( England: 1500)
David N. DeVries
This entry provides a detailed look at the Vice figure in operation in fifteenthcentury English drama, and specifically at the manner in which one play, Henry Medwall Nature, presents the conventions of this figure.
One of the major characteristics of the Vice figure is his ability to twist and turn language in order to twist and turn the moral compass of a person. The Bible provides a number of sources for this aspect of the Vice. According to Ecclesiastes:
The words of the mouth of a wise man are grace: but the lips of a fool shall throw him down headlong. The beginning of his talk is a mischievous error. A fool multiplieth words. A man cannot tell what hath been before him: and what shall be after him, who can tell him? The labour of fools shall afflict them that know not how to go to the city. ( Douay- Rheims 10:12-15)
For countless exegetes through the Middle Ages the city referred to in the last line was the Heavenly Jerusalem. According to the standard reading, the perversion of folly presented a mortal danger to all who wished to make the journey to that city, to all who desired Christian salvation. St. Paul supplemented the warning with an extended discussion of the upheaval stultitia, or foolishness, wrought in the world. The specific focus of his anger is those thought to be wise, and his condemnation leads to a ringing hyperbolic catalogue of vicious-