Characterizations of otherness in the sixteenth century moral plays and their morality antecedents
Beginning with an analysis of the nature of the Morality play and its near relative, the moral play, this thesis finds both forms to be founded on an adversarial view of the world (Chapter One). The nature of the adversary is variable, and that variation is, in turn, revealing about the plays' philosophical position. The theories of Jacques Lacan suggest a reading of Mundus & Infan s, The Castle of Perseveraunce, and Youth as descriptions of selfhood via language- acquisition (Chapter Two). Psychoanalytic theory also suggests that otherness may involve both the rule-making Other of authority and a transgressive 'other', broadly analogous to repressed desire. The moral plays discuss the latter version of otherness through their construction of an increasingly elaborated 'vice figure'. A reading of Mankind demonstrates the interpretative power of this approach (Chapter Three). In the 1560's and 70's, vice behaviour becomes more complex, and so more ambiguous. Deconstructive theories suggest that this change can usefully be read as equivalent to the tendency of linguistic terms towards meaninglessness. The Tyde Tarrieth No Man is an example. Otherness comes to be located in certain 'abjected' social groups. In addition, vice play radically alters the original structure of the moral play, tending to replace narrative with showmanship. Enough is as Good as a Feast and Like Will to Like demonstrate this point. All For Money, however, uses dramatic structures symbolically, restoring meaning to vice play (Chapter Four). Feminist theory leads me to consider the place of woman as other in the moral plays. In The Play of the Wether, the endightement of mother messe and Lingua the 'female vice' figure is developed (Chapter Five). The social implications of that figure are considered through analyses of The Rare Triumphs of Love and Fortune and Lingua (Chapter Six). Finally, the figure of the 'good woman' is found to undergo increasing criticism, as the plays come to encode virtue as undesirable, and perhaps impossible (Chapter Seven). A Conclusion summarizes the main arguments of the thesis.