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Morality Plays began to develop at about the same time as the mystery plays. Just as the mysteries presented fall and redemption of Christianity in historical time, the Moralities dealt with the fall and redemption of one person within his lifetime. They dramatised the conflict between good and evil within the soul of the individual Christian by means of personification allegory. The characters of the plays can be identified as human vices and virtues contending for the soul of man, and the dialogues of the plays constitute a psychodrama, similar to Prudentius' Psychomachia (400 AD), working out the contradictory motivations of human behaviour. The three plays The Castle of Perseverance (1400-25), Wisdom (1460-63) and Mankind (1465-70) are usually referred to as the Macro Plays. They are called thus after the name of their 18th c. owner, the Reverend Cox Macro (1683-1767), a native of Bury and noted collector of literary manuscripts and historical documents. Other famous Morality Plays are Pride of Life (c1350) and Everyman (1495).

The longer Moralities, such as The Castle of Perseverance, were probably played by professional actors in round theatres with several scaffolds. The shorter ones were performed preferably in inner courts of public houses.

The term 'Morality Play' was not known in medieval England, but taken over from French as late as in the 18th century. The French term moralité can be traced back to the title Moralité faite au College de Navarre of the year 1427.

Morality Plays