Authentic survivals of ancient dramas performed at the winter solstice and Easter. Although both the words and the plot are often confused and overlaid with many additions from subsequent eras, their meaning is plan. They depict the battle between spring and winter and the eventual victory of spring.
The plays were kept alive by peasants and labourers as they provided an excuse for a big feast and an expedition to the manor house for supplies! Though no doubt more superstitious motives also survived from ancient times.
Various characters include: Jack-in-the-Green, St George and the Dragon, The Black (or Turkish) Knight, The Doctor (or The Healer/Priest), Little Johnny Jack, Beelzebub, Father Christmas, Robin(or Lord of May) and Marion, Friar Tuck and Bold Roamer.
The basic plot being the battle between two warriors, a hero and a villain (or a man and monster), the defeat of the hero, his revival by the Doctor and the final defeat of the villain. Various other characters play supporting roles (some of whom are duplicates of the same archetypes). Jack in the Green appears with the victory of spring, though he was more a feature of the Easter celebration than the winter one (and appeared again with the Morris Dancers on Mayday). They are all dressed in ribbons and masked (originally animal masks) or have their faces painted (originally with soot). Participants were once totally absorbed into these roles to the point were they appeared to be possessed.