Uploaded by Lance Blank

Medieval Theatre

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Medieval Theatre
History
Theatre 1-2
Medieval Period Time Frame

300 CE to 1300 CE
Drama owes its rebirth to the
Catholic Church

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Priests introduce tropes: chants that help
those who can’t read or write learn Biblical
history.
Church plays become elaborate
presentations that are very popular.

Performers were nuns, priests and choirboys.
Quem quaeritis in sepulchro, O
Christicole?
Jesum Nazarenum crucifixum, O
caelicolae.
Non est hic, surrexit sicut
praedixerat.
Ite, nuntiate quia surrexit de
sepulchro.
Whom seek ye in the sepulchre, O
Christian women?
Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified, O
heavenly one.
He is not here; He is risen, as he
foretold.
Go, announce that He has risen
from the sepulchre
Continued…

Church drama expands to present more
and more Bible stories:

Miracle and Mystery Plays:
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Based on the lives of saints and stories of Bible
Passion Play:

Last week of Jesus’ life. First performed in 1634
in Germany. Performed every ten years since
1760. Performance in 1980 drew 600,000.
Mystery Play
Plays performed with Mansions

Mansions: Various acting stations placed in
a line, each one a different Biblical location
such as: Heaven, Hell, Jerusalem, et
cetera.
Staging the Plays
Example of Medieval Mansions
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Inside the church, the audience
moved from one mansion to the
next to see each scene.
A mansion is a scenic façade
that marks the location of the
scene
Eventually the plays became
too large and had to be staged
outside the church.
Medieval trade unions (guilds) presented
most Miracle and Mystery plays.

Each guild (bakers, goldsmiths, cooks, et
cetera) did one part: the last supper, Three
Wise Men, et cetera.
Each guild had pageant wagon
(stage on wheels):

Forerunner for modern stage.
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Wagons traveled from town to town.
Audience would stay in one spot while wagons
moved through one by one.
Entire sequence called a cycle.
Wandering groups begin presenting
Miracle and Mystery plays:

Originators of first acting companies.
Mystery Plays

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Plot & Characters taken from
books of the bible
It was, initially, the most prominent
form of liturgical drama
The best examples are the cycle
plays of England.
Cycle plays are a series of short
plays performed over a longer
period of time.
An example of a Mystery play is
The Passion Play
Adam and Eve are
expelled from the
garden of Eden in a
modern production of
a mystery play.
Morality plays are also popular at
the time:

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These dramas were based on the spiritual
trials of the average man
Deals with principles of right and wrong
echoed in the Bible.
Miracle Plays

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St. Nicholas
Plot is built around the lives and
works of the saints
Usually performed on the saint’s
feast day
Some scripts were biblical,
others were not
Example: the four St. Nicholas
plays presented on St. Nicholas
Day, in Latin, on December 6th.
Morality Plays

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Dramas based on the
spiritual trials of the average
person
The plays were allegories
about moral temptations
The action of the drama was
the battle of good and evil to
possess a person’s soul.
Best example: Everyman
From the manuscript
Castle of
Perseverance (c.
1400).
Instructions for
staging a morality
play.