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“ For I ne cannot bolt it to the bran
As can the holy Doctor Augustin,
Robert Holcot, who was also one of Richard of Bury's chaplains, also was among the victims of the Plague in 1349. He was born and educated at Northampton, became a Dominican, taught theology at Oxford, and, when he died, was general of the order of the Austin Friars. He wrote many volumes. In those on scholastic philosophy he followed Duns Scotus and William Occam as a defender of Nominalism, and he contributed to mediæval theology a famous work in four books, Super Sententias (On Opinions), in which he undertakes to answer a series of questions upon points of faith. Holcot also wrote while Chaucer, a bright student, was growing into manhood.
Another of Richard de Bury's chaplains was Walter Burley, who produced a library of treatises, was an expert scholar in Aristotle, and, like Holcot, maintained the more healthy philosophy of what might be called the English school against the realists.
3. John of Gaddesden, in Hertfordshire, had been plıysician to Edward III. when he was prince, and when he had Richard of Bury for his tutor. In the reign of Edward III. he was the king's physician; and he was the first Englishman who held that office. He wrote a famous compilation of the whole mediæval practice of physic, chicfly as derived from the Arabians by himself and by Gilbertus Anglicus and others of his predecessors, with additions from his own experience. He called his book the “ English Rose "--Rosa Anglica—because a treatise of medicine published some years before in France had been called the Lily. His book is shrewd, learned, and amusing to the moderns, who laugh at such a remedy for epilepsy as a boar's bladder boiled, mistletoe, and a cuckoo.
4. Monastic chroniclers were active still during the reign of Edward III. John of Trokelowe wrote, very early in this reign, some valuable Annals of the reign of Edward II, from 1307 to 1323. From that date they were continued by Henry of Blaneford with a fragment that came to an abrupt end in the year 1324. Some years later Robert of Avesbury, who kept the Register of the Archbishop's Court at Canterbury, began a history, De Mirabilibus Gestis Edwardi III. (of the Admirable Deeds of King Edward IIL), which carried from the 99
TO A.D. 1361) CHRONICLERS. RALPH HIGIEN birth of Edward III. in 1313 to 1356 a short detail of public events, with simple transcripts of original documents and extracts from letters.
John of Fordun, a village in Kincardine, was a patriotic Scot, secular priest and chaplain of the cathedral of Aberdeen. He had not graduated in the schools. In the reign of Edward III. John of Fordun wrote a Scotichronicon, or Chronicle of Scotland. It began with Shem, Ham, Japheth, and the origin oi the Scots, and was brought down to the year 1360, in a manner that in some degree forsook the method of monastic annals, and made an approach to a formal history.
In England Ralph Higden finished his Polychronicon about the year 1361; and at the close of the reign of Edward III. William Thorn was at work on a Latin Chronicle of Canterbury Abbey.
5. Ralph Higdon has interest for us not only as a chronicler. His name has been variously spelt. Ranulphus or Ralph, appears sometimes as Radulphus or Randall; and Higden, by transition from Higgeden, has become Higgened or Higgenet, if the common belief be true that Ralph Higden, who wrote in his later years the “Polychronicon," is the Randall Higgenet who in his earlier days wrote the Chester miracle plays. Ralph Higden became a Benedictine monk of St. Werburgh in Chester about the year 1299, and he is believed to be the Randall Higgenet of the same abbey, of whom there was a tradition that he thrice visited Rome to get the Pope's leave for the acting of his miracle-plays at Chester in the English tongue. Leave having been obtained, the plays were said, in a note added at the end of the sixteenth century to a MS. copy of the proclamation of them, to have been first acted at Chester in the mayoralty of Sir John Arnway (1327-1328), which would be about the date of Chaucer's birth. Higden's Polychronicon, in seven books, was so called, he says, because it gave the chronicle of many times. Its first book described the countries of the known world, especially Britain ; its second book gave the history of the World from the Creation to Nebuchadnezzar; the next book closed with the birth of Christ; the fourth book carried on the chronicle to the arrival of the Saxons in England; the fifth proceeded to the invasion of the Danes; the sixth to the Norman Conquest; and the seventh to Higden's own time in the reign of Edward III., his latest date being the year 1342. He died in 1363, and long after his death the “Polychronicon” stood in high credit as a sketch of universal history, with special reference to England.
Although not beyond doubt, it is very likely that the date assigned to the first acting at Chester of MIRACLE PLAYS in English is right, and that Ralph Higden was the author of the series. Since the days of Stephen and Henry II. religious entertainments of this form had been growing in popularity. A twelfth-century MS., found in the town library of Tours, contains three Anglo-Norman miracle-plays, as old, or nearly as old, as the plays of Hilarius, already described (ch. iii. $ 9). The stage directions illustrate the first removal of the acting from the inside to the outside of the church. This must soon have become necessary, if it were only for accommodation of the increasing number of spectators. For the acting of those plays of which a MS. was found at Tours, scaffolding was built over the steps of the church, and the audience occupied the square in front. Out of the heaven of the church, Figura-God-passed to Adam in Paradise, upon a stage level with the highest steps of the church door. From that Paradise Adam and Eve were driven down a few steps to the lower stage that represented Earth. Below this, nearest to the spectators, was hell, an enclosed place in which cries were made, chains were rattled, and out of which smoke came ; out of which also men and boys dressed as devils came by a door opening into a free space between the scaffolding and the semicircle of the front row of spectators. They were also directed now and then to go among the people, and passed round by them sometimes to one of the upper platforms. The original connection of these plays with the Church service was represented by the hymns of choristers.
The next step in the development of the miracle-play was hastened by the complaint that the crowds who came to witness the performance, on an outside scaffolding, attached to the church, trampled the graves in the churchyards. Decrees were made to prevent this desecration of the graves, and the advance probably was rapid to the setting up of detached scaffolding for the performance of the plays-still by the clergy, choristers and parish clerks—upon unconsecrated ground.
In London the parish clerks had formed themselves into a harmonic guild, chartered by Henry III. in 1233, and their music was sought at the funerals and entertainments of the great. As miracle-plays increased in popularity, the parish
TO A.D. 1378)
clerks occupied themselves much with the acting of them. Chaucer's jolly Absalom, of whom we are told that
“Sometimes to shew his lightness ard maistric
He playeth Herod on a scaffold high," was a parish clerk.
The strongest impulse to a regular participation of the laity in the production of these plays seems to have been given by the Church when, in 1264, Pope Urban IV. founded, and in 1311 Clement V. firmly established, the festival of Corpus Christi in honour of the consecrated Host. This was the one festival of the Church wherein laity and clergy walked together. The guilds of a town contributed their pictures, images, and living representatives of Scripture characters to the procession, and the day was one of common festival. From the parade of persons dressed to represent the Scripture characters, it was an easy step to their use in the dramatic presentation of a sacred story. The festival of Corpus Christi, always held on the first Thursday after Trinity Sunday, which is eight weeks after Easter, was a holiday of brightest summer time. It came but a fortnight after the older and yet more popular festivities of Whitsuntide, and Whitsurtide and Corpus Christi soon were established as customary times for the out-of-door performance of mysteries or, as we called them, miracle-plays, by guilds of towns.
But, even in Chaucer's lifetime, such plays were still being acted by the clergy. Both clergy and laity were actors in the middle of the thirteenth century, when in that “Manuel des Péchés" (ch. iii. $ 40) which in the year 1303 Robert of Brunne translated as “The Handlyng Synne,” it was declared to be sin in the clergy to assist at any other plays than those which belonged to the Liturgy and were acted within the church at Easter and Christmas. This author especially condemned participation by the clergy in plays acted in churchyards, streets, or green places. A century later, in 1378, when Chaucer was fifty years old, the choristers of St. Paul's Cathedral petitioned Richard II. to prohibit the acting of the History of the Old Testament, to the great prejudice of the clergy of the Church, who had spent considerable sums for a public representation of Old Testament plays at the ensuing Christmas.
In the hands of the English guilds—which stood for the rising middle classes of the people---miracle-plays received a develop. ment peculiar to this country. Instead of short sequences of three or four plays, complete sets were produced, and they told what were held to be the essential parts of the Scripture story from the Creation of Man to the Day of Judgment. The number in each set may have corresponded to the number of guilds in the town for which it was originally written. Each guild was entrusted permanently with the due mounting and acting of one play in the set. Thus, at Chester, the tanners played “The Fall of Lucifer ;" the drapers played “The Creation and Fall, and the Death of Abel ;" “ The Story of Noah's Flood” was played by the water leaders and the drawers of Dee. Among the possessions of each guild were the properties for its miracleplay, carefully to be kept in repair, and renewed when necessary. Actors rehearsed carefully, and were paid according to the length of their parts. They wore masks, or had their faces painted in accordance with the characters they undertook. The player of the devil wore wings and a closely-fitting leather dress, trimmed with feathers and hair, and ending in claws over the hands and feet. All the other actors wore gloves, or had sleeves continued into hands. The souls of the saved in the day of judgment wore white leather ; the others, whose faces were blacked, wore a linen dress suggestive of fire, with black, yellow, and red. Thus we have, among the miscellaneous items in old books of the Coventry guilds, a charge for souls' coats; one for a link to set the world on fire ; and “paid to Crowe for making of three worlds, three shillings.” The stage furniture was as handsome in thrones and other properties as each company could make it. They gilded what they could. Hell mouth, a monstrous head of a whale, its old emblem (chap. ii. § 12), was painted on iinen with open jaws-sometimes jaws that opened and shut, two men working them-and a fire lighted where it would give the appearance of a breath of flames. By this way the fiends came up and down.
The acting of one of these great sequences of plays usually took three days, but was not limited to three. In 1409, in the reign of Henry IV., the parish clerks played at Skinner's Well, in Islington, for eight days, “matter from the Creation of the World.” In this country the taste for miracle-plays was blended with the old desire to diffuse, as far as possible, a knowledge of religious truth; and therefore the sets of miracle-plays, as acted by our town guilds, placed in the streets, as completely as might be, a living picture Bible before the eyes of all the people. Such sequences of plays were acted in London, Dublin, York, New