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History of Medieval Drama

From Roman Spectacle to


Miracle, Morality and Mystery
Plays
Roman Times
EarlyChurchFathers
triedtosuppress
spectaclesoflaterRoman
empire
Christianemperors
bannedpublicacting
Cessationofdramain
westernEuropeuntil10th
centuryCE
DramaticLiturgyandLiturgicalDrama

dramarevivedwithin
theliturgyof10C
ChristianChurch
dramaticelements
intheservices
fromritualtodrama
theEasterQuem
quaeritistrope
illustratesbiblestory
11thand12thCenturyDrama
Easter,ChristmasandInnocents
Daydrama
nonliturgicaldramatizationsof
otherstoriesfromtheBible,e.g.
TemptationofAdamandEve,
DanielintheLionsDen,Raisingof
Lazarus
significantembellishmentofBiblical
text
sophisticatedcreationsoflearned
men;worksofwisdomandpiety,
notdesignedtoeducatelaity
begantobestagedoutsidethe
church
Miracle Plays

Miracle Play = saints play


popular from 12th century CE
dramatization of life, martyrdom
or miracles of a saint
emphasis on lurid adventure and miraculous
happenings fantastic stories, highly
sensational
free of Biblical constraints that characterized
most church drama, but combined tale of
adventure with act of worship often performed
in church on the saints (feast) day
TheMoralityPlay

newgenrefortheatreinearly14thcentury
dramatizationofspiritualcrisisinthelifeofa
representativeindividualChristian
allegoricalmethodofpresentationpersonified
abstractionsrepresentinggoodandevil[Death
shownasapersonforex]
designedtoinstructthefaithfulincorrect
behavior
aformativeinfluenceonRenaissancedrama
EVERYMAN
Themes: Way to Salvation, Death, Worldly
Encumbrances, The Sacraments, Priesthood, Power
of the Church, Grace & Works.
Symbols: Characters (Everyman et. al.), Book of
Reckoning, The Journey, The Scourge, The Hole
Passages: Death Arrives, EM appeals to Goods, Good
Deeds is bound, Confession & Penance, Digression on
Priests, EM enters the grave.
Structure: Allegory, Morality Play.
Context: Sacramental System,
Rise of Merchants,
Mystery Plays
14C - 16C in northern England (200 years)

drawn from books of the Bible; portrays divine history of


the world
very long, up to 16 hours
divided into episodes, or pageants
staged outdoors
in the vernacular (Middle English),
not in Latin
whole community was involved
(church/town)
notable for scope, scale
How were Mystery Plays Staged?

pageant wagons
drawn in a procession
through the town
individual fixed
scaffolds
acting in the round
(arena theatre)
methods of
production may have
varied