Page:The Library, volume 5, series 3.djvu/15

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MIRACLE CYCLES. 3

light on the literary evolution of the cycles, and how a study of documents and records may eluci- date both. Neither time nor occasion will allow of anything like a detailed account of the origins of the medieval drama, but I must remind you as briefly as I can of the strange manner in which that drama sprang from a germ that lies, it has been said, even beyond the bounds of articulate speech, and was nourished in the bosom of that Church which had shown itself the bitterest enemy of every form of theatrical activity. In tracing rapidly the outline of this development I shall do little more than summarize certain chapters in Mr. Chambers' admirable work on the ' Mediaeval Stage,' and I shall not scruple at times to borrow his very words. 1 Literary students have long since recognized the theatrical possibilities in the offices of the Church. How essentially dramatic was the central mystery of the Mass itself must at all times have been apparent, and many other rituals were from an early date instinct with mimetic significance. The liturgical drama, however, whatever incidental influence such rites may have had upon its deve- lopment, took its rise at a different and unex- pected point. About the year 800, some two centuries after the choral portions of the Mass had been fixed in the Gregorian Antiphoner, a general tendency to

1 Chiefly chapters xviii and xix in the second volume ; but the following three chapters have also been freely used. I have Mr. Chambers' courteous permission for the extensive use I have made of his work, but I need hardly say that he is in no degree responsible for any shortcomings of my summary.