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English miracle plays, moralities, and interludes : specimens of the pre-Elizabethan drama online

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with respect to them) probably refers to Lazarus' sisters.

93. Thatt God of pes. For ' Thatt ' we should probably read
' Thou.'

106. To your grace : to your honour or credit.

269. Bak and syde : a phrase for the whole body, as in the
famous drinking song, ' Back and side, go bare, go bare.'

285. In-ivyttissymus. Dr. Furnivall glosses this word in his
margin as ' infinitissimus,' most infinite ; but it clearly stands
for ' invictissimus,' most unconquered.


288. He to bryng us : the construction is altered at the end
of the line and the pronoun repeated.

299. Thys castell is owerys : the reply of Martha shows that
in ' ours,' Lazarus is using the royal plural. In 1. 81 the 'castell'
had been given to Mary, and in 1. 303 she seems to claim it as

308. And that I jugge me to skryptur : and as to this I refer
my claim to Scripture.

359. Satan oiver sovereyn : ? for 'yower sovereyn.'

362. At my ryall retynawns : in my royal train.

377. We xal hyrre Wynne. This is the first intimation that the
attack is to be specially against the Magdalen.

476. Wynne ofmawt, &C. Even with the aid of Henderson's
Ancient and Modern Wines it is difficult to identify all the
different varieties mentioned in the lists in which medieval
taverners delighted. Wine of Mawt is possibly Maltese wine
rather than wine made from malted barley ; Malmeseyn came
from Malvasia in the Morea ; ' clarry ' wine (vin doulce et
clarre) was red or white wine seasoned with honey (cp.
Chaucer, Kniglites Tale, 613); it seems to have been a mixture
made as required, as opposed to ' claret ' which was manufac-
tured. ' Gyldyr ' is Guelder ; ' Galles,' Galicia ; ' at the grome '
stands for ' at the Groine,' the port in Spain. ' Wyan ' is our
English way of writing ' Guyenne ' ; ' Vernage ' a wine grown
near Verona, and often mentioned, as in Chaucer's Merchant's

484. The fynnest than hast. Note the change from the polite
your and you, with which Satan addresses Mary, to his thou hast
to the Taverner. So Harry Bailey speaks to the Shipman as
thou and to the Prioress as you. In the dialogue in 11. 615-630
of this play, Simon addresses Christ as 'Ye' and is addressed
by Him as Thou.

507. Lady, this man is for yoiv : for you, at your service, cp.
Much Ado, ii. i. 387 ' My lord, I am for you, though it cost me
ten nights' watching.'

590. Agens God so veryabyll. For ' against ' meaning ' in
regard to,' cp. Trevisa's tr. of Higden's Polych. vi. ' Merciable
agenst pore men.'

610. The prophett : i.e. Christ, who, however, has not pre-
viously been mentioned.

612. Be the oylc of mercy. The softening and healing properties
O 2


of oil have caused it to be regarded as symbolical of mercy and
forgiveness ; cp. its use in the Sacrament of Extreme Unction,
and the legend, narrated in the Cursor Mundt, that Seth, when
Adam lay dying, was sent to Paradise to seek the oil of mercy
for him.

6 1 9. That thou ivy It me knowe : because thou art minded to
recognise Me.

638. With the to stond : the infinitive is probably explanatory
of ' my hart and thowt ' in the next line.
668. Him for hem : i.e. Christ's feet.

1140. Mahond: throughout the Miracle Plays Mahomet is
the common god of all heathens ; cp. in the Coventry Plays the
speeches of the soldiers who guard the sepulchre :
PRIMUS MILES. My head dulleth.
My heart fulleth

Of sleep
Saint Mahound,
This burying ground

Thou kepe.

' Secundus Miles ' calls on ' Mahound Whelp ' and the third
soldier on ' Mahound of Might.'

1146. Lythly, chyld, it be natt delay d : i.e. it may not lightly
be delayed.

1 1 86. Glabriosum, &>c. It is impossible to extract any
meaning out of this Mahound's Lesson, but the gibberish seems
to have been intended to carry along with it a suggestion of bad

1200. Ragnell and Roffyn. In the Chester Plays of Anti-
christ^ Antichristus at his death calls out :
Helpe, Sathanas and Lucifier,
Bellsabube, bolde Balacher,
Ragnell, Ragnell, thou arte my deare.
And in The Fall of Lucifer Primus Demon calls on
Ruffyne, rny frinde fayer and free
Loke that thou kepe mankinde from blesse.

1377. Our lordes precepte, &->c. The story as given in the
Aurea Legenda here shows some differences from the version
adopted by the playwright. It runs as follows :

' Saint maxyme, marie magdalene : and lazar her brother
martha her suster Marcelle chamberer of martha, and saint
cedonye whiche was born blynde & after enlumyned of oure


lorde | alle these to gydre and many other crysten men were
taken of the mescreaimtes and put in to a shippe in the see
without ony takell or rother for to be drowned, but by the
puruyaunce of almyghty god they came all to marcelle where
as none wold receyue them to be lodged they duellyd and abode
under a porche to fore a temple of the peple of that contree
And whan the blessyd marie magdalene sawe the pepie assem-
bled at this temple for to do sacrefyce to the ydollis she aroos
vp pleasybly wyth a glad vysage & discrete tongue & well
spekynge | And began to preche the faith and lawe of Jhesu
cryst | and wythdrewe them fro the worshyppyng of thy
dollis.' Legenda Aurea, Second Edition (1493), ^ l %5-

1435. The lond of satyllye : Satalie (Attalia), part of Armenia,
was the scene of one of the campaigns of Chaucer's Knight.

1540. How pleyauntly they stand : here the king points to his

1553. Dominus, illuminacio mea : Ps. xxvii. I.


SUBJECT. The date of the Castell of Perseverance, which
can scarcely be later than the middle of the reign of King Henry
VI, is a full half-century earlier than that of any Morality yet
printed in its entirety. A curious sketch at the beginning of the
MS., reproduced in a plate facing p. 23 of Sharp's Dissertation
on the Coventry Mysteries, gives us a good idea of the manner
in which it was played and the machinery used for its per-

' A reference to the plate,' writes Mr. Sharp, 'will shew a rude
representation of a castle, raised some height from the ground,
upon pillars or supports, and standing in the centre of a circle
formed by two lines one within the other, in the space between
which is written " + this is the watyre a bowte the place, if any
dycke may be mad ther it schal be pleyed ; or ellys that it be
strongly barryd al a bowte : & lete nowth over many stytelerys
[marshalmen ?] be withinne the plase 1 ." Over the castle we
read : " This is the castel of perseveranse that stondyth in the
myddys of the place; but lete no men sytte ther for lettynge of

1 I write out the contractions in full.


syt, for ther schal be the best of all." Beneath the castle and
within the supports to it stands a bed, below which are these
words : " Mankynde is bed schal be under the castel, & ther
schal the sowle lye under the bed tyl he schal ryse & pleye."
On each side of the castle is written the following direction:
" Coveytyse cepbord schal be at the ende of the castel, be the
beddys feet."

' On the outside of the circle five stations for scaffolds are
marked out ; beginning at the top we read : " Sowth, Caro
skaffold West, Mundus skaffold Northe, Belyal skaffold
North Est, Coveytyse skaffold Est deus skaffold." Underneath
the circle are the following directions to the performers : " &
he that schal pley belyal, loke that he have gunne powder
brennyng in pypys in his hands and in his ers [ears], etc.
whanne he gpthe to batayle . . . the iiij dowters schul be clad in
mentelys, Mercy in wyth, rythwysnesse in red al togedyr,
Trewthe in sad grene, & Pes al in blake, and they schul pleye
in the place al to gedyr tyl they brynge up the sowle." '

A week before the play was acted criers were sent round to
the neighbouring villages proclaiming its subject, and an-
nouncing its performance 'this day sevennyt' ' at N on the
grene in ryall aray.' The play begins with a conference between
the World the Flesh and the Devil (Mundus, Caro and Belyal) ;
and then Humanum Genus comes forth, apparently from under
the bed, and begins as in our extract. From this point our
quotations sufficiently indicate the course of the play until
Humanum Genus enters the Castle of Perseverance, where he
is besieged by the Seven Deadly Sins and defended by the
Virtues in rather a dull war of words. At last Mankind is
tempted forth from his Castle by wiles of Covetyse, the
peculiar sin of old age. He is rewarded with a thousand marks,
but a little later learns his folly on the arrival of Garcio, his
heir, who demands from him everything he has. But his good
angel once more draws near to his side. There is a dispute as in
the Coventry Play between Misericordia, Veritas, Justicia and
Pax, but God the Father (Pater sedens in trono) admits
Mankind to mercy, and the play ends with a warning to the
spectators 'Evyr at the begynnynge thynke on your last endinge.'
[For remarks on the importance of this play see Introduction.]

METRE. The greater part of the play is written in stanzas
of 13 lines, riming ababababaccca, the ninth and thirteenth lines


having three accents, the rest four. But we find also a nine-
line stanza, riming ababcdddc ; an eight-line stanza, with two
accents to a line, riming aaabcccb, and other varieties.

TEXT. The text of these extracts is based on a transcript
from Mr. Hudson Gurney's MS., which has been very kindly
placed at my disposal by Dr. Furnivall, for whom it was made
some years ago, when he intended to edit it for the New
Shakspere Society.

5-7. Lende . . . lende. Here, as in Chaucer, who copies the
French rule as to ' rimes riches ' two words identically spelt may
rime together if their meanings are different. Cp. Chaucer's

The holy blisful martir for to seeke [seek]

That hem hath holpen whan that they were seeke [sick].

11. 17, 18.

13. Whow mankende is unchende. ' Unchende ' can only
mean ' unkende,' unkind, unnatural ; but the spelling is sur-
prising and the sense hardly what is wanted. Prof. Skeat
suggests ' unhende,' unserviceable, clumsy, as a possible emen-
dation, and this exactly suits the sense.

1 6. / am born and have ryth noivth : i.e. now that I am
born I have nothing, etc. It seems better to construe thus
than to put a comma after 'wot' in 1. 15, and connect together
' to woo and wepynge I am born.'

20. Crysme. The ' chrism ' or ' chrisom-cloth ' was properly a
white cloth placed by the baptizing priest on the head of an
infant to prevent the holy oil from rubbing off. It was afterwards
enlarged into a white robe covering the whole body, as a token
of the innocency conferred in baptism ; but the words ' my hed
hath cawth' show that the reference here is to the original

28. The ton. The apparent doubling of the article suggests
that we have here only an ignorant way of writing ' that one ' ;
cp. 1. 38, Hey. 579, and Chaucer's Legend of Good Women,
A. text, 1. 325,

Or he have herd the tother party speke.

Techyth me to goode. The presence of the preposition is
explained by the old meaning of ' teach ' = show, direct. Cp.,
Piers Plowman, i. 81, ' Tech me to no Tresour.'

32. Be fen and flode : the first of nearly a dozen periphrases


for ' everywhere ' ; cp. be ' strete and stronde,' ' strete and stye,'
' downe and dyche,' ' sompe and syke ' &c.

43. Hevene trone : 'hevene' is a genitive; cp. next line, and
'heven kynge,' Ev. 19.

78. All in povert here thei stode. The pronoun is inserted
because of the intervention of ' all in povert ' between the nouns
and their verb. See Abbott, Shaksp. Gram. 242, 243.

90. Have thou, &*>c. : conditional ; cp. 1. 126.

98. Faryn wel at mete and mele : an allusion to the incon-
venience of fasting.

115. Take the werld to thine entent : take the world as the
subject of your thoughts. The construction is as in the phrase
' take to wife.'

137. Thou schalt thynke al be tyme : ' schalt ' here is equiva-
lent to ' you are sure to ' ; cp. Richard III, v. 3. 201,

And, if I die, no man shall pity me;

i. e. ' it is certain that no man will pity me.' See Abbott,
Shaksp. Gram. 315.

139. Thou schalt holdyn hym inne : you will easily keep
Bonus Angelus in his place.

141. With lofly lyvys fode : with the food of a lovely life, i.e.
with dainty living.

145. Goode : probably a misreading for 'Code' (God); cp.
'fode,' 1. 141,

146. And so I may make mery. The sentence should end ' I
will do what I please yet a while,' but Hum. Gen. slightly alters
his turn of thought in 1. 148.

151. Ryde be sompe and syke. To be possessed of a horse to
carry one dryshod through swamps and streams is taken as a
mark of wealth.

1 58. Other while thou muste befals. We are tempted at first
to read ' otherwise,' as if Mai. Ang. were explaining that any
failure of 'acord' with him would be treacherous to Hum.
Gen.'s new allies. But 1. 166 shows that 'other while' (occa-
sionally) is right, though a little abrupt.

170. Holt and hale: 'hale' means a 'tent,' a 'pavilion,' and
makes but poor sense in connection with 'holt,' but in these
phrases everything is sacrificed to the alliteration. The dis-
tinction here is between ' land ' and ' house.'

195. And ther to here myn honde. For the omission of the


verb, cp. Ev. 1 50, ' Farewell, and there an end,' also 1. 207 of
this stanza.

20 1. / recke nevere of hevene wonde : I care not whether
I turn aside from heaven.

231. Je vous pry. It has been contended that, inasmuch as
from the reign of Edward III onward French ceased to be the
language of the English Court, the fact that in the Chester
and other Miracle Plays, and in the present Morality Play, the
scraps of French fall exclusively to kings and courtiers, is to
be disregarded, and we are to see in them traces of French
literary originals. But stage traditions in such matters would
be very conservative, and the coincidence is too strong to be
explained away.

246. With cursydnesse in costes knet: entangled in the land
with wickedness. For the unmeaning introduction of ' Costes '
cp. MM. 121 2, 'Thou comfortyst me both in centre and cost.'

259. Whoso [no/] be lecherous. I have ventured to substitute
nol for MS. now, as the point of the remark is that if a man has
not one sin he has another ; if a man is not lustful he is
proud, etc.

263. Ther is pore nor ryche. For the ellipse of ' neither ' cp.
Shaks. Son. 141 :

But my five wits nor my five senses can
Dissuade one foolish heart from seeing thee.

Abbott, Shaksp. Gram. 376.

272. Man doth me bleykyn blody ble : man makes my coun-
tenance black and bloody a strong metaphor.

281. Ffewe men in the ffeyth they fynde. If the text is right,
' they fynde ' must be used for ' men find ' or ' we find,' i. e. one
finds now few men in the faith.

286. For that schuld cunne Cristis lessoun, Qfc. : he who is
to learn Christ's lesson must bind his body in penance. For
the use of ' should ' see Abbott, Shaksp. Gram. 324.

309. May any bate thi bale breive. The true phrase is given in
I. 317, where Schrift says, 'I schal, if I cunne, Brewe the bote
of bale,' i. e. concoct or devise for thee a remedy out of thy evils.

323. And wyl ceries : i.e. will continue to sit there. Cp.
I- 353-

325. He hath me forsake and I have no gylt. For this use of
' and,' almost with the meaning of ' though,' cp. Apol. for
Lollards, 40 : 'And he was riche He was mad nedy for us.'


363. slake. This reading is required to rime with ' make '
in 1. 361. MS. reads 'slawe' = slay.
372. ye me spelle : imperative.


The play of Everyman is perhaps the finest of all the
Morality Plays that have come down to us. Its early popu-
larity is testified by the fact that it was twice printed by
Richard Pynson and twice by John Skot. Neither of the
Pynson editions is now extant in a single perfect copy. Of
one the British Museum possesses a large fragment containing
from 1. 305 to the end, of the other a few leaves only are
preserved at the Bodleian. Skot's editions have been more
fortunate. Of the one identified only by his device two copies
exist, in the libraries of Salisbury Cathedral and of Mr. Huth ;
while of the edition bearing his name an example was formerly
preserved at Lincoln, and from a transcript of this our extracts
have been made.

Like the Cast ell of 'Perseverance, the play of Everyman was
written to persuade men to a life of good deeds and morality,
and it inculcates the sacramental teaching of the Catholic
Church. Alike from its language and its tone it is probable
that it was written during the reign of Henry VII, probably
towards the end of the fifteenth century. The metre of the
play is the rimed couplet with sometimes four, sometimes five,
beats to the line. But for the couplet is sometimes substituted
a quatrain with alternating rimes, and in the Messenger's
prologue after each couplet comes a line of three beats with
rime in -aye.

3. By figure : \. e. as to its form.

7, 8. Mater . . . entent : the ' matter ' is the play, the ' intent '
its didactic purpose.

19. Heven kynge : cp. CP. (43) note.

45. In all the haste. For the presence of the article where we
should now omit it, cp. 'at the lengthe,' 1. 828.

77. Fro heven to departe : to separate him from heaven.

104. With the thou brynge : cp. Ch 1 . 21, 22.

Littill chamberes therin thou make,
And byndynge slyche also thou take.


in. Ado: the reading is from the 'Salisbury' Skot ; the
Lincoln reads ' have I do.'

Il6. Spareth. The termination is influenced by 'dredeth' in
the previous line.

132. / may saye deth gyveth no warnynge : for the form of
the assertion cp. 1. 182, and Bale's King John, 2078, 'a lovynge
person thou mayst seeme for to be.' Cp. also Aesch. Agam.

Tlap' avra 5' fAfltfi' fs 'I\iov TTO\IV

\(yoi/j.' &v (ppovrj^a plv vrjvffwv ya\ava-i, K.T.\.

145. Of nature : i.e. in accordance with nature; cp. the still
current phrase ' of necessity.'

179. Withoitt ony advysement: Dethe scornfully refers to
Everyman's 'with good advysement' in 1. 175.

194. Ago: gone by. The prefix a- here answers to the
German prefix er. (A.S. agdn, agangan = Ger. ergehen.)

245. Adonay : the Hebrew name for the Deity, a plural form
of Adon, ' lord,' with the pronoun of the first person.

248. Promise is duty : a poor version of the old proverb
'behest is debt.'

272. And yet: i.e. and even now. 'Yet' here is purely

290. To brynge me forwarde : to escort me ; cp. Rich. //, i. 2.
2. ' How far brought you high Hereford on his way ? ' Cp. also
1. 675.

315. For kynde will crepe where it may not go : a proverb; cp.
T. 602.

495. And you do by me : if you will act by my advice.

500. / may thanke you of all : not ' of all people I may thanke
you,' but 'I may thank you for everything.' In A.S. the verb
thank takes a genitive of the thing and dative of the person ;
cp. Alts. 7576 : 'And thanked him of his socour.' (Matzner, ii.


522. Thy gyde . . . to goby thy syde. For the use of the gerund
cp. Ch 1 . 10 : 'Beaste, worme and fowle to flye.'

640. Before God: not an oath, but 'when ye come into God's

669. Five Wyttes : i.e. the Five Senses.

787. Judas Machabe : cp. I Mace. iii. 3, 4, etc.

795. More and lesse : great people and little. A common
phrase in Chaucer for ' all.'


800. / crosse out all this : I make no account of this.

801. I take my tappe in my lappe. Mr. Hazlitt reads ' cappe '
for ' tappe,' but there seems no appropriateness in a cap being
carried in the bosom. Mr. Halliwell quotes the line in his
glossary under ' tappe,' but is unable to offer any explanation
of it, and I regret to have to follow his example. The words
must refer either to the preparations for or to the motive of
Beauty's departure.

850. Farewell, and there an ende : for the ellipsis cp. CP.


902. Memoryall: Mr. Hazlitt prints 'memory all.'

903. Take it of worth : i. e. value it. ' Take in worth ' was
the more common phrase ; cp.

When a poore friend a small gift gives to thee
Take it in worth, and let it praysed be.

Baker's Cato Variegatus.

The form ' take it of worth ' occurs again in the Epilogue to this

This moral men may have in mind ;

Ye hearers, take it of worth, old and young.


In one of the speeches of Experience in this play, there occur
the lines :

Till now, within this twenty years,
Westward be found new lands,
That we never heard tell of before this
By writing nor other means.

The discovery of America by Columbus took place in 1492, and
if we may construe ' within this twenty years ' strictly literally,
we must assign the first performance of this play to about 1510.
But in a later passage Experience remarks :

But this new lands found lately
Been called America, because only
Americus did first them find ;

as if he knew nothing of Columbus, but thought that Amerigo
Vespucci's voyage in 1497 was the first discovery of the new
world. This would place our play about five years later, viz.
1515-1520. To its author we have no clue, although a legend


has grown up that it was both printed and published by John
Rastell. The unique copy (unhappily imperfect) in the British
Museum, was at one time bound up with a work printed by
Rastell, and this may account for the attribution. It has the
appearance of having been printed a little before 1540.

14. To regard his only intent and good ivy II : 'only' may
here be an adjective ( = sole), or we may regard it as an adverb
transposed, as in Shaks. Cor. \. I. 40

He did it to please his mother, and to be partly proud.

1 6. What nombre of bakes . . . be made andimprintyd. Taking
the date of this interlude as about 1510, the number of books
printed in the third of a century, since Caxton's first dated
volume (The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, 1477),
would not have been very large, probably 500 would be a high
estimate. For Caxton is only known to have printed something
under a hundred ; the tale of Wynkyn de Worde's four hundred
would not yet be nearly complete, and his fellow-apprentice
Pynson was much less prolific.

17. Oftoyes and tryfellys. Caxton's tastes lay chiefly in the
direction of works of morality and devotion, but he printed the
works of Chaucer and Gower, and Malory's King Arthur.
Wynkyn de Worde kept much on his master's lines, but added
one or two interludes, some grammars and law books. To call
these works 'toys and tryfellys' is unjust to our early printers;
but it is true that they shrank from the labour and expense of
publishing editions of the classics or many of the great works of
medieval learning. In the Day Book of John Dome, an Oxford
bookseller, for 1520, the entries of Balets' and Kesmes Kerrells
(ballads and Christmas Carols) sold at a half-penny each, show
a brisk trade in these ' trifles.'

25. Our tonge is now sufficient, &r*c. Contrast Chaucer, who
refuses to descant on Canacee's beauty, in the tone of an artist
working in an imperfect material, saying

I dar not undertake so high a thing.

Myn English eek is insufficient ;

It muste be a rethor excellent,

That couthe his colours longing for that art,

If he sholde hir discryven every part.

And he complains elsewhere of the poverty of the language which
he himself so nobly enriched.


47. Why shold not than, &rc. Our dramatist is of Juvenal's

Semper ego auditor tantum, numquamne reponam?

330. Other causys there are wolde, be lernyd. For the use of
would for requires to, cp. 1. 404

For cunnyng is the thynge that wolde be sought.

Which would be howled out in the desert air.

Macbeth, iv. 3. 194.
And for the omission of the relative

I have a brother is condemned to die.

Measure for Meastire, ii. 2. 33.

See Abbott's Shaksp. Gram. 244, 329.

339. In the myddes of the firmament . According to the Pto-
lemaic system the earth was a sphere, immoveable in the centre of
the universe, and the entire heavens revolved round it every four
and twenty hours. The work of Copernicus (De Revolutionibus],
which revived the Pythagorean doctrine of the sun as the centre
of the planetary world, was not published till 1543.

367. May be play ne. The earth was anciently believed to be
a flat disc of land, surrounded by the river Oceanus. The dis-
covery of its sphericity is ascribed to Thales (640 B.C.).

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