This article explores the virtue tradition in the English theatrical tradition of morality theater and its fortunes on the professional stage. It explores questions of recognition in allegorical drama by examining “mankind” and “mercy” in the morality play Mankind, the appropriation of this tradition by the forces of commerce in The Three Ladies of London and The Three Lords and Ladies of London, and Jonson’s hilarious use of the tradition in The Devil Is An Ass. Ordinary language philosophy helps to reveal what is at stake in this verbal drama of recognition.

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