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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