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the name of Queen Elisabeth's favourite once more connects itself with the most brilliant of all the Court entertainments of her reign on record, those Princely Pleasures of Kenilworth which were exhibited in the year 1575, with the hope of dazzling the Queen into a consent to bestow upon Leicester that highest favour which she still withheld. Several accounts remain to us of this unrivalled display', to which I shall have to refer again in the course of this book. And with a mention of them may be concluded this rapid summary of the Court entertainments containing a dramatic element, as well as the brief sketch of the origin of the English stage, which I have for convenience' sake connected with it, and which it is beyond my purpose to pursue in detail. Not Leicester only, but political wisdom itself in the person of Cecil, did not disdain to give attention to these royal diversions. A pageant for the meeting between Elisabeth and Mary Queen of Scots, which was intended to take place in 1562, but which never came to pass, was devised by some writer of the day, and the scheme still remains among Cecil's papers.
In my next chapter I shall have to go back once more to a rather earlier date in sketching the beginnings of the English regular drama. But I desired to bring together at once the various growths, differing in origin though at many points in contact with and under the influence of one another, out of which that drama sprang.
In England no accurate distinction was ever drawn Summary. between mysteries and miracle-plays, and the latter term was employed as including the former. But literary terminology, without aiming at a pedantic accuracy, must distinguish between the miracle-play as primarily of literary, and the mystery as primarily of religious, i. e. liturgical origin. The two growths took root in England soon after the Norman Conquest, and, with the co-operation of the
1 By Laneham, a retainer of Leicester's, and Gascoyne, one of the poets employed (reprinted in Nichols's Progresses of Queen Elisabeth), and by Dugdale (Antiquities of Warwickshire).
2 See its text in Collier, i. 183. To Mr. Collier's first volume I am of course indebted for the facts mentioned in the rapid summary above.
professional entertainers brought over by that event, though not derived from them, combined as the English religious drama. Though the mystery bore the name of the miracle, it was the latter which was absorbed by the former. In the hands, first of ecclesiastics, then of laymen, it became a popular form of dramatic entertainment, and, especially in the developed shape of the collective mystery, survived with little material alteration to the close of the sixteenth century.
The English moralities cannot be traced back further than the middle of the fifteenth century, though the distinctive elements of this species of production are to be occasionally noticed in every stage of the religious drama. They were the result of tastes partly indigenous to the English soil, partly due to the influence of French literature. Their form they borrowed in England from the popular religious drama; but they never attained to a widespread influence like that which it possessed, because it was not till the period of the Reformation that they concerned themselves with questions of immediate and lively interest to the nation at large. Even then, they could only fitfully address themselves to such topics. And in this period they had already begun to lose their distinctive character by admitting among their dramatis personae real types of humanity by the side of personified abstractions. In this modified form they too survived to about the close of the sixteenth century.
The pageants (using the term in a more restricted sense), masks, and similar entertainments had been introduced in the middle of the fourteenth century; and continued as public and private spectacles to enjoy favour down to the middle of the seventeenth century. But though containing dramatic elements, they could never, as lacking the essential element of a real dramatic action, develope into a genuine dramatic form. They continued by the side of the regular drama, as they had existed by the side of its progenitors, influencing its course, but not really having part in it. In the days of its first decline, they combined with it into a hybrid species, which, under the name of the
masque, will claim attention as an illegitimate outgrowth of our dramatic literature.
Such were, as they presented themselves on English soil, the phenomena of the origin of the modern drama. The transitions which led directly to the beginnings of the regular English drama, and those beginnings themselves, will form the subject of my Second Chapter.
The tragic and the comic.
THE BEGINNINGS OF THE ENGLISH REGULAR
By the term 'the beginnings of the regular drama' I mean the birth of the two species into which, though frequently intermingling them, all dramatic literature divides itself.
The broad distinction between the tragic and the comic is peculiar neither to dramatic literature nor to literature in general among the intellectual creations of man. Ignorance and dulness indeed pass through the world without any clear consciousness of either the tragic or comic elements which life contains; for apathy is the miserable privilege of the empty or unawakened mind. But wherever the power of sympathy or antipathy is consciously possessed, the mind is necessarily alive to that difference upon which the only satisfactory definitions of the tragic and the comic, and of tragedy and comedy, depend. The difference is primarily one of subject; but inasmuch as the secret of all true art lies in appropriate, and therefore pleasing treatment, it is a difference of treatment also. It therefore applies to the entire character and effect of a dramatic work, and is not to be determined by the mere accident of the nature of its termination. It is accordingly impossible to accept as sufficient, or even as consistently maintainable, the popular distinction which is supported by the critical authority of Polonius. The circumstance that the hero of a play 'kills himself,' or is killed by somebody
TRAGIC AND COMIC ELEMENTS IN THE MIRACLES.
else, does not constitute it a tragedy; and, conversely, the happy ending of a play does not establish it as a comedy1. Aristotle's definitions will better serve the purpose. According to his view, that which distinguishes tragedy as a dramatic species is the importance and magnitude of its subject, the adequate elevation of its literary form, and the power of the emotions-pity and terror-by means of which it produces its effects. Comedy, on the other hand, imitates actions of inferior interest ('neither painful nor destructive'), and carried on by characters whose vices are of a ridiculous kind.
It is accordingly manifest that elements of both tragic and comic effect already existed in those early compositions of which the origin and progress have been already traced. In the period when the so-called miracles and the moralities were simultaneously flourishing in England, and had attained to as high a point of developement as they at any time reached,-in the former half of the sixteenth century, the age of the English Reformation, both the one and the other species had advanced far in the direction of tragic as well as comic effectiveness. The religious plays habitually dealt with subjects of unequalled, and, to the age to which they belonged, of all but unrivalled importance, challenging the deepest sympathies and the keenest antipathies of their audiences. To secure popular favour,
1 It has become customary to treat the serious drama which ends happily as a species co-ordinate with tragedy and comedy, whereas it is in reality only a subordinate species of the former. This has been well shown by G. Freytag in his admirable Technik des Dramas (second edition), pp. 96-97. He reminds us, how already in the time of Aeschylus and Sophocles a gloomy ending was by no means indispensable to tragedy; of seven extant plays of Sophocles, two, the Ajax and the Philoctetes, and in the eyes of the Athenians also the Oedipus Coloneus, have a peaceful ending which gives a turn for the better to the fate of the hero. Even in Euripides, celebrated in the Poetics for loving a gloomy ending, among seventeen tragedies (exclusively of the Alcestis), four (Helena, Iphigenia in Tauris, Andromache, Ion) end like a modern ‘drama' (Schauspiel); in several others the unhappy ending seems accidental and not accounted for by dramatic motives.' Freytag concludes that the Athenian public resembled that of our own days in preferring a happy ending. This tendency was not long ago humorously illustrated by the London public's forcing a popular play-wright (Mr. Dion Boucicault) to recall to life a heroine whom he had put to death in the first edition of a play called The Octoroon.
Elements of comic effect in the mi
racles and moralities.