Medieval Aristotelianism and the Poetics of the English Corpus Christi Drama

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


In an essay printed in the 1972 collection Medieval English Drama: Essays Critical and Contextual (ed. Jerome Taylor and Alan Nelson), Jerome Taylor argues for the dramatic unity of the Corpus Christi cycles by invoking the principles of Aristotle’s Poetics:

This history presents a unified development from clearly defined beginning, through complication and crisis, to clearly defined end, so that the total dramatic projection of this history has a unity borrowed from the object it imitates.1

While Taylor does not argue specifically for the influence of Aristotle on the Corpus Christi dramatists, the telltale phrases embedded in his essay (“object imitated,” “classic stages of ‘plot,’” “a serious action”) nonetheless illustrate the ingrained nature of modern critics’ assumptions about Aristotle and drama; yet given what we know about the transmission of Aristotelian texts into the intellectual discourse of the West in the twelfth and early thirteenth centuries, such assumptions must be reexamined.


Thirteenth Century Posterior Analytics Intellectual Power Agent Intellect Spiritual Understanding 
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  1. 13.
    Stephen Halliwell, Aristotle’s Poetics (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1986), p. 289.Google Scholar

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© Theodore K. Lerud 2008

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  • Theodore K. Lerud

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