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Medieval Theatre. History of Theatre 900-1500 AD. Modern Perspective. International in scope and religious in nature Began as a springtime religious observance Celebrated common mythos- the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. The York Cycle. Actors would get in costume and hop on wagons

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medieval theatre

Medieval Theatre

History of Theatre

900-1500 AD

modern perspective
Modern Perspective
  • International in scope and religious in nature
  • Began as a springtime religious observance
  • Celebrated common mythos- the Old and New Testaments of the Bible
the york cycle
The York Cycle
  • Actors would get in costume and hop on wagons
  • Crowds were gather in the streets to watch them pass
  • The wagons would often have two levels to portray heaven and hell
the procession
The Procession
  • The wagons paraded through town, stopping before the homes of dignitaries
  • Each wagon is responsible for the telling of a biblical tale
  • This took place every year on Corpus Christi Day
  • Began with “The Creation and Fall of Lucifer
  • Ended with “The Judgment Day”
corpus christi day
Corpus Christi Day
  • A feast day that celebrates The Last Supper
  • Primarily came about from a nun named Juliana of Liege
  • actual date of Corpus Christi changes each year
conditions of performance
Conditions of Performance
  • It was a religious theatre, therefore its bookings, costumes, dialogue and staging came from the Church calendar
  • After the fall of Rome, and before the renaissance, the time is called Middle Ages.
  • A very active time as cathedrals were built, the crusades occurred, and kingdoms were divided and conquered
  • The foundations for modern languages were laid during this time
background continued
Background continued
  • The Church was extremely opposed to any other type of theatre due to the mimes. They still did exist though.
  • The Church developed its own dramatic ceremonies to combat the appeal of pagan rights
  • Pagans believed in multiple gods. (i.e.. The Ancient Greeks)
religious and civic purposes
Religious and Civic Purposes
  • The Church felt dramatized episodes made moral lessons more graphic and easier to understand.
  • The Church calendar provided several holidays to develop theatre
  • Drama remained inside the Church Walls for 200 years
  • The first ever play was called Quen Quaeritis
quem quaritis
Quem Quaritis
  • 3 women looking to dress the corpse of Christ
  • Find out from an angel that Christ has risen
  • Shows grief turning into joy
  • Some major changes began to take place by 1400
  • Short religious plays were put together to make longer plays
  • Were staged during Spring and Summer
  • Everyday language replaced Latin
  • Regular people replaced clergy as the actors and producers
festival theatre
Festival Theatre
  • The church still had to approve
  • Between 1350-1500 Medieval theatre flourished
  • Clergy began to reduce its participation
  • Towns began to finance and produce the festivals
  • Producers oversaw everything, they got choirs, nobles loaned costumes, meals were prepared and lodging was provided. Laborers built the staging. Basically the whole community helped
  • Anonymous
  • Clergy wrote the four-line playlets
  • Later the dialogue was expanded
  • As it became more elaborate, more playwrights were recruited
  • This opened the door for professional playwrights
acting and rehearsing
Acting and Rehearsing
  • Rehearsals took place over months
  • Held between dawn and beginning of the work day
  • Actors were fined for lateness, not knowing lines or being drunk
  • Multiple playlets were rehearsed at the same time
  • Some received fees
  • At first it was to reimburse the actors
  • Late 1600’s began to see professional actors
  • Very few women performed in medieval plays
  • Only exceptions were for female Saints
  • There were two reasons: male hierarchy and trained choir boys had better projection
  • Were performed on fixed or movable stages
  • The fixed stage was usually against buildings on one side of town square, or in an amphitheatre
  • The movable stages were wagons
  • Usually broken into three parts from left to right Hell, Earth, and Heaven
  • Nothing was depicted in its entirety. Very little illusion of a real place.
special effects
Special Effects
  • Producers gave great attention to “secrets”
  • Examples included Hell issuing fire, smoke and cries of the damned, trapdoors, pulleys and ropes.
  • Due to this we began to see semiprofessionals begin to develop for scenery and special effects
costumes and props
Costumes and Props
  • Two types of garments: ecclesiastical robes and everyday clothes
  • Accessories such as wings were added
  • Props were used to identify characters i.e. sword, mirror, snakes etc..)
  • Heaven reps dressed to awe
  • Hell reps dressed to scar
  • Common humans dressed according to rank
  • Great detail went into designing the devil
  • Music was prevalent in medieval theatre
  • Heavenly scenes featured beautiful choruses
  • Trumpets’ announced god
  • Vocal and Instrumental music bridged intermission.
  • Singing was down by choirboys and actors
  • Instruments were played by professionals
  • Masquerade balls
  • Related to drama due to disguise, processions and need for a spokesperson
  • In time it included music, song, dance, scenery, and texts.
  • Usually a mumming play would end with the collection of money to pay for refreshments and local charities
street pageants
Street Pageants
  • When dignitaries would come to town they would set up stages all along the street
  • Clerks and children would then address them with songs and speeches
  • This provided a sense of civic pride
the audience
The Audience
  • Spectators came from surrounding towns and countryside – all classes came
  • Posters were put up on city gates and invitations were sent out to neighboring towns
  • A trumpeter rode through town announcing the events
  • Work was forbidden during performance time
  • Most were free, however in some of Europe there was a fee