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Lecture 19

THAR 280 Lecture 19: medieval theatre

Theatre Arts
Course Code
THAR 280

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Medieval Theatre
Monday, October 31, 2016
12:37 PM
300 CE to 1500 CE
Middle Ages/Dark Ages/Medieval
All the same above
Same time period
Medieval - used as an adjective
Dark ages - no cultural activity
Most people were illiterate
Little travel = no exchange of ideas (because of the bubonic plague)
o Any entertainment had to go to them
Medieval Drama
Fall of Rome, then the church came in
Black plague
For 400 years, no drama except
o Several folk festivals (because the church kept many pagan stuff)
o Wandering jugglers and minstrels
Drama in the Early Middle Ages 500-1000
Traveling performers
o Minstrels, jugglers, acrobats, bards, mimes, puppeteers
o Performed in taverns and at festivals
o Court for nobility (the wealthy wanted to show off how much money they had)
Festivals usually contained both pagan and Christian elements (ex: Halloween and Christmas
o The church had problems with growing too large
Liturgical Drama
The roman catholic church was responsible for the rebirth of European theatre in the 10th - 12th
All Europe had been converted to Christianity
The church needed ways to teach illiterate parishioners
o Cathedrals, stained glass windows, sculptures, painting, and drama
Religious rituals
o The mass, baptism, etc
o Embody theatrical elements
Began to incorporate such elements
The first short plays were called tropes (bits of physical activity accompanied with music)
Started to use the elements to
Teach people the stories
And to get them involved with the church
These people needed some faith
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Short dramas
Presented in the church
Chants to help learn biblical history
o In Latin then Common Vernacular
Troupes began in France
o Church banned drama
Quem Quaertis was presented at the Easter Mass (told the story of crucifixion and resurrection)
Liturgical Drama become elaborate and very popular
o Performers were nuns, priests, and choirboys
Tropes and scenes were popular
o Whole stories emerged
Small platforms or mansions
o In the church
From mansion to mansion until they saw the entire story (
A nun, Hrosvitha, wrote a religious comedy that was performed on mansions in the 10th century.
o Earliest European playwright
Hrotsvit of Gandersheim 935-1000
Aka Roswitha
Canoness at the covenant of Gandersheim in Germany
One of the earliest European playwrights
6 plays
o Written in Latin
o Based on Terance
Focus on female characters
Test their devotion to Christian virtues
Aimed ot revise the negative portrayals of women found in Terence comedies
Types of drama
Church drama expands to present more and more bible stories
o Mummings
o Morality play
o Miracle play
o Mystery plays
o Manners
o Passion Play
Earliest style of Medieval Drama
Folk play
o Hero-combat play
o The sword play
o The wooing Ceremony
Pagan roots
Not politically correct
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find more resources at
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