Reference > Cambridge History > The Drama to 1642, Part One > The Early Religious Drama > Vicissitudes in the reigns of the Tudor sovereigns
  Treatment of educational, political, and ecclesiastical questions in the Morality The last of the Moralities  

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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.

§ 29. Vicissitudes in the reigns of the Tudor sovereigns.


But, just about this time, a change came over England. Henry VIII proved more and more decidedly averse to any alteration of ecclesiastical doctrine in the sense of the continental reformation movement; in 1540, Cromwell fell; and a royal decree, in 1543, expressly forbade the publication in songs, plays and interludes of any explanations of Holy Writ opposed to church teaching as fixed now or in the future by his majesty the king. Bale, who was compelled to flee from England, complained that dissolute plays were allowed, but such as taught Divine truth persecuted. But when, with the accession of Edward VI, the protestant party regained the superiority, it was again shown how English drama took part in all the fluctuations of English church policy. Now, plays were produced such as Wever’s Lusty Juventus, where the traditional scheme of the morality is made subservient to party interests, good abstractions assiduously quoting the apostle Paul, while the devil and his fellows continually swear “by the Mass” and “by the Virgin.” And when, after Edward’s early death, the Catholic reaction set in, “in the first year of the happy reign of queen Mary” (1553), “a merry interlude entitled Respublica” was acted at the Christmas festival by boys, probably in the presence of the queen. In this production, however, dogmatic controversies remain, for the most part, unnoticed, the anonymous author inveighing chiefly against those who, during the preceding reigns, under cover of religion, had enriched themselves by church property. Evil allegorical figures, who appropriate stolen goods assume well-sounding names, as is often the case in this class of literature, ever since the example set by Prudentius, in whose Psychomachia, for instance, Avaritia, calls herself Parsimonia. So, here, Oppression assumes the name of Reformation, Insolence that of Authority and so forth. In one excellent scene, “People” (the common man) complains, in blunt popular language, of the new government. Of course, this extremely interesting contribution towards a clear perception of public feeling in the beginning of Mary’s reign like-wise ends with the triumph of the good cause.   41

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  Treatment of educational, political, and ecclesiastical questions in the Morality The last of the Moralities  
 
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