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Discontinuity in Medieval Acting Traditions

  • David Bevington

Abstract

Fifty years or so ago, a common assumption about medieval drama was that it evolved steadily and progressively toward the secular art of the Renaissance. E. K. Chambers, Karl Young, J. M. Manly and others argued that drama of the church evolved first into drama performed outside the church and then into drama performed in the town, by craft guilds.1 Concurrently, the argument went, translation into the vernacular provided dramatic texts dealing with biblical history that needed only to be collected and slightly ampliled in order to create the Corpus Christi cycles. The introduction of comedy was viewed as a relatively late phenomenon and part of the process of “secularization” by which medieval drama moved toward the future greatness of the Elizabethan theatre. Medieval plays were read as “Specimens of the Pre-Shaksperean drama,” to borrow the memorably fatuous phrase used by Manly for his anthology of medieval drama.

Keywords

Thirteenth Century Fourteenth Century Outdoor Play Major Discontinuity Secular Actor 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    E. K. Chambers, The Mediaeval Stage, 2 vols. (Oxford, 1903);Google Scholar
  2. Karl Young, The Drama of the Medieval Church, 2 vols. (Oxford, 1933);Google Scholar
  3. J. M. Manly, ed., Specimens of the Pre-Shaksperean Drama, 2 vols. (Boston, 1897).Google Scholar
  4. 2.
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  5. 3.
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  6. 4.
    Rosemary Woolf, The English Mystery Flays (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1972), pp. 42 ff.Google Scholar
  7. 5.
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  9. 6.
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  17. 24.
    Alan Nelson, The English Corpus Christi Play: Processional Pageants and Cycle Drama (Chicago, 1974). Chambers, Mediaeval Stage, II, 133 ff., argues that the already-existing plays were adapted to the Corpus Christi procession, but supports the view that the plays were profoundly influenced by conditions of performance in the procession.Google Scholar
  18. 25.
    Kenneth Cameron and Stanley J. Kahrl, “Staging the N-Town Cycle,” Theatre Notebook, XXI (Spring, 1967), 122–138.Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1975

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Bevington

There are no affiliations available

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