« AnteriorContinuar »
variance with the wishes of the people against the unanimous desires of a of Spain. The result, however, of the nation, and should be an additional in, war of the Spanish succession was the ducement, to us, in dealing with the triumph of the cause England had op- eastern question, to pay due regard to posed; notwithstanding which, none of the wishes of the people, especially of the dreadful consequences that had been the Christian population, of Turkey, anticipated ensued. This is a striking and not to attach too much importance illustration of the danger of acting to remote and improbable contingencies.
· THE AMMERGAU MYSTERY; OR SACRED DRAMA OF 1860.
· BY A SPECTATOR.
Most travellers who have passed during I. Ober-Ammergau is, as its name this summer through the neighbourhood implies, the uppermost of two villages, of Munich, or of Innsbruck, will have situated in the gau, or valley of the heard of the dramatic representation of Ammer, which, rising in the Bavarian the history of the Passion in the village highlands, falls through this valley of Ober-Ammergau, which, according to into the wide plains of Bavaria, and custom, occurred in this the tenth year joins the Isar not far from Munich. from the time of its last performance. Two or three peculiarities distinguish Several circumstances have, in all pro- it from the other villages of the same bability, attracted to it a larger number region. Standing at the head of its of our countrymen than has been the own valley, and therefore secluded from case on former occasions. Its last cele- the thoroughfare of Bavaria on the one bration, in 1850, has been described in side, it is separated on the other side the clever English novel of “Quits." from the great highroad to Innsbruck Its fame was widely spread by two Ox- by the steep pass of Ettal. Although ford travellers who witnessed it in that itself planted on level ground, it is still same year. It forms the subject of one a mountain village, and the one marked of the chapters in the “Art Student of feature of its situation is a high columnar Munich." There is reason, therefore, to rock, called “the Covel,” apparently believe that many Englishmen who will the origin of its ancient name, “Covehave frequented the spot in this year liaca.” At the head of the pass is the will not be unwilling to have briefly re- great monastery of Ettal, founded by called to their thoughts some of the im- the Emperor Lewis of Bavaria, which, pressions left on one who, like themselves, though dissolved at the beginning of was an eye-witness of this remarkable this century, exercised considerable inscene. These reflections shall be divided' fluence in giving to the secluded neighinto those suggested by the history of bouring village its peculiarly religious the spectacle, and those suggested by or ecclesiastical character. The inhabitthe spectacle itself.1
ants of the village have been long em
ployed on the carving and painting of 1 Three printed works have been used for wooden ornaments, toys, and sacred this description, over and above the personal
images, which, whilst it required from observation of the writer :1. The Songs of the Chorus, with the gene
them a degree of culture superior to ral Programme of the Drama, and a short that of mere peasants, also gave them a Preface.
2. “The Passion Play in Ober-Ammergau.” There was a short but complete account of By Ludwig Clarus. 2d Edition. Munich, the representation this year in the Guardian 1860.
Newspaper of July 25, 1860, which renders 3. A similar shorter work, by Devrient, unnecessary any further consecutive descrippublished at Leipsic in 1851.
familiarity with sacred subjectsbeyond what would be felt even amongst the religious peasantry of this part of Germany. Half the population are employed in these carvings. Half the houses are painted with these subjects.
In this spot, in consequence of a pestilence which devastated the surrounding villages, apparently in the train of a famine which followed on the ravages of the Thirty Years' War, a portion of the inhabitants made a vow, in 1633, that thenceforth they would represent every tenth year the Passion of Christ in a sacred play. Since that time the vow has been kept, with the slight variation that in 1680 the year was changed, so as to accord with the recurring decennial periods of the century.
Its date is important, as fixing its rise beyond the limit of the termination of the Middle Ages, with which, both in praise and blame, it is sometimes confounded. These religious mysteries, or dramatic representations of sacred subjects, existed, to a certain extent, before the Middle Ages began, as is proved by the tragedy of the Passion of Christ, by Gregory Nazianzen. They were in full force during the Middle Ages, in the form of “mysteries,” or “moralities." But, almost alone of the ancient representations of sacred subjects to the out ward senses, they survivd ethe Middle Ages and the shock of the Reformation. This very vow which gave birth to the drama at Ammergau was made, as we have seen, in the middle of the seventeenth century. Through the whole of that century, or even in the next, such spectacles were common in the South of Germany. They received, in Northern Germany, the sanction of Luther. “Such “spectacles,” he is reported to have said, “often do more good, and produce more “impression, than sermons.” The founder of the Lutheran Church in Sweden, Archbishop Peterson, encouraged them by precept and example.
The Lutheran Bishops of the Danish Church composed them down to the end of the seventeenth century. In Holland, a drama of this kind is ascribed to the pen of no less a person than Grotius. Even in England, where they were naturally checked by the double cause, first, of the vast outburst of the secular drama, and then of the rise of Puritanism, they were performed in the time of the first Stuarts; and Milton's first sketch of the “Paradise Lost," as is well known, was a sacred drama, of which the opening speech was Satan's address to the sun. There was a period when there seemed to be a greater likelihood of the retention of sacred plays in England, than of the retention of painted windows, or of surplices. Relics of these mysteries, of which the sacred meaning, however, has long past away, still linger in the rude plays through which, in some parts of England, the peasants represent the story of St. George, the Dragon, and Beelzebub.
The repugnance, therefore, which has, since the close of the seventeenth century, led to the gradual suppression of these dramatic spectacles, is not to be considered a special offspring of Protestantism, any more than their origin and continuance was a special offspring of the Church of Rome. The prejudice against them has arisen from far more general causes, which have affected, if not in equal degree, yet to a large extent, the public opinion of Roman Catholic as well as of Protestant countries. If in the Protestant nations the practice died out more easily, in Roman Catholic nations it was more directly and severely denounced by the hierarchy. In 1779 a general prohibition was issued by the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg, whose high authority in the country which was the chief seat of these performances gives to his decree a peculiar weight and interest. All the objections which most naturally occur to the most refined or the most Protestant mind find expression in the Archbishop's manifesto—"The mixture “ of sacred and profane"-" the ludi
i There is one other locality in Tyrol where the inhabitants are similarly employed- the Grödner Thal near Botzen.
“ crous and disagreeable effect of the preacher. He received them kindly, “ bad acting of the more serious actors, and through his permission a special “ or of the intentional buffooneries of exception was granted to the Ammergau “ others"_“the distraction of the minds Passion Play. “ of the lower orders from the more As a just equivalent for this per“ edifying modes of instruction by mission, the directors of the spectacle “ sermons, Church services, and revivals" undertook to remove from it all reason“–“ the temptations to intemperance able causes of offence; and it is to this " and debauchery, encouraged by the compromise between the ancient religious “ promiscuous assemblages of large feelings of the locality and the exi“ numbers of persons"_“ The scandal gencies of modern times that we owe “ brought on the Church and religion the present form of the drama. Three “ by the exposure of sacred subjects to persons are named as having contributed “ the criticism and ridicule of free to this result. Weiss, an ex-monk of " thinkers." All these and other like Ettal, and afterwards pastor of Ammerobjections stated by the greatest prelate gau, rewrote the dialogue and recast the of southern Germany were followed up, plot. To him are ascribed the 'strict in 1780—1790, by vigorous measures of adhesion to the Biblical narration, and repression on the part of the Bavarian the substitution of dramatic human government and police.
passions and motives, especially in the Amidst the general extinction of all case of Judas, for the ancient machinery other spectacles of this nature, that at of devils, and also the substitution of Ammergau still held its ground ; partly scenes or tableaux from the Old Testafrom the special nature of its origin, ment for the allegorical personages who more from the high character and cul- ' filled up the vacant spaces in the older ture of its inhabitants, arising out of representations. The music was comthe causes above specified. In 1810, posed by Dedler, the schoolmaster and however, the recent withdrawal of its organist. According to competent judges, natural protectors by the secularization though for the most part inadequate to of the Abbey of Ettal, and the increas the grandeur and elevation of the subing alienation of public opinion from ject, it is much beyond what could be any such religious exhibitions, induced expected from so humble a source. The the ecclesiastical and civil authorities at prologue was written by an ecclesiastical Munich to condemn its further cele- dignitary (Dom-Provost), apparently of bration, as “ being in its very idea a the rank of archdeacon or rural dean, gross indecorum.” Upon this a depu- Alliani, known as the Roman Catholic tation of peasants from Ammergau went translator of the Bible into German. to plead their cause in the capital. The It is evident from this account, that, ecclesiastics were deaf to their entreaties, as a relic of medieval antiquity, the and bade them go home, and learn the Ammergau representation has but a very history of the Passion not from the slight interest. It is on more general theatre, but from the sermons of their grounds-namely, of its being a serious, pastor in church. At this last gasp, the and perhaps the only serious existing Ammergau spectacle was saved from the attempt to reproduce in a dramatic form destruction to which the Church had the most sacred of all events—that the condemned it by the protection of a spectacle can challenge our sympathy latitudinarian king. The deputies pro- and attention. cured an interview with Max-Joseph, But before proceeding to enlarge on the monarch whose statue in the square these grounds, a few words must be at Munich, which bears his name, rests devoted to the form and conditions under on a pedestal characteristically distin- which the representation exists, and guis, ud by a bas-relief of the genius of which can alone render its continuance Humanity endeavouring to reconcile a justifiable or even practicable. Ronian Catholic prelate and a Lutheran I t is perhaps the strongest instance
that could be given of the impossibility of transferring an institution from its own sphere to another. There cannot be a doubt that the same representation in London, in Paris, in Munich, would, if not blasphemous in itself, lead to such blasphemous consequences as to render its suppression a matter of absolute necessity. But, in fact, it would not be the same representation. It would be something the very opposite of that which it is. All that is most peculiar in the present performance would die in any other situation. Its whole merit and character lies in the circumstance that it is a product of the locality, nearly as peculiar to it as the rocks and fruits of the natural soil.
The theatre almost tells its own story. Although somewhat more akin to ordinary dramatic representations than when the play was performed 2, actually in the churchyard, it still retains all that is essential to divide it from a common stage. It is a rustic edifice of rude planks and benches, erected on the out skirts of the village. The green meadow and the circle of hills form the background-its illumination is the light of the sun poured down through the long hours of the morning on the open stage. Its effects of light and shade are the natural changes of the advancing and declining day and of the passing clouds. The stage decorations and scenery, painted in the coarsest and simplest style, as well as the construction of the theatre and the dresses of the actors, are the work of the villagers. The colours of the dresses, the attitudes of the performers, are precisely the same as the paintings and sculptures along the waysides, and on the fronts of the houses in Ammergau and the surrounding country. The actors themselves, amounting nearly to 500, are all inhabitants of Ammergau, and exhaust a large part of the population of the village. How far they are led to look upon their calling as an actually religious service in what spirit they enter upon it-how far the parts are assigned according to the moral
characters of the performers--are questions to which, under any circumstances, an answer would be difficult, and on which, in fact, the statements are somewhat contradictory. The only inference which a stranger can draw is from the mode of performance, which will be best noticed as we proceed. The completely local and unprofessional nature of the transaction is further indicated by the want of any system for the reception of the influx of strangers. Nothing can exceed the friendliness and courtesy of the villagers in accommodating the guests, who seek shelter under their roof-but the accommodation itself is of so homely a kind as to be sure of repelling the common sight-seer or pleasure seeker. For a similar reason, appa: rently, there is no possibility of procuring either a printed text of the performance, or any detailed pictorial representation of the scenes. Lastly, the spectators are equally unlike those of whom an ordinary theatrical audience is composed... Although a few of the very highest classes are present, as for example, on one occasion this year, the Queen and Crown Prince of Bavaria, with their attendants and although the covered seats are mostly occupied either by travellers or persons above the rank of peasants, yet more than three-fourths of those present must be of the humbler grades of life, who have come on foot, or in waggons, from localities more or less remote, to witness what, it cannot be doubted, is to them (whatever it may be to their superiors in station) an edifying and instructive spectacle. From them is derived the general atmosphere of the theatre. There is no passionate display of emotionor devotion. But their demeanour is throughout grave and respectful. Only in one or two passages, where the grotesque is evidently intended to predominate, a smile or “sensation" of mirth may be observed to run down the long lines of fixed and attentive counte
2 It is said that great care is employed in the selection of the best characters for the chief actors; that they are consecrated to their work with prayer; and that a watch over their conduct is maintained by the Committee.
nances. Almost every one holds in his hand the brief summary of the drama, with the choral songs, which alone are to be purchased in print. Every part, even the most exciting, is received in dead silence; the more solemn or affecting parts, with a stillness that can be felt.
II. In such an assemblage of spectators there is a contagion of reverence, which, at least on the spot, disarms the critical or the religious objector. What is not profane to them, ought not to be profane to any one who for the moment casts his lot with them. If he has so far overcome his prejudices or his scruples as to come at all, there is nothing in the surrounding circumstances to revive or to aggravate them. He may fairly hope to receive from the spectacle before him without hindrance whatever instruction it is calculated to convey beyond the circle of those for whom it is specially intended.
(1.) The first impression which an educated man is likely to receive, is one which, as being most remote from the actual scope or intention of the spectacle, shall be mentioned at starting, the more so as it is suggested in the most forcible manner at the very beginning of the performance. In that vast audience of peasants, seated in the open air, to witness the dramatic exhibition of a sacred story, bound up with all their religious as well as local and national associations, and represented according to the traditional types most familiar to them, is the nearest approach which can now be seen to the ancient Athenian tragedy. Precisely such a union of rustic simplicity and high wrought feeling—of the religious with the dramatic element-of natural scenery with simple art-was exhibited in the Dionysian theatre, and, as far as we know, has been exhibited nowhere since, through all the numerous offspring of dramatic literature which have risen from that great original source. The very appearance of the proscenium is analogous. Instead of the palace of Mycenæ, or the city of Thebes, before
which the whole action of a Greek tragedy was evolved, is the palace of Pilate and of Annas, and the streets of Jerusalem, remaining unchanged through the successive scenes. And the spec. tacle is opened by a sight, which, if not directly copied from the one institution peculiar to the Greek drama, is so nearly parallel, as to convey an exact image of what the ancient chorus must have been. From the opposite sides of the stage advance two lines of solemn figures, ascending from childhood up to full grown age, who range themselves, eight on each hand, at the sides of a Coryphæus, who in a loud chant announces to the audience the plan of the scene which is to follow, and then, in conjunction with his companions, sings, an ode precisely similar to those of the Athenian chorus, evoking the religious feeling of the spectators, recalling to their minds any corresponding events in the ancient Jewish history, and then moralising on the joint effect of the whole. It would be interesting to know how far this element of the sacred drama is a conscious imitation of the Grecian chorus, or how far it is the spontaneous result of parallel circumstances. That it is, in essential points, of indigenous growth, may be inferred from the fact that its part was in earlier times performed by a personage called “the Genius of the Passion.” And such a personage appears in other religious solemnities.of Southern Germany. In a quaint picture preserved at Landek (in the Tyrol) of the jubilee of the consecration of the village church, the “Genius," draped in a gay court costume, marches at the head of the procession of sacred banners and images which passes through the town and neighbourhood.
(2.) In one respect, this chorus of guardian spirits is less directly connected with the religious element of the drama, than was the case with their Pagan prototypes, who actually performed their evolutions round the altar erected in front of the stage. But this difference is compensated by the uniformly sustained elevation of their choral odes, and the stately stillness with which they