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Mystery, Miracle, and Morality Plays

Mystery, Miracle, and Morality Plays

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Mystery, Miracle, and Morality Plays

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  1. Mystery, Miracle, and Morality Plays Medieval England ~600-1500

  2. Historical Background ~800-1200 • After the fall of Rome, many historical and cultural artifacts disappeared; drama being one of them • The Roman Catholic Church became the governing force • Drama was never officially approved by the church, but drama’s rebirth occurs in the church

  3. Historical Background ~800-1200 • The Catholic Church is responsible for the rebirth of the theatre • The Church needed a way to educate illiterate parishioners

  4. Early Medieval Drama • Earliest Medieval Drama • Tropes • Liturgical Drama • Dramatic Scenes were not added for centuries • Religious Rituals

  5. Trope – a small theatrical embellishment added to the silent part of mass • these are used to “explain” the Latin text that the parishioners would not have been able to understand • tropes are performed inside the church, at the altar, by the monks

  6. The “QuemQuaeritis” • Introduced around 900 • New form of Liturgical Drama • “Whom do you seek?” • Delivered during an Easter Mass • Composed of a question, an answer, and a command between the angels at Christ’s Tomb and the “Three Marys” • Question [by the Angels]: Whom do ye seek in the sepulcher, O followers of Christ? • Answer [by 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.

  7. As the tropes gain in popularity, performances move from the altar to mansion stages throughout the church. • Stories are presented in pieces with dialogue, costumes, etc. • Monks, choir & other church officials play the parts • Audience moves from stage to stage, as the stories are presented sequentially

  8. Medieval performance spaces: • Altar • Mansion stages in the nave • On the church steps or in the churchyard (depending on the size) • Pageant wagons in churchyard or the town marketplace • Pageant wagons that traveled from city to city

  9. The Main Points • Aimed to teach or reinforce Church doctrine (church laws). 2. Good rewarded; evil punished 3. God and his plan were the driving forces, not the characters.

  10. Staging the Plays • 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 ordinary church vestmentsor typical fashion of the times.

  11. Staging the Plays • 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 • PROCESSIONAL • Pageant wagonswould • 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

  12. Staging • Central Platform • Drama was “cycled”  Stations of the Cross • Neutral Stage… “Platea” • Doorways at the back of the Pageant… “Mansions” • Walking out of specific mansion onto neutral stage, makes the neutral stage the specific mansion. • Pageant Wagons

  13. Stationary Staging

  14. Pageant Wagons as Stages • Processional Staging • Used in England and Spain • Find a place on the parade route to watch the plays in sequence. • Wagons would stop from time to time to perform the play. • You could pay for the best seats, or places inside of homes lining the street. • 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

  15. Simple Pageant Wagons

  16. Simple Pageant Wagons

  17. Spectacle • Flying – ability to fly actors over the stage playing Christ, Angels, monsters. • Trap Doors – used in floors to allow actors to disappear below • Fire – Used to show hell, often times to dire consequences for the actors. • Costumes – Symbolic using the dress of the era. Religious garments; masks rare – for devils. • Scenery

  18. The “Hell-Mouth” The HELL MOUTH… a large machine that took up to 17 men to operate & looked like the mouth of a big fish that belched smoke & small explosions – devils would stuff their victims into the “mouth” – is was the mouth of Hell

  19. Religious Vernacular Drama • Vernacular: language spoken by the people • To reach the commoners, the clergy began to translate the liturgical plays into vernacular languages • Plays were set outdoors where space permitted • As more roles were added, commoners were used as amateur actors

  20. The Miracle Play • Earliest examples of drama do not exist due to their ban by King Henry VIII • First documented group were called Miracle Plays (~10th Century) • They usually dealt with reenactments of the Saint’s or other important religious figures’ lives (Noah’s Flood)

  21. The Mystery Play • Mystery and Miracle Plays developed out of earlier Liturgical Dramas • Dealt with Scriptural or Biblical Events in cycles • Pageant Wagons • Noah’s Flood, Life, Death, and Resurrection of Christ, Creationism, etc

  22. The Morality Play • The Morality Play developed around the 12th Century • Relied more upon Allegorical connections rather than strictly Biblical reenactment • Morality Plays sought to put characters amongst the temptations of existence (the afterlife) and force them to contemplate the salvation

  23. The Morality Play • Purpose: • Make Christianity more real to the audience by dramatizing the meaning of religion in terms of everyday human experience • Abstract moral conflict, turned into drama in the real world. • Good versus evil… • A constant battle going on in the soul of every person • The setting of a morality play is usually the soul, and the actors are personified versions of qualities in everyman. • The Soul is turned inside out.

  24. The Morality Play • Allegorical Characters: • Not real people • They are abstract qualities • Aptronym • Main character represents all of humanity • Supernatural Beings: • God, Angels, Devil • Powers outside of the soul, but interested in the outcome • Vice: • Leader of the forces of evil • Tendency towards Sin • Tries to get the main character into trouble • Sharp sense of humor- attractive to the audience, very charming • Climax is when he is overthrown

  25. Characteristics • Allegorical Characters • Actions both literal and symbolic • Psychomachia • Clearly stated moral • Takes on poetic form • Aptronyms • Professional Actors • The “Journey” • Focus on Free Will • Saints to Commoners

  26. Development of Drama • The Nature of the Hero (blank slate) • Fall and Redemption • Comic Relief (farce) • Staging (or lack thereof) • Debate (Stichomythia) • The nature of sin • Focus on the character • Bridge from religious to secular • Direct link to Shakespeare

  27. EVERYMAN ~ Anonymous (1485)

  28. Major Themes • Inevitability of death and the need for one to secure salvation before dying • Inconstancy of the transitory and worldly contrasted to the constancy of virtue, • Reaching outward for virtue in others then to self • Salvation as a “reckoning” • Life as a challenging journey or pilgrimage in order to arrive at salvation • Didactism

  29. Seven……. Seven Heavenly Virtues Seven Deadly Sins Lust Gluttony Greed Sloth Wrath Envy Pride • Chastity • Temperance • Charity • Diligence • Patience • Kindness • Humility