What is Interlude: Definition and Examples

Interlude is a short entertainment put on between the courses of a feast or the acts of a play. During the Middle Ages and up to the 16th c. the term was used to describe a variety of dramatic entertainments. Italian Renaissance drama had intermezzi. In France and Spain, similar diversions were called entremets and entremeses.

Interludes were particularly popular in England in the 15th and 16th c., and especially between 1550 and 1580. In the Annals of English Drama 975-1700, Harbage lists ninety or so plays that could qualify as interludes. It is very likely that they form a link between the Mystery Play, the Miracle Play and the Morality Play, and the psychological drama of the Elizabethans. Dividing lines are not clear. Many of them are very similar to Moralities and in some cases are indistinguishable from them. They were often allegorical and didactic (many also were farcical) and written in rough verse; at times so rough that it becomes doggerel. They were usually about a thousand lines long and there seems little doubt that most were intended as entertainment at banquets at court, in the houses of the nobility, at University colleges, and at the Inns of Court.

One of the earliest instances is the Interludium de Clerico et Puella (1290-1335). Some of the most notable examples (some of these are also classified as Moralities) should include The Pride of Life (c. 1300-25); Mankind (1465-70); The Castell of Perseverance (1400-25); Wisdom (1460–63); Medwall’s Fulgens and Lucrece (1490–1500); Youth (c. 1515-28); Heywood’s The Play of the Wether (c. 1527); A Play of Love (c. 1534); Thersites (1537); The Four P’s (c. 1545); Redford’s Wit and Science (c. 1531-47); Respublica, possibly by Nicholas Udall (c. 1533); Appius and Virginia (c. 1567); Like Will to Like (c. 1567).

Also read: What is Burlesque: Definition and Examples

Also read: Commedia dell Arte: Definition, Character, and Examples