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WOMAN TAKEN IN ADULTERY.
acquires dignity as it proceeds. Christ writes in silence with His finger on the sand, while the three witnesses utter voluble invective, ply Him with citations from the law of Moses, and taunt Him with inability to answer. At last He lifts His head and speaks :
But is of life cleaner than she,
be. [Hic Jesus iterum se inclinans scribet in terra, et omnes accusatores quasi confusi separatim in tribus locis se disjungent.]
I am afeard that I shall die.
Yon prophet did write before mine eye.
They will tell it both far and wide ;
I wot never where mine head to hide ! The same effect is produced on the other witnesses by Christ's mystic writing in the sand. They slink away, abashed or silenced, while the woman makes confession and receives absolution :
When man is contrite, and hath won grace,
God will not keep old wrath in mind;
Very contrite when He them find. Some reflections are forced upon the mind by the mixture of comedy with sacred things in these old plays, and by their gross material realism. In order to comprehend what strikes a modern student as profanity, we must place ourselves at the medieval point of view. The Northern races who adopted Christianity, delighted
in grotesqueness. The broad hilarity of their Yule rites and festivals added mirth to Christmas. To separate the indulgence of this taste for humour from religion, would have been impossible; because religion was the fullest expression of their life, absorbing all their intellectual energies. The Cathedral, which embodied the highest spiritual aspirations in a monumental work of art, admitted grotesquery in details and Aung wide its gate at certain seasons to buffoonery. Grinning gargoils, monstrous Lombard centaurs, mermaids clasped with men, indecent miserere stalls, festivals of Fools and Asses, burlesque Masses performed by boy-bishops, travesties of holiest rites did not offend, as it would seem, the sense of men who reared the spire of Salisbury, who carved the portals of Chartres, who glazed the chancel windows of Le Mans, who struck the unison of arch and curve and column, and could span in thought the vacant air with aisles more bowery than forest glades. We, in this later age of colder piety and half-extinguished art, explore the relics of the past, scrutinise and ponder, classify and criticise. It is hardly given to us to understand the harmony of parts apparently so diverse. It shocks our taste to dwell on coarseness and religion blent in one consistent whole. We forget that the artists we admire-our masters in design how unapproachably beyond the reach of modern genius -lived their whole lives out in what they wrought. For those folk, so simple in their mental state, so positive in their belief, it was both right and natural that the ludicrous and even the unclean should find a place in art and in religious mysteries.
PARALLELS IN PLASTIC ART.
As a last word on the subject of Miracle Plays, I
may suggest that those who are curious to form an adequate conception of the pageants as they were performed, should pay a visit to the Sacro Monte at Varallo. There, on the broad flat summit of a rocky hill some thousand feet above the valley of the Sesia, is a sanctuary surrounded with numberless chapels embowered in chestnut woods. Each chapel contains a scene from sacred history, expressed by figures of life size, vividly painted, and accompanied with simple scenery in fresco on the walls. The whole series sets forth the life of Christ with special reference to the Passion. Architecture, plastic groups and wall-paintings date alike from a period in the middle of the sixteenth century, and are the work of no mean crafts
The great Gaudenzio Ferrari plied his brush there together with painters of Luini's school. But the method of treatment, particularly in episodes of vehement emotion, such as the Massacre of the Innocents, the Flagellation, and the Crucifixion, indicates antique tradition. Designed for the people who crowd this festival in summer time on pilgrimage from all the neighbouring hill-country and cities of the plain, they are no finished masterpieces of Renaissance art, but simply realistic pageants bringing facts with rude dramatic force before the eyes. It seems to me impossible to approach the Miracles, as they were probably exhibited in Coventry and Chester, more closely than on this Holy Mountain, where the popular art of the sixteenth century is still in close relation with the religious sentiments of a rustic population.
1. Development of Minor Religious Plays from the Cyclical Miracle
Intermediate Forms between Miracle and Drama-Allegory and Personification.—11. Allegories in the Miracle-Detached from the Miracle-Medieval Contrasti, Dialogi, and Disputationes-Emergence of the Morality-Its essentially Transitional Character.—III. Stock Personages in Moral Plays—Devil and Vice—The Vice and the Clown.-IV. Stock Argument—Protestant and Catholic—'Mundus et Infans.'-V. The‘Castle of Perseverance'--'Lusty Juventus'—'Youth.' -VI. “Hick Scorner'--A real Person introduced—New Custom'*Trial of Treasure '— Like will to Like.'-VII. 'Everyman'—The Allegorical Importance of this Piece.-VIII. Moral Plays with an Attempt at Plot—' Marriage of Wit and Wisdom'—Marriage of Wit and Science'- The Elements'-Microcosmus.'-IX. Advance in Dramatic Quality_The Nice Wanton'—'The Disobedient Child.' -X. How Moral Plays were Acted-Passage from the old Play of “Sir Thomas More.'—XI. Hybrids between Moral Plays and Drama'King Johan'-Mixture of History and Allegory—The Vice in Appius and Virginia'-In Cambyses.' (N.B. The majority of the Plays discussed in this chapter will be
found in Hazlitt's Dodsley, vols. i. ii. iii. iv. v. vi.)
The examples already given of humorous passages occurring in the Miracles, suffice to prove that comedy was ready to detach itself from the religious drama, and to assert its independence. But other causes had to operate, and a whole phase of evolution had to be accomplished before the emancipation of tragedy, that far more highly crganised artistic form, could be effected. In proportion as the Miracles passed more
and more into the hands of laymen, and characters like Herod or Pilate acquired greater prominence, the transition from the Cyclical Mystery to an intermediate type, out of which the serious drama of History and Tragedy ultimately emerged, was rendered gradually possible. Sacred plays with titles like the following, 'Godly Queen Esther,' King Darius,' • The Conversion of Saul,' · Mary Magdalen,' show the tendency to select some episode of Biblical history for separate treatment, and while maintaining the conventional structure of the Miracle, to concentrate interest on some single personage. In the Cyclical Miracle, the human race itself had been the protagonist, and the action was commensurate with the whole scheme of man's salvation. In these minor Miracles one man or woman emerged into distinctness, and the dramatic action was determined by the character and deeds of the selected hero.
It was not possible, however, for the art to free itself upon these simple lines. Instruction had been the chief end of the sacred play, and to this purpose the drama still clung in its passage toward liberty. Allegory and personification supplied the necessary intermediate form. We have only to remember what a commanding part was played by Allegory through the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries all over Europe-in the Divine Comedy of Dante, in Giotto's painting and Orcagna's sculpture, in the French Romance of the Rose, in the mysticism of the German Parzival, in the Vision of our English Ploughman-in order to comprehend the reasons why this step was inevitable, and why the type determined by it for the drama was