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History of English literature


Sub: development of English drama from Middle time to Elizabethan time

Course code: ENGL-104 Submitted to: Shampa iftekher Lecturer of English department Stamford university Bangladesh Submitted by: Shahadat hossain ID. No. ENG-04406267 Bachelor of art in English (honors) Stamford university Bangladesh Date of submission 10, march, 2011.

Development of English drama from Middle time to Elizabethan time.


The allegorical morality play, a type of nonliturgical vernacular religious drama, was one of the forerunners to the development of English drama. English drama developed out of early non liturgical vernacular religious dramas, which had themselves probably developed out of the liturgical drama of the medieval church. Though secularized, these early dramatic forms" "the mystery, miracle, and morality plays" "still focused on the religious and moral themes that dominated the Christian imagination during the Middle Ages. The mystery plays dramatized sacred history, representing events from Creation to Judgment Day. Miracle plays presented the lives and miracles of the saints, or episodes of divine intervention in human affairs, often through the agency of the Virgin Mary. Unlike the perspective of the mystery and miracle plays, that of the morality play was individual rather than collective. The morality play (usually called simply a "morality") presented religious and ethical concerns from the point of view of the individual Christian, whose main concern was to effect the salvation of his soul. The mystery and miracle plays developed first, around 1100 a.d. Late in the fourteenth century, morality plays on such subjects as the seven deadly sins became popular in France, England and the Netherlands. In the first decades of the fifteenth century, secular allegorical plays concerning the conflict between good and evil in the individual soul began to be performed in France by law clerks and students, and this type of play soon became popular all over Europe, including England. A morality play is essentially an allegory in dramatic form. It shares the key features of allegorical prose and verse narratives: it is intended to be understood on two or more levels, its main purpose is didactic, and the characters are personified abstractions with aptronyms ("label names"). The nondramatic didactic and allegorical precursors to the morality play are to be found in medieval sermon literature, homilies, exempla, fables, parables, and other works of moral or spiritual edification, as well as in the popular romances of medieval Europe. Another dramatic form that has much in common with the morality play is the interlude, particularly that subset of interludes called "moral interludes." There is no clear dividing line between the moral interlude and the morality play, and in fact many works are classified under both headings: "The Pride of Life (c. 1300), "The Castell of Perseverance" (c. 1400), "Wisdom" (c. 1460), "Mankind" (c. 1465), "Hyckescorner" (1512), "Lusty Juventus" (1550), and "Like Will to Like" (1568). Moral interludes were usually about 1000 lines long and written in rough verse""often mere doggerel. Interludes generally, including moral interludes, were often written to be performed as entertainments at court, in the houses of nobility, at University colleges, and at the Inns of Court.

Typically, the morality play is a psychomachia, an externalized dramatization of a psychological and spiritual conflict: the battle between the forces of good and evil in the human soul. This interior struggle involves the Christian's attempt to achieve salvation, despite the obstacles and temptations that he encounters as he travels through life, toward death. Originally, because of their roots in religious drama and their didactic purpose, moralities were serious in tone and style, but the increasing secularization of the plays led to the incorporation of elements derived from popular farce, a process encouraged by the presentation of the Devil and his servant the Vice as boisterous mischief-makers. These characters soon became figures of amusement rather than of moral edification. Even more disturbing for the Church was the way that actors would improvise humorous""and often ribald""scenes to increase the crowd's hilarity. By about 1500 the Church no longer officially approved of the mystery and miracle plays or the morality plays, and in England they were suppressed after the Reformation in the sixteenth century, though they continued to be performed well into the seventeenth century in the Catholic countries of Europe. In England the moralities dramatized the progress of the Christian's life from innocence to sin, and from sin to repentance and salvation. Among the most widely known of the fifteenth-century moralities are "The Castell of Perseverance," which features a battle between Virtues and Vices; "Mankind," which incorporates topical farce; and perhaps the most famous of all the English morality plays, "Everyman" (c. 1495), which concerns the Christian's experience of mortality and Judgment. The main characters in "Everyman" are God, a Messenger, Death, Everyman, Fellowship, Kindred, Cousin, Goods, Knowledge, Beauty, Strength, and Good Deeds. Everyman is immersed in worldly pleasures when Death summons unexpectedly him. He soon finds that none of his supposedly loyal companions (Fellowship, Kindred, Cousin) will go with him. His treasured Goods also desert him, and at the grave the qualities of the flesh (Beauty, Strength) also fade away. Only Good Deeds stays with him to help him get into Paradise, which is accomplished with the help and guidance of Knowledge, by means of Confession and Priesthood. In other moralities, various manifestations of the forces of Evil (the Seven Deadly Sins, the World, the Flesh, the Devil, Vice) are arrayed against the Christian, who turns for help to the forces of Good (God, His angels, Virtue). The quality of writing in the moralities is uneven, and in many cases the author is unknown. Characterization is also crude and nave, and there is little attempt to portray psychological depth. But over time, the moralities began to show signs of increasingly sophisticated analysis of character. This increasing subtlety and depth of characterization point directly to the development of mainstream Elizabethan and Jacobean drama. Thomas Sackville and Thomas Norton's play "Gorboduc," the first of the Elizabethan tragedies, is a kind of political morality play on the proper government of a kingdom. And at least one of drama's most memorable characters, Shakespeare's Falstaff, is a direct descendant of the

medieval Vice. Falstaff functions as a Vice not only in his character, but also in the way he tempts Prince Hal in "Henry IV" (Parts I and II) to neglect his duties as heir apparent to the English throne in order to pursue a life of drunkenness, wantonness, and crime. When Hal becomes king, he must repudiate Falstaff altogether, just as the Christian must repudiate Vice in the medieval morality play. By the sixteenth century, morality plays were addressing not only religious themes, but also social and political analysis and satire. For example, "Magnificence: (1516) satirizes extravagance, and "Satyre of the Three Estaitis" (1540) is a political morality play. From about the mid-sixteenth century, under increasing pressure from religious authorities, the popularity of the moralities began to wane, but they continued to be a major influence on mainstream drama. Besides Sackville and Norton's "Gorboduc," Nathaniel Wood's "The Conflict of Conscience" (1568) and Christopher Marlowe's "The Tragical History Of Dr. Faustus" (1588) also owe much to the morality play, and even as late as 1625, Ben Jonson's "The Staple of News" showed the influence of the moralities, especially in Lady Pecunia, an allegorical character representing Riches. The allegorical use of aptronyms for characters in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century comedies, and also in novels and short stories all through he nineteenth and twentieth centuries, suggests the ongoing significance of the tradition established by the morality play.