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Medieval Theatre. History After the fall of the Roman Empire in the 600s AD, Europe fell into a period known as the “dark ages”. Characterized by a lack.

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Presentation on theme: "Medieval Theatre. History After the fall of the Roman Empire in the 600s AD, Europe fell into a period known as the “dark ages”. Characterized by a lack."— Presentation transcript:

1 Medieval Theatre

2 History After the fall of the Roman Empire in the 600s AD, Europe fell into a period known as the “dark ages”. Characterized by a lack of a reliable political structure The Catholic church was the only stable form of government, giving them immense power

3 History Very little is known about theatre between AD. Theatre was thought to be a pagan ritual, therefore, was denounced by the church

4 History Theatre was “reborn” between Was included as a part of the religious services Used to visualize church lessons

5 History Visual aides needed because church vernacular was Latin, which the people did not understand Plays werebased on religious teachings

6 History Play Content first trope, or play, was Quem Quaritis (the 3 Marys approach the tomb of Christ) -- “Who’s There” acted out religious events (as dictated by the religious seasons)

7 History Content Topics/genres were always one of the following: –miracle plays –morality plays –mystery plays

8 History Content Referred to a “cycle plays” because they were performed in a yearly cycle, coinciding with the religious holidays and feast days

9 Nature of Physical Theatre Staging staged indoors, in cathedrals and monasteries 13 th century, moved outdoors –(plays took away from the liturgy)

10 Nature of Physical Theatre moved outside onto a porch that was used as the staging area

11 Nature of Physical Theatre Heaven on right, Earth in center, Hell on left

12 Nature of Physical Theatre These conventions were used until the 16 th century and beyond in some cases

13 Nature of Physical Theatre FEATURES Mansions or Stations fixed locations indicated locations remained in view throughout play limited in space

14 Nature of Physical Theatre FEATURES Platea generalized acting area mansions arranged around this space

15 Nature of Physical Theatre FEATURES Wagons used to bring plays from town to town pageant wagons moved through the streets while the audience stayed in one place – like parade floats

16 Nature of Physical Theatre Wagons each wagon held a different part of the story

17 Nature of Physical Theatre FEATURES Special Effects Heaven: raised above other stages Used pulleys and ropes for flying

18 Nature of Physical Theatre FEATURES Special Effects “Hell mouth”: lowered beast’s head that breathed fire and smoke trap doors used for appearance and disappearance

19 Nature of Physical Theatre Costumes Religious hierarchy (God, etc.): wore Church garments Saints: had specific symbol (ex: St. Peter had keys)

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21 Nature of Physical Theatre Costumes Secular characters (Everyman): wore contemporary garments

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23 Nature of Physical Theatre Costumes Devils, evil characters: had most imaginative costumes with claws, horns, beaks, tails, etc.

24 Nature of Physical Theatre Actors Mostly amatuers Sometimes members of the guilds Paid with food and drink

25 Secular Influence By 15 th century, secular groups took over the production of the plays Play productions were getting too big for the church to produce

26 Secular Influence Main producers of plays were: Trade guilds –ex: Baker’s guild in charge of “Last Supper” –Shipwright’s guild in charge of “Noah’s ark Municipal authorities Special societies

27 Secular Influence Each guild or society was in charge of one play in a cycle Each guild or society always produced the same play –this may explain how the plays grew to a grander scale

28 Secular Influence Elaboration of plays becomes larger as time marches on In 1536, the play at Bourges in France took 40 days to perform

29 Corpus Christi Festival Honored the sacrament of the bread and wine Celebration was a procession of the host through town often took 4 to 5 days to perform Town council decided what plays would be performed Drama and Scripts

30 Mystery Plays Reenacted the stories from scripture Miracle Plays Dramatized the lives of the saints and martyrs Drama and Scripts

31 Morality Plays Dramatized the spiritual trials of the average man Formed the bridge between religious and secular drama Drama and Scripts

32 Common Characteristics for all types of plays: aimed to teach or reinforce church doctrine good was rewarded; bad was punished God & his plan were the driving force, not the characters

33 Evolution of Drama By the 16 th century, the plays became more secularized Plays began to include historical figures and sometimes made a political, not religious, statement Pagents began to be performed by professional groups

34 Evolution of Drama Ultimate decline of medieval drama: Classical learning introduced new concepts Changes in social structure and the rise of the big city discouraged community projects The Protestant Reformation led to the prohibition of religious plays

35 Evolution of Drama Results of the decline: Actors still needed, but no long amatuers Professional theatre became commercial (for profit) No longer religious plays – they returned to the classics for new ideas for stories


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