Reference > Cambridge History > The Drama to 1642, Part One > The Early Religious Drama > The last of the Moralities
  Vicissitudes in the reigns of the Tudor sovereigns  

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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume V. The Drama to 1642, Part One.

III. The Early Religious Drama.

§ 30. The last of the Moralities.


Elizabeth did not favour the traditional usage of clothing political and church agitation in dramatic form; for, so early as 1559, she issued directions to magistrates not to tolerate any “common interludes in the English tongue” in which questions of religion or state government were touched upon. It seems, also, that the traditional form had had its day. William Wager, in his morality The longer thou livest, the more fool thou art, published, probably, in the first years of Elizabeth’s reign, conducts the hero of the play, after a fashion with which we have now become sufficiently acquainted, through the various stages of his life, and, in the course of it, enters into theological controversy on the protestant side, wherever an opportunity offers itself. So does the anonymous author of The Trial of Treasure, where, in opposition to the usual practice, two courses of life, a good and a bad, are produced in contrast. George Wapull, again, in his morality The Tide tarries no man (printed in 1576), shows himself as a partisan of reformation. Another morality, Impatient Poverty, has recently been discovered, which was published in 1560 and which exhibits a slight resemblance to Skelton’s Magnyfycence. Of yet another, Wealth and Health, the year of publication is unknown; it was entered in the Stationers’ register as early as 1557, but the extant copy of the play certainly belongs to the reign of Elizabeth. A morality of even less importance is the likewise recently discovered Johan the Evangelist, which derives its title from the speaker of the moralising prologue and epilogue. The morality New Custom (printed 1573) illustrates in a remarkable way the occasional use, even by a rigorous puritan, of the dramatic form, comic effects, of course, being entirely renounced.   42

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  Vicissitudes in the reigns of the Tudor sovereigns  
 
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