Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 10.djvu/616

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MORALITIES


558


MORALITIES


yt't that dors not scoiii to have been oontcmiiorary opinion, for the multitude of extant iirinted editions of Moralities is stated by Mantzius to exceed by far that of the Miracles and farces. Mr. Pollard is, more- over, of the opinion that in its earlier days the Moral- ity was not wholly unworthy to be ranked witli the ^Ii^acle Play. It is, of eour.se, clear that the siibslilu- tion in the moralities of abstract ideas (Love, Friend- ship, etc.) in place of the human personalities of the Bible or legentlarv narrative, would tend to produce a less real effect if acted carelessly, or if the audience did not thoroughly comprehend, or was out of sym- pathy with, the meaning of the play (and this is practically the position of the modern reader, espe- cially if non-Catholic). But the abstract ideas, after all, were represented as human beings (though typical human beings) on the stage, and if we put ourselves even slightly into the Catholic, religious, and moral atmosphere of the medieval audience (to which the ethical bearing of the play was not naturally dull but vivid, because of the tremendous human issues it was concerned witli), we should be able to understand why the Moralities were jiopular not only in the Middle Ages but on into the time of the Renaissance. Besides this, in many Moralities the characters were not all abstract qualities — there were angels and devils, priests, doctors, and, especially in English plays, the fool, under various names, chiefly that of the "Vice". The versification of the Moralities wa-s, too, on the whole, more varied than that of the Miracle Plays. One of the latest and most thorough of English writers upon this stage of the drama points out that four main plots can be distinguished in the earlier Moralities, sometimes occurring alone and sometimes in combina- tion: the Debate of the Heavenly Graces; the Com- ing of Death; the Conflict of Vices and Virtues; and the Debate of the Soul and the Body.

In England, however, we have not extant examples of all the four, though the Morahty Play is well rcpri'- sented in our literature. The earliest English Moral- ity of which we hear is a play of the "Lord's Prayer" of the latter half of the fourteenth eentury "in which all manner of vices and sins were held up to scorn and the virtues held up to praise". Thisplay islost, but it must have been much thought of, for a Guild was formed in York (where it was played) with the special object of maintaining it. Also lost is another early and highly interesting Morality of the "Creed . The earliest complete Moral play extant, leaving out the still earlier fragment of the "Pride of Life" (ed. Waterhouse, see below), is the "Castell of Perseve- rance", 3650 lines long, and written perhaps in the early fifteenth century. This "traces (to quote Mr. Pollard's skilful summary) the spiritual history of Humanum Genus [Mankind or the typical man] from the day of his birth to his appearance at the Judgment Seat of God, personifying the foes by whom his path- way is beset, the Guarciian Angel by whose help he resists them, and the ordinances of Confession and Penance by which he is strengthened in his conflict". Dramatic power is shown in this Morality; the plot forms a unity, and is developed in logical sequence. It must have been a thrilhng moment for the audience when Hunmnum Genus after hearing the persuasive arguments of his Good and his Bad Angels, hesitates which to follow:—

"Whom to folowe, wetyn I ne may;

I stonde in stodye, and gj-nne to rave:

I wolde be ryche in gret aray,

And fayn I wolde ray sowle save .•\s wynde in water I wave.

Thou (to Had Angel) woldyst to the world I me toke;

And he wold that I it for.soke.

Now .so God me hcli)e, and the holy boke I not (knoui not) wyche I may have." Other early Moralities approaching the same type are


"Mind, Will, and Understanding"; "Mankind" (these, with the "Castell of Perseverance", included in one MS. and named in modern times after a former owner, the " Macro Morahties", ed. Pollard and Furni- vall, see below); "Everyman" (London, 1<)()2), a translation from a Dutch original; the "\\orld and the Child" {Mundus el Infans; ed. Manly, see below). All the above plays are lengthy and belong almost certainly to the fifteenth century. About the same date we may place two plays which though not pure Moralities are yet much influenced by the Moralities, "St. Mary Magdalene" (ed. Furni- vall, see below), and what is known as the Croxton Play of the "Sacrament" (ed. Waterhouse, see below).

About the end of the fifteenth century a new kind of Morality play appeared. In the earlier Moralities of which we have been speaking, time was not an object, nor was there need to limit the number of actors, but little by little, as performances began to take place indoors, in the hall of a king or a noble, and as they passed into the hands of professional actors, compression began to be necessary both in time and in the number of personages introduced. The aim of the play, also, became gradually more secular. The result was a modified and .shortened Morality known as an Interlude. The meaning of this term is not yet clearly defined. Its primary meaning according to Mr. Chambers is that of a jjfay in dia- logue between two or more performers, but its secon- dary meaning, that of a dramatic diversion in the pause or interlude between the parts of a banquet or other entertainment, which has been generally given to it, may still stand. The nature of the Moral Inter- lude and its close connexion with the eailicr Moral- ity proper is, however, clear. It deals with portions only of a man's life; and the ethical teaching, in some Interludes, is mainly limited to warnings against cer- tain sias (especially those of youth) and in others to exhortations to learning and study. "Hick Scomer" (ed. i\Ianly, see below ) and the Interlude of the " Four Elements" (Hazlitt, " Dodslcy's Old Plays", London, 1874) are early examples. This type of play was often u.sed as a means of asserting Protestantism against Catholicism. Among the writers of this later type of Morality we find John Skelton in his " Magnyfycence" (ed. Ramsay, see below), and John Heywood, the dramatist, who was especially noted for his Interludes, some of which, however, are more like plays proper having a satirical rather than a definite moral aim, and leading to another development of the drama. Some of the Interludes are livel.y enough, but in others there appears something of the dramatic lifelessness which has been, perhaps rashly, attributed to Morali- ties in general. When we find an Interlude on the subject of Love, in which the characters are named "Loving not Loved", "Loved not Loving", "Both Loving and Loved", "Neither Loved nor Loving", it is plain that this type of work is reaching its end, or if it is to continue must take on a more living character. John Heywood's work, however, on the whole, brings us, in Interludes such as "The Four P's" and "The Pardner and the Frere" (both plays to be found in Hazlitt's "Dodsley"), to the threshold of real drama. Allegory has passed away, together with the recog- nized Moral plot, and the characters are drawn from contemporary life. This "transformed morality takes its place as one of the threads which went to make up the wondrous web of the Elizabethan drama".

Chambers, TheMedioetal Stage (Oxford, 1903) ; Pollahd, Eng- lish Miracle Plays (Oxford, 1909) ; Ramsay. Preface to Skdton's Magnyfycence in Early Eng. Text. Socy. Publications (London, 1906) ; Pollard and Fubnivall. Preface to Macro Plays in Early Eng. Text Socy. Publications (London, 1904) ; Waterhouse. Pref- ace to Non-Cycle Mystery Plays in Early Eng. Text Socy. Publica- tions (London. 1909); Fdknivall, Preface to Digby Mysteries in Early Eng. Text Socy. Publications (London, 1882); Ten-Brink, English Literature, II (London. 189.3); Ward, English Dramatic Literature, I (London, 1899); Cocrthope. History of Eng. Poetry, I (London, 189.5); Fcrnivall and Munro, Shakspere: Life and Work, Cb. xii (London, 1908) ; Mantzius, Uiatory of Theatrical