A Short History of French Literature, by George Saintsbury

Chapter 10.

The Drama.

Origins of Drama.

The origins of the drama in France, like most other points affecting mediaeval literature, have been made the subject of a good deal of dispute. It has been attempted, on the one hand, to father the mysteries and miracle-plays of the twelfth and later centuries on the classical drama, traditions of which are supposed to have been preserved in the monasteries and other homes of learning. On the other hand, a more probable and historical source has been found in the ceremonies and liturgies of the Church, which in themselves possess a considerable dramatic element, and which, as we shall see, were early adapted to still more definitely dramatic purposes. Disputes of this kind, if not exactly otiose, are not suited to these pages; and it is sufficient to say that while Plautus and Terence at least retained a considerable hold on mediaeval students, the natural tendencies to dramatic representation which exist in almost every people, assisted by the stimulus of ecclesiastical traditions, ceremonies, and festivals, are probably sufficient to account for the beginnings of dramatic literature in France.

Earliest Vernacular Dramatic Forms.
Mysteries and Miracles.
Miracles de la Vierge.

It so happens too that such historical evidence as we have entirely bears out this supposition. The earliest compositions of a dramatic kind that we possess in French, are arguments and scraps interpolated in Latin liturgies of a dramatic character. Earlier still these works had been wholly in Latin. The production called 'The Prophets of Christ' is held to date from the eleventh century, and consists of a series of utterances of the prophets and patriarchs, who are called upon in turn to bear testimony in reference to the Messiah, according to a common patristic habit. By degrees other portions of Old Testament history were thrown into the dramatic or at least dialogic form. In the drama or dramatic liturgy of Daniel, fragments of French make their appearance, and the Mystery of Adam is entirely in the vulgar tongue. Both these belong to the twelfth century, and the latter appears to have been not merely a part of the church services, but to have been independently performed outside the church walls. It is accompanied by full directions in Latin for the decoration and arrangement of stage and scenes. Another important instance, already mentioned, of somewhat dubious age, but certainly very early, is the Mystery of The Ten Virgins. This is not wholly in French, but contains some speeches in a Romance dialect. These three dramas, Daniel, Adam, and The Ten Virgins, are the most ancient specimens of their kind, which, from the thirteenth century onward, becomes very numerous and important. By degrees a distinction was established between mystery and miracle-plays, the former being for the most part taken from the sacred Scriptures, the latter from legends and lives of the Saints and of the Virgin. Early and interesting specimens of the miracle are to be found in the Théophile of Rutebœuf and in the Saint Nicholas of Jean Bodel d'Arras, both belonging to the same (thirteenth) century120. But the most remarkable examples of the miracle-play are to be found in a manuscript which contains forty miracles of the Virgin, dating from the fourteenth century. Selections from these have been published at different times, and the whole is now in course of publication by the Old French Text Society121. As the miracles were mostly concerned with isolated legends, they did not lend themselves to great prolixity, and it is rare to find them exceed 2000 lines. Their versification is at first somewhat licentious, but by degrees they settled down into more or less regular employment of the octosyllabic couplet. Both in them and in the mysteries the curious mixture of pathos and solemnity on the one side, with farcical ribaldry on the other, which is characteristic of mediaeval times, early becomes apparent. The mysteries, however, as they became more and more a favourite employment of the time, increased and grew in length. The narrative of the Scriptures being more or less continuous, it was natural that the small dramas on separate subjects should by degrees be attracted to one another and be merged in larger wholes. It was another marked characteristic of mediaeval times that all literary work should be constantly subject to remaniement, the facile scribes of each day writing up the work of their predecessors to the taste and demands of their own audience. In the case of the mysteries, as in that of the Chansons de Gestes, each remaniement resulted in a lengthening of the original. It became an understood thing that a mystery lasted several days in the representation; and in many provincial towns regular theatres were constructed for the performances, which remained ready for use between the various festival times. In the form which these representations finally assumed in the fifteenth century, they not only required elaborate scenery and properties, but also in many cases a very large troop of performers. It is from this century that most of the mysteries we possess date, and they are all characterised by enormous length. The two most famous of these are the Passion122 of Arnould Gréban, and the Viel Testament123, due to no certain author. The Passion, as originally written in the middle of the fifteenth century, consisted of some 25,000 lines, and thirty or forty years later it was nearly doubled in length by the alterations of Jean Michel. The Mystère du Viel Testament, of which no manuscript is now known, but which was printed in the last year of the fifteenth century, is now being reprinted, and extends to nearly 50,000 verses. Additions even to this are spoken of; and Michel's Passion, supplemented by a Résurrection, extended to nearly 70,000 lines, which vast total is believed to have been frequently acted as a whole. In such a case the space of weeks rather than days, which is said to have been sometimes occupied in the performance of a mystery, cannot be thought excessive.

Heterogeneous Character of Mysteries.

The enormous length of the larger mysteries makes analysis of any one of them impossible; but as an instance of the curious comedy which is intermixed with their most serious portions, and which shocked critics even up to our own time, we may take the scene of the Tower of Babel in the Mystère du Viel Testament124. Here the author is not content with describing Nimrod's act in general terms, or by the aid of the convenient messenger; he brings the actual masons and carpenters on the stage. Gaste-Bois (Spoilwood), Casse-Tuileau (Breaktile), and their mates talk before us for nearly 200 lines, while Nimrod and others come in from time to time and hasten on the work. The workmen are quite outspoken on the matter. They do not altogether like the job; and one of them says,

On ne peut en fin que faillir.

Besongnons; mais qu'on nous paie bien.

A little further on and they are actually at work. One calls for a hod of mortar, another for his hammer. The labourers supply their wants, or make jokes to the effect that they would rather bring them something to drink. So it goes on, till suddenly the confusion of tongues falls upon them, and they issue their orders in what is probably pure jargon, though fragments of something like Italian can be made out. In the very middle of this scene occurs a really fine and reverently written dialogue between Justice and Mercy pleading respectively to the Divinity for vengeance and pardon. Instances such as this abound in the mysteries, which are sometimes avowedly interrupted in order that the audience may be diverted by a farcical interlude.

Argument of a Miracle Play.

Of the miracles, that of St. Guillaume du Désert will serve as a fair example. It is but 1500 lines in length, yet the list of dramatis personae extends to nearly thirty, and there are at least as many distinct scenes. William, count of Poitiers and duke of Aquitaine, has rendered himself in many ways obnoxious to the Holy See. He has recognised an anti-pope, has driven a bishop from his diocese for refusing to do likewise, and has offended against morality. An embassy, including St. Bernard, is therefore sent from Rome to warn and correct him. William is not proof against their eloquence, and soon becomes deeply penitent. He quits his palaces, and retires to the society of hermits in the wilderness. These enjoin penances upon him. He is to have a heavy hauberk immovably riveted on his bare flesh, and with sackcloth for an overcoat to visit Rome and beg the Pope's forgiveness. He does this, and the Pope sends him to the patriarch of Jerusalem, William taking the additional penance as a proof of the heinousness of his sin. After this he retires by himself into a solitary place. Here, however, a knight of his country seeks him out, represents the anarchy into which it has fallen in his absence, and implores him to return. But this is not William's notion of duty. He refuses, and to be free from such importunities in future, retires to the island of Rhodes, and there lives in solitude. Irritated at the idea of his escaping them, Satan and Beelzebub attack him and beat him severely; but he recovers by the Virgin's intervention, and serves as a model to young devotees who seek his cell, and like him become hermits. At last a chorus of saints descends to see his godly end, which takes place in the presence of the neophytes. The events, of which this is a very brief abstract, are all clearly indicated in the short space of 1500 verses, many of which are only of four syllables125. There is of course no attempt at drawing any figure, except that of the saint, at full length, and this is characteristic of the class. But as dramatised legends, for they are little more, these miracles possess no slight merit.

The general literary peculiarities of the miracle and mystery plays do not differ greatly from those of other compositions in verse of the same time which have been already described. Their great fault is prolixity. In the collection of the Miracles de la Vierge, the comparative brevity of the pieces renders them easier to read than the long compositions of the fifteenth century, and the poetical beauty of some of the legends which they tell is sufficient to furnish them with interest. Even in these, however, the absence of point and of dignity in the expression frequently mars the effect; and this is still more the case with the longer mysteries. Of these latter, however, the work of the brothers Gréban — for there were two, Arnould and Simon, concerned — contains passages superior to the general run, and in others lines and even scenes of merit occur.

Profane Drama.
Adam de la Halle.

Although the existence of the drama as an actual fact was for a long time due to the performance and popularity of the mysteries and miracles, specimens of dramatic work with purely profane subjects are to be found at a comparatively early date. Adam de la Halle, so far as our present information goes, has the credit of inventing two separate styles of such composition126. In Li Jus de la Feuillie he has left us the earliest comedy in the vulgar tongue known; in the pastoral drama of Robin et Marion the earliest specimen of comic opera. Independently of the improbability that the drama, once in full practice, should be arbitrarily confined to a single class of subject, there were many germs of dramatic composition in mediaeval literature which wanted but a little encouragement to develop themselves. The verse dialogues and débats, which both troubadours and trouvères had favoured, were in themselves incompletely dramatic. The pastourelles, an extremely favourite and fashionable class of composition, must have suggested to others besides the Hunchback of Arras the idea of dramatising them; and the early and strongly-marked partiality of the middle ages for pageants and shows of all kinds could hardly fail to induce those who planned them to intersperse dialogue.

The plot of Robin et Marion is simple and in a way regular. The ordinary incidents of a pastourelle, the meeting of a fair shepherdess and a passing knight, the wooing (in this case an unsuccessful one) and the riding away, are all there. The piece is completed by a kind of rustic picnic, in which the neighbouring shepherds and shepherdesses join and disport themselves. Marion is a very graceful and amiable figure; Robin a sheepish coward, who is not in the least worthy of her. In Adam's other and earlier drama he is by no means so partial to the feminine sex, and his work, though equally fresh and vigorous, is more complex and less artistically finished. It is in part autobiographic, and introduces Adam confessing to friends with sufficient effrontery his intention of going to Paris and deserting his wife. This part contains a very pretty though curiously unsuitable description of the wooing, which has such an unlucky termination. Suddenly, however, the author introduces his father, an old citizen, who is quite ready to encourage his son in his evil ways provided it costs him nothing, and the piece loses all regularity of plot. Divers citizens of Arras, male and female, are introduced with a more or less satiric intention, and the last episode brings in the personages of Morgue la Fée and of the mesnie (attendants) of a certain shadowy King Hellequin. There is a doctor, too, whose revelations of his patients' affairs are sufficiently comic, not to say farcical. Destitute as it is of method, and approaching more nearly to the Fabliau than to any other division of mediaeval literature in the coarseness of its language, the piece has great interest, not merely because of its date and its apparent originality, but because of numerous passages of distinct literary merit. The picture of the neglected wife in her girlhood is inferior to nothing of the kind even in the thirteenth century, that fertile epoch of early French poetry. The father, too, Maître Henri, the earliest of his kind on the modern stage, has traits which the great comic masters would not disown.

The classes of later secular drama may be thus divided — the monologue, the farce, the morality, the sotie, the profane mystery. The first four of these constitute one of the most interesting divisions of early French literature; and it is to be hoped that before long easy access will be afforded to the whole of it. The last is only interesting from the point of view of literary history.


The monologue is the simplest form of dramatic composition and needs but little notice, though it seems to have met with some favour from playgoers of the time. By dint also of adroit changes of costume and assistance from scenery, etc., the monologue was sometimes made more complicated than appears at first sight possible, as for instance, in the Monologue du Bien et du Mal des Dames, where the speaker plays successively the parts of two advocates and of a judge. The monologue, however, more often consisted in a dramatisation of the earlier dit, in which some person or thing is made to declare its own attributes. Of very similar character is the so-called sermon joyeux, which, however, preserves more or less the form of an address from the pulpit, of course travestied and applied to ludicrous subjects.


The farce, on the other hand, is one of the most important of all dramatic kinds in reference to French literature. It is a genuine product of the soil, and proved the ancestor of all the best comedy of France, on which foreign models had very little influence. Until the discovery and acquisition by the British Museum of a unique collection of farces the number of these compositions known to exist was not large, and such as had been printed were difficult of access. It is still not easy to get together a complete collection, but the reimpression of the British Museum pieces in the Bibliothèque Elzévirienne127 with M. Ed. Fournier's Théâtre avant la Renaissance128 contains ample materials for judgment. In all, we possess about a hundred farces, most of which are probably the composition of the fifteenth century, though it is possible that some of them may date from the end of the fourteenth. The most famous of all early French farces, that of Pathelin, belongs, it is believed, to the middle or earlier part of the fifteenth, and speaking generally, this century is the most productive of theatrical work, at least of such as remains to us. The subjects of these farces are of the widest possible diversity. In their general character they at once recall the Fabliaux, and no one who reads many of them can doubt that the one genre is the immediate successor of the other. The farce, like the Fabliau, deals with an actual or possible incident of ordinary life to which a comic complexion is given by the treatment. The length of these compositions is very variable, but the average is perhaps about five hundred lines. Their versification is always octosyllabic and regular. But a curious peculiarity is found in most of them as well as in a few contemporary dramas of the serious kind. From time to time the speeches of the characters are dovetailed into one another so as to make up the Triolet (or rondeau of eight lines with triple repetition of the first and double repetition of the second), a form which in the fifteenth, seventeenth, and nineteenth centuries has been a favourite with French poets of the lighter kind. The number of personages is never large; it sometimes falls as low as two (in which case the farce might in strictness be called, as it sometimes is, a débat or dialogue), and rarely, if ever, rises above four or five. From what has already been said it will be seen that it is not easy to give any general summary of the subjects of this curious composition. Conjugal differences of one kind and another make up a very large part of them, but by no means the whole, and there are few aspects of contemporary bourgeois life which do not come in for treatment. As an example we may take the Farce du Pasté de la Tarte129. The characters are two thieves, a pastry-cook, and his wife. The farce opens with a lamentable Triolet, in which the two thieves bewail their unhappy state. Immediately afterwards, the pastry-cook, in front of whose shop the scene is laid, calls to his wife and tells her that an eel-pie is to be kept for him, and that he will send for it later, as he intends to dine abroad. The two thieves overhear the conversation, and the token which is to be given by the messenger, and after trying in vain to beg a dinner, determine to filch one. Thief the second goes to the pastry-cook's wife, gives the appointed token, and easily obtains the pie, upon which both feast. Unluckily, however, this does not satisfy them, and the successful thief, remembering a fine tart which he has seen in the shop, decides that the possession of it would much improve their dinner. He persuades his companion to try and secure it. Meanwhile, however, the enraged pastry-cook has come home hungry and demands his eel-pie. His wife in vain assures him that she has sent it by the messenger who brought his token. Her husband disbelieves her; words run high, and are followed by blows. At this juncture the first thief appears and demands the tart, whereupon the irate pastry-cook turns his rage upon him. The stick makes him confess the device, and smarting under the blows, he is easily induced to make his companion a sharer in his own sorrows. This is effected by an obvious stratagem. The pastry-cook thus avenges himself of both his enemies, who however, with some philosophy, console themselves with the fact that, after all, they have had an excellent dinner without paying for it.

This piece serves as a fair example of the more miscellaneous farces, in almost all of which the stick plays a prominent part, a part which it may be observed retained its prominence at least till the time of Molière. Of the farces dealing with conjugal matters, one of the most decent, and perhaps the most amusing of all, is the Farce du Cuvier, which has nothing to do with the story under the same title which may be found (possibly taken from Apuleius) in Boccaccio, and in the Fabliaux. In the farce a hen-pecked husband is obliged by his wife to accept a long list of duties which he is to perform. Soon afterwards she by accident falls into the washing-tub, and to all her cries for help he replies 'cela n'est point à mon rollet' (schedule). Not a few also are directed against the clergy, and these as a rule are the most licentious of all. It is, however, rare to find any one which is not more or less amusing; and students of Molière in particular will find analogies and resemblances of the most striking kind to many of his motives. It is, indeed, pretty certain that these pieces did not go out of fashion until Molière's own time. The titles of some of the early and now lost pieces which his company for so many years played in the provinces are immediately suggestive of the old farces to any one who knows the latter. The farce was moreover a very far-reaching kind of composition. As a rule the satire which it contains is directed against classes, such as women, the clergy, pedants, and so forth, who had nothing directly to do with politics, and it is thus, more or less directly, the ancestor of the comedy of manners. It is never, properly speaking, political, even indirect allusions to politics being excluded from it. It relies wholly upon domestic and personal interests. Not a few farces, such as that of which we have given a sketch, turn upon the same subject as the Repues Franches attributed to Villon, and deal with the ingenious methods adopted by persons who hang loose upon society for securing their daily bread. Others attack the fertile subject of domestic service, and furnish not a few parallels to Swift's Directions. Every now and then however we come across a farce, or at least a piece bearing the title, in which a more allegorical style of treatment is attempted. Such is the farce of Folle Bobance, in which the tendency of various classes to loose and light living is satirised amusingly enough. A gentleman, a merchant, a farmer, are all caught by the seductive offers of Folle Bobance, and are not long before they repent it. Such again is the Farce des Théologastres, in which the students of the Paris theological colleges are ridiculed, the Farce de la Pippée, and many others.


In strictness, however, those pieces where allegorical personages make their appearance are not farces but moralities. These compositions were exceedingly popular in the later middle ages, and their popularity was a natural sequence of the rage for allegorising which had made itself evident in very early times, and had in the Roman de la Rose dominated almost all other literary tastes. The taste for personification and abstraction has always lent itself easily enough to satire, and in the fifteenth century pieces under the designation of moralities became very common. We do not possess nearly as many specimens of the morality as of the farce, but, on the other hand, the morality is often, though not always, a much longer composition than the farce. The subjects of moralities include not merely private vices and follies, but almost all actual and possible defects of Church and State, and occasionally the term is applied to pieces, the characters of which are not abstractions, but which tell a story with a more or less moral turn. Sometimes these pieces ran to a very great length, and one is quoted, L'Homme Juste et l'Homme Mondain, which contains 36,000 lines, and must, like the longer mysteries, have occupied days or even weeks in acting. A morality however, on the average, consisted of about 2000 lines, and its personages were proportionally more numerous than those of the farce. Thus the Moralité des Enfans de Maintenant contains thirteen characters who are indifferently abstract and concrete; Maintenant, Mignotte, Bon Advis, Instruction, Finet, Malduit, Discipline, Jabien, Luxure, Bonté, Désespoir, Perdition, and the Fool. This list almost sufficiently explains the plot, which simply recounts the persistence of one child in evil and his bad end, with the repentance of the other. The moralities have the widest diversity of subject, but most of them are tolerably clearly explained by their titles. La Condamnation de Banquet is a rather spirited satire on gluttony and open housekeeping. Marchebeau attacks the disbanded soldiery of the middle of the fifteenth century. Charité points out the evils which have come into the world for lack of charity. La Moralité d'une Femme qui avait voulu trahir la Cité de Romme is built on the lines of a miracle-play. Science et Asnerye is a very lively satire representing the superior chances which the followers of Asnerye— ignorance — have of obtaining benefices and posts of honour and profit as compared with those of learning. Mundus, caro, daemonia, again tells its own tale. Les Blasphémateurs, which is very well spoken of, but has not been reprinted, rests on the popular legend upon which Don Juan is also based. In short, unless a complete catalogue were given, there is no means of fully describing the numerous works of this class.


The Sotie is a class of much more idiosyncrasy. Although we have very few Soties (not at present more than a dozen accessible to the student), although the contents of this class are as a rule duller even than those of the moralities, and infinitely inferior in attraction to those of the farces, yet the Sotie has the merit of possessing a much more distinct and peculiar form. It is essentially political comedy, and it has the peculiarity of being played by stock personages, like an Italian comedy of the early kind. The Sotie, at least in its purely political form, was, as might be expected, not very long lived. Its most celebrated author was Gringore, and his Sotie, which forms part of Le Jeu du Prince des Sots et Mère Sotte, is still the typical example of the kind. Besides these two characters (who represent, roughly speaking, the temporal and spiritual powers), we have in this piece, Sotte Commune, the common people; Sotte Fiance, false confidence; Sotte Occasion, who explains herself; and a good many other allegorical personages, such as the Seigneur de Gayeté, etc. These pieces, however, are for the most part so entirely occasional that their chief literary interest lies in their curious stock personages. It should, however, be observed that of the few Soties which we possess by no means all correspond to this description, some of them being indistinguishable from moralities. A curious detail is that the various pieces we have been mentioning were sometimes, in representation, combined after the fashion of a regular tetralogy. First came a monologue or cry containing a kind of proclamation. This was followed by the Sotie itself; then followed the morality, and lastly a farce. The work of Gringore, just noticed, forms part of such a tetralogy.

Profane Mysteries.

The profane mysteries may be briefly despatched. They were the natural result of the vogue of the mysteries proper, with which they vie in prolixity. Some of them were based on history or romance, such as, for instance, the Mystery of Troy. Others corresponded pretty nearly to the history plays of our own dramatists at a later period. Such is the Mystery of the Siege of Orleans which versifies and dramatises, at a date very shortly subsequent to the actual events, the account of them already made public in different chronicles.

Societies of Actors.

Of considerable interest and importance in connection with these early forms of drama is the subject of the persons and societies by whom they were represented, a subject upon which it is necessary to say a few words. At first, as we have seen, the actors were members or dependents of the clergy. As the mysteries increased in bulk and demanded larger companies, their representation fell more and more into the hands of the laity, even women in not a few cases acting parts, though this was rather the exception than the rule. It became not unusual for the guilds, which play such an important part in the social history of the middle ages, to undertake the task, and at last regular societies of actors were formed. The most famous of these, the Confrérie de la Passion (whose first object was to play the mystery, or rather cycle of mysteries, known by that name), was licensed in 1402, and in the course of the fifteenth century a very large number of rival bodies were more or less formally constituted. The clerks of the Bazoche, or Palace of Justice, had long been dramatically inclined, but it was not till this time that they were recognised as, so to speak, the patentees of a peculiar form of drama which in their case was the morality. The Enfants sans Souci, young men of good families in the city, devoted themselves rather to the Sotie, and the stock personages of that curious form correspond to the official titles of the officers of their guild. Besides these, many other similar but less durable and regularly constituted societies arose, whose heads took fantastic titles, such as Empereur de Galilée, Roi de l'Epinette, Prince de l'Etrille, and so forth. No one of these, however, attained the importance of the Confraternity of the Passion. This was chiefly composed of tradesmen and citizens of Paris, and for a hundred and fifty years it continued to play for the most part mysteries, sacred and profane alike, but the latter, according to its name and profession, less commonly. In 1548 a curious example of the change of times and manners took place, owing in all probability to the influence, direct or indirect, of the Reformation. The Confraternity had its charter renewed, but it was expressly forbidden to play the sacred dramas which it had been originally constituted to perform. Thenceforward secular plays only were lawful in Paris, but the older dramas continued for a long time to be performed in the provinces, and in Britanny have been acted within the last half century. The Confraternity became regular actors of ordinary farces, and as time went on were known under the title of the Comedians of the Hôtel de Bourgogne, a name which brings us at once into the presence of Molière. In these last sentences we have a little outstripped the mediaeval period proper, but in dramatic matters there is no gap between the ancient and modern theatre until we arrive at the Pléiade.

It is not very easy to illustrate the manner of the ancient French drama by citations within ordinary compass; but the following passages, the first from the Mystery of the Passion, the second from the original form of Pathelin, may serve the purpose:—

Ici deschargent Jesus de la croix.

Simon. or avant donc, puis que ainsi va.

je ferai vostre voulenté;

mais il me poise en verité

de la honte que vous me faictes.

o Jesus, de tous les prophettes

le plus sainct et le plus begnin,

vous venés a piteuse fin,

veue vostre vie vertüeuse

quant vostre croix dure et honteuse

pour vostre mort fault que je porte.

se c'est a tort, je m'en rapporte

a ceulx qui vous ont forjugé.

Ici charge la croix a Simon.

Nembroth. Messeigneurs, il est bien chargé;

cheminons, depeschons la voie.

Salmanazar. j'ai grant désir que je le voie

fiché en ce hault tabernacle,

a sçavoir s'il fera miracle,

quant il sera cloué dessus.

Jéroboam. seigneurs, hastés moi ce Jesus

et ces deux larrons aux coustés.

s'ilz ne vuellent, si les battez

si bien qu'il n'y ait que redire.

Claquedent. a cela ne tiendra pas, sire.

nos en ferons nostre povoir.

Ici porte Simon une partie de la croix et

Jesus l'autre et le battent les sergens.

Dieu le pere. Pitié doit tout cueur esmouvoir

en lamenter piteusement

le martyre et le gref tourment

que Jesus, mon chier filz, endure.

il porte détresse tant dure,

que, puis que le monde dura,

homme si dure n'endura,

laquelle ne peult plus durer

sans la mort honteuse endurer,

et n'aura son sainct corps duree

tant qu'il ait la mort enduree,

il appert, car plus va durant,

et plus est tourment endurant,

sans quelque confort qui l'alege.

si convient que la mort abrege

et de l'exécuter s'apreste,

pour satiffaire a la requeste

de dame Justice severe,

qui pour requeste ne prïere

ne veult rien de ses drois quitter.

Michel, allés donc conforter

en ceste amere passïon

mon filz, plain de dilectïon,

qui veult dure mort en gré predre

et va sa doulce chair estrandre

ou puissant arbre de la croix.

Sainct Michel. pere du ciel et roi des rois,

humblement a chere assimplie

sera parfaicte et acomplie

vostre voulenté juste et bonne.

Ici descendent les anges de paradis.

  *  *  *  *  *  *

Path. ce bergier ne peut nullement

respondre aux fais que l'on propose,

s'il n'a du conseil; et il n'ose

ou il ne scet en demander.

s'il vous plaisoit moy commander

que je fusse a luy, je y seroye.

Juge. avecques luy? je cuideroye

que ce fust trestoute froidure:

c'est peu d'acquest. Path. mais je vous jure

qu'aussi n'en veuil rien avoir:

pour dieu soit. or je voys sçavoir

au pauvret qu'il voudra me dire,

et s'il me sçaura point instruire

pour respondre aux fais de partie.

il auroit dure departie

de ce, qui ne le secourroit.

vien ça, mon amy. qui pourroit

trouver? entens. Berg. bee. Path. quel bee, dea!

par le sainct sang que dieu crëa,

es tu fol? dy moy ton affaire.

Berg. bee. Path. quel bee! oys tu tes brebis braire?

c'est pour ton prouffit; entens y.

Berg. bee. Path. et dy ouÿ ou nenny,

c'est bien faict. dy tousjours, feras?

Berg. bee. Path. plus haut, ou tu t'en trouveras

en grans depens, ou je m'en doubte.

Berg. bee. Path. or est plus fol cil qui boute

tel fol naturel en procés.

ha, sire, renvoyez l'en a ses

brebis; il est fol de nature.

Drapp. est il fol? sainct sauveur d'Esture!

il est plus saige que vous n'estes.

Path. envoyez le garder ses bestes,

sans jour que jamais ne retourne.

que maudit soit il qui adjourne

tels folz que ne fault adjourner.

Drapp. et l'en fera l'en retourner

avant que je puisse estre ouÿ?

Path. m'aist dieu, puis qu'il est foul, ouÿ.

pour quoy ne fera? Drapp. he dea, sire,

au moins laissez moy avant dire

et faire mes conclusïons.

ce ne sont pas abusïons

que je vous dy ne mocqueries.

Juge. ce sont toutes tribouilleries

que de plaider a folz ne a folles.

escoutez, a moins de parolles

la court n'en sera plus tenue.

Drapp. s'en iront ilz sans retenue

de plus revenir? Juge. et quoy doncques?

Path. revenir? vous ne veistes oncques

plus fol ne en faict ne en response:

et cil ne vault pas mieulx une once.

tous deux sont folz et sans cervelle:

par saincte Marie la belle,

eux deux n'en ont pas un quarat130.

120 These, as well as The Ten Virgins and many other pieces soon to be mentioned, are to be found in Monmerqué and Michel, Théâtre François au Moyen Age, Paris, 1874, last ed.; Adam, ed. Luzarches, 1854.

121 Vols. 1-6. Paris, 1876-1881.

122 Ed. G. Paris and G. Raynaud. Paris, 1878.

123 Ed. J. de Rothschild. Vols. i-iii. Paris, 1878-1881.

124 Mystère du Viel Testament, i. 259-272.

125 Miracles de la Vierge, ii. 1-54.

126 See Monmerqué and Michel, op. cit.

127 Ancien Théâtre Français, vols. 1-3. Paris, 1854.

128 Paris, n. d.

129 Ancien Théâtre Français, ii. 64-79.

130 A history of the mediaeval theatre has been undertaken by M. Petit de Julleville, of which two volumes, containing an excellent account of the Mysteries, have appeared (Paris, 1880). Information on other points is rather scattered, but it will be found well summarised in Aubertin, Histoire de la Langue et de la Littérature Française au Moyen Age (Paris, 1876-8), i. 372-570. A complete collection of farces, soties, etc. is hoped for from the Old French Text Society.


Last updated Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 22:29