I.--Properties and Dresses used for the Coventry Smiths' Pageant of the Trial, Condemnation, and Crucifixion of Christ between the Years 1449 and 1585
The Cross with a Rope to draw it up, and a Curtain hanging before it.
Gilding for the Pillar and the Cross.
2 Pair of Gallows.
4 Scourges and a Pillar.
Fanes to the Pageant.
Mending of Imagery occurs 1469.
A Standard of red Buckram.
Two red Pensiles of Cloth painted, and silk Fringe.
Iron to hold up the Streamer.
4 Gowns and 4 Hoods for the Tormentors.--(These are afterwards described as Jackets of black buckram with nails and dice upon them.) Other 4 gowns with damask flowers; also 2 Jackets party red and black.
2 Mitres (for Cayphas and Annas).
A Rochet for one of the Bishops.
God's Coat of white leather, 6 skins.
A Staff for the Demon.
Gloves (12 pair at once).
Herod's Crest of Iron.
Scarlet Hoods and a Tabard.
Hats and Caps.
Cheverel [Peruke] for God.
3 Cheverels and a Beard.
2 Cheverels gilt for Jesus and Peter.
Faulchion for Herod.
II.--The Chester "Bannes" or Bans
Reverende lordes and ladyes all, That at this time here assembled bee, By this messuage understande you shall, That sometymes there was mayor of this citie, Sir John Arnway, Knyghte, who most worthilye Contented himselfe to set out an playe The devise of one Done Randali, moonke of Chester Abbey.
"This moonke, moonke-like, in scriptures well seene, In storyes travelled with the best sorte; In pagentes set fourth, apparently to all eyne, The Olde and Newe Testament with livelye comforte; Intermynglinge therewith, onely to make sporte, Some things not warranted by any writt, Which to gladd the hearers he woulde men to take yt.
"This matter he abrevited into playes twenty-foure, And every playe of the matter gave but a taste, Leavinge for better learninges circumstances to accomplishe, For his proceedinges maye appeare to be in haste: Yet all together unprofitable his labour he did not waste, For at this daye, and ever, he deserveth the fame Which all moonkes deserve professinge that name.
"This worthy Knyghte Arnway, then mayor of this citie, This order toke, as declare to you I shall, That by twenty-fower occupations, artes, craftes, or misteries, These pagentes shoulde be played affter breeffe rehearsall; For every pagente a cariage to be provyded withall, In which sorte we purpose this Whitsontyde, Our pagentes into three partes to devyde.
"Now you worshippful Tanners that of custume olde The fall of Lucifer did set out, Some writers awarrante your matter, therefore be boulde Lustelye to playe the same to all the rowtte; And yf any thereof stand in any doubte, Your author his author hath, your shewe let bee, Good speech, fyne players, with apparill comelye.
"The good symple water-leaders and drawers of deey, See that your Arke in all poyntes be prepared; Of Noy and his children the wholl storye, And of the universall floude, by you shalbe played.
"The Sacrifice that faithfull Abraham of his sonne should make, You barbers and waxe-chaundlers of Aunciente tyme, In the fourth pageante with paines you doe take, In decente sorte set out--the storie is ffine-- The offeringe of Melchesedecke of breade and wine, And the presentacion therof set in your playe, Suffer you not in any poynte the story to decaye.
III.--Cornish Miracle Plays
[From Norris's "Ancient Cornish Drama"]
We have no notice of the performance of the Cornish plays earlier than that of Richard Carew, whose survey of Cornwall was first printed in 1602. In his time they even played in regular amphitheatres, and the account he gives is well worth extracting, as it affords a vivid picture by one who was in all probability an eye-witness, nearly three centuries ago. "The quasy miracle, in English, a miracle play, is a kinde of interlude, compiled in Cornish out of some Scripture history, with that grossenes which accompanied the Romanes vetus Comedia. For representing it, they raise an earthen amphitheatre in some open field, having the Diameter of his enclosed playne some 40 or 50 foot. The Country people flock from all sides, many miles off to hear and see it; for they have therein devils and devices, to delight as well the eye as the eare; the players conne not their parts without booke, but are prompted by one called the Ordinary, who followeth at their back with the booke in his hand, and telleth them softly what they must pronounce aloud."
Writing a century and a half later than Carew, Dr. Borlase describes the amphitheatres in which these Cornish plays were given; more particularly one in the parish of St. Just near the Land's End. This roundas it was popularly called, was "an exact circle of 126 feet in diameter; the perpendicular height of the bank, from the area within, now seven feet; but the height from the bottom of the ditch without, ten feet at present, formerly more. The seats consist of six steps, fourteen inches wide, and one foot high, with one on the top of all, when the rampart is about seven feet wide." Another round or amphitheatre was described by Dr. Borlase as a perfectly level area 130 feet across, and surrounded by an earthen mound eight feet high.
In such magnificent surroundings of open-air, picturesque country, sea, and sky, were these curious plays given to instruct and edify a multitude drawn at large from the country-side, which often must remain camped for two or three days in the neighbourhood to see the performances out.
IV.--From "The Cornish Drama," by Henry Jenner
(Celtic Review, April 1907)
"The trilogy known as the Ordinalia consists of:--(a) Origo Mundi, which begins with the Creation of the World, ... and ends with the building of Solomon's Temple; (b) Passio Domini, which represents the Temptation of Christ and the events from the Entry into Jerusalem to the Entombment; (c) Resurrectio Domini, which gives the story of the Harrowing of Hell, ... the Resurrection, and the events between the Resurrection and the Ascension with which it ends. Interpolated in the middle is the Legend of St. Veronica, and Tiberius, and the Death of Pilate. Running through all three is the old legend of the Origin of the Wood of the Cross." (Our two Mysteries are from "C").
V.--Contemporary Account of Sir David Lindsay's "Satire of the Three Estates"
(From a Letter Written by Sir Wm. Eure, 26th Jan. 1540)
"In the feast of Ephipane at Lightgowe, before the king, queene, and the whole counsaile, spirituall and temporall.--In the firste entres come in Solace (whose parte was but to make mery, sing ballets with his fellowes, and drink at the interluydes of the play), whoe showed firste to all the audience the play to be played. Next come in a king, who passed to his throne, having nae speche to thende of the play, and then to ratify and approve, as in Parliament, all things done by the rest of the players, which represented The Three Estates. With him came his cortiers, Placebo, Picthank, and Flatterye, and sic alike gard: one swering he was the lustiest, starkeste, best proportionit, and most valeyant man that ever was; and ane other swore he was the beste with long-bowe, crosse-bowe, and culverin, and so fourth. Thairafter there come a man armed in harness, with a swerde drawn in his hande, a Bushop, a Burgesman, andExperience, clede like a Doctor; who set them all down on the deis under the King. After them come aPoor Man, who did go up and down the scaffolde, making a hevie complainte that he was hereyet, throw the courtiers taking his fewe in one place, and his tackes in another; wherthrough he had sceyled his house, his wyfe and childrene beggyng thair brede, and so of many thousands in Scotland; saying thair was no remedy to be gotten, as he was neither acquainted with controller nor treasurer. And then he looked to the King, and said he was not king in Scotland, fore there was ane other king in Scotland that hanged Johne Armstrang, with his fellowes, Sym the Laird, and mony other mae; but he had lefte ane thing undone. Then he made a long narracione of the oppression of the poor, by the taking of the corse-presaunte beists, and of the herrying of poor men by the consistorye lawe, and of many other abusions of the Spiritualitie and Church. Then the Bushop raise and rebuked him. Then the Man of Armes alledged the contraire, and commanded the poor man to go on. The poor man proceeds with a long list of the bushop's evil practices, the vices of cloisters, etc. This proved by Experience, who, from a New Testament, shows the office of a bushop. The Man of Armes and the Burges approve of all that was said against the clergy, and alledge the expediency of a reform, with the consent of Parliament. The Bushopdissents. The Man of Armes and the Burges said they were two, and he but one, wherefore their voice should have most effect. Thereafter the King, in the play, ratified, approved, and confirmed all that was rehearsed."