The English Moralities from the Point of View of Allegory

The English Moralities from the Point of View of Allegory

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The English Moralities from the Point of View of Allegory

The English Moralities from the Point of View of Allegory

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Synopsis

Makes out a convincing case for the inherent excellence of a type of play that, although persistently decried in the pages of many standard works, seems to have possessed, in its own day, the power to please as well as to instruct.

Excerpt

In beginning this work my aim was to throw some light on the allegorical methods employed in the Moralities. But I had not proceeded far on this quest before it became apparent that a proper presentation of the allegorical methods employed would necessarily include a thorough clearing away of the cobwebs of misapprehension which cling to most treatments of this species of drama, and a complete classification of the Moralities on the basis of allegorical structure. In my discussion of existing treatments of the Morality I have taken high ground, and I shall, without doubt, be most heartily criticized for assuming, from the start, the complacent attitude that I am right and everybody else is wrong. I plead, in my defence, that at the beginning of my study I used all these treatments, not as interesting bits of reading in themselves, but as prospective guides to a detailed investigation of the Moralities. The result was that each new guide led me into a new morass, and I soon reached the conclusion that I could do no worse, at least, by starting out to explore the country alone. The excuse for bringing in the results of my expedition I can state with a good deal of confidence. It is that the Moralities are, not a series of plays which have for the most part adopted allegory as a method of presentation, but a series of allegories presented in dramatic form. If this is granted it follows that the Moralities, before being considered as dramas or as chronological factors in a history of the drama, must be interpreted and classified as allegories.

There are a few points of obvious and general interest which the most casual student of the Moralities should have in mind at the beginning, and which are not out of place even in a preface.

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