Joseph's confusion over Mary's virgin conception of Jesus Christ, a Jewish spice seller haggling with Jesus's disciples, and Noah's frustrations with implacably skeptical spouse were among the situations most often enacted. Comedies rose from village merry-makings during the vintage, the word comedy meaning village song. Read More Drama Comedy at the time when Shakespeare began writing may be said to fall into four classes From the Miracle play it was an easy transition to the Morality, in which the characters were personified virtues and vices, such as Folly, Repentance, Avarice, etc. Read More Drama By degrees the vices and virtues came to be represented by persons who stood for a type of these, Brutus representing Patriotism, Aristides, Justice, and so on. Plays of this description and Moralities were largely taken advantage of by both Catholics and Protestants to enforce their several views. It is obvious that it is only a single step from Moralities in their latter form to the regular drama; though whether the true modern drama arose out of them or from the Latin classical drama may be doubted.
The first English Comedies: At any rate, the first English comedy was written by a classical scholar, who found his model in Terence, and owed nothing to the writers of Moralities. Read More Drama Nicholas Udall, sometime headmaster of Eton, and renowned for the thorough manner in which he had laid to heart Solomon's maxim about sparing the rod and spoiling the child, was its author. It is called "Ralph Roister Doister," and was first printed in 1566, but is known to have been written several years previously. Divided into acts and scenes, and furnished with a regular plot, it marks a great advance upon the plays which had hitherto gratified the thirst of the people for dramatic representation. It is written in rough verse, and is pervaded by a sort of schoolboy fun, which would seem to suggest that it was originally written for representation by the author's pupils. The first English tragedy, "Gorboduc," mainly the work of Thomas Sackville, was represented in 1562. It, too, is framed upon classical models. In literary merit it is superior to "Ralph Roister Doister;" its blank verse is grave and weighty, and of considerable poetical merit; but it is difficult to believe that it could ever have been popular as an acting play; the unmerciful length at which many of the characters speak alone must have been a severe trial to the strength of the actors and the patience of the auditors.