerings of gold and spices; the tain places. There are extant manuscripts, istaers, the Miracle at Cana; the Bakers, the earliest belonging to the fifteenth century,

Last Supper. To the Tanners was as for four great cyeles of miracle plays: the 3d the Fall of Lucifer and the torments York, Chester, Towneley or Wakefield, and * the fallen angels in hell, where the tan Coventry cycles. While each has its indi..

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