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TABLE VII. —AGE OF THE RENAISSANCE, 1485-1557
1474 – 1533. Ariosto. 1. SIR THOMAS MORE, 1485-1509. HENRY VII. Rise of Romantic 1485-1535.
Rebel Epic. Utopia, 1516; trans lion.
1475-1564. Michel Anlation, 1551.
1499. Colet and Eras gelo. Richard III., 1557.
mus at Oxford.
1477–1576. Titian. 2. ROGER ASCHAM, 1505. Colet Dean of 1478-1511. Giorgione. 1515-1586.
1483-1520. Raphael. Toxophilus, 1544. 1509–1547. HENRY VIII. 1490–1547. Vittoria CoThe Schole master, 1513. Battle of Spiers lonna. Rise of Lyric 1570.
and of Flodden. Poetry. 3. WILLIAM TYNDALE, 1513. Wolsey becomes 1492. Columbus. 1484-1536.
Prime Minister. 1497. Cabot discovers Translation of New
1521. Quarrel of Luther North America. Testament, 1525. with Henry VIII. 1498. Da Gama rounds The Practice of Prel
1526. Henry resolves Africa.
1498. Savonarola 4. HUGH LATIMER, 1529. Fall of Wolsey. burned. 1491-1555.
1531. King acknowl-1500. The theory of
1535. Execution of Peter's.
1516. Erasmus' Greek 1. SIR THOMAS WYATT,
1539. Suppression of Testament. 1503-1542.
greater Abbeys. 1517. Luther's XCV. Songs and Sonnets.
1547. Execution of Sur Theses. 2. HENRY HOWARD,
rey. EARL OF SURREY,
1520. Cortez conquers 1547-1553. EDWARD VI. Mexico. 1517-1547.
1547. Battle of Pinkie 1523. Luther's New Translation of the
1548. Book of Common 1524. Birth of Ronsard.
1547. Cervantes born. Songs and Sonnets.
1553-1558. MARY. 1549. Tasso born. 3. OTHER COURTLY
1554. Mary marries 1553. Death of RaMAKERS:
Philip of Spain. George Gascoigne,
1555. Persecution of 1525-1577.
Protestants begins. Thomas Sackville,
1556. Burning of 1536–1608.
Cranmer. Nicholas Grimald,
1558. Loss of Calais. 1519–1562.
THE EVOLUTION OF THE DRAMA
Authorities. The most serviceable and accessible authorities for the general student are Manly, Specimens of the Pre-Shakespearian Drama ; Pollard, English Mir. acle Plays; Symonds, Shakespeare's Predecessors, and Morley, English Writers. One who wishes to pursue the subject further can consult Ward, History of English Dramatic Literature; Fleay, Chronicle History of the London Stage, and Biographical Chronicle of the English Drama; Ulrici, Shakespeare's Dramatic Art, and Collier, History of English Dramatic Poetry, all scholarly and exhaustive works. For a complete bibliography, see Stoddard, References for Students of Miracle Plays and Mysteries, University of California, Bulletin No. 8, and A Brief Bibliography of the English Drama before Elizabeth, University of Chicago Publications.
The history of the English drama is a story of " backsliding.” The Miracle play had sprung from the most sacred rites of the Church; its earliest mission had been to instruct, to inspire, to make holy. It had wandered at length from its early surroundings even into the streets, and little by little its earnestness, its piety and holiness, had faded into mere morality. The clergy forsook it; it passed into the fellowship of laymen and of laborers. Gradually it became more and more worldly; it threw off the last vestige of its religious life, until the simple artisans turned away and left it the companion of wild roisterers and professional mountebanks, whose only
Their Epic Nature
object was to amuse, to fill with forgetfulness an idle hour. And this might have been the end had not the new learning rescued it and turned it into wider channels.
1. The Moralities. It is impossible to fix a date even approximating the time when the Miracle play began to shade into the Morality; when abstractions, mere personifications of good and evil qualities, began to displace the old Bible characters. The Castle of Perseverence, the earliest Morality play that has come down to us, belongs to the reign of Henry VI.; but it is certain that Moralities were acted much earlier. The change was a gradual one. The Miracle play, as Ulrici declares, was epic in its character.
The action is still a purely external occurrence, the reasons and motives of which lie beyond the stage, nay, generally beyond this earthly life; no action is derived from the life and character of the dramatic personages, of results from previous conditions and relations ; every character appears unexpectedly and unprepared, like an accidental occurrence in nature ; every action appears but as the special incident of the plan designed by God in Bible history, and consequently, as in the epos, depends more or less upon the invisible threads with which the Divine Power directs the lives of mor. tals; in short, the action takes place more for men than through men. The latter are merely tools in the hand of God, or the vessels which have to receive the Divine will, and to carry out the Divine act; the whole story passes by them, like a mere occurrence, their personal participation consists only in the feeling, sympathy, and receptive activity of their minds; the individuality, the freedom of the will, the character of the persons represented, do not come the least into the play.---Shakespeare's Dramatic Art.
It was impossible for the drama to remain long on this level and retain its hold on the people. From the very first secular elements began to steal in. Noah's wife with her gossiping circle, and the shepherds of the Nativity, who are but rude English peasants, were a wide
Gradual Introduction of Secular Elements
Abundance of Action
departure from the biblical and spiritual world. It was this human addition alone that kept the Miracle plays alive after their first spiritual glow had passed. The element was constantly increased. Pharaoh and Pilate became in time mere ranting clowns; Herod was permitted even to leave the stage and rage in the street, and the actor who could " out-Herod Herod,” in Shakespeare's phrase, pleased best the common people. To reconcile this secular element with the traditional religious basis of the plays, allegory was gradually introduced, and at length the Morality play pure and simple was evolved. Its creation marks an epoch in the history of the drama. “It is the transition of the drama from heaven to earth, from the next world of the religious conception to the present one of the moral action, from the ideal to the real."
As a whole, the Moralities are dry indeed. Few readers have the will power to force themselves far into the dusty mass. The plays have almost no literary merit, but they are full of possibilities for action. The action is everything; without it the play is a lifeless heap. In each there is a clown, who is some element of perverseness,–Vice, Sin, Fraud, Iniquity,—and his fun consists almost wholly in blows, quarrelings, and impish tricks. At every opportunity he belabors the devil, who roars lustily and at length carries him off on his back to the flames.
In the Moralities we pass the border-line between known and unknown authorship. The early drama was anonymous; the Miracle plays seem to have sprung up as spontaneously as Beowulf; we can only guess at their origin; a few of the later Moralities however are by known
Everyman, and Hyke Scorner
" He comes
writers. One of the earliest figures on this vague frontier is the poet Skelton, who is known to have produced four Morality plays, one of which, Magnificence, has survived. Its plot illustrates fully the methods employed by this whole class of plays. Magnificence, the title character, while in perplexity, takes as counsellors a motley crowd of seeming friends: Fancy, Counterfeit-countenance, Cloaked-collusion, Crafty-conveyance, and others, and following their advice is brought to ruin. under the blows of Adversity,” says Pollard, " is visited by Poverty, Despair, and Mischief. Only the entrance of Good Hope saves him from suicide, but by the aid of Redress, Sad Circumspection, and Perseverance he is eventually restored to his high estate. Even from this bare description it can easily be gathered how much of the interest depended on the players, upon their costumes and behavior.
From a literary standpoint, the best of the Moralities are doubtless Everyman, probably written late in the fifteenth century, and Hyke Scorner, which stands on the border-line between the Morality and the Interlude. REQUIRED READING. Description of the manner of acting The Castle of Perseverence, Pollard, p. 197; and Pollard's selection from Everyman. Consult Hamlet, III., ii., and Midsummer Night's Dream, I., ii., and V., i.
2. Heywood's Interludes. The Morality play allowed far more freedom to the dramatist than did the Miracle. It dealt with a broader range of subjects; it could draw its characters from the lives of saints and the legendary history of the Church, as well as from the whole field of abstract human qualities, and it offered far wider opportunities for action and for rough humor; but it was still