'On yestern day, in Feverere, the yere passeth fully': On the Dating and Prosopography of Mankind

John A. Geck

Abstract


This paper attempts to situate the late medieval morality play Mankind in its social context. In localizing and dating the play, Walter Smart (1916) and John Marshall (1997) suggest a first performance in Cambridge or King's Lynn, Norfolk, during Shrovetide, 1471. This dates the first performance of the play to a time of political upheaval five months after Edward IV had been forced to leave the throne to Henry VI during the Wars of the Roses. In lines 499-517 of the play, the villains Tityuillus, New Gyse, Nowadays, and Nought call out ten men. Of these ten, three (William Alington, William Hamond, and Alexander Wood) are avoided by the 'worldlings'. A study of the lands and offices they held reveal that these three are the only three with any documented ties to the king-in-exile, Edward IV, or his Yorkist peers. These factors lead to a reading of the play as political criticism of Henry VI and his Lancastrian peers and their abuses of patronage and maintenance, comparable to its companion play in the Macro manuscript, Wisdom.


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