The Position of Theater in the Thought of Augustine of Hippo

  • Theodore K. Lerud
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


According to our records, amply documented by the Records of Early English Drama (REED) project and elsewhere, a full-scale Corpus Christi theater had developed by the late fourteenth century in England.1 Since, as a number of scholars have shown, a clear and direct evolution cannot be demonstrated between the liturgical drama of the tenth through the twelfth centuries (really expanded worship, rather than drama per se) and the full-blown cycles of several fourteenth-century English towns,2 we, while certainly not ignoring the likelihood that dramatists may have been influenced by the expanded and rich worship they experienced in cathedral or monastery, must also look to other sources for the impetus for a reborn theater in the Christian West. As we shall see, the late medieval discourse regarding images and image worship provides the most fertile ground for constructing a poetics of medieval theater, which was most likely understood as a moving image or, in the apt phrase of one contemporary, a “quick bok.”3 Yet before developing an argument regarding late medieval English attitudes toward theater, it is important to establish a history both of the understanding of the image and of theater in the earlier Middle Ages.


Evil Spirit Evil Nature Philosophic Realist Roman State Christi Theater 
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  1. 1.
    A reference dated 1376 in the York records is generally taken as the first clear documentation of a Corpus Christi performance, though it seems to hint at a cycle fairly well developed by that time. See, for example, V.A. Kolve, The Play Called Corpus Christi (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1966), p. 33.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    For the difficulties of the evolutionary hypothesis, see, for example, O.B. Hardison, Christian Rite and Christian Drama (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1965), p. 12; and Kolve, Play p. 41.Google Scholar
  3. 18.
    Tertullian, De Spectaculis, in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. Roberts and Donaldson (New York: Scribners, 1925), p. 258.Google Scholar

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© Theodore K. Lerud 2008

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  • Theodore K. Lerud

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