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Medieval Theater 500-1400 C.E.. The Dark Ages (500-1000 C.E. ) Much political turmoil Much political turmoil –no reliable political structure –Feudalism:

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Presentation on theme: "Medieval Theater 500-1400 C.E.. The Dark Ages (500-1000 C.E. ) Much political turmoil Much political turmoil –no reliable political structure –Feudalism:"— Presentation transcript:

1 Medieval Theater C.E.

2 The Dark Ages ( C.E. ) Much political turmoil Much political turmoil –no reliable political structure –Feudalism: Lords, vassals, serfs The Church was the only stable "government" The Church was the only stable "government" –The church exerted increasing influence  In the 4th Century, the Bishop of Rome established supremacy in church matters and in secular concerns –Church edicts against secular performers Not much theater Not much theater –Traveling singers and storytellers –Traveling troupes of circus-like entertainers

3 ( C.E. ) Hrosvitha of Gandersheim ( C.E. ) Earliest known female dramatist Earliest known female dramatist A German nun A German nun Wrote religious plays based on Terence's plays Wrote religious plays based on Terence's plays –Terence’s style, but Christian stories –Were probably “closet dramas”  meant to be read, not performed Purpose was to glorify Christian virgins Purpose was to glorify Christian virgins

4 Theatre is Reborn! Changes in music Changes in music –Tropes  Extended musical passages spread throughout Catholic Mass  Lyrics added later Quem quaeritis Quem quaeritis –Trope added into Easter service in 925 –Angel asked, “Whom do you seek?” to three Marys visiting tomb of Christ

5 Quem quaeritis? Quem quaeritis in sepulchro, o Christicolae? Jesum Nazarenum crucifixum, o caelicolae. Non est hic; surrexit, sicut praedixerat. Ite, nuntiate quia surrexit de sepulchro –Translation:  The Angels: Whom do ye seek in the sepulcher, O followers of Christ?  The Marys: Jesus of Nazareth, the Crucified, O heavenly ones.  The Angels: He is not here; he is risen, just as he foretold. Go, announce that he is risen from the sepulcher. —John Glassner, editor, Medieval and Tudor Drama.

6 Liturgical Dramas By 975, church began incorporating drama into the service By 975, church began incorporating drama into the service –Clergy presented with assistance from choirboys –Written in Latin Many playlets developed dealing with biblical themes Many playlets developed dealing with biblical themes –Mostly performed for Easter, Christmas, the 12th Night (Feast of the Epiphany) –Usually serious, but at the Feast of Fools much dancing, foolishness and parodies of church practices

7 Staging Liturgical Drama Different scenes set up simultaneously in mansions Different scenes set up simultaneously in mansions –Mansions: scenic structure depicting some locale needed for a biblical tale  Could be specially constructed or an existing area within church –Used to indicate locale, but too small to perform in  Would initiate play at a mansion and move to platea

8 Vernacular Drama Moved outdoors Moved outdoors Written in language people spoke Written in language people spoke Two types of Vernacular religious dramas Two types of Vernacular religious dramas –Mystery or cycle plays –Morality plays

9 Mystery/Cycle Plays Depicted scenes from the Bible Depicted scenes from the Bible –From Creation to the last judgment Presented in cycles Presented in cycles –Series of short dramas of an episode Lasted several hours or several days Lasted several hours or several days Staged independently of church services Staged independently of church services –Presented in spring and summer during festivals  Feast of Corpus Christi was a favorite time

10 Reaching the Audience Anachronism: presenting characters and events outside proper historical sequence Anachronism: presenting characters and events outside proper historical sequence –Makes characters more identifiable to audiences Highlighted the spectacular Highlighted the spectacular –1501 production of the Flood used barrels of water to make it “rain” for 5 minutes Comedy introduced to make it more appealing Comedy introduced to make it more appealing

11 Producing Mystery Plays Produced once every 2-10 years Produced once every 2-10 years Confraternities, or craft guilds, assigned to a particular “appropriate” cycle Confraternities, or craft guilds, assigned to a particular “appropriate” cycle –Shipbuilders produce Noah’s Ark –Baker’s guild produce Last Supper Pageant Masters supervised productions Pageant Masters supervised productions –Responsible for construction of scenery, stage, casting, disciplining actors, money takers, and narrator between plays

12 Acting Amateur actors doubled roles Amateur actors doubled roles Fewer than 5 rehearsals for a cycle Fewer than 5 rehearsals for a cycle –Fined for missing or disrupting a rehearsal Typecasting Typecasting –Choosing people who have certain qualities in real life to play characters with similar qualities Provided own costumes; Church assisted with more unusual costumes Provided own costumes; Church assisted with more unusual costumes

13 Staging Processional Staging Processional Staging –Cycle set up on pageant wagons –Could be moved from locale to locale Stationary Staging Stationary Staging –Series of small scenic mansions stood side by side with huge platform stage –Heaven and Hell mansions placed at opposite ends of platform Important: neutral platform playing area Important: neutral platform playing area

14 These pictures were taken during the performance of the York Cycle of Mystery Plays in Toronto on June 20, 1998.

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21 The Second Shepherd’s Play Dramatizes the biblical story of the shepherds who are told about Christ’s birth by an angel Dramatizes the biblical story of the shepherds who are told about Christ’s birth by an angel –First section is comedic  Stealing a sheep and find it in a crib, pretending it’s a newborn baby –Second section is the Holy Nativity  First section sets stage for nativity Shepherds are characters from Middle Ages Shepherds are characters from Middle Ages Reflects secular farce mixed with religious subject matter Reflects secular farce mixed with religious subject matter

22 The Second Shepherd's Play 1972 – UMBC Department of Theatre

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27 Morality Plays Attempts to teach a moral lesson through use of allegorical characters Attempts to teach a moral lesson through use of allegorical characters –People represent ideas Characters take journey through which they learn moral lesson Characters take journey through which they learn moral lesson –Struggle between two forces, good and evil, for soul of main character Staging was similar to cycle plays Staging was similar to cycle plays –Neutral platform stage

28 Everyman Best known example of a morality play Best known example of a morality play Character Everyman told by Death that his earthly life is over Character Everyman told by Death that his earthly life is over –Everyman seeks companion to accompany him to next world –Speaks to characters representing abstract ideas, but only Good Deeds will go with him to afterlife Lesson to Everyman (humanity): only Good Deeds can be of any assistance when one is summoned by Death Lesson to Everyman (humanity): only Good Deeds can be of any assistance when one is summoned by Death

29 Quiz 1. What does vernacular mean? 2. What does Quem Quaeritis mean? 3. Why is Quem Quaeritis important to theater? 4. What is an anachronism? 5. Name a mystery play. 6. Name a morality play. 7. Who was responsible for cycle play productions? 8. What is a mansion? 9. Name the favorite festival in which cycle plays were performed. 10. What did the Bishop of Rome establish?


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