''Every Man in His Humour'' Comedy

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The earliest dramatic representation in England is believed to have been the performance of a Latin play in honour of St. Katherine in 1110. Drama originated from the rich symbolic ceremonial of the Church. It was the work of priests who used it as a means of conveying the truths of their religion to the illiterate masses.


While the basis of these plays was the Bible, the treatment was a free one. Particularly in the direction of humour, the popular imagination began to fill in details (Critchley 2002). Noah's wife was, for instance, made a comic figure, for she was shown very realistically as a scolding woman, refusing to enter the Ark and ridiculing Noah's prophecy of destruction. Into the scene where the shepherds watch their flocks by night on Christmas Eve, there was introduced a comic sheep-stealing episode. Herod was a ranting figure of melodrama. Where Satan appeared, there was plenty of horse-play, with the yelling and belabouring of devils whose parts were taken by small boys (Critchley 2002).
A later introduction of much importance in these plays was the so-called Vice, who was a humourous personification of evil taken on the comic side (Smirgel 1988). Vice was the recognized fun-maker of the piece. This character often scored a tremendous popular success by jumping on the Devil's back, sticking thorns into him, beating him with a stick and making him roar with pain. This figure of Vice is the ancestor or direct forerunner of the Elizabethan clown (Smirgel 1988).
By the second quarter of the sixteenth century, the Moralities had reached a transitional stage. Human figures were mixed with allegorical figures. ...
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