Play with a theme from history that often holds up the past as a lesson for the present. Chronicle plays developed from medieval morality plays and flourished in times of nationalistic fervour, as in England from the 1580s to the 1630s. They included plays such as The Victories of Henry the Fifth and The True Tragedie of Richard III and reached maturity with Christopher Marlowe's Edward II and William Shakespeare's Henry VI.
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"The chronicle is one of the quintessentially Christian forms of historical writing," Michael Kulikowsky has remarked. "The ultimate goal of this exercise is usually to place the events of human history in the framework of Christian time, to record the annual stages by which human history marches towards the Second Coming" This makes the Christian chroniclers particularly awake to wars, plagues and disasters.
The term often refers to a book written by a chronicler in the Middle Ages describing historical events in a country, or the lives of a nobleman or a clergyman, although it is also applied to a record of public events. Various contemporary newspapers or other periodicals have adopted "chronicle" as part of their name. Various fictional stories have also adopted "chronicle" as part of their title, to give an impression of epic proportion to their stories. A chronicle which traces world history is called a Universal chronicle.
Chronicles are the predecessors of modern "time lines" rather than analytical histories. They represent accounts, in prose or verse, of national or worldwide events over a considerable period of time, the lifetime of the individual chronicler and often several subsequent continuators. If the chronicles deal with events year by year, they are often called annals. Unlike the modern historian, most chroniclers tended to take their information as they found it, and made little attempt to separate fact from legend. The point-of-view of most chroniclers is highly localised, to the extent that many anonymous chroniclers can be sited in individual abbeys.
The most important English chronicles are the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, started under the patronage of King Alfred in the ninth century and continued until the twelfth century, and the Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland (1577-87) by Raphael Holinshed and other writers; the latter documents were important sources of materials for Elizabethan drama.