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PRINTED MORAL-PLAYS,

RELATING TO MANKIND AT LARGE.

NATURE-THE WORLD AND THE CHILD-HICK SCORNER-EVERY MAN-INTERLUDE OF YOUTH-LUSTY JUVENTUS.

ONE of the most ancient, if not the oldest, of our printed Morals, or Moral-plays, bears the title of Nature;' and it was written by Henry Medwall, chaplain to Cardinal Morton, Archbishop of Canterbury*. No other piece from his pen is extant, but there is no doubt that he wrote others; and one of them, “Of the finding of Truth, carried away by Ignorance and Hypocrisy,' was acted before Henry VIII., in 1516. The title indicates very clearly the character of the production; and we know, besides (see Annals of the Stage, i. 65), that it was diversified by the introduction of a Fool, whose part seems to have given greater satisfaction than the rest of the performance. The 'goodly interlude' of Na

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* The title, as it appears in the only known copy of the production, is this :-Nature-A goodly interlude of Nature, compyled by maister · Henry Medwall, chapleyn to the ryght reverent father in God, Johan • Morton, somtyme cardynall and archebyshop of Canterbury. It is in folio, without date and printer's name, but most likely was from the press of John Rastell, to whom it has been usually assigned.

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ture is in two parts *; and at the conclusion of the first, we find that it was played before Morton himself, who died in 1500, at the age of ninety-three years. It was therefore written, in all probability, very soon after he had been raised to the see of Canterbury t. His elevation took place in 1486, so that this interlude' was one of the earliest productions of the kind in the reign of Henry VII.

It proceeds upon the same allegory as the three MS. Moral-plays which have been just examined-the contest between good and evil in the mind of man. It is conducted and illustrated with ingenuity, and is written with considerable facility and power, when compared with dramatic productions by which it was unquestionably preceded.

Mundus and Worldly-affection are represented sitting on the stage, · berynge a gown and cap, and a gyrdyll for Man,' when he enters, accompanied by Nature, Reason, and Innocency. Nature states that

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* Dr. Dibdin (Typ. Ant., iii. 104) observes that this production is only in two parts. It is very unusual for an interlude to be divided even into two parts, for that division has no reference to acts and scenes. The second part was a separate day's representation.

† Warton (H. E. P., iii. 72, edit. 8vo.) observes, ' It is not improbable it was played before the archbishop ;' but the author promises the second part,

Whan my

lord shall so devyse,

. It shalbe at his pleasure;' meaning, when it shall be his pleasure to see it performed. Warton also states, without citing any authority, that it was printed by Rastel in 1538:

*

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God has appointed her his Minister on earth to instruct all creatures, and delivers the following spirited stanza, in assertion of her place and power.

Who taught the cok his watche howres to observe, ' And syng of corage wyth shryll throte on hye ?

Who taught the pellycan her tender ḥart to carve, · For she nolde * suffer her byrdys to dye? • Who taught the nyghtyngall to recorde besyly • Her strange entunys in sylence of the nyght ?

Certes, I, Nature, and none other wyght.' She appoints Reason and Sensuality the guides of Man in the journey of life; but Mundus, aiding Sensuality in his seduction, Man dismisses Reason and his companion Innocency' to the devyll of hell,' laughing at the latter for being as mute ' as a grey friar.' Pride, attended by his page, soon supplies their place; and wrapt up in admiration of himself, he does not on his first entrance observe Man. Part of his speech, addressed to the audience, on his own perfections, is worth quoting.

• Wote ye not how great a lord I am,
• Of how noble progeny I cam ?

My fader a knyght, my moder callyd madame,
• Myne aunceters great estatys ?
• And now the lyvelod | ys to me fall

By both theyre dethes naturall :
'I am spoken of more than they all
· Hens to Parys gatys
• I love yt well to have syde here
• Halfe a wote I byneth myne ere;
• For ever more I stand in fere,

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* Ne wolde or would not.

+ Livelihood.

Foot.

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That
myne

nek shold take cold.
'I knyt yt up all the nyght,
• And the day tyine kemb yt down ryght,
. And then it cryspeth, and shyneth as bryght

As any pyrled gold.' This and some other parts of the performance are in the prevailing measure and form of the versification in the Manuscript Miracle-plays; but in the course of the piece, there are many judicious varieties, both of metre and rhyme. Pride introduces himself to Man, and whispers Sensuality, that all may hear,' to use his influence in ingratiating him with Man, As what he says is the only prose we have hitherto met with, either in Miracles or Morals, it may be extracted for its singularity, and because it affords another proof of the desire, on the part of Medwall, to introduce variety into his production, that the ear of the auditor might not be wearied by monotony-Syr,' whispers Pride to Sensuality, 'I understand that thys gentylman

is borne to great fortunes, and intendeth to inhabyt there in the contray; and I am a gentylman that

al way hath be brought up with great estatys, and 6 affied with them; and yf I myght be in lyke favour wyth thys gentylman, I wold be glad therof, and do you a pleasure.' Man, at the recommendation of Sensuality, agrees that Pride shall attend upon him; and while Man is gone out with Sensuality to a tavern, Pride and Worldly-affection talk upon the fitness of changing Man's apparel. Pride thus describes the dress he shall wear, affording a curious and minute picture of the fashions of the time.

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Syr, our mayster shall have a gown,
That all the galandys * in thys town

• Shall on the fassion wonder:
* It shall not be sowed, but wyth a lace
Bytwyxt every some a space
• Of two handfull a sonder.

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« Than a doublet of the new make,
• Close bysore and open on the bak:

• No sleve upon hys arme,
• Under that a shyrt as soft as sylk,
• And as whyte as any mylk,

To kepe the carcas warm.
• Than shall hys hosen be stryped,
Wyth corselettys of fyne velvet slyped

· Down to the hard kne;
And fro the kne downward,
• Hys hosen shalbe freschely gard

Wyth colours ij or thre.
• And whan he is in suche aray,
• There goth a rutter f men wyll say,

A rutter, huff, a galand,
Ye shall se these foles on hym gase,
And muse as yt were on a mase

• New brought into the land.' After a quarrel between Man and Reason, the former striking the latter with his sword because he would not allow him to go with a couple of prostitutes, the hero of the piece falls into the fellowship of the seven deadly sins, who soon form part of his retinue,

* Gallants.

+ Knight. | In the MS. Miracle-play of Mary Magdalen, we have seen that an insolent coxcomb thus enters

Hof, hof, hof, a frysh new galaunt,' &c.

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