Essay On Medieval Drama

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Medieval Theatre

...1. INTRODUCTION Medieval theatre refers to the theatre of Europe between the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century A.D. and the beginning of the Renaissance in approximately the 15th century A.D. Medieval theatre covers all drama produced in Europe over that thousand year period and refers to a variety of genres, including liturgical drama, mystery plays, morality plays, farces and masques. A theatrical performance in the Middle Ages was much more than just an example of a literary genre; it was often a social, religious, and commercial event affecting a whole community and involving not only the spoken word, but also spectacle, music, and even dance. 2. HIGH AND LATE MEDIEVAL THEATRE As the Viking invasions ceased in the middle of the 11th century A.D., liturgical drama had spread from Russia to Scandinavia to Italy. Only in Muslim-occupied Spain were liturgical dramas not presented at all. Despite the large number of liturgical dramas that have survived from the period, many churches would have only performed one or two per year and a larger number never performed any at all. The Feast of Fools was especially important in the development of comedy. The festival inverted the status of the lesser clergy and allowed them to ridicule their superiors and the routine of church life. Sometimes plays were staged as part of the occasion and a certain amount of burlesque and comedy crept into these performances. Although comic episodes had to truly wait......

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...The Analysis 1. The novel “Theatre” was written by a famous English writer of the 20th century William Somerset Maugham in 1937. He was the master of story-telling. He could convey human relationships and feelings with a startling reality. The main theme of his works is the conflict of a creative person with the society. Maugham’s English is clear and lucid, his characters are recognizable, and this makes his books so popular. 2. This extract is about Dolly de Vries. She was a rich widow and Michael and Julia asked her for help, she agreed because she was interested in Julia and admired her talent. But she didn’t much like Michael. He was sure that Dolly might put up the money they needed, but he knew that she might do it only for Julia but not for him. Julia refused to approach her. But when they were going to spend the week-end with Dolly, he urged Julia to seize the opportunity that the week-end presented. Julia explained that people financed plays for two reasons, either because they wanted notoriety, or because they were in love with someone. But Michael had never even thought that Dolly was in love with him. He was very surprised when Julia told him that it was not he whom Dolly loved. He didn’t believe it. 3. This extract belongs to the belles-lettres functional style, the main purpose of which is to give the readers aesthetic pleasure, to make them think and entertain by appealing to their emotions. The major part of the text is presented by......

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Renaissance Theatre.

...Renaissance Theatre. The Protestant Reformation in northern Europe put an end to most religious drama by the mid-16th century, and a new, dynamic secular drama developed in its place. The Renaissance began at different times in different areas of Europe and was a slow process of change rather than a sudden shift in ideas and values. England The English drama of the 16th cent. showed from the beginning that it would not be bound by classical rules. Many themes and ideas can be seen in the components of the Elizabethan drama. For example, many works were influenced by other works. Themes on revenge were seen and blood and killing was evidenced in many works by, for instance, Thomas Kyd 's Spanish Tragedy (c.1586). Marlowe’s works presented deeper meanings of questioning life. Shakespeare, of course, stands as the supreme dramatist of the Renaissance period, equally skilful at writing tragedies, comedies, or chronicle plays. His great achievements include the perfection of a verse form and language that captures the spirit of ordinary speech and yet stand above it to give a special dignity to his characters and situations; a marvellous ability to unify plot, character, imagery, and verse movement. With the reign of James I the English drama began to decline until the closing of the theatres by the Puritans in 1642. Source: Comedy in Elizabethan Drama: The term "comedy" as applied to a division of the drama was......

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Theatre Arts Modern Theatre

...rules by which the production team works. Currently, producing Shakespeare does not mean that it has to be done in Renaissance England. Indeed, artists have found that updating the location and time of a Shakespearean play makes it more believable, and in a sense, breathes new life into it. Moreover, advances in technology have also strongly influenced this period and its theatrical spectacle. The use of plastics, steel, aluminum, advanced lighting control, and sound recording equipment drastically changed the face of theatre production and quality. This is also a period of open experimentation both in design and production and has resulted in the development of the minimalistic and fractured realism styles. Minimalism is a style, which reduces the design elements to the least number necessary to produce the production. Fractured realism uses limited realistic elements separated in a fractured nature. Furthermore, a division of the theatre workforce into separate specialized artisans increases both operational efficiency and overall quality. The development of the technical director to oversee the production elements further organizes the modern theater. However, this specialization requires a great amount of trust and collaboration between the director and other artists on the production team. The advent of director/designer teams like Eli Kazan and Jo Melziner are in response to this emerging need for collaboration. Historical Background......

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Roman Theatre

...The characteristics of Roman theatres to those of earlier Greek theatres are due in large part to the influence of Ancient Greece on the Roman triumvir Pompey. Indeed, much of the architectural influence on the Romans came from the Greeks, and theatre structural design was no different from other buildings. However, Roman theatres have specific differences, such as being built upon their own foundations instead of earthen works or a hillside and being completely enclosed on all sides. Roman theatres derive their basic design from the Theatre of Pompey, the first permanent Roman theatre. Roman theatres were built in all areas of the empire from medieval-day Spain, to the Middle East. Because of the Romans' ability to influence local architecture, we see numerous theatres around the world with uniquely Roman attributes.[1] There exist similarities between the theatres and amphitheatres of ancient Rome/Italy. They were constructed out of the same material, Roman concrete, and provided a place for the public to go and see numerous events throughout the Empire. However, they are two entirely different structures, with specific layouts that lend to the different events they held. Amphitheatres did not need superior acoustics, unlike those provided by the structure of a Roman theatre. While amphitheatres would feature races and gladiatorial events, theatres hosted events such as plays, pantomimes, choral events, and orations. Their design, with its semicircular form, enhances the......

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Theatre Arts

...Definition and Beginnings of Theatre Arts Theatre or theater is a branch of the performing arts. While any performance may be considered theatre, as a performing art, it focuses almost exclusively on live performers creating a self contained drama. A performance qualifies as dramatic by creating a representational illusion. By this broad definition, theatre had existed since the dawn of man, as a result of the human tendency for storytelling. Since its inception, theatre has come to take on many forms, utilizing speech, gesture, music, dance, and spectacle, combining the other performing arts, often as well as the visual arts, into a single artistic form. The word theatre means "place for seeing". The first recorded theatrical event was a performance of the sacred plays of the myth of Osiris and Isis in 2500 BC in Egypt. This story of the god Osiris was performed annually at festivals throughout the civilization, marking the beginning of a long relationship between theatre and religion. Elements and Principle of Theatre Arts There are six elements necessary for theatre: Plot, Character, Idea, Language, Music, and Spectacle. Script/Text, Scenario, Plan:  This is the starting point of the theatrical performance.  The element most often considered as the domain of the playwright in theatre. The playwright’s script is the text by which theatre is created.  It can be simplistic, as in the 16thcentury, with the scenarios used by the acting troupes of the Commedia dell’ arte...

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...THTR 1013 Play Critique I watched a musical comedy at the Cameron University theatre titled Where’s Charley on April 24th, 2014. The book was written by George Abbott. The performance itself was directed by Scott Klein, the orchestra conducted by Holli Hill Le, choreographed by Katie Veehuizen and the costume and make-up design by Eric Abbott. The cast consisted of about 20 actors including the ensemble. The basic theme of the play is love and the means of deception in which it was found. The story I found to be an interesting one and it was the first time I watched a play since my stay in the U.S aside going to the cinemas. The play portrayed deceptive means on how to truly get attached to the one you love and means by which that works, that I found funny because in the real world people actually do such things. It was entertaining and after the play I went on to YouTube to search for that same play acted out by others students in a different school and I can say well enough that this group from Cameron University acted it out well. The play was well casted and it is hard for me to pick a favorite from Jack Chesney (Mark Deyesso, Jr), Charley Wykeham (Dylan Bittner) and Amy Spettigue (Ashley Winfrey). They did so well than I expected as I saw a sign of nervousness in them at the beginning of the play but as time went by they greatly improved. They were also believable especially in terms where they had to play major roles. For example Amy’s “the woman in his......

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...Executive summary Theatre is one of the oldest and most intriguing forms of performance arts. Since time immemorial, it has served as a source of recreation that has delighted as well as inspired audience in equal measure. It has also made immense contributions to other industries, not in the least, the incredibly popular movie industry which owes not only most of its best actors, but its very identity as a whole to the field of theatre. However, with increasing and more easily available avenues for entertainment and rampant commercialisation, the theatre industry has been crowded out and faces a tough challenge for survival as of now. We at ITDB have a dream to revive Indian Theatre to its glorious past and we wish to achieve this using data analytics and IT services to theatre community - producers, Playwrights, customers as well as aspiring actors - so that they have an easy one stop destination for all their theatre needs; and producers have a better understanding of what to play, where to play it and whom to play it for. Products/services Primarily we plan to offer a website, which would contain services such as: - * Database of Theatre plays, Artists, playwrights etc. (Similar to that of IMDB). * Data analytics and visualization capabilities for producers and playwrights, who would like to forecast the script, revenue and viewership of their future...

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...The Academy Theatre Many people all over the state come out to "An Atlanta Christmas" program to have fun, to give, and to just meet new people. An Atlanta Christmas is performed at the Academy Theatre. The longest running and best theatre in the state. It was established by Frank Wittow, an army veteran with a degree in psychology. The Academy Theatre is set out to reach child who are at risk. Frank Wittow was from Lorain, Ohio before he moved to Georgia. He created the theatre to show classical and contemporary works, bring strangers to together with the same passion, and to show people no matter your age you can do whatever you want. The Academy theatre has been open for over 50 years in Georgia. There are two locations one in Hapeville and the other in Stockbridge. Besides all of the great works the theatre shows they also have festivals that help the community. These festivals come around holidays. My family and I go out to different festivals to have fun, to meet new people, and to celebrate the holiday. In addition to the works and festivals the Academy has different program that lasts weeks at a time. They have different activities to participate in from k-12 and even older. I remember taking my youngest son out to the coloring contest the academy had. You should have seen the smile it brought to his face when they gave him the paper and crayons to begin his artwork. He enjoy meet other children his age the most. I enjoyed the feeling I got when the people......

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...write about how the style of Roman theatres has carried throughout generations and resembles the theatres in today’s society. The Greeks had massive theatres holding thousands of people but the Roman downsized and made their theatres more concise and similar to theatres that are built today. Not all of the characteristics of today’s theatres and the Roman theatres are the same, as I will explain in the following section, but the Roman style of theatre is more relatable than the Greeks theatre style and still has made an impact on theatres today. Section 2: Roman theatres have resemblance to the theatres that are built in today’s society. The Roman’s designed their theatres based on the Greeks, who came before them, but changed many aspects to fit their culture. The parts of the Roman theatres that are still seen in theatres built today are the unit itself, the orchestra shape, and the auditorium shape. Before the Romans, theatres were built into hills by the Greeks, but the Romans were the first to connect the auditorium and the scene building to make one unit. This is clearly how all theatres are built in today’s society, from theatres such as the Thompson Theatre all the way to Broadway. By connecting the auditorium and scene into one unit this also changed the shape of the building into a semicircle, which you can find a similar shape in all theatres today. The orchestra shape and position is very similar to today’s orchestras in modern theatres because they were built......

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...Greek Theatre The actual staging in which the actors and chorus perform on is very specific and similar in most ancient theaters in Greece. The orchestra (which translates to “dancing space”) is normally a circular level space positioned in front of the skene. This space is typically used by the chorus for dancing, singing and to interact with the actors whom are positioned by the skene. Early orchestras were made of heard earth patted down however during the classical period some orchestras got paved with marble and other grander materials. In the majority of orchestras positioned was a thymele, or altar. The spectators sat in the theatron (translated to “viewing place”), which is the terraced seating positioned on the sloping part of the hillside. The theatron usually wrapped round the majority of the orchestras giving the audience a better view of the performance. The audience would sit on cushions and boards until the fourth century when many Greek theatrons had marble seats. Behind the stage and the orchestra lies the skene (translated to tent) which is a large building used mostly for the actors to make exits and entrances. The skene also allowed actors to change into different costumes and masks without the audience seeing them. The skene also had a path up to the roof actors could take in order to portray the character of a God, the roof is called theologion (theos= Gods). The theatres were built where the sunlight would hit difectly and cast different shadoews......

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...Your text here Your text here Traveling around in the medieval was very different to or stat of the art cars but back in the day they have to use horses and would have taken longer than a day to get to let’s say Portsmouth to Birmingham it would have taken weeks or even months because of how fast the horses could back then could go than now. Food was very different to or food because they didn’t have any fast food places like kfc or nandos. What they had to live off to was meat and only meat, but some of their popular meal was meat pie if you were king henry the eighth you could never live without meat pie, but the only thing the poor could a ford was soup because it was very hard to get a proper because you’d have to have gone to university. Medieval sport was very competitive and dangerous. The sport that everybody new about was jousting, the sports basically starts in a big arena with a cord on one side and the posh on the other side with the king and queen of the kingdom along the centre of the arena was a long wooden line which split the two sides where the two knight on their horses. The only things that they had on them to protect them was armour a shield and their lances. The medieval has the worst sickness you can get the black plague. The proses starts like this a flea bites a rat then the rat will bit the human and human gets infected. There are side effects which start to form on your body like bobons, this kind of spot......

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...period, the church had more power than the actual teachings of Jesus Christ. The things done during this time in the name of Christianity are completely opposite of the ideals Jesus preached and the way he lived. It seems like during this time period very few people were literate. The church held all the power in the situation. This shows how these ideas were spread easily among the masses. It’s a well-known fact that the less that people know, the easier they are to control. The church took advantage of this and did some pretty evil things during this time period. A lot of evil things have been done in the name of religion throughout history. After looking at the evidence, it seems that “the others” were not treated well during medieval society. This was mostly because the church wanted everyone to be Christian so they could make more money. You can also blame the intolerance of this time period on the lack of education provided to the people. Most of these people had the Christian religion rammed down their throat and had no choice but to listen to the religious leaders. In this period, it was either be and Christian or face death. The unfortunate thing about the whole situation is that this period in history gives a bad name to Christianity. When taught correctly, Christianity can be beneficial to one’s spiritual life. The reason that Christianity has survived so many years is the fact that it does teach a doctrine of love and tolerance. The most famous......

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Medieval Weapons Medieval Weapons

...Conclusion III. Castle (Defense and Offense) A. Topic sentence B. Trebuchet C. Catapult D. Cross-bow E. Conclusion IV. Coat and Arms Weapons A. Long-bow B. Flail C. Mace D. War hammer E. Conclusion V. Final Conclusion Medieval Weapons C. Wilburn 2 Have you ever wanted to know about the weapons knights used? Well the knights used different things including battle axes, bow-and-arrows, and catapults. Some were used by different people though. Some spent years of training, while others spent just a year. Some knights had armor while others didn’t. But the kind of weapons in use was the types of weaponry of the Medieval Ages. All in all, the knights had some good weapons. Medieval knights used some cool weapons. Usually when knighted, the knights would get spurs which are sharp spikes behind the heels of the knight’s shoe, to guide the horse, a shield to protect themselves in battle, and a sword to fight with. Some swords could be the slashing swords that were flat and wide sharp-edged swords to make a very destructive blow. Later in the Medieval Ages, sword makers would make thrusting swords which were longer and more pointed than slashing swords. The point of the sword can fit between armor of the knight and the chain mail which is the knights used as extra protection. Other swords were the hand-and-a-half......

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...Lauren Martin Elements of Directing Monday 2:30 – 5:20 December 12, 2011 Performance Observation- The Good Soul of Szechuan The fall Theatre Production Workshop presented this year at Marymount Manhattan was the play The Good Soul of Szechuan by Bertolt Brecht and was directed by Dayna Kimball. This play was an interesting choice because of the theory that Brecht uses to write his plays. He believes that the audience should know they are watching a production. This is why he adds musical numbers, over the top characters, and distinctive differences between social classes. Kimball did a great job at following this theory through the characters’ actions, the costumes, and the set. Dayna Kimball obviously followed the tradition that Brecht has set for his plays. She followed Brecht’s technique that the spectator is watching a representation of reality, not actual reality. The audience should be well aware they are watching a production. Kimball made very specific decisions for this technique. She had the cast sing the musical numbers loud and directly to the audience, with the accompaniment clearly shown onstage. The acting involved extreme vocals and over the top actions. Often, the characters would directly talk to audience members and even move around the auditorium. Kimball had the cast sitting onstage while not performing, watching their fellow cast members perform. Kimball picked costumes for the characters that showed the differences in their social class....

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Medieval theatre refers to theatrical performance in the period between the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century A.D. and the beginning of the Renaissance in approximately the 15th century A.D. Medieval Theatre covers all drama produced in Europe over that thousand-year period and refers to a variety of genres, including liturgical drama, mystery plays, morality plays, farces and masques. Beginning with Hrosvitha of Gandersheim in the 10th century, Medieval drama was for the most part very religious and moral in its themes, staging and traditions. The most famous examples of Medieval plays are the English cycle dramas, the York Mystery Plays, the Chester Mystery Plays, the Wakefield Mystery Plays and the N-Town Plays, as well as the morality play, Everyman. One of the earliest surviving secular plays in English is The Interlude of the Student and the Girl (c. 1300).

Due to a lack of surviving records and texts, a low literacy rate of the general population, and the opposition of the clergy to some types of performance, there are few surviving sources on Medieval drama of the Early and High Medieval periods. However, by the late period, drama and theatre began to become more secularized and a larger number of records survive documenting plays and performances.

Early Medieval theatre[edit]

Faced with the problem of explaining a new religion to a largely illiterate population, churches in the Early Middle Ages began staging dramatized versions of particular biblical events on specific days of the year. These dramatizations were included in order to vivify annual celebrations.[1] Symbolic objects and actions (vestments, altars, censers, and pantomime performed by priests) recalled the events which Christian ritual celebrates. These were extensive sets of visual signs that could be used to communicate with a largely illiterate audience. These performances developed into liturgical dramas, the earliest of which is the Whom do you Seek (Quem-Quaeritis) Easter trope, dating from ca. 925.[1] Liturgical drama was sung responsively by two groups and did not involve actors impersonating characters. However, sometime between 965 and 975, Æthelwold of Winchester composed the Regularis Concordia (Monastic Agreement) which contains a playlet complete with directions for performance.[2]

Transition from Rome, 500-900 A.D.[edit]

As the Western Roman Empire fell into severe decay through the 4th and 5th centuries A.D., the seat of Roman power shifted to Constantinople and the Eastern Roman Empire, later called the Byzantine Empire. While surviving evidence about Byzantine theatre is slight, existing records show that mime, pantomime, scenes or recitations from tragedies and comedies, dances, and other entertainments were very popular. Constantinople had two theatres that were in use as late as the 5th century A.D. However, the true importance of the Byzantines in theatrical history is their preservation of many classical Greek texts and the compilation of a massive encyclopedia called the Suda, from which is derived a large amount of contemporary information on Greek theatre.[3] In the 6th century, the Emperor Justinian finally closed down all theatres for good.

According to the binary thinking of the Church's early followers, everything that did not belong to God belonged to the Devil; thus all non-Christian gods and religions were satanic. Efforts were made in many countries through this period to not only convert Jews and pagans but to destroy pre-Christian institutions and influences. Works of Greek and Roman literature were burnt, the thousand-year-old Platonic Academy was closed, the Olympic Games were banned and all theatres were shut down. The theatre itself was viewed as a diabolical threat to Christianity because of its continued popularity in Rome even among new converts. Church fathers such as Tatian, Tertullian and Augustine characterized the stage as an instrument in the Devil's fiendish plot to corrupt men's souls, while acting was considered sinful because of its cruel mockery of God's creation.[4]

Under these influences, the church set about trying to suppress theatrical spectacles by passing laws prohibiting and excluding Romanactors. They were forbidden to have contact with Christian women, own slaves, or wear gold. They were officially excommunicated, denied the sacraments, including marriage and burial, and were defamed and debased throughout Europe. For many centuries thereafter, clerics were cautioned to not allow these suddenly homeless, travelling actors to perform in their jurisdictions.[4]

From the 5th century, Western Europe was plunged into a period of general disorder that lasted (with a brief period of stability under the Carolingian Empire in the 9th century) until the 10th century A.D. As such, most organized theatrical activities disappeared in Western Europe. While it seems that small nomadic bands traveled around Europe throughout the period, performing wherever they could find an audience, there is no evidence that they produced anything but crude scenes .[5]

Hrosvitha (c.935-973), an aristocratic canoness and historian in northern Germany, wrote six plays modeled on Terence's comedies but using religious subjects in the 10th century A.D. Terence's comedies had long been used in monastery schools as examples of spoken Latin but are full of clever, alluring courtesans and ordinary human pursuits such as sex, love and marriage.[6] In order to preempt criticism from the church, Hrosvitha prefaced her collection by stating that her moral purpose to save Christians from the guilt they must feel when reading Classical literature. Her declared solution was to imitate the "laudable" deeds of women in Terence's plays and discard the "shameless" ones.[7] These six plays are the first known plays composed by a female dramatist and the first identifiable Western dramatic works of the post-Classical era.[2] They were first published in 1501 and had considerable influence on religious and didactic plays of the sixteenth century. Hrosvitha was followed by Hildegard of Bingen (d. 1179), a Benedictine abbess, who wrote a Latinmusical drama called Ordo Virtutum in 1155.

The anonymous pagan play Querolus, written c.420, was adapted in the 12th century by Vitalis of Blois. Other secular Latin plays were also written in the 12th century, mainly in France but also in England (Babio). There certainly existed some other performances that were not fully fledged theatre; they may have been carryovers from the original pagan cultures (as is known from records written by the clergy disapproving of such festivals). It is also known that mimes, minstrels, bards, storytellers, and jugglers traveled in search of new audiences and financial support. Not much is known about these performers' repertoire and few written texts survive. One of the most famous of the secular plays is the musical Le Jeu de Robin et Marion, written by Adam de la Halle in the 13th century, which is fully laid out in the original manuscript with lines, musical notation, and illuminations in the margins depicting the actors in motion. Adam also wrote another secular play, Jeu de la Fueillee in Arras, a French town in which theatre was thriving in the late 12th and 13th centuries. One play surviving from Arras, is Jeu de saint Nicolas by Jean Bodel (c.1200).

High and Late Medieval theatre[edit]

As the Viking invasions ceased in the middle of the 11th century A.D., liturgical drama had spread from Russia to Scandinavia to Italy. Only in Muslim-occupied Spain were liturgical dramas not presented at all. Despite the large number of liturgical dramas that have survived from the period, many churches would have only performed one or two per year and a larger number never performed any at all.[8]

The Feast of Fools was especially important in the development of comedy. The festival inverted the status of the lesser clergy and allowed them to ridicule their superiors and the routine of church life. Sometimes plays were staged as part of the occasion and a certain amount of burlesque and comedy may have entered the liturgical drama as a result of its influence.[9]

Performance of religious plays outside of the church began sometime in the 12th century through a traditionally accepted process of merging shorter liturgical dramas into longer plays which were then translated into vernacular and performed by laymen and thus accessible to a wider segment of society inclusive of the working class. The use of vernacular enabled drama to be understood and enjoyed by a larger audience. The Mystery of Adam (1150) gives credence to this theory as its detailed stage direction suggest that it was staged outdoors. A number of other plays from the period survive, including La Seinte Resurrection (Norman), The Play of the Magi Kings (Spanish), and Sponsus (French).

Economic and political changes in the High Middle Ages led to the formation of guilds and the growth of towns, and this would lead to significant changes for theatre starting in this time and continuing into in the Late Middle Ages. Trade guilds began to perform plays, usually religiously based, and often dealing with a biblical story that referenced their profession. For instance, a baker's guild would perform a reenactment of the Last Supper.[10] In the British Isles, plays were produced in some 127 different towns during the Middle Ages. These vernacular "mystery plays" were written in cycles of a large number of plays: York (48 plays), Chester (24), Wakefield (32) and Unknown (42). A larger number of plays survive from France and Germany in this period and some type of religious dramas were performed in nearly every European country in the Late Middle Ages. Many of these plays contained comedy, devils, villains and clowns.[11]

The majority of actors in these plays were drawn from the local population. For example, at Valenciennes in 1547, more than 100 roles were assigned to 72 actors.[12] Plays were staged on pageant wagon stages, which were platforms mounted on wheels used to move scenery. Often providing their own costumes, amateur performers in England were exclusively male, but other countries had female performers. The platform stage, which was an unidentified space and not a specific locale, allowed for abrupt changes in location.

Morality plays emerged as a distinct dramatic form around 1400 and flourished until 1550. The Castle of Perseverance which depicts mankind's progress from birth to death. Though Everyman may possibly be the best known of this genre, it is atypical in many ways. Everyman receives Death's summons, struggles to escape and finally resigns himself to necessity. Along the way, he is deserted by Kindred, Goods, and Fellowship - only Good Deeds goes with him to the grave.

Secular drama was also staged throughout the Middle Ages, the earliest of which is The Play of the Greenwood by Adam de la Halle in 1276. It contains satirical scenes and folk material such as faeries and other supernatural occurrences. Farces also rose dramatically in popularity after the 13th century. The majority of these plays come from France and Germany and are similar in tone and form, emphasizing sex and bodily excretions.[13] The best known playwright of farces is Hans Sachs (1494–1576) who wrote 198 dramatic works. In England, The Second Shepherds' Play of the Wakefield Cycle is the best known early farce. However, farce did not appear independently in England until the 16th century with the work of John Heywood (1497–1580).

A significant forerunner of the development of Elizabethan drama was the Chambers of Rhetoric in the Low Countries.[14] These societies were concerned with poetry, music and drama and held contests to see which society could compose the best drama in relation to a question posed.

At the end of the Late Middle Ages, professional actors began to appear in England and Europe. Richard III and Henry VII both maintained small companies of professional actors. Their plays were performed in the great hall of a nobleman's residence, often with a raised platform at one end for the audience and a "screen" at the other for the actors. Also important were Mummers' plays, performed during the Christmas season, and court masques. These masques were especially popular during the reign of Henry VIII who had a house of revels built and an office of revels established in 1545.[15]


Depending on the area of the performances, the plays were performed in the middle of the street, on pageant wagons in the streets of great cities (this was inconvenient for the actors because the small stage size made stage movement impossible), in the halls of nobility, or in the round in amphitheatres, as suggested by current archaeology in Cornwall and the southwest of England. The most detailed illustration of a mystery play stage design is the frontispiece to Hubert Cailleau's The Passion and Resurrection of the Savior. All medieval stage production was temporary and expected to be removed upon the completion of the performances. Actors, predominantly male, typically wore long, dark robes. Medieval plays such as the Wakefield cycle, or the Digby Magdalene featured lively interplay between two distinct areas, the wider spaces in front of the raised staging areas, and the elevated areas themselves (called, respectively, the locus and the platea).[16] Typically too, actors would move between these locations in order to suggest scene changes, rather than remain stationary and have the scene change around them as is typically done in modern theatres.

Scenery, stage machinery and costumes enabled a more realistic depiction of the message the play was trying to promote. Whether on a fixed stage, with more opportunity for spectacle, or on a pageant wagon that moved through the streets, the ornate details and tricks attributed to these productions enhanced the audience’s experience of the play.[17]

Changes during Late Middle Ages[edit]

Changing political and economic factors greatly affected theatre at the end of the Middle Ages and beginning of the Modern Era. First, the Protestant Reformation targeted the theatre, especially in England, in an effort to stamp out allegiance to Rome. In Wakefield, for example, the local mystery cycle text shows signs of Protestant editing, with references to the pope crossed out and two plays completely eliminated because they were too Catholic. However, it was not just the Protestants who attacked the theatre of the time. The Council of Trent banned religious plays in an attempt to rein in the extrabiblical material that the Protestants frequently lampooned.

A revival of interest in ancient Roman and Greek culture changed the tastes of the learned classes in the performing arts. Greek and Roman plays were performed and new plays were written that were heavily influenced by the classical style. This led to the creation of Commedia dell'arte and influenced Renaissance theatre.

A change of patronage also caused drastic changes to the theatre. In England the monarch and nobility started to support professional theatre troupes (including Shakespeare'sLord Chamberlain's Men and King's Men), which catered to their upper class patrons' tastes.

Finally, the construction of permanent theaters, such as The Theatre signaled a major turning point. Permanent theaters allowed for more sophisticated staging and storytelling.

Contributions to modern theatre[edit]

Many components of theatre that developed during the Middle Ages continue to be incorporated in productions around the world to this day, such as use of the vernacular, spectacle, stage direction and the use of farce. Performances that were spoken in the vernacular provided opportunities for larger audiences, who included members of lower socio-economic status, who would have otherwise been excluded from understanding the performances.[18]

Medieval theatre differed from the classical theatre for it emphasized spectacle. In addition, it presented various actions on stage in time and space and presented a combination of the sublime with detailed realism. Approximately 1400 A.D., the dramas were performed with spectacle; no longer dependent exclusively on the spoken word, but incorporating music, dance, costume and set design. The spectacle of the later Medieval theatre made it necessary to have detailed stage directions. A sample of documented staging drawings and directions remain from the 15th-century morality play The Castle of Perseverance. The evolution to the dependence on detailed stage direction made possible the great Shakespearean stage.[19]

Modern productions of Medieval theatre[edit]

Mummers plays[edit]

Mummers plays are still performed regularly throughout the United Kingdom.[20] What relation they may bear to their medieval antecedents is unknown. The surviving texts of this oral tradition were recorded in the 18th century, at a time when the industrial revolution began to break up the rural communities in which the plays were performed.

Mystery plays[edit]

Mystery Plays are still produced regularly throughout the United Kingdom. The local cycles were revived in both York and Chester in 1951 as part of the Festival of Britain, and are still performed by the local guilds.[21] The N-Town cycle was revived in 1978 as the Lincoln mystery plays, [22] and in 1994 the Lichfield Mysteries were inaugurated (now the biggest community theatre event in the United Kingdom).[23]

In 1977 the National Theatre commissioned Tony Harrison to create The Mysteries, a re-working of the Wakefield Cycle and others.[24] It was revived in 1985 (whereupon the production was filmed for Channel 4 Television), and again as a part of the theatre's millennium celebration in 2000.[25] The productions won Bill Bryden the "Best Director" title in both the Evening Standard Theatre Awards and the Olivier Awards for 1985, the year the three plays first appeared together in performance at the Lyceum Theatre. An adaptation of Harrison's play was staged at Shakespeare's Globe in 2011 as The Globe Mysteries.[26]

In 2001, the Isango Ensemble produced an African version of the Chester Cycle at the Garrick Theatre in London as The Mysteries – Yiimimangaliso, performing in a combination of the Xhosa language, the Zulu language, English, Latin and Afrikaans. They revived an adapted version of the production at Shakespeare's Globe in 2015 as The Mysteries.[27] In 2004, two mystery plays (one focusing on the Creation and the other on the Passion) were performed at Canterbury Cathedral, with actor Edward Woodward in the role of God. The large cast also included Daniel MacPherson, Thomas James Longley and Joseph McManners.[28]

Morality plays[edit]

The first modern stage production of Everyman did not appear until July 1901, when The Elizabethan Stage Society of William Poel gave three outdoor performances at the Charterhouse in London.[29] Poel then partnered with British actor Ben Greet to produce the play throughout Britain, with runs on the American Broadway stage from 1902 to 1918,[30] and concurrent tours throughout North America. These productions differed from past performances in that women were cast in the title role, rather than men. Film adaptations of the 1901 version of the play appeared in 1913 and 1914, with the 1913 film being presented with an early color two-process pioneered by Kinemacolor.[31][32]

Another well-known version of the play is Jedermann by the Austrian playwright Hugo von Hofmannsthal, which has been performed annually at the Salzburg Festival since 1920. The Hofmannsthal play was made into a film of the same title in 1961. Frederick Franck published a modernised version of the tale entitled "Everyone", drawing on Buddhist influence.[34] A direct-to-video movie version of Everyman was made in 2002, directed by John Farrell, which updated the setting to the early 21st century, including Death as a businessman in dark glasses with a briefcase, and Goods being played by a talking personal computer.[35]

A modernized adaptation by Carol Ann Duffy, the Poet Laureate, with Chiwetel Ejiofor in the title role, was performed at the National Theatre (UK) from April to July 2015.[36]

Miracle plays[edit]

Performances of plays outside of churches are frequent during the Christmas season with reenactments of the Nativity, and many Christian schools and Sunday school groups regularly performs scenes from the bible with children. The reenactment of the Passion is performed throughout the world in the late Lenten season.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ abBrockett and Hildy (2003, 76)
  2. ^ abBrockett and Hildy (2003, 77)
  3. ^Brockett and Hildy (2003, 70)
  4. ^ abWise and Walker (2003, 184)
  5. ^Brockett and Hildy (2003, 75)
  6. ^McAlister, Linda. "Hypatia's Daughters: 1500 Years of Women Philosophers." Hypatia Inc.
  7. ^Wise and Walker (2003, 190)
  8. ^Brockett and Hildy (2003, 78)
  9. ^Brockett and Hildy (2003, 80).
  10. ^A History of English literature for Students, by Robert Huntington Fletcher, 1916: pp. 85-88
  11. ^Brockett and Hildy (2003, 86)
  12. ^Brockett and Hildy (2003, 95)
  13. ^Brockett and Hildy (2003, 96)
  14. ^Brockett and Hildy (2003, 99)
  15. ^Brockett and Hildy (2003, 101-103)
  16. ^Dillon, Cambridge Introduction to Early English Theatre (Cambridge: CUP, 2006), pp4-16.
  17. ^Styan, J.L.,"The English Stage: A History of Drama and Performance"
  18. ^Symes, Carol. A Common Stage: Theatre and Public Life in Medieval Arras. Cornell University Press, 10-24.
  19. ^Styan, J.L. 1996. "The English Stage: A History of Drama and Performance." Cambridge University Press,1-45.
  20. ^Hannant (2011).
  21. ^Rogerson, Margaret. The Plays and the Guilds, York Mystery Plays
  22. ^Normington, Katie (October 2007). Modern mysteries: contemporary productions of medieval English cycle dramas. Melton, Suffolk, England: Boydell and Brewer. ISBN 978-1-84384-128-9. 
  23. ^Lichfield Mysteries: Home Page, retrieved 28 January 2011 
  24. ^Dodsworth, Martin (9 January 1986). "A poet in the land of as if". The Guardian. London. 
  25. ^Harrison, Tony (1985). The Mysteries. London: Faber. ISBN 0-571-13790-3. 
  26. ^Shakespeare's Globe. The Globe Mysteries. 2011
  27. ^Shakespeare's Globe. The Isango Ensemble Mysteries 2015
  28. ^BBC News. Revival of Medieval Mystery Plays. Thursday, 5 August, 2004,
  29. ^Kuehler, Stephen G., (2008), Concealing God: The "Everyman" revival, 1901–1903, Tufts University (PhD. thesis), 104 p.
  30. ^Everyman (Broadway play) at the Internet Broadway Database
  31. ^Medieval theatre on IMDb – 1913 film version.
  32. ^Medieval theatre on IMDb – 1914 film version.
  33. ^"Everyman's God". 
  34. ^"Everyman (2002)". IMDb. 17 July 2002. 
  35. ^"BBC Radio 4 - Saturday Review, Everyman, Far from the Madding Crowd, Empire, Anne Enright, Christopher Williams". BBC. 


  • Bate, Keith, ed. 1976. Three Latin Comedies. Toronto: Centre for Medieval Studies.
  • Brockett, Oscar G. and Franklin J. Hildy. 2003. History of the Theatre. Ninth edition, International edition. Boston: Allyn and Bacon. ISBN 0-205-41050-2.
  • Cohen, Robert. 2000. Theatre: Brief Edition. Mayfield: McGraw-Hill. ISBN 978-0077333515.
  • Hannant, Sara. 2011. Mummers, Maypoles and Milkmaids: A Journey Through the English Ritual Year. London: Merrell. ISBN 978-1-8589-4559-0.
  • Klaus,Carl H., Miriam Gilbert, and Braford S. Field, Jr. 1991. "Stages of Drama." New York: St. Martin's.
  • Knight, Alan E. 1983. "Aspects of Genre in Late Medieval French Drama." Manchester University Press.
  • McAlister, Linda. 1996. "Hypatia's Daughters: 1500 Years of Women Philosophers." Hypatia Inc.
  • Nelson, Alan H. 1972. "Some Configurations of Staging in Medieval English Drama" Medieval English Drama: Essays Critical and Contextual Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 116-147.
  • Styan, J.L. 1996. The English Stage: A History of Drama and Performance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-55636-8.
  • Symes, Carol. 2007. A Common Stage: Theatre and Public Life in Medieval Arras. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. ISBN 978-0801445811.
  • Walsh, Martin. 2002. "Drama." Medieval Folklore: A Guide to Myths, Legends, Tales, Beliefs, and Customs. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-1576071212.
  • Wise, Jennifer and Craig S. Walker, eds. 2003. The Broadview Anthology of Drama: Plays from the Western Theatre, Volume 1. Toronto: Braodview Press.
Hrosvitha of Gandersheim, the first dramatist of the post-classical era.

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