The Morality Play: Ancestor of Elizabethan Drama?


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

At least since A. P. Rossiter's edition of Woodstock in 1946 and Tillyard's Shakespeare's History Plays in 1947, critics have become accustomed to suppose that the Elizabethan history play had its "roots'' in the medieval morality. Once that opinion was accepted as a settled fact, as it was by the time Rihner published The English History Play in the Age of Shakespeare, other scholars felt free to find morality roots for Elizabethan tragedy and comedy as well.1 Thus in one view or another, virtually every Renaissance play was thought to exhibit direct and important influence by the moralities. The notion has not diminished much, and today the standard view seems to be that expressed by David Bevington:

Shakespeare's acting company, too, was a direct descendant of those troupes that had acted morality plays all across Tudor England. The morality play thus became the chief dramatic link between the medieval stage and the Shakespearean.2

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