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tent itself with mere dead-letter laws there is too much practical evidence to permit any one to doubt. A silly labouring man, who had taken it into his head that he could not conscientiously attend the Episcopal worship, was seized by a troop of soldiers, “rapidly examined, convicted of nonconformity, and sentenced to death in the presence of his wife, who led one little child by the hand, and it was easy to see was about to give birth to another. He was shot before her face, the widow crying out in her agony, 'Well, sirs, well, the day of reckoning will come.' Shrieking Scotch Covenanters were submitted to torture by crushing their knees flat in the boot; women were tied to stakes on the sea-sands and drowned by the slowly advancing tide because they would not attend Episcopal worship, or branded on their cheeks and then shipped to America; gallant but wounded soldiers were hung in Scotland for fear they should die before they could be got to England. In the troubles connected with Monmouth's rising, in one county alone, Somersetshire, two hundred and thirty-three persons were hanged, drawn, and quartered, to say nothing of military executions, for the soldiers amused themselves by hanging a culprit for each toast they drank, and making the drums and fifes play, as they said, to his dancing. It is needless to recall such incidents as the ferocity of Kirk's lambs, for such was the name popularly given to the soldiers of that colonel, in allusion to the Paschal lamb they bore on their flag; or the story of Tom Boilman, so nicknamed from having been compelled by those veterans to seethe the remains of his quartered friends in melted pitch. Women, for such idle words as women are always using, were sentenced to be whipped at the cart's tail through every market town in Dorset; a lad named Tutching was condemned to be flogged once a fortnight for seven years. Eight hundred and forty-one human beings, judicially condemned to transportation to the West India islands, and suffering all the horrible pains of a slave-ship in the middle passage,
were never suffered to go on deck ;” in the holds below, "all was darkness, stench, lamentation, disease, and death.”
One-fifth of them were thrown overboard to the sharks before they reached their destination, and the
rest obliged to be fattened before they could be offered in the market to the Jamaica planters. The court ladies, and even the Queen of England herself, were so utterly forgetful of womanly mercy and common humanity as to join in this infernal traffic. That princess requested that a hundred of the convicts should be given to her. “The profit which she cleared on the cargo, after making a large allowance for those who died of hunger and fever during the passage, cannot be estimated at less than a thousand guineas."
It remains to add a few words respecting the state of litera- Profligate ture. This, at the end of the seventeenth century, had become literature. indescribably profligate, and, since the art of reading was by no means generally cultivated, the most ready method of literary communication was through theatrical representation. It was for that reason that play-writing was the best means of literary remuneration, if we except the profit derived from the practice, which, to some extent, survives, though its disgraceful motive has ceased, of dedicating books to rich men for the sake of the fee they would give. It is said that books have actually been printed in consideration of the profits of the dedication. Especially in the composition of plays was it judged expedient to minister to the depraved public taste by indecent expressions, or allusions broad and sly. The playwright was at the mercy of an audience who were critical on that point, and in a position, if he should not come up to the required standard, to damn him and his work in an instant. From these remarks must be excepted the writings of Milton, which are nowhere stained by such a blemish. And yet posterity will Milton's perhaps with truth assert that Paradise Lost has wrought more Lost. intellectual evil than even its base contemporaries, since it has familiarized educated minds with images which, though in one sense sublime, in another are most unworthy, and has taught the public a dreadful materialization of the great and invisible God. A Manichean composition in reality, it was mistaken for a Christian poem.
The progress of English literature not only offers striking The Engproofs of the manner in which it was affected by theatrical representations, but also furnishes an interesting illustration of that
necessary course through which intellectual developement must pass. It is difficult for us, who live in a reading community, to comprehend the influence once exercised by the pulpit and the stage in the instruction of a non-reading people. As late as the sixteenth century they were the only means of mental access to the public; and we should find, if we were to enter on a detailed examination of either one or the other, that they furnish a vivid reflection of the popular intellectual condition. Leaving to others such interesting researches into the comparative anatomy of the English pulpit, I may, for a moment, direct attention to theatrical exhibitions.
There are three obvious phases through which the drama sive phases.
has passed, corresponding to as many phases in the process of intellectual developement. These are, respectively, the miracle play, corresponding to the stage of childhood; the moral, corresponding to that of youth; the real, corresponding to that of manhood. In them respectively the supernatural, the theological, the positive predominates. The first went out of fashion soon after the middle of the fifteenth century, the second continued for about one hundred and fifty years, the third still remains. By the miracle play is understood a representation of Scripture incidents, enacted, however, without any regard to the probabilities of time, place, or action; such subjects as the Creation, the Fall of man, the Deluge, being considered as suitable, and in these scenes, without any concern for chronology, other personages, as the Pope or Mohammed, being introduced, or the Virgin Mary wearing a French hood, or Virgil worshipping the Saviour. Our forefathers were not at all critical historians; they indulged without stint in a highly pleasing credulity. They found no difficulty in admitting that Mohammed was originally a cardinal, who turned heretic out of spite because he was not elected Pope; that, since the taking of the true cross by the Turks, all Christian children have twenty-two instead of thirty-two teeth, as was the case before that event; and that men have one rib less than women, answering to that taken from Adam. The moral play personifies virtues, vices, passions, goodness, courage, honesty, love. The real play introduces human actors, with a plot free from the
supernatural, and probability is outraged as little as possible. Its excellence consists in the perfect manner in which it delineates human character and action.
The miracle play was originally introduced by the Church, Miracle the first dramas of the kind, it is said, having been composed nature.
plays; their by Gregory Nazianzen. They were brought from Constantinople by the Crusaders ; the Byzantines were always infatuated with theatrical shows. The parts of these plays were often enacted byecclesiastics, and not unfrequently the representations took place at the abbey gate. So highly did the Italian authorities prize the influence of these exhibitions on the vulgar, that the Pope granted a thousand days of pardon to any person who should submit to the pleasant penance of attending them. All the arguments that had been used in behalf of pictureworship were applicable to these plays; even the Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension were represented. Over illiterate minds a coarse but congenial influence was obtained ; a recollection, though not an understanding, of sacred things. In the play of “the Fall of Lucifer," that personage was introduced, according to the vulgar acceptation, with horns, and tail, and cloven hoof; his beard, however, was red, our forefathers having apparently indulged in a singular antipathy against hair of that colour. There still remain accounts of the expenses incurred on some of these occasions, the coarse quaintness of which is not only amusing, but also shows the debased ideas of the times. For instance, in "Mysteries,” enacted at Coventry, are such entries as “paid for a pair of gloves for God;” “paid for gilding God's coat;" "dyvers necessaries for the trimmynge of the Father of Heaven.” In the play of the “Shepherds,” there is provision for green cheese and Halton ale, a suitable recruitment after their long journey to the birthplace of our Saviour. " Payd to the players for rehearsal: imprimis, to to God, iis. viiid.; to Pilate his wife, iis. ; item, for keeping fyer at hell's mouth, iiid.” A strict attention to chronology is not exacted; Herod swears by Mohammed, and promised one of his councillors to make him Pope. Noah's wife, who, it appears, was a termagant, swears by the Virgin Mary that she will not go into the ark, and, indeed, is only constrained so to do by
a sound cudgelling administered by the patriarch, the rustic justice of the audience being particularly directed to the point that such a flogging should not be given with a stick thicker than her husband's thumb. The sentiment of modesty seems not to have been very exacting, since in the play of “the Fall of Man,” Adam and Eve appear entirely naked; one of the chief incidents is the adjustment of the fig-leaves. Many such circumstances might be related, impressing us perhaps with an idea of the obscenity and profanity of the times. But this would scarcely be a just conclusion. As the social state improved, we begin to find objections raised by the more thoughtful ecclesiastics, who refused to lend the holy vestments for such purposes, and at last succeeded in excluding these exhibitions from consecrated places. After dwindling down by degrees, these plays lingered in the booths at fairs or on market.days, the Church having resigned them to the guilds of different trades, and these, in the end, giving them up to the mountebank. And so they died. Their history is the outward and visible sign of a popular intellectual condition in
process of passing away. Moral
The mystery and miracle plays were succeeded by the moral plays; their
play. It has been thought by some, who have studied the history of the English theatre, that these plays were the result of the Reformation, with the activity of which movement their popularity was coincident. But perhaps the reader who is impressed with the principle of that definite order of social advancement so frequently referred to in this book will agree with me, that this relation of cause and effect can hardly be sustained, and that devotional exercises and popular recreations are in common affected by antecedent conditions. Of the moral play, a very characteristic example still remains, under the title of “ Everyman.” It often delineates personification and allegory with very considerable power.
This short phase of our theatrical career deserves a far closer attention than it has hitherto obtained, for it has left an indelible impression on our literature. I think that it is to this, in its declining days, that we are indebted for much of the machinery of Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. Whoever will compare that work with