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Whan the kyng of Fraunce and hys men wyste
They waxed bold, and gode herte toke
In the poetical romance of Guy Earl of Warwick, the expedition of that hero into the Soldan's camp, is drawn with great force and fpirit.
Guy asked his armes anone,
Signat. M. ii.
And up he rideth to the hie borde, Chaucer fays that his knight had often "begon the bord abovin all nations." Prol. 52. The term of chivalry, to begin the board, is to be placed in the uppermoft feat in the hall. Anfis, Ord. Gart. i. App. p. xv. "The Earl of Surry began the borde in prefence: the Earl of Arundale wafhed with him, and fatt both at the first meffe. Began the borde at the chamber's end," i, e. fat at the head of that table which was at the end of the chamber. This was at Windfor, A. D. 1519. In Syr Eglapur of Artoys, we have to begin the defe, which is the fame thing,
Lordes in halle were fette
And waytes blewe to the mete.
The two knyghtes the defe began,
Sign. D. iii. See Chaucer, Squ. T. 99. And Kn. T. 2002. In the celebration of the feaft of Christmas at Greenwich, in the year 1488, we have, "The Duc of Bedeford beganne the table on the right fide of the hall, and next untoo bym was the
He ne rought with whom he mette,
The little room we have now left for further attention to this ingenious work, we fhall-affign to ab entertaining account of thofe early theatrical exhibitions which, however rude and fimple, were introductory to the English drama.
Our drama, fays Mr. Warton, feems hitherto [fourteenth century] to have been almost entirely confined to religious fubjects, and these plays were nothing more than an appendage to the fpecious and mechanical devotion of the times.. I do not find exprefsly, that any play on a profane fubject, either tragic or comic, had as yet been exhibited in England. Our very early ancestors fcarce knew any other history than that of their religion. Even on fuch an occafion as the triumphant entry of a king or queen into the city of London, or other places, the pageants were almost entirely fcriptural. Yet I muft obferve, that an article in one of the pipe-rolls, perhaps of the reign of King John, and confequently about the year 1200, feems to place the rudiments of hiftrionic exhibition, I mean of general fubjects, at a much higher period among us than is commonly imagined.
Lorde Dawbeneye, &c." That is, be fate at the bead of the table. 237. edit. 1770. To begin the bourd is to begin the tournament, Troy, B. ii. ch. 14.
The grete jafies, berdes, or tournay.
A knygt a BOURDOUR King Richard hade
A douty man in ftoure his name was Markade
I will here take occafion to correct Hearne's explanation of the word Bourder in Brunne's Chron. p. 204.
Sign. Q. iii.
Leland. Coll. iii.
BOURDOUR, fays Hearne, is boarder, pentioner. But the true meaning is, a Wag, an arch fellow, for he is here introduced putting a joke on the King of France. BOURDE is jeft, trick, from the French. See above, p 75. Chauc. Gam. 1974. and Non. U. 2294. Knyghton mentions a favourite in the court of England who could procore any grant from the King burdando. Du Cange Not. Join. p. 116. Who adds, "De là vient le mot de Bourdeurs qui estoient ces farceurs ou plaisantins qui divertiffoient les princes par le recit des fables et des hiftoires des Romans Aucuns eftiment que ce mot vient des bebourds qui eftoit une efpece des Tournois." See alfo Diff. Joinv. p. 174.
Cared, valued. Chaucer, Rom. R. 1873.
I ne rought of deth ne of life.
It is in these words: "Nicola uxor Gerardi de Canvill, reddit computum de centum marcis pro maritanda Matildi filia fua cuicunque voluerit, exceptis MIMICIS regis."-" Nicola, wife of Gerard of Canville, accounts to the King for one hundred marks for the privilege of marrying his daughter Maud to whatever person she pleases, the King's MIMICS excepted." Whether or no MIMICI REGIS are here a fort of players kept in the King's houfhold for diverting the court at ftated feafons, at leaft with performances of mimicry and masquerade, or whether they may not ftrictly imply MINSTRELS, I cannot indeed determine. Yet we may remark that MIMICUS is never used for MIMUS, that certain theatrical entertainments called mafcarades, as we fhall fee below, were very ancient among the French, and that thefe MIMICI appear, by the context of this article, to have been perfons of no very refpectable character. I likewise find in the wardrobe- rolls of Edward the Third, in the year 1348, an account of the dreffes, ad faciendum LUDOS domini regis ad ffeftum Natalis domini celebratos apud Guldeford, for furnishing the plays or fports of the King, held in the caitle of Guildford at the feast of Christmas. In thefe LUDI, fays my record, were expended eighty tunics of buckram of various colours, forty two vifours of various fimilitudes, that is, fourteen of the faces of women, fourteen of the faces of men with beards, fourteen of heads of angels, made with filver; twenty-eight crefts, fourteen mantles embroidered with heads of dragons; fourteen white tunics wrought with heads and wings of peacocks; fourteen heads of fwans with wings; fourteen tunics painted with eyes of peacocks; fourteen tunics of English linen painted, and as many tunics embroidered with ftars of gold and filver. In the rolls of the wardrobe of Kind Richard the Second, in the year 1391, there is alfo an entry which feems to point out a fport of much the fame nature. "Pro xxi. coifs de tela linea pro hominibus de lege contrafactis pro LUDO regis tempore natalis domini anno xii." That is, "for twenty-one linen coifs for counterfeiting men of the law in the King's play at Christmas." It will be fufficient to add here on the lait record, that the ferjeants at law at their creation, anciently wore a cap of linen, lawn, or filk, tied under the chin this was to diftinguish them from the clergy, who had the tonfare. Whether in both these inftances we are to understand a dumb fhew, or a dramatic interlude with fpeeches, I leave to the examination of thofe who are profeffedly making enquiries into the history of our stage from its rudeft origin. But that plays on general fubjects were no uncommon mode of entertainment in the royal palaces of England, at least at the commencement of the fifteenth century, may be collected from an old memoir of fhews and ceremonies exhibited at Christmas, in the reign of Henry the Seventh, in the palace of Westminster. It is in the year 1489. "This cristmas I faw no difguyfings, and but right few PLAYS. But ther was an abbot of Mifrule, that made much fport, and did right well his office." And again, "At nyght the kynge, the qweene, and my ladye the kynges moder, cam into the Whitehall, and ther hard a PLAY."
As to the religious dramas, it was customary to perform this fpecies of play on holy festivals in or about the churches. In the
register of William of Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester, under the year 1384, an epifcopal injunction is recited, against the exhibition of SPECTACULA in the cemetary of his cathedral. Whether or no these were dramatic SPECTACLES, I do not pretend to decide. In feveral of our old fcriptural plays, we fee fome of the scenes directed to be represented cum cantu et organis, a common rubric in the miffal. That is, because they were performed in a church where the choir affifted. There is a curious paffage in Lambarde's Topographical Dictionary, written about the year 1570, much to our purpose, which I am therefore tempted to tranfcribe." In the dayes of ceremonial religion, they ufed at Wytney (in Oxfordshire) to fet fourthe yearly in maner of a fhew, or interlude, the refurrec. tion of our Lord, &c. For the which purpofes, and the more lyvely heareby to exhibite to the eye the hole action of the refurrection, the prieftes garnished out certaine fmall puppettes, reprefenting the perfons of Chrifte, the watchmen, Marie, and others; amongeft the which, one bare the parte of a wakinge watchman, who efpiinge Chrifte to arife, made a continual noyce, like to the found that is caused by the metynge of two ftyckes, and was thereof commonly called Jack Snacker of Wytney. The like toye I myfelfe, beinge then a childe, once fawe in Poule's churche at London, at a feaft of Whitfuntyde; wheare the comynge downe of the Holy Goft was fet forthe by a white pigion, that was let to fly out of a hole that yet is to be fene in the mydft of the roofe of the greate ile, and by a longe cenfer which defcendinge out of the fame place almost to the verie grounde, was fwinged up and downe at fuch a lengthe, that it reached with thone fwepe almoft to the weft-gate of the churche, and with the other to the quyre ftaires of the fame; breathinge out over the whole churche and companie a moft pleafant perfume of fuch fwete thinges as burned therein. With the like doome shewes alfo, they used everie where to furnish fondrye parts of their church fervice, as by their fpectacles of the nativitie, paffion, and afcenfion, &c."
This practice of acting plays in churches, was at last grown to fuch an enormity, and attended with fuch inconvenient confequences, that in the reign of Henry the Eighth, Bonner, Bishop of London, iffued a proclamation to the clergy of his diocefe, dated 1542, prohibiting "all manner of common plays, games, or interludes, to be played, fet forth, or declared, within their churches, chapels, &c." This fashion feems to have remained even after the Reformation, and when perhaps profane ftories had taken place of religious. Archbishop Grindal, in the year 1563, remonftrated against the danger of interludes: complaining that players "did especially on holy days, fet up bills inviting to their play." From this ecclefiaftical fource of the modern drama, plays continued to be acted on Sundays fo late as the reign of Elizabeth, and even till that of Charles the First, by the chorifters or finging-boys of St. Paul's Cathedral in London, and of the Royal Chapel.
It is certain, that thefe MIRACLE-PLAYS were the firft of our dramatic exhibitions. But as thefe pieces frequently required the introduction of allegorical characters, fuch as Charity, Sin, Death, Hope, Faith, or the like, and as the common poetry of the times,
éfpecially among the French, began to deal much in allegory, at length plays were formed entirely confifting of fuch perfonifications. Thefe were called MORALITIES. The miracle-plays, or MYSTERIES, were totally deftitute of invention or plan they tamely reprefented ftories according to the letter of fcripture, or the refpective legend. But the MORALITIES indicate dawnings of the dramatic art: they contain fome rudiments of a plot, and even attempt to delineats characters, and to paint manners. From hence the gradual tranfition to real hiftorical perfonages was natural and obvious. It may alfo be obferved, that many licentious pleafantries were fometimes introduced in thefe religious reprefentations. This might imperceptibly lead the way to fubjects entirely profane, and to comedy, and perhaps earlier than is imagined. In a Myflery of the MASSACRE OF THE HOLY INNOCENTS, part of the fubject of a facred drama given by the English fathers at the famous council of Conftance, in the year 1417, a low buffoon of Herod's court is introduced, defiring of his lord to be dubbed a knight, that he might be properly qualified to go on the adventure of killing the mothers of the children of Bethlehem. This tragical bufinefs is treated with the most ridiculous levity. The good women of Bethlehem attack our knight-errant with their fpinning-wheels, break his head with their diftaffs, abufe him as a coward and a difgrace to chivalry, and fend him home to Herod as a recreant champion with much ignominy. It is in an enlightened age only that fubjects of fcripture history would be fupported with proper dignity. But then an enlightened age would not have chofen fuch fubjects for theatrical exhibition. It is certain that our anceftors intended no fort of impiety by these monftrous and unnatural mixtures. Neither the writers nor the fpectators faw the impropriety, nor paid a feparate attention to the comic and the ferious part of thefe motley fcenes; at least they were perfuaded that the folemnity of the fubject covered or excufed all incongruities. They had no juft idea of decorum, confequently but little fenfe of the ridiculous what appears to us to be the highest burlesque, on them would have made no fort of impreffion. We must not wonder at this, in an age when courage, devotion, and ignorance, compofed the character of European manners; when the knight going to a tournament first invoked his God, then his miftrefs, and afterwards proceeded with a fafe confcience and great refolution to engage his antagonist. In thefe Mysteries I have fometimes feen grofs and open obfcenities. In a play of the Old and New Tefiament *, Adam and Eve are both exhibited
MSS. Harl. 2013, &c. Exhibited at Chefter in the year 1327, at the expence of the different trading companies of that city. The Fall of Lucifer by the Tanners. The Creation by the Drapers. The Deluge by the Dyers. Abraham, Melcbifedech, and Lot by the Barbers. Mofes, Balak, and Balaam by the Cappers. The Salutation and Nativity by the Wrightes. The Shepherds feeding their flocks by night by the Painters and Glaziers. The three Kings by the Vimners. The Oblation of the three Kings by the Mercers. The Killing of the Innocents by the Goldímiths. The Purifi cation by the Black/miths. The Temptation by the Butchers. The laft Supper by the Bakers. The Blindmen and Lazarus by the Glovers. Jefus and the Lepers by the Corvefatys, Chrift's Paffion by the Bowyers, Fletchers, and Ironmongers. Defcent into Hell by the Cooks and Innkeepers. The Refurrection by the Skinners. The Ajcen fion by the Taylors. The Election of S. Matthias, Sending of the Holy Ghoft, &c. by