I’ve been tracking the life-cycle of rhyme royal, the stanza form (rhyme-scheme ababbcc) that Chaucer developed and used in his Parliament of Fowls, Troilus and Criseyde, and some of his Canterbury Tales in the last decades of the fourteenth century. In the first half of the fifteenth century, it was the fashionable stanza form that every courtly poet wrote and every reader wanted to read.
As promised, another example which shows how cleverly and self-consciously late medieval dramatists exploited the familiar forms of late medieval lyrics in their drama. At the beginning of John Skelton’s early Tudor morality play, Magnificence, Liberty (i.e. the character personifying liberality or generosity) and Felicity (i.e. the character personifying prosperity and happiness) debate between themselves whether they can happily co-exist. Felicity argues that Liberty needs to submit himself to ‘Continence’, i.e. moderation, whilst Liberty argues that there can be no wealth or happiness when Liberty is constrained.