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Unveiling the Diversity of Vice Characters

Literature on the Vice characters from the early Christian morality dramas and Shakespearian stage tends to portray Vice characters in a way that shows them to be somewhat homogenous in characteristics. For example, Happé writes about certain characteristics of Vice characters in terms of their political attributes (mocking the church and priests; interest in money); stage behaviour (dancing, comic weeping, announcing coming and going, bawdy humour); and physical characteristics (focus on lower half of body). The question however is whether it is appropriate to consider the Vice character as a uniform character in terms of how it was represented in plays beginning with the early Morality plays and to the Shakepearian stage. The aim of this chapter is to put to test the literature that argues that all Vice characters share commonalities in order to be treated as a uniform and consistent character in different plays.

Pater Noster, is thought to be the earliest known Morality play, although there is some argument against this (Craig 65). Later morality plays include The Pride of Life, Mankynd, The Castle of Perseverance, or Wisdom (Craig).

Indeed, the understanding that Vice characters, starting with the Morality plays down to the Shakespearian stage have common characteristics or stereotypical qualities can also be attributed to the way in which Shakespeare himself equated one of his more famous characters to Vice in Richard III:

Gloucester: (aside) So wise, so young they say do never live long.

Prince: What say you, uncle?


Gloucester: I say, without character, fame lives long. (aside) Thus like the formal Vice, Iniquity, I moralize two meanings in one word.

There is a need to unpack the last sentence spoken by Richard to understand how characterisation of Vice characters is stereotyped. First, there is a reference to Iniquity as the ‘formal vice’, which could be inferred to mean that there are certain characteristics of Vice that are formalised and these characteristics are found in Iniquity who Shakespeare considers to be the formal Vice or a Vice that embodies the recognised characteristics of the Vice character. Second, the actual characteristic that likens Richard to this formal Vice is also mentioned by Shakespeare as the moralising of two meaning in one word, which could be considered to be ambiguity or even duplicity. A question that can be raised here at the outset is what are the characteristics of Iniquity that makes Shakespeare refer to him as the formal Vice and whether these characteristics can be found in all the characters that we recognise to be Vice characters. This can be the starting point for this discussion. However, going back to Happé, these other characteristics can also be considered with reference to the Vice characters to understand whether it is correct to stereotype the Vice character or whether these characters actually exhibit nuances and different characteristics which may make them more difficult to define and stereotype.

It may also be admitted at the outset that considering the length and breadth of the English drama through time where Vice characters have been included in many plays, it is expected that there will be some differences in these characters. This may mean that at the outset we may have to admit that it is not possible to define Vice characters. However, this is not the approach taken by this researcher because that would make this research futile. The approach taken is to consider the characteristics that are more commonly used in literature to be commonly exhibited by Vice characters and to submit these to the robust examination based on different plays.

Then there are also qualities of the Vice characters that are unexpected. Particularly, one of the techniques of the Vice characters is that to corrupt Mankind, the Vice could also pass off as a virtue. In John Pikeryng’s Interlude of Vice, the Vice character even goes by the names of the vitues like “Patience,” “Courage,” and “Revenge.” In Lusty Juventus, (1457-53) Vice Hypocrisy is pretending to be Knowledge. In Respublica (1553), Vice characters Avarice, Oppression, Adulation, and Insolence are pretending to be Policy, Reformation, Honesty and Authority. This is done to fool or mislead their target. One can find a similar tendency in the play Richard III, in which Richard tries to pretend to be a vituous person when he is not.

Iniquity as the formal Vice

Shakespeare’s reference to Iniquity as a formal Vice is not restricted to Richard III; we find a reference even in Henry IV, where Falstaff is called "that reverend vice, that grey iniquity" (Henry IV, Part One, 2. 4. 458-59). It is worthwhile to consider the Vice character of Iniquity to understand how the continuity of certain characteristics of Vice characters could have been seen in the plays and drama of the early and medieval period.

In the Miracle plays, we do not find reference to Vice characters, but we do find incorporation of the Devil character in the Miracle plays where the central part of the evil was played by this character. It is in the Moral plays, that the character of Iniquity or Vice was incorporated to play the role of evil (Hudson 72). The essential difference between the Vice character and the Devil character from the Miracle plays is that the former was not grotesque, but was portrayed as a jester who was “full of mad pranks and mischief-making, liberally dashed with a sort of tumultuous swaggering fun” (Hudson 73). As such, the Vice character is described as a classic jester figure who is a “playmaker, entertainer, sceptic and utopian in one” (Wekwerth 30). When Richard III and Henry IV make references to Vice characters, it is the Vice of the Morality plays that is being referred to. So, what are the characteristics of this Vice character, Iniquity and do we see that these characteristics are adequate to homogenise all Vice characters so that they become stereotyped?

In the history of English stage, there are only few plays in which Vice characters were specifically called Iniquity, while the term or name is also used to reference the Vice characters of the Morality plays. To start with the two plays in which the name Iniquity is used for the Vice characters, these were Nice Wanton and King Darius.

Nice Wanton (1550) is a play or an interlude by an unknown author (Mills). The Vice character in Morality plays is juxta positioned with the Mankind character who had qualities such as mercy, righteousness, pride and mischief. Morality plays were said to depict ‘psychomachia’, related to the fall of innocence due to the adoption of vices, but then there is redemption by the end of the play (Somerset 54). The Morality plays were didactic in nature, and in this context, the Vice character becomes very significant; we can consider the character of Iniquity in Nice Wanton. This is an interlude with a didactic approach where it explores the moral spare the rod and spoil the child. In this play, there are three siblings, the virtuous Barnabas, and the lazy and wanton Dalila and Ismael. The Vice Iniquity is an influence on Dalila and Ismael and he introduces them to drinking, gambling, sex and crime. At the same time, the mother of the three children, Xantippe, spoils them. Dalila dies of syphilis. Ismael and Iniquity are tried and hanged for their crimes. Xantippe almost commits suicide, but is comforted by Barnabas, who closes the play by advising the audience on raising children (Mills). In Nice Wanton, the Vice Iniquity is almost a criminal character and is responsible for ruining the lives of the other characters. He incites Ishmael to commit felony, burglary and murder:

“His naughty company and play at dice

Did me first to stealing entice

He was with me at robberies” (Nice Wanton, lines 400-2).

In Nice Wanton, Delilah is dead of the pox and Ismael strung up in chains. The role played by the Vice character is therefore that of a person who is inciting the other characters into doing wrongful actions which will ruin them. In King Darius, the Vice character, Iniquity is shown to be deceitful person and also a kind of person who picks up a quarrel (Ward). In The Devil is an Ass, Iniquity says:

“I will teach thee to cheat, child, to cog, lie, and swagger,

And ever and anon to be drawing forth thy dagger” (Devil is an Ass, lines 48-49).

In the above lines, Iniquity is openly saying that he will teach the child to cheat and lie. Iniquity was a Vice character in The Trial of Treasure, a play printed by Thomas Purfoot in 1567 (Beckerman). In the end of the play, Iniquity says that he will rebel and rebel again even though he tried to restrain. In these early examples of the nature and characteristics of the Vice Iniquity, the characteristics that we see are those of a wayward person who tries to incite virtuous characters into doing criminal and sinful acts.

Vice Iniquity can also be seen to be the synonym term for Vice where iniquity and vice could mean the same thing: that is, the word can be understood as a word just used to refer to the seven sins or vices. In that sense, Richard’s reference to Formal Vice Iniquity could also be seen to mean the vices. These vices include idleness, sloth, envy, shame, riches (George).

Even though Richard refers to himself as like the formal Vice Iniquity, there are obvious dissimilarities between these characters, which can be used to distinguish Richard from the Vice characters of the Morality plays in a way that is significant enough to refute stereotyping of the Vice character. Hirsch writes that Richard shares with the Vice his unscrupulous attitude, indifference to the sufferings of other people, and a tendency to what can be described as schadenfreude or the taking of entertainment in the suffering of other people (Hirsh 441). But it cannot be denied that Richard is a more dangerous character that the Vice characters because of his belief in being a psychologically credible human being, which is a characteristic that distinguishes him in a very important way from Vice characters.

Do all Vice characters mock the church and priests

One of the characteristics noted by Happé is that all Vice characters mock the chirch and priests. In this section, the researcher discusses whether the Vice characters from different plays do conform with the characteristic of mocking church and priests.

The early Morality plays may depict the satire on chuch and priests. An example is Everyman where Ischyrius says:

“If preestes be good, it is so, suerly.

But whan Iesu hanged on the crosse with grete smarte,

There he gaue out of his blessyd herte

The seuen sacraments in grete tourment;

He solde them not to vs, that Lorde omnypotent.

Therfore Saynt Peter the apostell dothe saye

That Iesus curse hath all they

Whiche God theyr Sauyour do by or sell,

Or they for ony money do take or tell.

Synfull preestes gyueth the synners example bad:

Theyr chyldren sytteth by other mennes fyres, I haue harde;

And some haunteth womens company

With vnclene lyfe, as lustes of lechery.

These be with synne made blynde” (Everyman, lines 750-763)

In the above lines, the criticism of church and priests is very clear. Priests are portrayed as sinners, who love the company of the women, have unclean life and have lustful attitudes.

In A Satire of Three Estates, a satire written in the tradition of Morality play by Sir David Lyndsay and performed first in 1552, such mockery of the church and the priests is seen. In this, the Vices frequently comment on how monks engage in sexual adventures. There are several instances where the references to the church and priestly are insulting in nature; this includes references to the Roman Court as “the lemand lamp of lechery” thus implying that the Roman Court has indulged in sexual abuses. In another play, All for Money, the Vice character actually does the task of exposing the Priest, Sir Lowrence, whom he proves that he has not studied the Gospel at all. In Mary Magdalene, the Vice Iniquity says that the friars are lechers:

“Lyke obstinate friers I temper my looke,

Which had one eie on a wench,

and an other on a boke” (Mary Magdalene).

In Magnyfycence, the Vice Counterfeit Countenance accuses friars, nuns, canons and monks for being counterfeiters. These lines are meant to be insulting and mocking towards the church and those who are members of the church. One of the ways in which church is represented in these early plays is that of an institution which is made up of sexually deviant priests and monks. However, the Devil characters would also use their mouthpiece to show the society what they should not do if they do not want to go to hell. This is a strategy used by the Devil characters in Miracle plays; in The Disobedient Child, this can be seen:

“often tymes a fall they receyued

When throughe my Polycye their feete dyd slide.

Wherfore (my dere children) I warne ye all,

What can be surmised is that the Vice characters were involved in criticising the church and priests perhaps for the purpose of reform of the church or for didactic purpose of highlighting how sinful behaviour and actions lead to the ruin of the Mankind characters. The question is whether this is a consistent pattern in the characteristics Vice characters.

In Richard III, Richard alludes to church and the priests. For instance, in one scene he refers to the Church:

“The mayor is here at hand.

Intend some fear; Be not you spoke with, but by mighty suit;

And look you get a prayer book in your hand,

And stand between two churchmen, good my lord.

For on the ground I’ll build a holy descant.

And be not easily won to our request.

Play the maid’s part: still answer ‘nay’—and take it. (Richard III, lll.vii.45-51)

In these lines, Richard seems to be mocking the church in the sense of being able to use the church to further his own ambition. In this, Richard is not mocking the church in the same way as the earlier Vices from the Morality plays did. It may also be argued that Richard in not a Vice character but an amalgamation of Vice from Morality plays and Devil from the Miracle plays (Shelley).

It is also noteworthy that not all Vice characters even in Morality plays were involved in mocking the church and priests. One of the characterisation of Vice in Morality plays is that of ‘Catholic Vices’; an example can be seen in King Johan. In this play, the Vices are trying to bring monarch under their sway and in this regard, Sedicyon or Langton leads the minor Vices, Dyssymulacyon, Usurped Power, and Private Wealth in two quartets of ‘merry’ songs: “Begyne thy self, than, and we shall lepe in amonge” (King Johan, line 829).

In the Morality plays, the use of satire on the church and priests has been considered to be aimed and targeted to achieve some goals; this argument was made by Spivack in the context of satire and jesting in the Morality plays when he says: "There is no such thing as innocent merriment" (121). To go back to the point of didactic messaging of the Morality plays, the purpose of the Vice characters making satire of the church may be a unity of purpose as Spivack says for the message of the play to reach the audience. Perhaps the purpose of the criticism of the church was the corruption in the church and the need to reform it.

Do all Vice characters dance

In general, music was used in Morality plays. In The Play of the Wether, the Vice, Mery Reporte, has two songs. Music is considered to be an important aspect of the behaviour of the Vice characters (Happé). Indeed, it has been noted that one of the requirements for the actor-singers to play Vice characters was that they were required to be versatile performers (Giles-Watson). Music and dance was incorporated in many of the early Morality plays. An example can be seen in Mankind, which was a moral interlude from the 1470s; in this Myscheff, the primary Vice refers to another Vice, Nought, as a ‘mynstrell’ and asked him to ‘blow’ his ‘flewte’ to announce the devil’s entrance (Giles-Watson). In another scene in Mankind, Myscheff serves as a master of the Vices’ ceremonies, with Nought, Nowadays, and New Gyse and they also collaborate to lure spectators into singing a song and Nought provides the song cue:

“Nowadays Make rom sers, for we have be longe!

We will cum gyf you a Crystemes song.

Nought Now I prey all þe yemandry þat ys here

Dance need not also be done in a way that is celebratory or even bawdy as many Vice characters did do in some of the Morality plays. One play from the 16th century that represents dance but in a way that is not similar to the Morality plays is the Tragical History of Doctor Faustus (1592) by Christopher Marlowe. This play relates the story of a man (Faust) who makes a deal with the devil in exchange for power and thereon the Good Angel and the Bad Angel vie for his conscience. In this play, there is a ‘dance of devils’ who are the Seven Deadly Sins brought by Mephistopheles to Faust as a punishment for thinking of God. The seven sins or Vices perform a dance for Faust and teach him how to adhere to each representative vice. Indeed, the Vices are also portrayed as showing this dance to Faust as a pastime as Lucifer says:

“Do so, and we will highly gratify thee.

Faustus, we are come from hell to shew thee some pastime:

sit down, and thou shalt see all the Seven Deadly Sins appear in their proper shapes. Talk not of Paradise nor creation; but mark this show: talk of the devil, and nothing else.” (Tragical History of Doctor Faustus)

In Tragical History of Doctor Faustus, it is Mephistopheles, who is playing the proper role of the Vice, while the allegorical seven sins are minor Vices. In this play, Mephistopheles does not perform a dance at all while it is the minor Vices are doing so. Moreover, the dance is not performed as a comic relief, or for bawdy effect. The dance is performed at a time when Faust is to die. The devils take Faust’s body while they are dancing around and leave with him riding on one of their backs.

It is not always the Vice characters who dance in the Morality plays because sometimes even the Mankind characters are given to dancing. An example can be seen in the play, The Interlude of Youth, where Youth describes himself in the way that shows him to be given to dancing. Youth is proud and vain, and is heedless of conduct:

“My hair is royal and brushed thick;

My body pliant as a hazel-stick;

My arms be both big and strong;

My fingers be both fair and long;

My chest big as a tun,

My legs be full light for to run,

To hop and dance and make merry.

By the Mass, I reck not a cherry, Whatsoever I do” (The Interlude of Youth).

Youth is not a Vice character, but does speak of dancing and making merry, which are traits that are also associated with the Vice character. Perhaps the trait should be linked to Morality play in general rather than just be associated with the Vice character. Another play, where the youth character gives in to dancing is Wyt and Science, by John Redford. In this play, Wit falls in love with Lady Science, and sets off to defeat Tediousness, who is Science's greatest enemy. Wit is seduced by the Vice Idleness and after making a fool of himself, he is finally put to right by Reason and Shame. In the parts where a yourth is seduced by Idleness, he also dances till exhausted he falls in Idleness' lap. As Honest Recreation tries to show the youth the right way, Idleness speaks of the harm that Recreation do with her "her dancing, her masking, her muming," "her carding, her dicing." Similarly, in The Play of the Wether, Mery Reporte asks the gentlewoman how she spends the night and the Gentlewomen says that she spends it in dancing and singing. The Gentlewoman is not a Vice character, but she is the one who is shown to be interested in dancing and singing.

This may also suggest that the Morality plays in general may have taken an approach to showing the act or activity as dancing itself as a vice and may have associated with the activity not just with the Vice characters but with sinful living.

Are all Vice characters bawdy and focus on the lower half of the body, revelling in sex and excrement

In The Play of the Wether, the Vice engages in bawdy dialogue with the Gentylwoman who desires to petition Jupiter for cloudy weather so that her complexion will not be damaged by the sun. Mery Reporte attempts to seduce her by asking her how she spends the night. The Gentlewomen says that she spends it in dancing and singing. Then Mery Reporte makes some statements that are obviously bawdy:

“Why, swete herte, by your false fayth, can ye sing?

[…] Now by my trouth for the love that I owe you,

You shall here what pleasure I can shew you.

One songe have I for you, suche as it is,

And if it were better ye shold have it, by gys!

[…] Come on, syrs, but now let us synge lustly” (The Play of the Wether).

In the above passages, the Vice character is obviously referring to statements that are in the nature of innuendos. This is not unique to Mery Reporte and there are many instances which show the Vice characters engaging in bawdy and sexually explicit behaviourisms (Happé). However, does this mean that this behaviour is generalised for all Vice characters?

In the Morality plays, Vice characters were shown to be bawdy, but this is not a characteristic that can be said to be common to all Vice characters, particularly in the Shakespearian stage which marks a departure from the bawdy Vices of the Morality plays. Morality play Vices were derived from a vile and coarse material, but the Shakespearean Vice characters were built from more sophistication (Morgann). An example can be seen in the character of Falstaff, which is built on the Morality Vice with physical incongruousness and villainous nature, but also has more psychological depth (Morgann). In Much Ado About Nothing, the Vice character, Don John, is not even a comic character, he is a somewhat pensive yet openly villainous character:

“I had rather be a canker in a hedge than a rose in his grace,

and it better fits my blood to be disdained of all

than to fashion a carriage to rob love from any.

In this, though I cannot be said to be a flattering

honest man, it must not be denied but I am a plain

dealing villain.

I am trusted with a muzzle and enfranchised with a clog;

therefore I have decreed not to sing in my cage.

If I had my mouth, I would bite; if I had my liberty, I

would do my liking.

In the meantime, let me be that I am, and seek not to

alter me.” (Much Ado About Nothing)

Do all Vice characters engage in comic weeping

Although Vice characters do engage in comic weeping (Happé), it may not be appropriate to say that all Vice characters engage in comic weeping. It is suggested based on the research done by Dessen and Thompson in their Dictionary of Stage Directions that in the period between 1580-1642, there were a hundred instances of stage weeping as explicit stage directions and many of these instances involve women who are weeping in response to happiness, fear, sorrow or even entreaty (Steggle). Therefore, weeping by itself is not limited to Vice characters and there are other characters who are also involved in stage weeping. When it is said that Vice characters are also involved in weeping, two questions are raised: are all the instances of Vice characters’ weeping instances of comic weeping; and do all Vice characters indulge in this comic weeping (Steggle).

In Henry IV, there is a scene where Falstaff refers to weeping not in a genuine way, but in a way of irony:

“Well, an the fire of grace be not quite out of thee,

now shalt thou be moved.—

Give me a cup of sack to make my eyes look red,

that it may be thought I have wept,

for I must speak in passion,

and I will do it in King Cambyses' vein” (Henry IV, Act 2, Scene 4).

The reference to King Cambyses is seen as a reference to hysterical and excessive weeping and this does not mean that the weeping is done seriously (Harris 74-75). It may be argued that this is not even weeping but a reference to weeping.

Richard, a Vice character who himself admits himself to be like the Vice Iniquity is given to weeping in a number of places in the play Richard III, but this is not comic weeping. Rather, Richard gives into what can be described as pretentious weeping; his objective is not to make the audience laugh. His objective is to fool the other characters in the play into thinking that he is weeping for his own nefarious purposes. Indeed, this is a point that has been also noted in literature where it is argued that no formal Vice character weeps as many times as Richard does but then only as a way to gain sympathy from the audience and the other characters in the play and as a way for reinforcing the idea of his virtues when there are none (Sierz).

Ambidexter does present an example of weeping, in one point in the play. When Smirdis dies, that too due to the doings of Ambidexter himself, the latter addresses the audience thus:

“I cannot forbear weeping, ye may me believe

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Oh my heart! How my pulses do beat.

With sorrowful lamentations, I am in such a heat!

Ah my heart, how for him, it doth sorrow!

Nay, I have done in good faith now. And god give ye good morrow!

Ha, ha! Weep? Nay, laugh, with both hands to play (Wiles 6).

This may be seen as an example of half weeping and half crying, but it cannot be seen as an example of comic weeping. There is some confusion as to whether he is crying out of sorrow or whether he is crying because he is just trying to put a show.

Are all Vice characters interested in money

Not all Vice characters are interested in money. There are Vice characters who are interested in money; but this cannot be said to be a uniform trait in all Vice characters. An example can be taken from the play, Enough is as Good as a Feast (1570) by William Wager in which Covetise is interested in money but the later representation of Covetise in Richard III as Margaret is different in her attitude to money. In Enough is as Good as a Feast, the Vice Covetise and his underlings help him to gain the soul of Worldly Man by converting him from a virtuous man. In Richard III, Covetise is played by the Vice Margaret. Margaret has many of the Vice characteristics, including the asides to the audience. Margaret also plays the Vice Vengeance in Act IV in Richard III, where she says to Queen Elizabeth and the Duchess of York:

“Bear with me.

I am hungry for revenge,

And now I cloy me with beholding it” (Richard III, 61-62).

Margaret however, does not have any desire for money unlike the Vice Covetousness. She instead desires power and authority. In Act 1, she demands that the enemies bow down and call her queen again:

“To serve me well you all should do me duty.

Teach me to be your queen, and you my subjects:

O serve me well, and teach yourselves that duty” (Richard III. l.iii.249-251).

Interestingly, another Shakespearean Vice can also linked back to the play Enough Is as Good as a Feast, and this Vice can be shown to be attached to money, which is Shylock. In this play, Enough is the Vice character. He doubles with Hireling to serve as the protagonist’s chief ally and his chief antagonist. It has been stated that the character of Enough reappears as Shylock on Shakespearean stage (Hirschfeld). Shylock is certainly interested in money and he is a money lender, which means that his profession itself is about money.

Do all Vice characters explain to the audience (in fact, they are characterised by their special relationship to the audience and their controlling of stage action)

In The Play of Love, Lover Not Loved emerges from the audience while he holds forth a soliloquy on unrequited love:

“My maner is to muse and devyse

So that sometime my selfe may cary me

My selfe knoweth not where, and I assure ye.”

Lover Not Loved emerges distracted from amongst the audience and joins the debate on love. There are other methods of making an entrance by the Vice characters in the morality plays. For instance, The Interlude of Youth uses contrasting entrance methods by the virtue character Charity and the mankind character, Youth. Charity enters upon the stage saying:

“I am the gate, I tell thee of Heaven, the joyful citye I was planted in his hart We two might not departe.”

In Othello, Othello talks to the audience to create a relationship of confidence between himself and the audience:

“Look where she comes: If she be false, O, then heaven mocks itself! I’ll not believe it.”

Othello is here giving an information to the about Desdemona’s purity and honesty although in the play Othello is not a Vice character (Styan, 1967, p. 97). Thus, the only characters in the play to talk to the audience are not the Vice characters only but also another kind of character. Indeed, Iago too speaks in asides with the audience. For instance, at one point, Iago describes to the audience of his planned campaign against Othello thus:

“I ha’t – it is engender’d. Hell and night Must bring this monstrous birth to the world’s light.”

Iago is planning to manipulate Othello, and does not stop himself from letting the audience know about it and this devise is used by Iago from time and again. The only difference between Iago’s communication with the audience and Vice characters is that Iago is not using comic asides but the audience is put in the position of an antipathetic confidante by the asides of the Vice character (Clemen 71).

In King Richard III, the most prominent example of the Vice character talking to the audience is given with Richard talking to the audience of his future plans and his past misdeeds. While he manipulates the other characters in the play, he remains completely honest with the audience. He even speaks about his own character to the audience to gain sympathy for himself as below, as well as talk about his misdeeds:

“I that am curtailed of this fair proportion. Cheated of feature by dissembling nature Deformed, unfinished, sent before my time Into this breathing world scarce half made up— And that so lamely and unfashionable That dogs bark at me as I halt by them.”

Richard also announces his sinister and mischievous schemes and plans for the future:

“Plots have I laid, inductions dangerous. By drunken prophecies, libels and dreams To set my brother Clarence and the King In deadly hate the one against the other.”

In the Morality plays, there are also uses of asides was to the end of creating an active relationship between the audience and the characters. In Gammer Gurton’s Needle went far enough to created an active collaboration between the audience and the characters (Cartwright). The stage management by the Vice character, Diccon is very strong in the play and Diccon manipulates the events and speaks to the audience to tell them of these plans (Styan). In King Cambises, the Vice character, Ambidexter, also speaks and explains his agenda to the audience constantly and at every point that he has done something (Dillon 48).

There are not just the Vice characters who are involved in speaking directly to the audience as there are other characters who do the same. In The Rare Triumphs of Love and Fortune, it is one of the clowns who speaks directly to the audience like on one point, he questions the audience as to which part of the body is the tenderest to cure Armenio of his dumbness (Dillon 48).

The act of directly speaking with the audience may be seen as something that is more situational with the Vice characters as these characters were seen as the ones that would not stick to the script, and is someone who is an improviser. For example, Ambidexter sometimes addresses the audience as an actor and at times as a part of the audience. Ambidexter’s addresses to the audience are both direct and overt and unambiguous (Harris).

Do all Vice characters announce their comings and goings

It has been noted that it is a “common characteristic of the vice to make a bold entry proclaiming his identity, often in a direct address to the audience and frequently introducing a note of bawdy, comedy or irreverence” (Grantley 46). The use of announcement of entrances by the Vice characters in the morality plays of the 15th century is one of the characteristics of Morality plays and the Vice character. However, this was not a devise used only by the Vice characters. For example, in Fulgens and Lucres, which was a Great Hall play, a devise of intrusion into the dinner is used to inform the guests that the play will commence in the Great Hall shortly. This is done by two characters, “A” and “B”, but these characters are not Vice characters (Walker). The opening is done in the following way: A asks: “Shall there be a play?” and B replies: “Ye, for certeyn” (Styan 63). A and B are not Vice characters, but they are definitely comic characters.

In the Play About the Weather, the Vice character clearly does make the announcement of the coming and going in the play to the audience. In this play, Merry Reporte comes from within the audience, exclaims that he is a poor gentleman ready to serve Jupiter (Altman 122). This is a clear example of the Vice character announcing coming or going to the audience. However, in The Interlude of Youth, the entrance is not announced by the Vice character but by the virtue and Charity, the virtue character enters upon the stage saying:

“I am the gate, I tell thee of Heaven, the joyful citye I was planted in his hart We two might not departe.”

This is the entrance to the play that is used by Charity to welcome the audience and to explain the nature of the virtue to the audience (Burns 51). On the other hand, in The Tide Tarrieth No Man, the Vice character, Courage makes an entrance with invitation to the audience to join him on the Barge of Sin by saying:

“To the Barge to! Come they that will go. Why Sirs, I say when? It is high tide, We may not abide, Tide tarrieth no man.”

In The Tide Tarrieth No Man, the announcement of coming or going is also used to introduce the audience to the possibility of their joining in sinful mirth with Courage (Jones 62).

Works Cited

Altman, Joel B. The Tudor Play of Mind: Rhetorical Inquiry and the Development of Elizabethan Drama. Univ of California Press, 1978.

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