Tuesday 28 September 2021

Write a note on the emergence of medieval drama in England

 Write a note on the emergence of medieval drama in England.

Write a note on the emergence of medieval drama in England
Note on the emergence of medieval drama in England

Drama in England had its origin in religion it was the result of the efforts undertaken by the church in the middle Ages to makes the church services more attractive and to emphasize moral lessons by showing the reward of the good and punishment of the wrongdoer. The church services were conducted in Latin, for the part, the congregation remained ignorant. The clergy, therefore, tried to enact some episodes from the life of Christ along with certain other scenes from the bible particularly the new testament. These enactments were performed on certain religious occasions. Thus Christians witnessed the representation of the story of Christ’s nativity, Easter that of Resurrection, and the other seasons enacted some events proper to them.

The actors in the severely religious performances or tropes were all priests or monks. These plays were usually performed inside the church, but gradually to appease more people the Latin dialogue was replaced by English plays but at present, there are only four such cycles in existence. These are the Chester cycle, comprising of 25 Plays the Wakefield cycle 32 plays, the York cycle has 49 plays, And the N-town cycle has 42 plays. By the middle of the 15th century, English Drama gradually began to substitute moral teaching for pure religious instruction. This new drama called morality was the second phase in the evolution of English theatre. The morality apparently evolved side by side with the Mystery although they were composed individually not in cycles. The moralities also had a religious purpose but their method of attaining it was more different. Thy mysteries tried to make the Christian religion more real to the unlearned by dramatizing significant events in Biblical history and by showing what these signified in terms of human experience. The moralities on the other hand employed allegory to dramatize the moral struggle that Christianity believed to be present in every individual. The character in the moralities underwent a drastic change, they were no longer Biblical figures but the personification of vices and virtues. The actors are every man and the qualities within him whether good or bad qualities as they push or pull him one way or the other the best known of the moralities is the everyman and another play belonging to the early part of the same century is the castle of perseverance. Apart from these, some of the well-known moralities are the pride of life and Hycks corner. In the castle of perseverance, man is represented as being shut up in a castle protected by virtues and besieged by vices, One of the most interesting features that were introduced in morality was the lovely personage called the vice. His business was to torment the virtuous and this character became so popular that the playwright began to experiment with it and he later became the model for a Shakespearean clown.

By the close of the 15th century, another type of play became popular. It was called the interlude. It probably meant a short play given in the middle of banquets of entertainments when a little fund was needed the Interlude may be considered a transitional form between morality and the Elizabethan drama. These plays were generally in the nature of either introduction or controversy. Most of this early Interlude was written with a mixture of prose and inferior verse. These plays usually discussed the contemporary topic or matters of general interest.

The chief developers of the Interludes were John Heywood and John Rastell who recognized that a play can also be justified by its ability to amuse. Heywoods Interludes were produced in the 1520s and 1530s, the most famous being the four P'S ( The Palmer, The Pardoner, Potycary, and The Pedler). Their characters are shown to be engaged in a sort of lying contest and it is presented against a Satire against a woman. Among other plays of the Heywood are - The Mery play between  Johan Johan, The Husbande, Tyb, his wyf, and Syr Johan, the Priest. John Rastell's interlude includes the nature of the Four Elements, the field of the cloth of gold, and gentleness and nobility. 

In the next phase of the development of English drama, the influence of classical literature was felt and as such by the 16th century a new type of drama evolved. This was the artistic period and in this phase, drama became radically different from its previous two stages. It now concentrates on representing human life as it is. It is during this phase that the first English comedy Ralph Roaster Doaster was written by Nicholas Udall. This was a true play with a regular plot divided into acts and scenes. The play was probably performed before 1556 and was soon followed by Gammer Gurton's Needle(1562) a domestic comedy that represented the life of the peasant class. In the same year, Thomas Sackville and Thomas Morton wrote the first English tragedy Gorboduc which was also the first play to be written in Black verse. Soon with the arrival of the Renaissance, English drama acquired classical elements and learnt the rules of constructing proper tragedy and comedy in the classical mould. In this way, English drama evolved from the simple religious representation to complex performance in the 16th century and waited to be perfected by the university wits and later, Shakespeare

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