The English mystery plays have recently come to be understood anew through the social dimension of the Eucharist. Historians have coined the term `social body' to refer to the preReformation sense of communal coherence bestowed by the most important of the sacraments, especially in the wake of preaching and writing about the feast of Corpus Christi, established in 1311, and that sense of coherence has been the basis for fruitful discussion of the scriptural drama.l Non-cycle plays, however, are another matter. Neither the morality nor miracle plays, as they are now called, were associated with the Eucharist or with Corpus Christi. Miracle plays were performed on saints' days; morality plays, at any time of the year; and neither seems to have involved the community in the same way the mystery plays did, since the life of a particular saint or of a representative abstraction did not offer, as dramatic subjects, the same scope for social cooperation and competition that was offered by the history of the world, and neither seems to have involved anything like the Corpus Christi procession.2
Yet the ritual orientation of non-cycle plays is evident everywhere in them-a point that may be demonstrated by noting the identical social function of devils and vices, which are too often associated uncritically with mystery plays and morality plays respectively. Robert Potter pointed out several years ago that the morality play belongs to a "tradition of sermons and penitential literature advocating repentance and preaching the forgiveness of sins."3 He argued that the dramatic purpose of the morality play is therefore the same as that of the mystery plays: "the morality play performs the same ceremony in the microcosm of the individual human life as that of the Corpus Christi cycle in the in the macrocosm of historical time."4 This is an important insight, at least for pre-Reformation plays, not only because it sees beyond generic distinctions but because penance and the Eucharist were closely identified, both with each other and with renewal of the social body, not merely of the individual's moral and spiritual life. Lay communion was taken only once a year, on Easter Sunday, and the Lenten season that preceded it was designed not simply for personal abstinence but for the examination of conscience preparatory to the mending of relationships and making confession in the interest of restoring communal harmony. In a sermon on the Easter communion, Mirk's Festial thus charges first that parishioners preparing for the annual rite be in charity with their neighbors and second that they be shriven: "Wherfor, good men and woymen, I charch you heyly in Godys byhalue pat non of you to-day com to Godys bord, but he be in full charyte to all Godis pepull; and also pat 3e be clene schryuen and yn full wyll to leue your synne."5 In the exemplum that follows, the preacher relates how a bishop was granted a vision of parishioners coming to communion as if their moral and spiritual condition were revealed in their physical condition. What he saw were vivid personifications of envy, wrath, and lechery-all sources of communal division. This "vision" thus makes concrete the preacher's earlier warning that "as wele as hym schall be pat comype to tOys fest wele arayde in Godys lyuere, clo[yd in loue and scharyte, als euell schall hym be pat comype yn fendys lyuere, clopyd in envy and dedly wrape."6 Envy and wrath are "fiends' livery," and the opposite, "God's livery," is love and charity, the basis of social wholeness.
A close collocation appears here that also is to be observed throughout early non-cycle drama. It consists, on one hand, of personified deadly sins (alternately called "vices") accompanying the fiend as sources of communal division, and, on the other, of the sacraments as means of restoring and maintaining social wholeness. The Castle of Perseverance, for example, includes three of the seven sacraments: Baptism, Penance, and the Eucharist. In every case, the healing and unifying power of the sacraments is opposed by the divisive power of fiends and vices. Humanum Genus is thus introduced as "nakyd of lym and lende [loin]," clothed only in "A sely crysme min hed hath cawth,/ Pat I tok at min crystenynge."' His nakedness symbolizes his innocence, which is protected from the fiend only by his baptism ("A crysyme I haue and no moo" [1. 324]), which in turn is his means of joining the Christian community. The protection and identity afforded by baptism is symbolically threatened when the "crysyme" is covered up by the rich garments bestowed on
Humanum Genus by Mundus, who thus teaches "be wey/ To be dedly synnys seuene" (11. 693-94). The threat to Humanum Genus is both individual and social, both to his own salvation and to the wholeness of the social body.
The assault of devils and vices on the protection offered by salvation is, of course, the substance of the action in The Castle of Perseverance, and this assault finally fails because of the rituals that embody salvation in traditional religion-rituals whose meaning this play aims to clarify by making it concrete. The process of clarifying ritual meaning suggests an essentially educational mandate for Perseverance, though the rituals themselves were familiar to every traditional Christian. "Pou art rewlyd aftyr be fende pat is pi foo" (1. 1262), laments Bonus Angelus to Humanum Genus, and Confessio demands rhetorically, "What dost pou wyth lese deuelys seuene?" (1. 1338). After Humanum Genus confesses his willful failure, however, Confessio formally absolves him in the same manner that traditional Christians were absolved by their priest in the sacrament of penance:
He [God] for3eue pee pi foly Pat pou hast synnyd with hert and mynde. And I up my powere pe asoly. by my power, absolve (II. 1498-1500)
Indeed, a few lines later, Confessio paraphrases the formula of absolution from the Mass, translating the Latin into English: I pe asoyle wyth goode entent absolve Of alle be synnys bat bou hast wrowth In brekynge of Goddys commaundement In worde, werke, wyl, and bowth. (I1. 1507-10)
In the defense of the Castle of Perseverance from the subsequent assault of the Seven Deadly Sins, still another sacrament is central: the Eucharist. Abstinence thus repulses the attack of Gluttony:
Certys I schal pi wele aslake weal reduce Wyth bred pat browth us out of hell And on pe croys sufferyd wrake: I mene pe sacrament. Pat iche blysful bred same Pat hounge on hyl tyl he was ded Schal tempere so myn maydynhed Pat pi purpos schal be spent. (II. 2266-73)
What is imagined on stage at this point in the play is very similar to contemporary meditation on the Seven Last Words of Christ on the cross. A prayer from the popular books of hours, for example, identifies the power of the Seven Last Words with deliverance from the Seven Deadly Sins:
Lord Jesus Christ, who spoke Seven Words hanging on the Cross on the last day of your life, and wished us always to have those words in remembrance: I beseech you, by the power of those Seven Words forgive me all that I have done or sinned concerning the Seven Deadly Sins, namely Pride, Envy, Wrath, Sloth, Luxury, Avarice and Gluttony.8
The prayer was apotropaic, assuring the one who said it that "the dule [devil] no noon ule man shall not have no power to nye hym."9 In other words, the prayer had the same effect that the virtues have in The Castle of Perseverance: to repel the devil and the vices.
A dramatic parallel to Perseverance's appeal probably existed in the apotropaic power of the Passion at York, where Alexandra Johnston has shown that the Pater Noster Play likely paired each of the seven requests of the Lord's Prayer with one of the Seven Deadly Sins. For the Pater Noster play perhaps staged pageants that were also used in the York mystery cycle: the clause honoring God thus repulsed pride and was depicted by the fall of Lucifer, and the clause requesting daily bread repulsed sloth and was depicted by the institution of the Last Supper, because, as John Mirk puts it, the slothful "woll nol)er trauayll to helpe his body, ny his soule, but faryth as a swyne, etyth and drynkyth and slepyth.10 The point is that personifications like the Seven Deadly Sins were not mere abstractions and therefore somehow "less than" the events of scriptural history. Rather, they helped to clarify the moral imperatives of scriptural history (and to that extent were concrete) at the same time that they embodied the positive power of evil in the daily lives of Christians no less than the Devil himself did.
The Passion (which the Eucharist, of course, re-enacts) is invoked again in The Castle of Perseverance after the death of Humanum Genus when the Four Daughters of God debate the destiny of Anima. Since Humanum Genus called on God's mercy as he was dying, the four sisters are reconciled by the death of Christ, as Peace makes clear:
For hys loue pat deyed on tre, Late saue Mankynd fro al peryle And schelde hym fro mischaunsse. (II. 3209-11) Lord, for pi pyte, and pat pes pou sufferist in pi pascioun, Boundyn and betyn, without les, leash, control Fro pe fote to pe croun,
Haue mercy of Mankynd. (II. 3548-51, 3558)
Central to the play's resolution in Mankind's favor is the event commemorated in every Mass and partaken of by lay Christians once a year in the Easter service. In short, dramatic action in The Castle of Perseverance is no less focused on the Passion and its liturgical significance than are the mystery plays.
That focus, moreover, involves more than individual salvation, for it is closely tied to the play's social vision. Just as Humanum Genus's baptism, his "christening," is a sign of his induction into the community of Christians, so his lapse into the devils' camp is not merely an individual moral failure; it is the failure of a society, whose wholeness derived from the Mass. That is why the play puts such emphasis on social sins, as the preacher also does in Mirk's Festial. The central image is one of conflict, but the battle involves more than a psychomachia; it both delineates the principles of social disintegration and offers specific examples." Thus Avarice urges Humanum Genus to exploit his neighbors in seeking gain only for himself: Pou muste zyfe pe to symonye, Extorsion, and false asyse.
Helpe no man but pou haue why. reason Pay not pi serwauntys here serwys. service, wages Pi neyborys loke pou dystroye. Tithe not on non wyse. Here no begger pou he crye; though And panne schalt bou ful sone ryse. (11. 841-48) Humanum Genus is a quick study and hence relishes the thought of doing what Avarice bids him: I schal neuere begger bede offer Mete nyn drynke, be heuene blys; by Rather or I schulde him clope or fede, ere, before He schulde sterue and stynke iwys. (11. 871-74) What he describes are unambiguous rendings of the social body, as an anonymous fifteenth-century priest makes clear in noting questions to himself for his parishoners to answer as they prepared for confession:
Haue 3e hadde enie envie to your nei3bores or to youre euen csten and be gladde of here harmes & of here euel fare and loc of here good, or of oe adversite or desese ot hao falle to he and be sorie or hevie of here prosprite or welfare . . . and of here good name and good fame. Haue ye backbitid and dispreised 36 eve cten or tolde evell talis of he to a pew [impugn] here good name or wolde not heere noo good spoke of he bi 36 wille but lette it or stopped it as moche as ye mi3t12
What the priest warns his parishoners against-and what Humanum Genus delights in-are violations of charity, as Charity herself makes clear in The Castle of Perseverance when she responds in character (ire., without rancor) to the vilification of Envy:
Oure louely Lord wythowtyn lak 3af example to charyte, Whanne he was betyn blo and blak For trespas *at neuere dyd he. (II. 2173-76'
The reconciliation of the Four Daughters at the end of the play is another model of charitable community, in contrast to the divisive violence that devils and vices have engendered. The daughters are at odds with one another, yet, in contrast to their demonic counterparts, they are not querulous, vicious, colloquial, or overbearing, and they eventually reconcile their differences with a holy kiss (1. 3519).
The same social vision, again focused in the sacraments, is apparent in Wisdom, though this play's dramaturgy is much more formal than that of The Castle of Perseverance since it possibly reflects courtly or monastic auspices rather than popular urban performance. As the play begins, Wisdom instructs Anima as if he were a catechist, emphasizing that the death of Wisdom (Christ) redeemed Anima from death and gave rise to "be sacramentys sevyn," of which the first is baptism, because it "clensythe synne orygynall" (11. 124, 126). Wisdom does not enumerate the other sacraments at this point, but he later enjoins Anima to penance and sincere contrition. Having performed this rite, she is released from the dominance of the Seven Deadly Sins (11. 961-79) and exits, singing a chant based on the book of Lamentations "as yt ys songyn in pe passyon wyke" (1. 996 s.d.).14 Wisdom again instructs her, pointing out that the "asythe" or atonement (1. 1096) made by the Crucifixion is provided for her through the sacraments:
Fyrst ye were reformyde by baptyme of ygnorans And clensyde from be synnys orygynall, Ande now ye be reformyde by be sakyrment of penance Ande clensyde from be synnys actuall. (II. 1109-12)
Wisdom, in chorus with her restored faculties, Mind, Will, and Understanding, sings the antiphon Quid retribuam Domino, based on Psalm 115.12-13, verses, according to John Joseph Molloy "associated with the Communion of the Mass since the ninth century."15
Complementing the liturgical and sacramental emphasis in Wisdom is an evocation of social disruption that closely parallels the military image of violent division in The Castle of Perseverante. The source of communal disorder is the violation of communal norms, which are established by the liturgy and threatened by the power of Lucifer, who actually appears in this play along with the Seven Deadly Sins, as in Perseverance.'6 Specific elements of communal disorder are often the same as those mentioned in Perseverance because they are the elements of notcommunity, the evidence that the sacramental social body has been violated.
Possible topical allusions may be present in this play as well as in The Castle of Per,severance, but Wisdom's sense of normative community is identical to that in Perseverance and has been largely ignored in the search for allusions to particular social problems as evidence of progress toward the promise of secular drama in the future.'7 To be sure, Wisdom may be concerned with contributions to social disorder that the monasteries in particular were likely to make, especially when powerful churchmen became involved in the maintenance of standing armies, either in gathering them themselves or in assisting a secular nobleman in organizing and maintaining them. But maintenance may well be an example of generic evil rather than a specific social target, for maintenance was practiced exclusively by the aristocracy, who easily fell prey to the besetting sin of pride, the sin of Lucifer, formerly highest of all creation. A similar treatment of maintenance appears in The Second Shepherds' Play's in the convincing and detailed portrait of rural oppression, which is blamed by Primus Pastor on "mantenance/ Of men that ar gretter" (Il. 51-52). The social vision of that play also derives from the Eucharist, whose origin the play celebrates and to which it alludes in its remarkable comments about eating a sheep. The point is that the basis of social order and disruption is the same in Wisdom as it is elsewhere in traditional religion-not only in other plays but in sermons, primers, and commonplace books; maintenance is merely a particular example of Lucifer's power to destroy the social body.19
The solemn catechism that opens Wisdom thus points to more than individual moral instruction; it evokes social wholeness, with Anima closely attending to Wisdom who is Christ. The rending of this social body is evident in the frenetic dances and dumb shows that accompany the corruption of Anima's mights-Mind, Will, and Understanding-who learn how to destroy their neighbors just as Humanum Genus does, though they do so with a litigious urban viciousness that sometimes anticipates the seventeenth-century city comedy of Jonson, Middleton, and Marston:
[WILL.] Ande nowe in my mynde I haue My cosyn Jenet N., so Gode me save; Sche mornyth wyth a chorle, a very knaue, And neuer kan be mery. I pley me per wen I lyst rawe; sport Than ,be chorle wyll here dysprawe. revile Who myght make hym thys to lawe, I wolde onys haue hym in pe wyrry. throat MIND. For thys I kan a remedye: know I xall rebuk hym thus so dyspytuusly Pat of hys lyff he shall wery And qwak for very fere. Ande yff he wyll not leve berby, On hys bodye he xall abye Tyll he leue pat jelousy. Nay, suche chorlys I kan lere. teach UNDERSTANDING. Nay, I kan better hym qwytte: Arest hym fyrst to pes for fyght, Than in another schere hym endyght, shire He ne xall wete by wom ne howe. Haue hym in ,be Marschalsi seyn aryght, Than to ,be Amralte, for bey wyll byght, A preuenire facias than haue as tyght, Ande pou xalt hurle hym so bat he xall haue inow. harass (II. 833-56)
The resolution of this social turmoil is possible only through the ritual of penance, which restores charitable community, as Wisdom makes clear in his sermon on the nine points of pleasing God: "Refreyn thy speche for my reuerens, Lett not thy tonge thy evyn-Crysten dyspyse, Ande pan plesyst pou more myn excellens Than yff pou laberyde wyth grett dylygens Wpon thy nakyde feet and bare Tyll ,be blode folwude for peyn and vyolens Ande aftyr eche stepe yt sene were." (11. 1038-1444)
This advice is arguably topical (rejecting asceticism in favor of measured monastic involvement in secular life), but topical readings risk ignoring the moral commonplace that good deeds achieve nothing without charity-a point that Charity makes in The Castle of Perseverance ("Al pi doynge as dros is drye/ But in Charyte pou dyth Ii dede" [11. 1604-OS]), and that Wisdom makes in different words a few lines later: "Lo, Gode ys plesyde more wyth he dedys of charyte/ Than all pe peynys man may suffer iwys" (Wisdom, ll. 1062-63).
Baptism is mentioned as one of the seven sacraments in The Castle of Perseverance and Wisdom, as we have seen, but the ritual of baptism is actually staged in two other non-cycle plays in which the function of stage devils is also to destroy the sacramental social body: The Conversion of Saint Paul and Mary Magdalen, both from the Digby manuscript. Rather than being the rite of infancy, as in Perseverance and Wisdom, baptism in these plays is the rite of adult conversion, since both Saulus and the king of Marseilles begin their lives as non-Christians. In fact, Saulus is so determinedly pagan that he persecutes Christians and loyally serves the oppressive priests, Cayphas and Anna, who are imported into this play because they are the persecutors of Jesus in the Passion cycles of the mystery plays.20 Saulus is thus presented as a paradigm of not-community, the essence of what is alien, frightening, and destructive, because he is not only outside of the sacramental social body but threatens also its very existence. Ananias' baptism of Saulus makes this point clearly in his identification of the one-time persecutor with the serpent in the garden and the fiend himself:
Knele ye down vpon thys grownde, Receyuyng thys crystenyng wyth good intent, Whyche shall make yow hole of your dedly wound That was infecte with venom nocent. Yt purgyth synne, and fendys pourys so fraudelent powers It putyth asyde; where thys doth attayne, In euery stede, he may not obtaine! (II. 318-24)
Ananias explicitly identifies the apotropaic power of the sacrament: "venom nocent" is the same as "fendys pourys," and both are "put aside" by christening, for the power of Satan "may not obtaine" in any place where christening attains. The heart of the play is a sacrament, the mysterious presence of divine power in human experience which miraculously transforms Paul from God's enemy into God's champion.
Penance and the Eucharist are not part of the Digby St. Paul, though Saulus' sincere repentance is unmistakable when he is struck from his horse by lightning and hears the voice of God: "Lord, I beseche the, helpe me of thy grace!" (1. 203). The absence of these sacraments is less important, however, than the unmistakable social function of the one sacrament, baptism, that does appear. For destructive not-community is evident not only in Saulus' persecution of Christians (from which baptism symbolically purges him) but also in the knockabout comedy of the apparently extraneous scene involving Servus and Stabularius. The comedy turns on social pretension, as in Mak's initial appearance in the Towneley Second Shepherd's Play. Stabularius denies being a hostler (1. 89), strikes Servus for so addressing him, and asserts that his hood is "lynyd wyth sylk and chamlett" (l. 114)-a snobbish claim that echoes Saulus' earlier boasting about his "ryche garlement" (1. 15). In reaction, Servus abuses Stabularius scatologically, swears he has seen him mucking out the stable, and accuses him of wearing a "dobyll hood" made by a "good man" (II. 117-18). The conflict is resolved, and the pretension is exposed and deflated when Primus Miles addresses Stabularius as "stabyllgrom" (1. 120) and orders him to fetch a horse. Given Stabularius' social affectations, the comic interchange between him and Servus functions as a proleptic deflation of Saulus, whose proud pretensions will also be exposed by someone in a definitive position to know. The horse produced by Stabularius on Primus Miles' command is taken directly by the soldier to Saulus and thus reinforces the parallel between Stabularius and Saulus. The scene thus shows social rifts on a broad scale in a typically comic manner: hypocrisy, dissimulation, social aggression, and the violent division they cause. Such rifts, all too often the distressing norm in human relationships because of the power of the fiend and the Seven Deadly Sins, are healed only by the sacraments.
The point of the comic scene between servants is reinforced in the Digby St. Paul by another comic scene, added much later, between two devils, Belial and Mercury. The fact that the scene is added makes it a perfect test case for the early thesis that all devils were added to serious moral and biblical plays as sugar coating to a bitter pill in response to an increasing appetite for secular drama with the result that the plays degenerated into farce and clowning. The thesis does not pass the test of this play, for the devil scene, though interpolated possibly as late the mid-sixteenth century, nonetheless complements the earlier comic scene and clarifies the significance of baptism as an apotropaic sacrament.21
The devils are introduced to lament the loss of their human servant, Saulus, after his conversion has been reported to Cayphas and:Annas. Belial, entering "wyth thunder and fyre" (1. 411 s.d.), boastfully declares his power and majesty, trusting his "busshopys" and "prelatys" (11. 418-19) to conspire the death of "All soch as do worship pe hye God supernall" (1. 422). Belial's boastful threats against Christians are proof, in effect, of what Ananias said about "fendys pourys" when he baptized Saulus. Another devil called Mercury enters "wyth a fyeryng" (1. 432 s.d.) and concurs with Belial's incredulity at Saulus' conversion because most people enjoy only sin, "Pryde and voluptuosyte her hartys doth so fyre" (1. 446). He underscores his enmity against Christians by suggesting that he and Belial might persuade the prelates to assassinate the newly converted Saulus. Mercury's comment about the contemporary prevalence of sin seems to induce Belial to boast in his power over people who follow him:
Thowgh on hath dyssayvyd vs, yet nowadays deceived Twenti doyth gladly folow oure layes: Some by Pryde, some thorowgh Envye; Ther rayneth thorow my myght so moch dysobedyaunce, Ther was neuer among Crystyans less charyte Than ys at his howre; and, as for Concupysence, [He] rayneth as a lord thorow my violence! Glotony and Wrath euery man doth devyse, And most now ys praysyd my cosyn Covytyce! (II. 487-95)
Belial names six of the Seven Deadly Sins as the means of his domination over humankind. The sins are not actually staged in this play, as they are in The Castle of Perseverance and Wisdom, but they are no less the enemies of human beings, both individually and socially, than are the devils themselves with whom they are closely allied, for the sins are direct expressions of demonic power, not mere abstractions or theological constructions. In other words, even when sins are identified as moral abstractions, they still have a concrete potency that is indistinguishable from their influence in biblical stories-stories like this one in which devils appear without being accompanied by personified vices.
The baptism of a biblical saint in the Digby St. Paul has a counterpart in the Digby Mary Magdalen when St. Peter baptizes a legendary pagan king: in both plays, the sacrament functions in the same way in that it opposes demonic power by establishing a model of charitable community as well as sanctifying an individual adult conversion. In this case, charity even crosses social lines by bringing a monarch and common sailors into generous harmony with each other.
The king first proves the validity of his conversion to Christianity not only by his decision to believe but also by the charity he shows on the journey to be baptized. For the king is confronted by superstitious sailors on board the ship that carries him across the Mediterranean from Marseilles to Jerusalem, where Mary has ordered him to be baptized by St. Peter. When the queen dies in childbirth, the sailors insist that her body be deposited on a rock with her newborn child because they believe the storm that has waylaid them will not abate with the corpse on board. Yet this rough treatment at the sailors' hands does not provoke the king to respond harshly; on the contrary, he pays the captain generously at journey's end and tips each sailor a mark above the fee agreed upon.
The king thus effectively renounces the evil of vengeful action even in advance of his baptism, whose purpose is to preserve him from the fiend. The king himself makes this purpose clear when he asks St. Peter to "crestyn me from wo and wrake" (1. 1826) and later when he explains what he is asking for: "Holy father, baptym, for charyte,/ Me to save in eche degre/ From be fyndys bond" (11. 1836-38). Peter baptizes him "Pat pou mayst strong be,/ A3en pe fynd to stond" (11. 1841-42), and the effect is striking, for when the king sets sail again for Marseilles, the ship's captain recognizes him and offers to transport him "Wythowtyn ony connownt [covenant, bargain]" (1. 1873). The king's earlier generosity thus begets generosity and hence demonstrates the reign of charity, which soon extends beyond moral healing to include miraculous physical healing when the king finds his wife and child alive on the rock and discovers that the queen has also been preserved from the fiend ("wrappyd . . . in wele from all waryawns" [1. 1903]) by the power of Mary Magdalen. The baptism episode concludes when the king disembarks and pays the captain even more generously than before, at the same time declaring their mutual friendship:
Here is ten poundys of nobyllys cler, And euer pe frynd both ferre and nere, thy friend Cryst save pe from wo and wrake! (II. 1920-22)
Such a fantasy of cross-class social solidarity has no parallel in any other of the non-cycle plays, but its idealized vision-a miracle, no less-is clearly inspired by the power of the sacrament to restore the social body by redeeming an influential pagan nobleman from the clutches of the fiend, just as Mary's own repentance and penance had earlier preserved her from the Seven Deadly Sins which had appeared in the form of seven devils cast out of her by Jesus ("Wyth *is word seuyn dyllys xall dewoyde from pe woman, and the Bad Angyli entyr into hell wyth thondyr" [l. 691 s.d.]). Mary's subsequent preaching to the royal family about being in charity with the poor, "For 'pavpertas est donum Dei"' (1. 1930), seems superfluous in view of what has already preceded it, but it effectively emphasizes the Seven Corporal Acts of Mercy that lie at the heart of traditional social wholeness:
Pey be blyssyd pat pe hungor and pe thorsty gyff fode; Pey be blyssyd pat byn mercyfull amen wrecced men; Pey byn blyssyd pat byn dysstroccyon of synneThes byn callyd pe chyldyren of lyfe. (II. 1935-37)
The devils of both Mary Magdalen and St. Paul thus serve primarily as foils to the apotropaic power of the saints, whose special favor with God is evident not only in their own remarkable conversion but also in the sacramental social body they are able to create in the face of demonic resistance. That this kind of apotropaism is at the heart of the two recognized saint plays surviving in English also helps to explain the presence of devils in a play that has not been considered as a saint play at all, though it has good claim to be one.22 This play is the N-Town Assumption of Mary, which bears several resemblances to the Digby Mary Magdalen: both celebrate a female saint, both involve powerful preaching by the saint, and both stage the saint's power over demons as well as her assumption into heaven.23 Two devils enter the N-Town play in response to the disbelief and sacrilegious intentions of powerful enemies of the Christian community, Episcopus and three Princeps, who come to abuse the body of Mary after her death. As soon as their hands touch the bier, they freeze to it just as Jonathas' hand freezes to the host in the Croxton Play of the Sacrament. In response to this miracle, Primus and Secundus Princeps quickly repent: "I beleue in Jesu, mannys saluacyon" (1. 436) and "I beleve in Crist Jesu, Goddis sone in vnyte,/ And forsake my mavmentryes [idols], fals in here felthe" (11. 468-69). Their repentance (an abbreviated version of the sacrament of confession, like St. Paul's and Mary Magdalen's in the Digby plays) immediately makes them part of community, in contrast to Episcopus and Tertius Princeps, who continue to scoff and curse. For this, the disbelievers are seized by two demons and carried off to hell, just as the disbelieving Herod is carried to hell by a demon in the N-Town Death of Herod. In a symmetrical but opposite action, Mary is received into heaven by Dominus, her son, from whom she derives her extraordinary power over disbelief, enmity within the social body, and the power of hell.
The effect of the sacraments in overcoming devilish power and establishing charitable community is apparent also in Mankind, last to be considered here of the pre-Reformation plays that stage devils or devils together with vices. The importance of the sacrament of penance in Mankind has been studied in detail by Sister Mary Philippa Coogan and Kathleen Ashley.24 Coogan points out that Mankind echoes the liturgy for Ash Wednesday and the first Sunday in Lent and twice suggests the sacrament of penance: once implicitly in English and a second time more formally in Latin when Mercy absolves Mankind-an important liturgical representation that Coogan sees paralleled in The Castle of Perseverance, Wisdom, Play of the Sacrament, and Everyman.25 Building on Coogan's argument, Ashley identifies several common homiletic themes from Shrovetide that reappear in Mankind such as "working in the field or sowing seed" as "figures for proper use of the Word," a contrast between "the lies of the Devil" and the truth of Jesus, an emphasis on the "binding snares of Satan," and "the need to arm oneself for battle against the forces of evil."26 "To its original audience," Ashley argues, "the play therefore exhibited a theological and thematic coherence that escapes a modern reader divorced from the medieval and liturgical tradition."27 As Ashley sees the play, this tradition is particularly helpful in explaining the presence of the devil Titivillus. What needs to be added to this account of penance and the Shrovetide liturgy in Mankind is the social effect of the sacraments (that is, their effect on community) in resisting the power of vices and the Devil. For Mankind is like other pre-Reformation plays in its concern with the social body as well as the salvation of the individual. Mercy himself is comparable to Wisdom in Wisdom despite the plays' remarkable dissimilarities in other respects, for both Mercy and Wisdom embody essential characteristics of the second person of the Trinity, and they exhibit their traits not only in name but in behavior. Mercy refers repeatedly to the Passion of Christ in his opening homily, and he actually identifies himself theologically as Christ at one point ("I haue be be very mene for yowr restytucyon" [1. 17]), in another instance of a personified abstraction-in this case a virtue rather than a vice as in the York Pater Noster Play-blending with an event from salvation history in such a way as to explicate its moral significance. When he is mocked and abused by the vices, he is patient and forbearing-exactly like "Owr Sauyowr, bat was lykynnyde to a lambe" (1. 34) in Mercy's own description of Christ. As an exemplary friar, Mercy models sacramental community in his solicitous attention to Mankind just as Wisdom models in it in his attention to Anima.28
In contrast, the vices exhibit precisely the opposite of charitable community-again not only in name (Mischief, Nowadays, New Gyse, and Nought) but also in behavior-in their determination to interrupt and abuse Mercy, in their obscenity, and in their persuasive demonstration for Mankind (both the character and the audience) of riotous company and fast living. The vices appear to be less powerful than Titivillus, since he is effective in breaching Mankind's moral defenses whereas they have not succeeded in this regard, but devil and vices clearly work toward the same end in this play. That end involves more than personal moral and spiritual corruption; it also involves serious threats to the charitable relationship that Mankind and Mercy initially establish in their dealings with each other. The restoration of community comes about in the same way it does in The Castle of Perseverance-by the intervention of Mercy, depicted in the earlier play as one of the Four Daughters of God and in Mankind as an attribute of God's self. A mimed ritual absolution thus performs the same function in both plays, for in both it visibly restores sacramental community and also redeems a representative individual from the oppression of the fiend.
Devils and vices are equally effective in corroding sacramental order in the plays we have seen thus far because vices serve the Devil's purpose in destroying the spiritual health of individuals and the wellbeing of community. Importantly, the same function is performed by personified vices alone (i.e., unaccompanied by devils) in other pre-Reformation plays. The virtual identity of devils and vices when they appear together makes this an unsurprising development, yet it needs to be pointed out in some detail because it has escaped notice in previous studies of how evil was staged in early English plays. Moreover, attention to plays that stage vices alone helps to account for the essential dramaturgical continuity between devils and the Vice as he emerged in the early sixteenth century.
As a basis for social weal, the sacrament of baptism is presented in Mundus et Infans in much the same way that it was shown in The Castle of Perseverance a century earlier. When Infans first identifies himself, he is a baptized Christian, acknowledging "Cryst, our kynge" and praying "Cryst graunte me grace" (11. 25, 27).29 In the phrasing of Wisdom, Infans has already been redeemed from "sin original," the curse of Adam that required an exorcism to preserve the infant from the fiend, and Infans is therefore a member of the sacramental community. He is in the same position as a child depicted in an early printed primer as part of an illustration for the ninth lesson for the dead. The woodcut shows a newborn child facing the world, the flesh, and the devil, with the accompanying moralization:
A chylde that is in to this worlde comyng Is hardely be set with many a fo. Whiche euer is redy to his vndoyng. The worlde / the fleshe / deuvlle and dethe also.3
Though Mundus et Infans stages only vices, they serve precisely the same function as the vices and devil in the primer: to locate the newborn child spiritually. Despite its effect on "sin original," baptism cannot preserve Infans from "sin actual," and he is easily victimized by vices called Mundus and Folye, who also had appeared in The Castle of Perseverance, though they show up in the later play without accompanying devils. Successively renamed Lust-and-Lykynge and Manhode, the title character is eventually named Repentaunce by Perseverance (1. 857), who advises him concerning the sacrament of confession and penance:
But with grete contrycyon ye must begynne, And take you to abstynence. For, thoughe a man had do alone The deedly synnes euerychone, And he with contrycyon make his mone To Cryst our heuen kynge, God is also gladde of hym
As of the creature that neuer dyde syn. (II. 86-67)
Contrition, Perseverance advises, begins "in shryfte of mouthe without varyenge" (1. 869)-that is, in confession. The Eucharist is not specifically mentioned in Mundus et Infans, but Conscience greets the audience in the name of him who "bonerly bought you on the roode-tree" (1. 291), and the transformation of Manhode into Repentaunce is accompanied by advice to "beleue in all the sacramentes of Holy Chyrche" (1. 955).
The child is father to the man in Mundus et Infans, for Infans boasts of his uncharitable and anti-social behavior almost from the outset:
I can with my scorge-stycke My felowe vpon the heed hytte, head And wyghtly from hym make a skyppe, And blere on hym my tonge. If brother or syster do me chyde, I wyll scratche and also byte; I can crye and also kyke,
And mocke them all be rew. (II. 8(87)"' Manhode thus easily falls prey to advice from Mundus regarding deeds that fulfill his childish promise:
Yf ony man wolde wayte the with blame, thee Withstonde hym with thy hole entent; Full sharpely thou bete hym to shame With doughtynesse of dede. (II. 164-67)
The particular misdeeds urged on Manhode by his second vicious advisor, Folye, are aimed at the same urban legal scene that is satirically pilloried in Wisdom:
By my faythe, in Englonde haue I dwelled yore, And all myne auncetters me before. But, syr, in London is my chefe dwellynge. Syr, in Holborne I was forthe brought; And with the courtyers I am betaught; To Westmynster I vsed to wende. For I am seruaunt of the lawe; Couetous is myne owne felowe,We twayne plete for the kynge; And poore men that come from vplande, We wyll take theyr mater in hande,Be it ryght or be it wronge, Theyr thryft with vs shall wende. (II. 568-70, 572-74, 576-82)
Restored social harmony in Mundus et Infans is apparent in Repentaunce's kneeling before Perseverance as the play ends, just as it is in Mankind's kneeling before Mercy in Mankind or Anima's before Wisdom in Wisdom: in all these plays, this tableau involves more than individual confession and penance, for it also evokes the essence of charitable relationships, which define sacral community.
Two other early Tudor plays, Youth and Hick Scorner, are very similar to each other and to Mundus et Infans in their insistence on the social effects of the sacraments.32 But Youth and Hick Scorner are also like each other in their elimination of an initial period of innocence for their representative human characters. The primary effect of this anomaly is to de-emphasize baptism in favor of confession and penance. What replaces the phase of individual innocence in both plays, moreover, is an initial presentation of the virtues as exemplars of charitable community (analogous to the depiction of the Four Daughters of God at the end of The Castle of Perseverance), and the result is that both plays more strongly emphasize the rending and re-establishment of the social body in the action that follows than the failure and restoration of an individual. In fact, Hick Scorner has no representative individual at all but instead two personified human faculties, Freewill and Imagination, who are comparable to the three Mights of Wisdom.
The virtues' presentation is particularly striking in Hick Scorner because it involves three personifications-Pity, Contemplation, and Perseverance-who suggest the divine Trinity in their number, behavior, and relationships. Contemplation mentions Perseverance, for example, who often meets with him "When I think on thoughts that is full heavenly" (1. 69), whereupon Perseverance, entering the play, responds intuitively to the heavenly thoughts of his fellow virtue. A similar moment occurs in Youth when Humility prays for knowledge of Charity in the name of Christ on the cross and promptly finds Charity in the stocks where the vices left him after mocking and abusing him in much the same way that buffeters and scourgers treat Christ in the mystery plays.33 In both plays, moreover, the emphasis is on charity, the unifying virtue of the social body and the virtue that is most wanting among the corrupted human faculties and their attendant vices. The lone virtue who appears at the beginning of Youth is named Charity, and in Hick Scorner Pity explicitly alludes to charity as well as exhibiting it in his actions with his fellow virtues and with the human faculties. Pity describes Christ on the cross, "Crowned as a king, the thorns pricked him sore," and immediately remarks: "Charity and I of true love leads the double rein" (11. 24-25). The double love of God and of neighbor is the standard of sociability in both plays.
Charity is exhibited most strikingly in Youth and Hick Scorner by the virtues' patient forbearance in the face of abuse from the vices and their corrupted human cohorts, Youth, Freewill, and Imagination. But charity extends beyond the individual's virtuous response to abuse, for charity includes a broad vision of social relationships that derives in large part from the standard of the Seven Corporal Acts of Mercy. Perseverance declares: "fro that poor man I will never turn my face" (Hick Scorner,1. 85), and Pity recounts the sorry state of things in general:
I have heard many men complain piteously; They say they be smitten with the sword of Poverty In every place where I do go. Few friends Poverty doth find, And these rich men been unkind; For their neighbours they will nought do. Widows doth curse lords and gentlemen, For they constrain them to marry with their men, Yea, whether they will or no. Men marry for good, and that is damnable, wealth Yea, with old women that is fifty and beyond. The peril now no man dread will.
All is not God's law that is used in land. (II. 103-15) The social disruptions described by Pity are enacted by Freewill and Imagination, who have been corrupted by vice and who therefore aim to destroy community in exactly the same way that it is destroyed in other plays by characters such as Mankind who have been corrupted by devils. When Freewill enters, for example, he makes anti-clerical jokes, telling how "Sir John and Sibley . . . were spied in bed together" (Ill. 179-80). This is a ribald version of priestly venality that Pity has already pointed out in his lament about contemporary society (11. 135-38). Imagination boasts about the sharp dealing he has learned in London in terms that recall the social satire in Wisdom, and the similarity derives from a similar purpose in both plays-to identify London as a center of not-community:
Lo, nought have I but a buckle! And yet I can imagine things subtle For to get money plenty. In Westminster Hall every term I am; To me is kin many a great gentleman; I am known in every country. And I were dead the lawyers' thrift were lost, For this will I do if men would do cost: Prove right wrong, and all by reason, And make men leese both house and land,lose For all that they can do in a little season. Peach men of treason privily I can,accuse And when me list, to hang a true man. (II. 214-26)
Despite his boasting, Imagination is poverty-stricken, so his worldly knowledge does him little earthly good. The point may be literally dubious, but it emphasizes that sharp dealing and treachery produce only not-community and therefore violate the charitable living together that has been displayed by the three virtues at the beginning of the play.
The repentance of Youth, Freewill, and Imagination explicitly involves penance, the sacrament that Potter identifies with all morality plays, but penance in both Youth and Hick Scorner involves more than individual salvation; it also involves the restoration of community. The virtues in both plays model charity in their responses to Youth and the human faculties, and their patience and forbearance seem to be the most persuasive reasons for repentance, as in Mankind, even though the particular point that induces change is the inevitability of death, a motif that is central to Everyman. In any case, the tableau of Youth, Freewill, and Imagination kneeling before one of the virtues is a dramatic rendering of restored community, of citizens in charitable harmony with their spiritual advisors and with each other. The social disruption of vices alone, without accompanying devils, is evident also in the N-Town Trial of Mary and Joseph, which functions effectively as a saint play, like the N-Town Assumption of Mary, though neither play has been considered independently of its context in a putative mystery cycle. The vices in the Trial are identified as personified abstractions in the dialogue: Raise Slander and Backbiter, a vice who appears in a similar role in several morality plays. The playwright, imagining the vices as witnesses in an ecclesiastical court, thus brilliantly combines trenchant satire of contemporary social abuses with the apocryphal story (from Pseudo-Matthew) of the trial of Mary and Joseph for fornication.34 The vices exhibit a perverse sense of fellowship in their mutual commitment to the destruction of others, for they even seal their friendship in a gesture that parodies the kiss of the Four Daughters of God:
And be my trewth I dare wel say Pat yf we tweyn togedyr apere, More slawndyr we to xal arere Within an howre thorweouth this town throughout Than evyr per was his thowsand 3ere, And ellys I shrewe 3ow bothe vp and down! Now be my trewth I haue a syght Euyn of my brother, lo! where he is. Welcom, dere brother, my trowth I plyght! 3owre jentyl mowth let me now kys. (II. 44-54)
Despite their obscene and blasphemous detraction of Mary and Joseph, the vices find that their power is overwhelmed in the end by the power of God as exhibited in the Virgin, a plot structure that also appears in the N-Town Assumption of Mary and is typical of surviving Continental miracles of Our Lady. Episcopus orders Mary to drink from "pe botel of Goddys vengeauns" (1. 234) because it is designed to reveal unchastity in the imbiber, but it leaves her untouched. Not so Raise Slander: forced by the court to imbibe in his own turn, he falls into an agony of pain that induces him to repent and beg mercy of Mary, who charitably grants it without hesitation: "Now god Lord in hevyn omnypotent,/ Of his grett mercy 3oure seknes aswage" (II. 36869). Episcopus is so moved that he too falls on his knees and asks Mary's forgiveness. In contrast to the destructive influence of the vices, the play's concluding tableau of restored relationships is suffused with charity, mercy, forbearance, and forgiveness-a tableau identical to that in many of the morality plays as well as in the N-Town Assumption of Mary. In The Trial of Mary and Joseph, this tableau is brought about by the apotropaic power of the saint and the abbreviated sacrament of penance that appears in both Raise Slander's and Episcopus' cries of repentance.
The influence of vices in the sacramental pattern of preReformation drama is particularly noteworthy in the final two plays to be considered here-Medwall's Nature and Skelton's Magnificence-because their courtly auspices differentiate them in many respects from popular plays. Both, for example, associate their hero's initial period of innocence with reason rather than with baptism; indeed, the emphasis on reason is so pronounced that these plays might seem to look forward to the Enlightenment two hundred years later rather than to their own time, immediately before the Reformation.
Thus in Nature Man describes himself as being at the pinnacle of creation because of his ability to choose for himself: "Yet for all that have I fre eleccyon/ [To] do what I wyll, !be yt evyll or well,/ And am put in the hande of myne own counsell" (I.138-40).35 This apparent assertion of self-sufficiency, autonomy, and completeness in "myne own counsell" contrasts strikingly with the traditional assumption of original sin and the need for baptism, as they are expressed, for example, in Wisdom. Man's advisor, Nature, confirms his view, urging him to "Let Reason the governe in every condycyon,/ For yf thou do not to hys rule inclyne/ Yt wylbe to thy great myschef and ruyne" (I. 159-61). Nature also considers Man fit and free to decide for himself:
Thou hast now lybertye and nedest no maynmyssyon, liberation And yf thou abond the to passyons sensuall, Farewele thy lybertye-thou shalt wax thrall. (I.166-68)
The liberty asserted by Reason seems inconsistent with the portrayal of Mankind as a dependent infant in The Castle of Perseverance, where he requires baptism to preserve him from the fiend, whom Medwall's Nature never mentions. When Reason himself appears as Man's counsellor, he seems to assert that the potential fall of Man is from reason, not from grace (I.269-73), and Innocency echoes Nature in his insistence on the unfallen state of Man:
Wherfore I dare the surelyar testyfye For innocencye that he ys yet vyrgyn Both for dede and eke consent of syn. (I.355-57)
A similar emphasis on reason is evident in Skelton's Magnificence. Felicity's opening statement describes Magnificence's situation entirely as a conflict of faculties-reason vs. will-not as defined by the perennial conflict between grace-ful sacraments and the fiend:
Wealth might be won and made to the lure If nobleness were acquainted with sober direction; But will hath reason so under subjection, And so disordereth this world over all, That wealth and felicity is passing small. (II. 17-21)36
In short, Magnificence stands to lose Felicity not by the threat of the devil but by the individual surrender of reason to will. In discussion with Liberty, Felicity again emphasizes the importance of reason: "Howbeit liberty may sometime be too large/ But if reason be regent and ruler of your barge" (11. 37-38), and Measure praises the unity of Liberty, Felicity, and Measure: "There is no flatterer nor losel so lither [scoundrel so wicked],/ This linked chain of love that can unbind" (11. 20C01). The "chain of love" mentioned here is not charity, as in The Castle of Perseverance and Hick Scorner; it is worldly virtue per se, visibly unattended by divine power.
In view of this insistence on the primacy of reason in Nature and Magnificence, it is tempting to assume that these plays are evidence of a secularizing process in early English drama: from the heavily sacramental emphasis in The Castle of Perseverance and Wisdom earlier in the fifteenth century, drama moves to an enlightened emphasis on reason and human autonomy at the very end of the century and the beginning of the sixteenth century.37
But the assumption of "secularity" in Skelton and Medwall is a mistake, for these two plays do not, in fact, represent a departure from the traditional dramaturgy that identifies the sacraments as the origin of social order. To be sure, they reflect the influence of the "new learning" that was increasingly in vogue in academic and courtly circles in late fifteenth- and early sixteenth-century England; the emphasis on reason is characteristic of the humanist movement, which captured the imagination of the social elite during the reigns of Henry VII and his son. But humanists were not opposed to traditional religion per se, at least in the years before the Reformation, no matter how scathing their rejection of clerical abuses. A well known example of skeptical reason coexisting with traditional religion is Thomas More, who was a protege, like Henry Medwall, of Cardinal Morton. Medwall's imaginative conflict between reason (championed by Nature) and Sensuality (a vice) is deeply traditional, indebted to John Lydgate and Walter Hilton and appearing also in the Digby Mary Magdalen (1. 394) and in Wisdom (11. 133-60).
In keeping with this tradition, qualifications of human reason are clear from the beginning of Nature, and the difference from Wisdom or Perseverance is one of emphasis, not of substance. Addressing the audience in a 105-line monologue as the play begins, Nature acknowledges the "dower of [God's] grace" (I.65) and urges humble acceptance of God's will: "Enforce you therfore, hys creaturs eche on,/ To honour your maker wyth humble obeysance" (I.71-72). The emphasis on humility is characteristic of plays written under the influence of traditional religion, for humility is the companion of charity (as asserted in Youth, published several years later) in establishing sociable community, and humility is the antidote to pride, the archetypal sin of Satan. The threat to community, as Nature points out, is "thappetyte of vyce" (I.105).
The traditional context is less emphatic in Magnificence, but it is acknowledged several times in the play. When Measure asserts that "For default of measure all thing doth exceed," Felicity agrees: "All that ye say is as true as the creed" (11. 217-18). This seems a bold assertion, since Measure has been offering purely this-worldly wisdom, but the difference would probably have been understood by Skelton and his audience only with considerable difficulty because they lacked the advantage of hindsight. For them, virtue so obviously derived from traditional Christian belief and practice that they could not affirm the first without affirming the second. When Magnificence also affirms the importance of measure and asks Measure's opinion of what he has said, Measure replies: "God forbid that it otherwise should be" (11. 246). The assumption, again, is that the order of virtue is divinely sanctioned.
By the end of both plays, the traditional context is unmistakable, as the restored fortunes of both Man and Magnificence follow the sacramental pattern of confession and penance. In Nature, when Man grows old he also grows remorseful, but while he thus seeks virtue only by the compulsion of nature, the virtue he finds is more than natural. Mekenes now warns him against an enemy that is not "passyons sensuall," as Nature had said earlier; rather, the enemy is the one depicted at the beginning of all the mystery plays:
Who so woteth hystoryes of scrypture well Shall fynde that for pryde and presumpcyon Lucyfer, whyche somtyme was a gloryouse angell, For that hys offence had suche correccyon That both he and eke meny a legyon Of hys order was cast down to hell By ryghtfull justyce perpetually there to dwell. (II.1097-1103)
Mekenes continues the story with Adam, who followed the same pattern, thereby visiting the punishment for pride on the whole human race:
And lost shuld we be all of very justyce Ne had be that God of hys mercyfull goodnes Dyd us sone after wyth hys own blode maynpryce ransom And us redemed fro paynes endles (II.1111-14)
The rote of all syn ys Pryde, ye know well, Whyche ys myne adversary in all that he may. (II.1125-26)
In response to this allusion to the Passion (and implicitly to the Eucharist), Man asks for Mekenes' help and counsel in making confession and offering satisfaction: "I my selfe have synned in pryde and elacyon!/ Shew me your counsell: what way shall I take/ A dew satysfaccyon for that syn to make?" (II.1-136-38). Man's relationship to Reason is not an autonomous agent's relationship to his own best faculty; it is the traditional Christian's relationship to the sacraments. Reason approves when Man tells him that Repentaunce has brought him to Confessyon: "And anon I was acquaynted with Hartys Contrycyon" (II.1398). "Have good perseveraunce, and be not in fere," Reason advises, "Thy gostly enemy can put the in no daunger" (11. 1402-03). The "gostly enemy" of Man is not his own will, as seemed to be the case at the beginning of the play; the enemy is Satan, as always in traditional religion. Reason concludes the play by addressing the members of the audience, who are thus drawn into a community of renewed sociability:
Let us by one accord togeder syng and pray Wyth as humble devocyon as we can or may That we may have grace from syn thus to ryse As often as we fall, and let us pray thys wyse. (II. 1409-12)
The play thus ends in a communal expression of ritual harmony as everyone sings a religious song or carol ("some goodly ballet") in a strong confirmation of the play's orientation to a sense of sacramental community.
Skelton's Magnificence ends with less overt acknowledgment of the liturgy, but it is no less emphatic about the proper orientation of reason to the sacraments. In abandoning reason (allegorically identified with Measure at the beginning of the play), Magnificence eventually abandons his hope for life itself and wishes for his own destruction. The remedy for this dilemma, however, is not restored reason but the sudden and unexpected arrival of Good Hope, who is not a faculty of Magnificence but a sign of grace (like Mercy in Mankind) who arrives at the same moment in Mankind's despair. Like Mekenes in Nature, Good Hope (not Measure) is the solution to problems caused immediately by Magnificence himself but ultimately by the same agent that causes the problems in Medwall's play:
Good Hope, sir, my name is; remedy principal Against all faults of your ghostly foe. Who knoweth me himself may never slo. slay (II. 2329-31)
There can be no doubt that Good Hope comes by the grace of God because he says so himself: Sir, your physician is the grace of God. That you hath punished with his sharp rod. Good Hope your potecary assigned am I. (II. 2350-52)
Moreover, Good Hope comes by the efficacy of the Passion, and the restoration of Magnificence is therefore implicitly through the Eucharist:
Put fro you presumption and admit humility, And heartily thank God of your adversity; And love that lord that for your love was dead,
Wounded from the foot to the crown of the head; For who loveth God can ail nothing but good. He may help you, he may mend your mood. (II. 2362-67)
The repentance of Magnificence also suggests the sacrament of confession and penance no less clearly than Man's repentance does in Nature
Yea, sir, now am I armed with good hope, And sore I repent me of my wilfulness; I ask God mercy of my negligence, Under Good Hope enduring ever still, Me humbly committing unto God's will. (11. 2379-83)
Redress reassures him that he is "now in the state of grace" (1. 2404) and gives him a new habiliment-a detail that appears earlier in Wisdom and later in Youth and Hick Scorner. Perseverance urges Magnificence: "ever let the dread of God be in your sight;/ And know yourself mortal, for all your dignity" (11. 2495-96). As in many other non-cycle plays, the ministering of the virtues to a representative and responsive human figure involves more than individual salvation; it is also an emblem of renewed community.
In the context of sacramental sociability, the vices of both Nature and Magnificence are unmistakably the agents of what both plays call the "ghostly enemy," and the vices serve the same function by themselves that they serve in the company of devils in other plays. That function, moreover, involves more than individual moral and spiritual corruption; it involves the destruction of community, which is restored in the end only by the defeat of the vices through the power of the sacraments. Both Medwall and Skelton are brilliant satirists, evoking in fuller and more compelling detail the social failures of their courtly context than do any of the popular playwrights. Yet the motive for social satire is always the same in their plays as in other pre-Reformation drama.
Thus in Nature, when Man confesses to Charyte (II.1168), Charyte explains how Envy destroys community in much the same terms that Wanton and Manhood use in Mundus et Infans:
But Envy ys ever full of payn and passyon And tormenteth hym selve wyth sorowfull sadnes Whan he seeth hys neyghbours prosperyte or gladnes. He ys never glad nor taketh any solace But at hys neyghbours harme, losse, or hevynes. He speketh somtyme fayre byfore a mannys face, And yet wythin hys hart he ys full of doublenes, For byhynd hys bak he wyll never sease Wyth sclaunderouse wordys to appayre his good name, And many a fals ly doth he report for the same. (Nature II.1178-87)
Those who are possessed by Envy are the origin of notcommunity, and the social chaos engendered by Envy in Nature is therefore identical to the violence and abuse produced by Backbiter both in The Castle of Perseverance and the N-Town Trial of Mary and Joseph. The remedy for Envy, moreover, is charity, the double love of God and neighbor: "byfore all thyngys love God entyerly./ Next that, thy neyghbour love as thyne own body" (Nature II.1191-92). Lyberalyte points out that Man cannot excuse his avarice with alms if the goods he gives away were ill got (II.1279-80). "Thou must have compassyon and also be lyberall/ Unto thy neyghbour at hys necessyte" (II.1286-87). As in Perseverance and Wisdom, virtuous deeds are only efficacious when they are motivated by charity, because charity is the foundation of sacramental community.
Though all the vices in both Nature and Magnificence perform socially disruptive functions, Envy's closest correlative in Skelton's play is Cloaked Collusion, who is associated with pride from the moment of his entry: "Here let CLOAKED COLLUSION come in with a haughty expression, strolling up and down" (1. 572 s.d.). He may also be associated with clerical hypocrisy, if his "cope" (1. 601) is ecclesiastical. If so, then his threat is all the more serious, since he corrupts the very heart of sacramental relationships. In any case, he does indeed corrode trust: "Doubledealing and I be all one;/ Crafting and hafting contrived is by me" (II. 696-97). In fact, he has mastered the manipulation of emotional displays to trick others:
I can dissemble, I can both laugh and groan; (1. 698) When other men laugh then study I and muse, Devising the means and ways that I can How I may hurt and hinder every man. (11. 707-09) Paint to a purpose good countenance I can, And craftily can I grope how every man is minded. (II. 724-25)
The result is social trouble on a national scale, as Cloaked Collusion gleefully acknowledges: "By cloaked collusion, I say, and none other/ Cumberance and trouble in England first I began" (11. 714-15). His delight in causing trouble to others is so refined that he professes no joy but others' sorrow:
I am never glad but when I may do ill, And never am I sorry but when that I see I cannot mine appetite accomplish and fulfil In hinderance of wealth and prosperity. (II. 731-34) Such villainy is brilliantly conceived, making Cloaked Collusion a convincing progenitor of the Vice and of Iago after him.
While the wit and originality of the vices in Skelton and Medwall are important and undeniable, they need to be understood against a background of sacramental community whose literal and archetypal enemy was the Devil. Playwrights at court had more opportunity to witness the nuances of social pride and arrogance and more motive to enact them in plays for an elite audience. Still, the court playwrights' conception of the social body was identical to that of popular playwrights such as the authors of Mankind and The Castle of Perseverance because of a shared assumption that the source of social cohesion was the sacraments, while the source of social entropy was the Devil and the Seven Deadly Sins. By the same token, the social body in courtly moralities is identical to the social body in the mystery plays. Communal division originates in plays about the creation and fall of the angels, and it is perpetuated by the one who started it and by those whom he corrupts. The simplicity of this story is deceptive, for it gave rise to effects that are strikingly complex and profound, and it accounts better than anything else for essential similarities in the dramaturgy of evil in all forms of pre-Reformation drama.
|Natalie Zemon Davis, "The Sacred and the Social Body in Sixteenth Century Lyon," Past and Present, No. 96 (1981), pp. 4070; Mervyn James, "Ritual, Drama and Social Body in the Late Medieval English Town," Past and Present, No. 98 (1983), pp. 3-29; Peter Travis, "The Social Body of the Dramatic Christ in Medieval England," in Early Drama to 1600, ed. Albert Tricomi, Acta, 13 (1987 [for 1986]), pp. 18-36; Miri Rubin, Corpus Christi: The Eucharist in Late Medieval Culture (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press. 1991), pp. 271-87 et passim.|
|2 John Wasson has discounted the possibility that morality plays made up a widely performed genre prior to the sixteenth century ("The Morality Play: Ancestor of Elizabe|
|than Drama?" in Drama in the Middle Ages, ed. Clifford Davidson et al. [New York: AMS Press, 1982], pp. 316-27). But this argument arbitrarily limits the criteria for performance to external evidence. No matter how voluminous it may be, external evidence cannot be comprehensive, and it cannot therefore, by itself, explain why so many morality plays were "offered for acting" by publishers, why their doubling patterns became increasingly sophisticated to accommodate small acting companies, or why a play like Mankind includes the taking up of a collection if, in fact, they were never acted. See David M. Bevington, From Mankind to Marlowe (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1962).|
|3 Robert Potter, The English Morality Play: Origins, History and Influence of a Dramatic Tradition (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1975), p. 7. 4 Ibid., p. 8.|
|' Mirk's Festial: A Collection of Homilies, ed. Theodor Erbe, EETS, e.s. 96 (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner, 1905), p. 131.|
|6 Ibid., p.131. The bishop's "vision" is a commonplace in sermon literature on Easter. See also, for example, Speculum Sacerdotale, ed. Edward H. Weatherly, EETS, o.s. 200 (London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1936), pp. 123-25.|
|7 The Castle of Perseverance, II. 279, 294-95. Quotations in my text from this play as well as from Wisdom and Mankind are from The Macro Plays, ed. Mark Eccles, EETS, o.s. 262 (London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1969).|
|' Bodleian Library MS. Lyell 30, fol. 49', as quoted by Eamon Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England c.1400-c.1580 (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1992), p. 249.|
|9 Quoted by Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars, p. 248. 'o Mirk, Festial, p. 285, as quoted by Alexandra F. Johnston, "The Plays of the Religious Guilds of York: The Creed Play and the Pater Noster Play," Speculum, 50 (1975), 55-90.|
|" For various topical readings of The Castle of Perseverance, identifying specific social references in the play, see Milla Riggio, "The Allegory of Feudal Acquisition in The Castle of Perseverance," in Allegory, Myth, and Symbol, ed. Morton W. Bloomfield (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1981), pp. 187-208, and S. E. Holbrook, "Covetousness, Contrition, and the Town in the Castle of Perseverance," Fifteenth-Century Studies, 13 (1987), 275-89.|
|2 Cambridge, St. John's College, MS. S 35, fol. , under 'Enuye'; quoted by Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars, p. 59.|
|13 The debate about auspices is well represented in three essays edited and collected by Milla Cozart Riggio in The Wisdom Symposium (New York: AMS Press, 1986): Milla Riggio, "The Staging of Wisdom," pp. 1-17; Gail McMurray Gibson, "The Play of Wisdom and the Abbey of St. Edmund," pp. 39-66; Donald C. Baker, "Is Wisdom a 'Professional' Play?" pp. 67-86.|
|14 Eccles's note identifies the hymn's source and cites its place in the liturgy for Holy Thursday (Macro Plays, p. 215).|
|" John Joseph Molloy, A Theological Interpretation of the Moral Play, Wisdom, Who Is Christ (Washington, D.C.: Catholic Univ. of America Press, 1952), p. 157.|
|16 Only six are actually specified in the stage directions, probably because of limited access to "extras" in staging the play. See Bevington, From Mankind to Marlowe, p. 116.|
|17 David M. Bevington, Tudor Drama and Politics: A Critical Approach to Topical Meaning (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1968), pp. 28-34. " The Towneley Plays, ed. Martin Stevens and A. C. Cawley, EETS, s.s. 13-14 (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1994), I, 126-57.|
|'9 In a recent reading of the Croxton Play of the Sacrament, Sarah Beckwith argues that sacramental social order existed solely to maintain clerical power, but if this were the case it is not clear how a play like Wisdom could focus on a critique of clerical power and still be focused in the sacraments ("Ritual, Church and Theatre: Medieval Dramas of the Sacramental Body," in Culture and History 1350-1600: Essays on English Communities, Identities and Writing, ed. David Aers [New York and London: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1992], pp. 65-89).|
|20 Saul's superiors are unnamed in Acts, but the playwright of the Digby St. Paul apparently misconstrued a phrase in the story to refer to the same high priests who prosecuted Jesus (see The Conversion of St. Paul, in Late Medieval Religious Plays of Bodleian MSS Digby 133 and E Museo 160, ed. Donald C. Baker, John L. Murphy, and Louis B. Hall, Jr., EETS, 283 [Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1982], p. 195). Still, the misconstruction is felicitous (possibly even deliberate), because it identifies the same source of suffering for early Christians as for Christ. Subsequent quotations from this play and the Digby Mary Magdalen are from the edition cited above.|
|2' The plays' recent editors identify the style of the handwriting in the interpolation as mid-1550s (ibid., p. xviii), while the rest of the manuscript better suits the first quarter of the century (p. xxii). The editors also view the scene as dramatically and thematically relevant to the rest of the play (p. xxix).|
|22 The evidence of the N-Town manuscript is being given increasing weight in a view of the plays as a loose collection or anthology as distinct from a guild cycle of the sort that is preserved from York and Chester. It is not unreasonable, therefore, to consider the Assumption of Mary as a separate saint play. For discussion of the textual questions, see Martin Stevens, Four Middle English Mystery Cycles (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1987), pp. 181-257, and Stanley Karhl's review of this book in Speculum, 65 (1990), 499-502; Stephen Spector, ed., The N-Town Play, EETS, s.s. 11-12 (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1991), II, 537-43; Douglas Sugano, "`This game wel pleyd in good aray': The N-Town Playbooks and East Anglian Games," Comparative Drama, 28 (1994), 221-34. The N-Town plays are cited here from Spector's edition.|
|23 For helpful commentary on the background, see Eamon Duffy, "Holy Maydens, Holy Wyfes: The Cult of Women Saints in Fifteenth and Sixteenth Century England," Studies in Church History, 23 (1990), 175-96, and Clifford Davidson, "The Middle English Saint Play," in The Saint Play in Medieval Europe, ed. Clifford Davidson, Early Drama, Art, and Music, Monograph Ser., 8 (Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute Publicatins, 1986), pp. 71-97.|
|24 Sister Mary Philippa Coogan, An Interpretation of the Moral Play, Mankind (Washington, D.C.: Catholic Univ. of America, 1947), and Kathleen M. Ashley, "Titivillus and the Battle of Words in Mankind," Annuale Mediaevale, 16 (1975), 128-50. In all fairness, it should be pointed out that Walter K. Smart first identified particular ways in which Mankind is a Shrovetide play ("Some Notes on Mankind," Modern Philology, 14 , 45-47).|
|zs Coogan, An Interpretation, pp. 15-16.|
|26 Ashley, "Titivillus and the Battle of Words," pp. 144-46. 2' Ibid., p. 148.|
|28 For evidence that Mercy is a Dominican friar, see Coogan, An Interpretation, pp. 5-.|
|29 Quotations from Mundus et Infans in my text are from Specimens of the Pre-Shaksperean Drama, ed. John M. Manly (1897; rpt. New York: Dover, 1967), vol. 1. 3' Prymer of Salysbury (Paris: Franqois Regnault, 1531), fol. civ (STC 15973); quoted by Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars, p. 231. 31 The author of Mundus may have been influenced by Augustine's Confessions in his view of child depravity and development, for he depicts not only an angry and cruel infant but also a pear-stealing adolescent: "Some good mannes gardyn I wyll assaye,j Perys and plommes to plucke" (II. 109-10).|
|32 For discussion of the similarities between these two plays, see E. T. Schell, "Youth and Hyckescorner: Which Came First?" Philological Quarterly, 45 (1966), 468-74, and Ian Lancashire, ed., Two Tudor Interludes, Revels Plays (Manchester: Manchester Univ. Press, 1980), pp. 36-48, who argues for the priority of Youth on the basis of its indebtedness to Medwall's Nature. Quotations from Youth and Hick Scorner in my text are from Lancashire's edition.|
|33 Youth, II. 56268. For specific comparisons, see Lancashire, ed., Two Tudor Interludes, p. 91, n. 210.|
|34 For commentary, see Rosemary Woolf, The English Mystery Plays (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1972), pp. 174-78, who remarks that the detractors "seem inhuman figures, like the vice or other evil characters in the morality plays: they show the same enormous zest, witty inventiveness, cold glee, and unmotivated delight in malice" (p. 176).|
|35 Quotations from Nature in my text are from Henry Medwall, The Plays, ed. Alan H. Nelson (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1980).|
|36 Quotations in my text are from John Skelton, Magnificence, ed. Paula Neuss, Revels Plays (Manchester: Manchester Univ. Press, 1980).|
|37 Cf. Bernard Spivack, Shakespeare and the Allegory of Evil (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1958): "Nature, however, is a transitional play and a milestone in the new dispensation. Although it adheres to the older tradition in its dramatic style and scope, surveying as it does the whole life of man on earth within the schematic array of all the Deadly Sins and the Christian Virtues, its eschatalogy is a faded echo and its moral emphasis mainly humanistic" (p. 214); and also Bevington, From Mankind to Marlowe: "Magnificence is a morality that has undergone a degree of secular transformation. Its hero represents a limited range of human experience when compared with Mankind or Humanum Genus, and its vice figures are courtly, satiric types rather than generic derivations of the Seven Deadly Sins. The interest is historical rather than timeless; the political advice to a prince is specific and practical rather than generic and spiritual. Secularization is one of the unmistakable developments in the chronology of the English moral play, and Magnificence, like King John, represents a significant step forward" (p. 136).|