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MEDIEVAL THEATRE IN EUROPE

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MEDIEVAL THEATRE IN EUROPE Introduction Timeframe: from the fall of the Western Roman Empire to the beginning of Renaissance. 5th century till the middle of the 16th ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: MEDIEVAL THEATRE IN EUROPE


1
MEDIEVAL THEATRE IN EUROPE
2
Introduction
  • Timeframe from the fall of the Western Roman
    Empire to the beginning of Renaissance. 5th
    century till the middle of the 16th century.
  • Secular theatre died in Western Europe with the
    fall of Rome
  • Most medieval theatre is religious in nature.
  • 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 (500-1000 AD)
  • 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.
  • These were the only entertainment for the time.
    They were also precursors of Commedia DellArte
    in France and Italy and todays circuses.

5
Drama in the 10th 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 10th 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 Gandersheim935-1000
  • aka Roswitha, Hrotswitha, Hrotsvita
  • Canoness at the convent of Gandersheim in
    Germany
  • 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 intention was to revise the negative
    portrayals of women that she found in his
    comedies.

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

8
LITURGICAL DRAMA (925-975A.D)
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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

11
The 3 Ms of Religious Vernacular Drama
  • Mystery plays Biblical stories
  • Miracle plays saints lives
  • 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.
  • 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.

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.
  • 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
  • The Flood Shipbuilders or Barrelmakers
  • The last supper Bakers
  • The Magi Goldsmiths

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

15
Dramatic techniques
  • 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
  • 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.

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

17
English cycle plays
  • Each cathedral town had its own cycle
  • York
  • Chester
  • Wakefield
  • N-town
  • 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.
  • 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.

18
Staging
  • 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).
  • Machinery was also used to fly Christ up to
    heaven, have angels come down, etc.
  • Costumes were probably ordinary church vestments.

19
Staging the Plays
  • PROCESSIONAL
  • Pageant wagons would
  • 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
  • STATIONARY
  • Mansions or a series of stages would be set up
    around the town square
  • Anchored at either end by Heaven and Hell
  • 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.
  • Platform on wheels
  • Pulled by men
  • Small enough to fit down narrow streets
  • May have had second platform, pulled behind

21
Simple Pageant Wagons
22
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23
Morality Plays
  • Theme how to live a Christian life and be saved.
  • Allegory
  • A story told on two levels the literal and the
    the symbolic
  • Plot a journey through life or to death
  • Emphasis switches from Biblical and saintly
    protagonists to the common man Everyman, Mankind
  • Focus on free will
  • First major use of professional acting companies

24
Miracle Plays
  • 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)
  • 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.
  • Interludes were short plays performed between
    courses at court banquets.
  • 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.

26
The Decline of Medieval Theatre
  • Increased interest in classical learning
    affected staging and playwriting
  • 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, 1545-1563 religious plays
    outlawed.)
  • By late 16th century, drama of medieval period
    lost its force.

27
CONCLUSION
  • 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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