Article Title

Mankind and Its Audience


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

The moral play Mankind has maintained an important position in the history of pre-Shakespearean drama because it is regarded as our earliest indisputable example of the popular professional theatre and because its performance in innyards has allowed theatre scholars to make rather direct connections between the shape of the innyard and Renaissance theatres.1 Although there has been considerable modification of Hardin Craig's assertion that this is a crude play presented before a group of local yokels, the assumption still remains that the play is of popular, indeed of provincial, origin because it contains some rough humor and is stopped before Titivillus' entrance so the actors can collect the "gate" from the innyard audience.2 In effect, these critics argue, the presence of obscenity and levity "places" the drama in the popular or less sophisticated tradition. It is true the lively dialogue is marked by the inclusion of utterances reminiscent of those used by the Towneley Cain and the demons of the Castle of Perseverance, but it also is made up of witty word play in Latin. This "learned" content, coupled with the dubious dramatic principle of stopping the play to collect the "gate," challenges our traditional attribution of the play to the popular canon as well as our assumptions about the criteria for defining audiences.

Comparative Drama is carried by JSTOR and Project MUSE.