Volltext: A history of caricature and grotesque in literature and art

and Art. 
fhepherds, while [till wrangling with Mak and his wife, are feized with 
drowiinefs, and lie down to fleep; but they are aroufed by the voice of 
the angel, who proclaims the birth of the Saviour. The next play in 
which the drollery is introduced, is that of " Herod and the Slaughter of 
the Innocents." Herod's bluiter and bombatt, and the vulgar abufe 
which patles between the Hebrew mothers and the foldiers who are 
murdering their children, are wonderfully laughable. The plays which 
represented the arreft, trial, and execution of J efus, are all full of drollery, 
for the grotefque character which had been given to the demons in the 
earlier middle ages, appears to have been transferred to the executioners, 
or, as they were called, the " tormentors," and the language and manner 
in which they executed their duties, mutt have kept the audience in a 
continual roar of laughter. In the play of "Doomfday," the fiends 
retained their old character, and the manner in which they joke over the 
diftrefs of the finful fouls, and the details they give of their finfulnefs, are 
equally mirth-provoking. The "Coventry Myfteries" are alfo printed 
from a manufcript of the middle of the fifteenth century, and are, 
perhaps, as old as the " Towneley Myfteries." They contift of forty-two 
plays, but they contain, on the Whole, fewer droll fcenes than thofe of 
the Towneley collection. But a very remarkable example is furnifhed in 
the play of the "Trial of Jofeph and Mary," which is a very grotefque 
picture of the proceedings in a mediaeval confittory court. The fompnour, 
a character fo well known by Chaucer's picture of him, opens the piece 
by reading from his book a long lift of offenders againtt chatlity. At its 
concluiion, two " detractors " make their appearance, who repeat various 
fcandalous ltories againtt the Virgin Mary and her huiband Jofeph, which 
are overheard by fome of the high oiiicers of the court, and Mary and 
Jofeph are formally accufed and placed upon their trial. The trial itfelf 
is a fcene of low ribaldry, which can only have afforded amufement to a 
very vulgar audience. There is a certain amount of the fame kind of 
indelicate drollery in the play of " The Woman taken in Adultery," in 
this collection. The " Cheiier Mytteries " are tiill more fparing of fuch 
fcenes, but they are printed from manufcripts written after the Reforma- 
tion, which had, perhaps, gone through the procefs of expurgation, in 


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