The Conflict of Mercy and Mischief

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Mankind, one of the medieval morality plays, is a play contrasting the ideas of good and evil. Throughout the play, a recurring idea present is the conflict between Mercy, the character that represents “good” and Mischief, the character that represents the idea of “evil”. The conflict between good and evil are created to serve one purpose which is to influence mankind. Mercy influences Mankind to focus on God’s judgment so that Mankind can spend eternal life in heaven. On the other hand, the three evil vices, Nowadays, Nought, and Newguise, want Mankind to focus on earthly possessions and feelings rather than God’s judgment. The overall theme of Mankind is the corruption, rise and fall of Mankind due to the influences of both good and evil.
While the overall theme and tone of Mankind had a religious tone, the author of Tretise of Miraclis Pleyinge, offers six objections to the ideas and themes of the miracle play. In the first objection, the author states that plays are not performed to worship God. Plays are created to create earthly pleasures for people. Plays make people laugh, bringing joy and distracting them from God. The second objection states that plays are considered a sin because it corrupted a whole community. Plays occupy the whole audience to focus on the vanities of life rather than focusing on faith or charity. The Tretise third objection is that people do not cry while watching the play because of the compassion and devotion that they have towards Christ. Rather, members of the audience cry due to their personal vanities not their own sins. Tretise states the men will not leave sin in order to worship and men will not convert to a more religious lifestyle after seeing the play. The fifth objection implied by t...

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... into the power of temptation. The entertainment of the play hides the lessons being portrayed in the play.
One aspect of the play, that may stick with the audiences, is the crude song and actions performed by Nowadays, Nought, and Newguise. The three characters, that represent the temptation of sin, sing “It is written with a coal, it is written cetera/He that shitteth with his hole, cetera./But he wipe his arese clean but he cetera/On his breech it shall be seen on his cetera.”(336,338,340,342). The crude lyrics stick with the members of the audience. In the play, the three vices act like fools, showing the audience how bad one looks while giving into temptation. The lewd actions and jokes act as a defense for the play. Even if the play gives in to lustful, bodily pleasure, ultimately the audience will take with them the message of how bad lustful actions look.

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