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MEDIEVAL THEATRE IN EUROPE. Introduction Timeframe: from the fall of the Western Roman Empire to the beginning of Renaissance. 5 th century till the middle.

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Presentation on theme: "MEDIEVAL THEATRE IN EUROPE. Introduction Timeframe: from the fall of the Western Roman Empire to the beginning of Renaissance. 5 th century till the middle."— Presentation transcript:

1 MEDIEVAL THEATRE IN EUROPE

2 Introduction Timeframe: from the fall of the Western Roman Empire to the beginning of Renaissance. 5 th century till the middle of the 16 th century. Timeframe: from the fall of the Western Roman Empire to the beginning of Renaissance. 5 th century till the middle of the 16 th century. Secular theatre died in Western Europe with the fall of Rome Secular theatre died in Western Europe with the fall of Rome Most medieval theatre is religious in nature. Most medieval theatre is religious in nature. Not well documented due to a lack of surviving records and texts. Not well documented due to a lack of surviving records and texts.

3 Society divided in: 1.Roman catholic church, which dominated religion, education and often politics. 2.The feudal lords, who owned the land and the serfs. 3.Serfs(peasants), who paid taxes and served in the military whenever needed.

4 Theatre in the dark ages ( AD ) At the beginning of the Middle Ages, the Roman Catholic Church banned theatrical performances as barbaric and pagan. At the beginning of the Middle Ages, the Roman Catholic Church banned theatrical performances as barbaric and pagan. Small groups of traveling performers – minstrels, jugglers, acrobats, bards, mimes, puppeteers -- went from town to town entertaining. Small groups of traveling performers – minstrels, jugglers, acrobats, bards, mimes, puppeteers -- went from town to town entertaining. These were the only entertainment for the time. They were also precursors of Commedia Dell’Arte in France and Italy and today’s circuses. These were the only entertainment for the time. They were also precursors of Commedia Dell’Arte in France and Italy and today’s circuses.

5 Drama in the 10 th century Important to note that the Roman Catholic Church who shut down classical theatre also took part in the rebirth of the theatre in the 10 th century. Perhaps the church had little choice – it couldn't stop the pagan rites – too popular – so many aspects of pagan rites found their way into Christian ceremonies.

6 Hrotsvit of Gandersheim aka Roswitha, Hrotswitha, Hrotsvita aka Roswitha, Hrotswitha, Hrotsvita Canoness at the convent of Gandersheim in Germany Canoness at the convent of Gandersheim in Germany One of the earliest European playwrights One of the earliest European playwrights Her 6 plays, written in Latin, are based on Roman comedies by Terence, but focus on female characters in situations that test their devotion to Christian virtues. Her 6 plays, written in Latin, are based on Roman comedies by Terence, but focus on female characters in situations that test their devotion to Christian virtues. Her intention was to revise the negative portrayals of women that she found in his comedies. Her intention was to revise the negative portrayals of women that she found in his comedies.

7 Types of Medieval Drama Liturgical tropes: gospel dramatizations Liturgical tropes: gospel dramatizations Mystery plays: Biblical plays Mystery plays: Biblical plays Miracle plays: saints’ lives Miracle plays: saints’ lives Morality plays: allegories Morality plays: allegories Interludes and farces: secular plays Interludes and farces: secular plays Folk plays: pagan and folklore elements Folk plays: pagan and folklore elements

8 LITURGICAL DRAMA ( A.D) The content was from the church liturgy and it was performed by clergy during the church services. The content was from the church liturgy and it was performed by clergy during the church services. These contained some theatrical elements and the first short plays were called tropes. These contained some theatrical elements and the first short plays were called tropes. The dramas were written in Latin. The dramas were written in Latin.

9 Religious Vernacular Drama Vernacular: everyday speech. Roman catholic clergy switched from Latin to the languages of the people they served to. Vernacular: everyday speech. Roman catholic clergy switched from Latin to the languages of the people they served to. The plays needed more actors and common people began acting as amateur performers. The plays needed more actors and common people began acting as amateur performers. As these plays became more elaborate they were performed outside the church. As these plays became more elaborate they were performed outside the church.

10 The Religious Vernacular Plays Performed in cycles Performed in cycles Aimed to reinforce Church doctrine Aimed to reinforce Church doctrine Melodramatic Melodramatic good-rewarded and evil-punished good-rewarded and evil-punished God and his plan were the driving forces not the characters. God and his plan were the driving forces not the characters. 3 kinds of religious plays: 3 kinds of religious plays: Mystery plays Miracle plays Morality plays

11 The 3 M’s of Religious Vernacular Drama Mystery plays: Biblical stories Mystery plays: Biblical stories Miracle plays: saints’ lives Miracle plays: saints’ lives Morality plays: allegories Morality plays: allegories

12 Mystery (cycle) Plays Mystery: from French mystere -- secret. The term could refer to Biblical truths or to the secrets of the crafts held by the guilds who were responsible for producing the plays. Mystery: from French mystere -- secret. The term could refer to Biblical truths or to the secrets of the crafts held by the guilds who were responsible for producing the plays. In England, these Biblical plays were produced in cycles: a series of plays depicting Biblical history from the Creation to the Last Judgement. Also known as Cycle Plays. In England, these Biblical plays were produced in cycles: a series of plays depicting Biblical history from the Creation to the Last Judgement. Also known as Cycle Plays. The cycles were usually performed at the religious festival of Corpus Christi -- in the spring or early summer. The cycles were usually performed at the religious festival of Corpus Christi -- in the spring or early summer.

13 Mystery (cycle) Plays While the plays were written by the clergy and overseen by the Church, the performances were produced by the guilds of each town and mostly performed by amateur actors. While the plays were written by the clergy and overseen by the Church, the performances were produced by the guilds of each town and mostly performed by amateur actors. Productions were considered a religious duty, and each guild invested considerable resources into productions. Productions were considered a religious duty, and each guild invested considerable resources into productions. Plays were often assigned to guilds associated with the subject matter of the play and became a kind of “advertisement” Plays were often assigned to guilds associated with the subject matter of the play and became a kind of “advertisement” The Flood: Shipbuilders or BarrelmakersThe Flood: Shipbuilders or Barrelmakers The last supper: Bakers The last supper: Bakers The Magi: Goldsmiths The Magi: Goldsmiths

14 Mystery Plays Stationary stage Stationary stage Mansions set up in row, side by side Mansions set up in row, side by side Heaven is “stage right” Heaven is “stage right” Hell is “stage left” Hell is “stage left” Platforms covered with cotton (the "glories") held angels. Platforms covered with cotton (the "glories") held angels. “Hellmouth” - a fire-breathing monster representing hell “Hellmouth” - a fire-breathing monster representing hell

15 Dramatic techniques English mystery plays incorporate a combination of high seriousness and low comedy: English mystery plays incorporate a combination of high seriousness and low comedy: High seriousness: the Biblical stories of the Old Testament and Jesus’ life and mission High seriousness: the Biblical stories of the Old Testament and Jesus’ life and mission Low comedy: the plays incorporate almost slapstick sketches of contemporary medieval daily life. Low comedy: the plays incorporate almost slapstick sketches of contemporary medieval daily life. The plays are set in contemporary settings with recognizable contemporary characters: the truth of the Biblical stories is timeless -- the divine truths revealed in the Bible are still true “today”. The plays are set in contemporary settings with recognizable contemporary characters: the truth of the Biblical stories is timeless -- the divine truths revealed in the Bible are still true “today”.

16 Continued… Theatre was performed in found spaces: town squares, taverns, churches, banquet halls -- no specifically designated theatres Theatre was performed in found spaces: town squares, taverns, churches, banquet halls -- no specifically designated theatres Theatre was intimate -- audience interacted with performers Theatre was intimate -- audience interacted with performers Elaborate special effects Elaborate special effects Characterization was often dependent upon costume and makeup Characterization was often dependent upon costume and makeup In France even women were allowed to perform. In France even women were allowed to perform.

17 English cycle plays Each cathedral town had its own cycle: Each cathedral town had its own cycle: York York Chester Chester Wakefield Wakefield N-town N-town The cycles were very popular amongst commoners and nobility: records show that both Henry VIII and Elizabeth I attended performances. The cycles were very popular amongst commoners and nobility: records show that both Henry VIII and Elizabeth I attended performances. The Protestant Reformation brought a halt to the presentation of cycle plays as they incorporated Roman Catholic theology. The Protestant Reformation brought a halt to the presentation of cycle plays as they incorporated Roman Catholic theology. Cycles were performed every 2-10 years. Cycles were performed every 2-10 years. Some became huge spectacles. “The Acts of the Apostles” performed at Bourges, France in 1536 lasted 40 days and involved over 300 performers. Some became huge spectacles. “The Acts of the Apostles” performed at Bourges, France in 1536 lasted 40 days and involved over 300 performers.

18 Staging Mansions - small scenic structures for indicating location. In more complex plays, there were many mansions. Mansions - small scenic structures for indicating location. In more complex plays, there were many mansions. Platea – open acting space, adjacent to the mansion. The church structure usually served as the mansions (the choir loft, for instance, could serve as heaven; the altar might be the tomb of Christ). Platea – open acting space, adjacent to the mansion. The church structure usually served as the mansions (the choir loft, for instance, could serve as heaven; the altar might be the tomb of Christ). Machinery was also used: to fly Christ up to heaven, have angels come down, etc. Machinery was also used: to fly Christ up to heaven, have angels come down, etc. Costumes were probably ordinary church vestments. Costumes were probably ordinary church vestments.

19 Staging the Plays PROCESSIONAL PROCESSIONAL Pageant wagons would Pageant wagons would travel a set route and perform at several locations: like a parade or travel a set route and perform at several locations: like a parade or would be set up around a town square and the audience would travel from one wagon to the next to see the performances would be set up around a town square and the audience would travel from one wagon to the next to see the performances STATIONARY STATIONARY Mansions or a series of stages would be set up around the town squareMansions or a series of stages would be set up around the town square Anchored at either end by Heaven and Hell Anchored at either end by Heaven and Hell Elaborate special effects such as floods, flying and fiery pits were very popular Elaborate special effects such as floods, flying and fiery pits were very popular

20 PAGEANT WAGONS The term "pageant" is used to refer to the stage, the play itself, and the spectacle. The term "pageant" is used to refer to the stage, the play itself, and the spectacle. Platform on wheels Platform on wheels Pulled by men Pulled by men Small enough to fit down narrow streets Small enough to fit down narrow streets May have had second platform, pulled behind May have had second platform, pulled behind

21 Simple Pageant Wagons

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23 Morality Plays Morality Plays Theme: how to live a Christian life and be saved. Theme: how to live a Christian life and be saved. Allegory: Allegory: A story told on two levels: the literal and the the symbolic A story told on two levels: the literal and the the symbolic Plot: a journey through life or to death Plot: a journey through life or to death Emphasis switches from Biblical and saintly protagonists to the common man: Everyman, Mankind Emphasis switches from Biblical and saintly protagonists to the common man: Everyman, Mankind Focus on free will Focus on free will First major use of professional acting companies First major use of professional acting companies

24 Miracle Plays Miracle plays were similar to mystery plays in dramatic techniques Miracle plays were similar to mystery plays in dramatic techniques Dramatized the lives of Roman Catholic saints ( in order to become a saint, a person had to perform 3 documented miracles) Dramatized the lives of Roman Catholic saints ( in order to become a saint, a person had to perform 3 documented miracles) The most popular subjects were the Virgin Mary (plays usually written in Latin), St. George (dragon slayer and patron saint of England) and St. Nicholas ( associated with Christmas festivities) The most popular subjects were the Virgin Mary (plays usually written in Latin), St. George (dragon slayer and patron saint of England) and St. Nicholas ( associated with Christmas festivities)

25 Interludes and Farces Combined elements of allegory, classical myth, and courtly entertainment: music, dance, spectacle. Combined elements of allegory, classical myth, and courtly entertainment: music, dance, spectacle. Interludes were short plays performed between courses at court banquets. Interludes were short plays performed between courses at court banquets. Farces were longer plays ridiculing such human follies as greed and dishonesty. Farces were longer plays ridiculing such human follies as greed and dishonesty. As the mysteries, miracle and moralities were censored by Protestant authorities, secular drama became more important to all levels of society. As the mysteries, miracle and moralities were censored by Protestant authorities, secular drama became more important to all levels of society.

26 The Decline of Medieval Theatre: Increased interest in classical learning – affected staging and playwriting Increased interest in classical learning – affected staging and playwriting Social structure was changing – destroyed feudalism and "corporate" nature of communities Social structure was changing – destroyed feudalism and "corporate" nature of communities Dissension within the church led to prohibition of religious plays in Europe (Queen Elizabeth, the Council of Trent, – religious plays outlawed.) Dissension within the church led to prohibition of religious plays in Europe (Queen Elizabeth, the Council of Trent, – religious plays outlawed.) By late 16th century, drama of medieval period lost its force. By late 16th century, drama of medieval period lost its force.

27 CONCLUSION Medieval rebirth of the theatre gives us a lesson: Medieval rebirth of the theatre gives us a lesson: “Whenever a society is sufficiently developed to allow its members freedoms of time and expression, the celebration of theatre will be an important way to explore and expand those freedoms.”

28 The End


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