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Outlines of English and American Literature
Moralities and Interludes
by Long, William J.

Two dramatic types, the Morality and the Interlude, probably grew out of the religious drama. In one of the old Miracles we find two characters named Truth and Righteousness, who are severe in their denunciation of Adam, while Mercy and Peace plead for his life. Other virtues appear in other Miracles, then Death and the Seven Deadly Sins, until we have a play in which all the characters are personified virtues or vices. Such a play was called a Morality, and it aimed to teach right conduct, as the Miracles had at first aimed to teach right doctrine.


The Interlude was at first a crude sketch, a kind of ancient side show, introduced into the Miracle plays after the latter had been taken up by the guilds. A boy with a trained pig, a quarrel between husband and wife,--any farce was welcome so long as it amused the crowd or enlivened the Miracle. In time, however, the writing of Interludes became a profession; they improved rapidly in character, were separated from the Miracles, and were performed at entertainments or "revels" by trade guilds, by choir boys and by companies of strolling actors or "minstrels." At the close of such entertainments the minstrels would add a prayer for the king (an inheritance from the religious drama), and this impressive English custom still survives in the singing of "God Save the King" at the end of a public assembly.


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