Home  »  Volume V: English THE DRAMA TO 1642 Part One  »  § 3. Beginnings of the Interlude

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume IV. Prose and Poetry: Sir Thomas North to Michael Drayton.

II. Secular Influences on the Early English Drama

§ 3. Beginnings of the Interlude

By the fifteenth century, religious drama had passed out of the hands of the church into those of the amateur performers of town or guild. Moreover, the stimulus given to the love of dramatic performances had resulted in the birth of the interlude—the short play, sometimes religious, but usually moral, in character, which could be played in the banqueting hall of the noble or in the market place or village green by a few players, and without the expensive and elaborate machinery of the miracle. The popularity and ease of preparation of the interlude soon induced its amateur performers to extend a practice not unknown in the case of miracles, and take it “on tour,” as we should say now, from town to town and village to village. The minstrels had already suffered, not only from the invention of printing, which left them no longer the sole repositories of story and poem, but from the increasing command of literature by the amateur (knight or tradesman) which followed the development of the English language. The poaching on their preserves of the amateur interlude player spurred them to double action.