Anonymous

MUNDUS ET INFANS, or
THE WORLD AND THE CHILD

circa 1500–1522

a synoptic, alphabetical character list

full synopsis available, click here

AGE

Mundus et Infans is an unusual morality play in that the protagonist, who begins the play as Infans, is actually renamed and transformed into a different character every time he reaches a new phase in his moral progression (or digression). Age is his final incarnation, a bent and baffled old man who suddenly finds himself bereft of all the worldly companions he knew in youth. Near despair over his misspent life, he finds comfort and forgiveness in the character of Perseverance.

AVARICE

A "ghost character." Mundus tells Infans/Manhood that he must swear fealty to seven kings. The kings are the seven deadly sins.

CONSCIENCE

Conscience, as his name implies, serves as the conscience of the main character Infans. Dressed as a friar, he counsels Manhood (and Age, Manhood's later incarnation) to reject the masters recommended to him by the tempter Mundus (such as the seven deadly sins). In particular, he warns him of the danger of Folly.

ENVY

A "ghost character." Mundus tells Infans/Manhood that he must swear fealty to seven kings. The kings are the seven deadly sins.

FOLLY

Folly is described (by the virtuous character Conscience) as a kind of synthesis of all the seven sins. He persuades Manhood (Infans in his prime of life) to drink, and after prodding him into all kinds of sinful revelry, re-christens him "Shame."

GLUTTONY

A "ghost character." Mundus tells Infans/Manhood that he must swear fealty to seven kings. The kings are the seven deadly sins.

INFANS

Infans, the child, represents all of mankind. He enters and declares at once his devotion to Christ and his need of material comfort. He hails Mundus as king, and Mundus eagerly takes in his new convert, re-christening the young human Wanton. He is an unruly child, selfish and spoiled, ready to disgrace his parents and torment his peers. After seven years service to Mundus, he is transformed into the adolescent character "Lust And Liking." As Lust And Liking, he is adolescence in all its hormonal glory. After a brief speech in which he describes living for "game and glee...mirth and melody...(and) revel and riot," he returns to his master Mundus for further instruction, at which time he is transformed into "Manhood." It is as Manhood that the representative mankind figure spends the bulk of the play. Here he first encounters godly instruction in the guise of Conscience. He is impressed (and intimidated) by the lessons of this mentor, but he lapses when he later encounters Folly. Folly re-christens him "Shame." Age is his final incarnation, a bent and baffled old man who suddenly finds himself bereft of all the worldly companions he knew in youth. Near despair over his misspent life, he finds comfort and forgiveness in the character of Perseverance, who re-christens him "Repentance."

JEALOUSY

A "ghost character." Mundus tells Infans/Manhood that he must swear fealty to seven kings. The kings are the seven deadly sins.

KINGS, SEVEN

"Ghost characters." Mundus tells Infans/Manhood that he must swear fealty to seven kings. The kings are the seven deadly sins.

LUST

A "ghost character." Mundus tells Infans/Manhood that he must swear fealty to seven kings. The kings are the seven deadly sins.

LUST AND LIKING

This character is adolescence in all its hormonal glory. After a brief speech in which he describes living for "game and glee...mirth and melody...(and) revel and riot," he returns to his master Mundus for further instruction, at which time he is transformed into "Manhood."

MANHOOD

The name for Infans once he has reached adulthood. It is in this incarnation that the representative mankind figure spends the bulk of the play. Here he first encounters godly instruction in the guise of Conscience. He is impressed (and intimidated) by the lessons of this mentor, but he lapses when he later encounters Folly.

MUNDUS

Mundus is an allegorical character who represents the world and all its temptations. He boasts of the material wealth and sensual experiences he can bestow upon those who will swear allegiance. His first convert is Infans, the play's "everyman" figure. After easily dazzling the na´ve protagonist, Mundus renames him Wanton and encourages a life of self-indulgence and willfulness. Later, he re-christens Infans with the name Lust and Liking and then Manhood.

PERSEVERANCE

Perseverance is the self-described "brother to Conscience." He represents both the warning that mankind must persevere in the face of temptation, and (more important) the perseverance of God and Christ in loving sinners. He renames Age "Repentance" and closes the play by assuring him of his place in God's kingdom.

PRIDE

A "ghost character." Mundus tells Infans/Manhood that he must swear fealty to seven kings. The kings are the seven deadly sins.

REPENTANCE

The name given to Age by Perseverance at the end of the play. He is never listed by this name in the pages of the text or in the cast list, but Perseverance calls him by the name several times.

SHAME

The name that Folly gives to Manhood after corrupting him. As with "Repentance," the name is never listed as a character at the beginning of the play or used as a heading above any of Manhood's lines, but Folly does call him "Shame" three times.

SLOTH

A "ghost character." Mundus tells Infans/Manhood that he must swear fealty to seven kings. The kings are the seven deadly sins.

WANTON

Wanton is the first of the new incarnations into which Infans is transformed. He is an unruly child, selfish and spoiled, ready to disgrace his parents and torment his peers. After seven years service to Mundus, he is transformed into the adolescent character "Lust and Liking."

SYNOPSIS:
Mundus, the allegorical figure who represents the world (with its material comforts and earthly temptations), opens the play with a monologue boasting about his power and possessions. Infans, the character who represents all of mankind, enters and declares at once his devotion to Christ and his need of material comfort. He hails Mundus as king, and Mundus eagerly takes in his new convert, re-christening the young human Wanton.

As Wanton, the mankind figure celebrates his childish selfishness and disrespect for authority, then returns to Mundus, hoping to be rewarded for seven years of faithful service. Mundus does reward him, granting him the name Lust-and-Liking. After boasting of his abilities as a seducer of women and of his aptitude for "revel and riot," he returns to Mundus once again, and is promptly renamed Manhood.

Manhood is urged to swear fealty to seven "kings"–each named after a deadly sin. He does so, and is frolicking about the stage, reveling in his riches and his power, when Conscience enters. Conscience humbles Manhood by pointing out the wickedness of each of his kings and sets him again on the path to virtue.

But vice has one more weapon: Folly, a humorous, fun-loving character who succeeds in making Conscience's advice look tiresome and inane. Manhood once again falls from grace, this time becoming so riotous and profane that he greatly fears the return of Conscience. In fact, he falls into despair that he can never now receive God's grace. Conscience, however, eases his mind by assuring him of God's infinite mercy. After absorbing a long theological lesson, Manhood prepares to live a godly life.