Interludes: on the development of English comedy.

Also Read

      In passing from the Morality proper to the Interludes, we pass from symbolism to realism. It has to be noted that unless we confine the term Interlude to those plays of a realistic sort, we can find no strict line of demarcation between it and the term 'Morality'. The Hyckescomer is in the main a morality, yet shows a clear development towards the greater elaboration of purely comic elements. It is with Rastell, Medwall, Sir Thomas More and John Heywood, that we begin to move into a new realm. These Interludes had several peculiar features- it was a short play that introduced real characters usually of humble rank, such as citizens and friars; there was an absence of allegorical figures; there was much broad farcical humour, often coarse, and there were set scenes, a new feature in the English drama. In these respects, Interludes mark a further advance upon morality plays.

Interludes mark an advancement upon morality plays.
Interludes

      One of the plays whose authorship is claimed for John Rastell is that of Calisto and Melebea. The writer based his play on an English version of the Spanish rogue story of Celestina. The English writer fails to employ the Spanish story to the full and while he opens with two lovers, he has such a firm eye on his moral conclusion that he achieves little by way of plot.

      It is to John Heywood (1497-1580), a jester at the Court of Mary goes the credit for raising the Interlude to the distinct dramatic form known as comedy. His plays are arguments and disputations between a number of characters with the addition of a comic element. Of these the neatest in its movement is The Play of the Wether (1532). Jupiter appoints Merry Report to call the people before him so that he may listen to the complaints of mortals on the weather. Merry Report is a comic rascal who addresses his master in the witty and impertinent conservation which Shakespeare's fools employ.

      Another of Heywood's plays was The four P's which is described as a new and very merry Interlude of a palmer, a pardoner, a apothecary and a pedlar. It is discussion and its strength lies in the vigour of the dialogue. The Four began telling lies. It is arranged that the one who tells the greatest lie will win a wager. The climax comes in the story of the pardoner, who tells of a visit to Hell, and of the rescue of a shrew. The palmer breaks in with the question, "Are there shrews in Hell?" he is surprised, for in all his travels he has never met a women out of patience. His lie wins. The purpose of the play is comedy, and not didacticism.

      Another Interlude which deserves mention is Fulgens and Lucres by Henry Medwall. A Roman senator has a daughter Lucres who has two suitors, one of humble birth and the other a noble. She asks her father what to do and her father asks the senate. The two suitors plead before the senate and nothing is decided. This unpromising plot is handled in the play with great skill. This play is an indication of what could be done already in the 15th century, independently of Italian models. The plays like 'Calisto and Malebea' and 'Fulgens and Lucres' are the basis on which was created the pure romantic comedy of Greene, Lyly and Shakespeare.

Previous Post Next Post