Histrio-Mastrix


I first bumped into this in that wonderful '70's folk-rock recording, The Compleat Dance Master, where an excerpt out of Histrio-Mastix was read as a fire and brimstone sermon damning dance and dancers.  Basically, the author, Prynne, was batshit-nuts about the ungodly heresy of acting and dancing and having fun of any sort whatsoever.

A while back I managed to get a  Xerox copy of the original Histrio Mastix on interlibrary loan.  It was in blotchy handcut type from 1633 with swoopy f's in place of s's, i's in place of j's, etc....it is hard to read on my copy at times, and when I'm uncertain of the text, I've put in [ guess or ?].  I have tried to do a bit of formatting to give a feel of the original handset page.  There are a lot of archaic words (check the Oxford English Dictionary) and variant spelling...but I think I've got everything just as it was in the original.

For further delight, some of the text is hyper-linked to an image of the original page!  Just click on the text and see the original in all its batty glory.

The book is incredible and bizarre...makes all our current rightwing religious fruitcakes look like libertine wall flowers and goes on for hundreds of pages (each one of which is 1/8 footnotes and references, half or more being in Latin) railing against fun of any sort....although the main thrust is against plays and dramas.

My personal comments appear in the text in                                  <between greater and less than signs>
< like this >


The title page:
 Histrio-Mastix
The
Players Scourge
of
Actors Tragedie

Divided into Two Parts
Wherein it is largely evidenced, by divers
Arguments, by concurring Authorities and Reso-
lution of sundry texts of Scripture; of the whole Primi-
tive Church, both under the Law and Gospell; of 55 Synods and
Councels; of 71 Fathers and Christian Writers before the yeare

of Our Lord 1200; of above 150 foraigne and domestique Protestant
and Popish Authors, since; of 40 Heathen Philosophers, Hi-
storians, Poets; of many Heathen, many Christian Nations, Repu-
bliques,Emperors,Princes,Magistrates; of sundry Aposto-
licall, Canonicall, Imperial Constitutions; and of our own
English Statutes, Magistrates, Governesses,
Writers, Preachers                

   That popular Stage-playes (the very Pompes of the Divill
which we remounce in Baptisme
, if we beleeve the Fathers)
are sin-
ful, heathenish,lewde, ungodly Spectacles, and most pernicious Cor-
ruptions; condemned in all ages, as intolerableMischiefes to Churches,
to Republickes, to the mannes, mindes and soules of men.  And that the

Profession of Play-poets, of Stage players; together with the pening, acting and
frequenting of Stage-playes, are unlawful, infamous and misbeseeming Chri-
tians.
  All pretences to the contrary are here likewise fully answered; and
the unlawfullness of acting, of beholding Acadmical Enterludes,
breifly discussed; besides sundry other particulars con-
cerning Dancing, Dicing, Health-Drinking, etc. of
which theTable will informe you.


By William Prynne, an Utter-Barrester of Lincolnes Inne.

< Notice the reference about to Dancing! >

< Onwards, skipping over some 200 + pages of rant to page 220 and: >

Actus 5. Scena Octava
The fourth thing considerable in the manner of acting
Stage-playes, is the adjuncts, the Cocomitants
which usually attend it, the first whereof, is, lascivious
mixt effeminate Dancing on the Stage, not men with
women onely, or rather
with Whores or persons more infa-
mous, (for such are all those females in Saint Chrisostomes
judgement, who dance publikely on a Theater;)
but e-
ven men with boyes in womens attire, representing
persons of lewde notorious Strumpets: whence I as-
sume this:

23:Argument against our publike Enter-
ludes.
Those Playes which are commonly attended and set
forth with lascivious, mixt, effeminate, amourous
dancing; either of men with men, or youthes in
womens apparell, are undoubtedly sinfull, yea ut-
terly unlawful unto Christians
But all our popular Stage-playes are commonly thus
attended and set forth.
Therefore the are undoubtedly sinfull, yet utterly
unlawful unto Christians
The Major is irrefragable, because all mixt effeminate,
lascivious, amourous dancing,
(esspecially with beautifull
women, or boyes most exquisitely adorned in an inescating wo-
manly, Dresse on the open Stage,
where are swarms of
lustfull Spectators, whose unchaste unruly lusts are apt
to be inflamed with every wanton gesture, smile or
pace,
much more with amourous dances;) is utterly un-
lawful unto Christians, to chaste and sober persons; as
 sundry Councels, Fathers, moderne Christian, with an-
cient Pagan Authors and Nations have resolved;
tho it bee now so much in use, in fashion an d re-
quest among us, that many spend more houres (more
dayes and nights) in dancing, than in praying, I might
adde working too.


< here follows 9 pages of footnotes, which I'll skip>
< resuming at page 231, wherein Prynne explains how dancing breaks>
<every one of the Ten Commandments....first, an overview>


Againe, in a dance a man breakes the ten
Commandments of God. At first, thou shalt have no other
gods but me, &c. For in dancing a man serves the person
whome he most desires to serve: and therefore saith S. Hierom.,
Every man's god is that he serves and loves best.  He sinnes
against the Second Commandment, when he makes an Idoll of
that he loves. Against the third in that oathes are frequent
among Dancers.  Against the fourth, for by dancing the
Sabbath day is prophaned.  Against the fifth, for in the dance,
the Parents are oft-times dishonored, when many bargaines
are made without their counsell. Against the sixt: A man
kils [kills] in dancing; for everyone that standeth to please another,
he kils the soules oft he persuadeth into lust.  Against the
seventh, for the party that danceth, be he male or female,
committeth adultery with the party they lust after.  For he
looketh on a woman, and lusteth after her, hath already
committed adultery in his heart.  Against the eight Comman-
dment, a man sinnes in danceing when he withdraweth the
heart of another from God.  Against the ninth, when in dancing,
he speakes falsely against the truth.  Against the tenth, when
women affect the ornaments of others, and men covet the wives,
daughters, and servants of their neighbors.  Again, a man
may prove how great an evil dancing is, by the multitude of
[turnes ?] that accompany those that dance: for they dance with-
out measure or number.  And therefore saith
S. Augustine
,
the miserable Dancer knowes not, that as many paces as hee
makes dancing, so many leapes he makes to Hell.

<OK, let's go back to the First Commandment and examine>
<in detail how dancing violates it>

 They sinne
in their ornaments after a fivefold manner. First, in being

proud thereof. Secondly, by inflaming the hearts of those who
behold them.  Thirdly, when they make those ashamed that
have not the like ornaments giving them occasion to curse the
[lack?]. Fourthly, by making woman inportunate, in demanding
the like ornaments of their Husbands. And Fifthly, when they
cannot obtain them of their Husbands, they seeke to get them
elsewhere by sinne.  They sinne by singing and playing on instru-
ments, for their Songs bewitch the hearts of those that hear
them, with temporal delight; forgetting God and uttering nothing
within songs but lyes and vanitites.  And the very motion of
the body which is used in dancing, gives testimony enough of
evill.  Thus you see, that dancing is the Devill's procession, and
he that entreath into a dance, entreth into the Devils possession.
Of dancing, the Devill is the guide, the middle, the end, and
he that entreth a good and wise man into the dance, cometh
forth a wicked and corrupt man...

< another two pages of footnotes...we can only imagine>
< that Prynne must have stopped often to wipe the foam >
< off his lips...I'll dip back in here to get his rant on...>
<yes...gasp...Morrice-Dancing, on  page 234 >

Witnesse their Corybantes, Curetes, Salij, and such like dancing
Priests, who, on the solemn festivall dayes of Cybele, Bacchus,
Mars, and other Pagan deities, danced about the streets and
Marketplace with Cymbales in their hands, in nature of our
Morrice-Dancers, (
which were derived from them) the
whole multitude accompanying them in these their dancing
Morrices, with which they honoured these their Devill-Idols.
Yea, witnesse the common practice of most Idolatrous Pagans,
who never honoured, saluted, or offered any publicke sacrifice to
their Idols but with musicke, songs and dances; dancing about
their Temples and Altars, to their honour, as Virgil, Ovid,
Plato, Strabo, Zenophon, Horace, Juvenal, Cattulus

< Hey, show a little respect this is seriously learned fruitcakery!>
<...anyway...forging ahead, we learn...>

Dancing...as it is now used, is an ossasion of much wantonesse, lewdnesse
and [?], of much riot, epicurisme, effeminacy,vo-
luptuousnesse, of much prodigal expence, much losse of time,
much superfluity, costlinesse and new-fangleness in apparell,
much pride and haughtiness, much impudency and immodesty,
 especially in the female sex; whome dancing doth of all others
least beseems [?].  Besides, it with-drawes young Gentlemen from
their Studies to the Dancing-Schoole, which ingrosseth all their
time; it avocates young Gentlewomen from their Needles, and
such like honest imployments. and for the most part makes them
idle Huswives, Whores, or Spend-Thrifts even after.  It
drawes women, and trains them up to nought but idlenesse, the
nursery of all other vices: it glues [?] mens hearts to carnall plea-
sures and delights of sinne, and makes them careless of Gods
service, unmindfull of their owne salvation, or of the day of
death and judgement, which should be always fixed in their
most fervent meditations.  More-over, it quite unfits men
and oft with-draws them from the religious performance of
holy duties, many Lords-dayes, most other Holy-dayes. (set a-
part for Gods peculiar worship) being oft-times grosly propha-
ned, if not wholly spent on lewde, lacivious dancing, and such
Heathenish pastimes....

<oops, another 4 pages of closely argued, textually reinforced nuttery >
< but fear not...we are forging into the home stretch and now >
< taa dah! we are finally at the place wherein cometh what was >
< used in the Compleat Dancing Master for the period >
< fire and brimstone diatribe therein. >

Dancing therefore on the Lords-day(which no godly
Christians in the Primitve Church did once use for
ought we read,) is an unlawfull exercise, If our Homelies
or Canons may be judges; therefore an unlawfull pastime
punsihable by the statute of I. Carolt.cap.I. which inten-
ded to suppresse dancing on the Lords-day, as well as
Beare-bayting, Bull-bayting
, Enterludes and Common Playes;
which were not so rife, so common as dancing, when
this law was first enacted.  Finally, this dancing as the
Waldenses teac, doth lead men on othe breach of all the
ten Commandments,
and to sundry iievitable sinees and
mischiefes: In all these respects therefore, they con-
clude it to be evill, and unbeseeming Christians.
Seventhly, Dancing (as Peter Matyr, Vives, Agrippa,
Erasmus, Brant, Lovell, Northbrooks, Stubs, Gualther,
and
others in their fore-alleaged places testifie) is for the
most part attended with many amorous smiles, lascivious ge-
stures, wantom compliments, lustfull embracements, loose be-
haviour, unchaste kisses, meretricious scurrilous Songs and
Sonnets, effeminate musicke, lust-provoking attire, obsecen dis-
courses, ridiculous Love-prankes, lewde companions;
all which
are as so many severall strong solicitations to whoredome and
uncleanesse and savour onely of sensuality, of raging fleshly
lusts, which ware against the soule.
Therefore its wholly
to be abandoned of all good Christians. Eightly, this
Dancing serves so necessary use, no profitable, laudable, or
pious end at all; it neither glorifies God, not benefits men in

soule, in body, in estate or reputation: it issues only from the
inbred pravity, vanity, wantonesse, incontinency, pride, pro-
phanesse,
or madnesse of mens depraved nature; and it
serves only
to make provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts
thereof;
whereas all those are Christs have crucified
the flesh with the affections and lusts thereof: 
Therefore it
must needs be unlawfull unto Christians.  Ninthly, this
kinde of dancing, as it was never in use among the Pri-
mitive Christians,
whose footsteps we should tread in: for
it is quite out of the road of Christianity, and salvation.
Wee never reade of any Christians that went dancing
into Heaven; though we read of
sundry wicked ones
who have gone dancing donne to Hell. 
The way to Heaven
is too steepe, too narrow for men to dance in, and keep
revel rout:  No way is large or smooth enough for ca-
pering Roisters, for jumping, skipping, dancing Dames,
but that
broad beaten pleasant road that leades to Hell.  The
gate of Heave is to strait, the way to blisse to narrow, for
whole roundes, whole troopes of Dancers to march in
together: Man never went as yet by multitudes, much
lesse by Morrice-dancing troopes, to Heaven: Alas
there are
but few who finde that narrow way; they scarce
goe two together: and those few what are they?  Not
dancers, but
mourners: not laughers, but weepers;
whose tune is Lachryme, whose musicke, sighes for
sinne;
who know no other Cinqua-pace but this to Hea-
ven,
to goe mourning all the day long for their iniquities, to
mourne in secret like Doves, to chatter like Cranes for their
owne and other sinnes.   Fasting prayers, mourning teares, tri-
bulations, martyrdome were the onely rounds that led all the
Saints to Heaven;
no other dance but these sad tunes
will bring men to the place of endlesse joy.  These other
dance oft-times end in sinne, in hell, in horror, in Hea-
ven never....

<Well, we'll leave Prynne at this point with his bundle of joy>