medieval drama



  • European drama from about 1000 to 1500. After about 400 yearsduring which the theater was virtually extinct in Europe, the seedsof a revival were sown in the 10th century when the Church began tointroduce dramatic elements into the liturgy (see liturgical drama). By the 11th century short dramatizations of Biblicalstories were being performed at Easter and Christmas in many partsof Europe. Gradually the vernacular replaced Latin and scenic devices,local subject matter, and humorous or dramatic touches were introducedto add to the interest.

    The three main types of medieval drama "the mysteryplay, the morality play, and the miracle play"all achieved recognizable form during the 14th century. The mysteryplay developed directly from the tradition of liturgical drama butincorporated more humorous and secular material and shows a more sophisticatedsense of theater.

    The development of religious drama in the middle ages appearsto have been much influenced by a number of older secular traditions.These included the folk theater of May Day games, RobinHood stories, etc., and the tradition of jongleurs, minstrels,and other itinerant performers. Other secular influences on laterdrama include the elaborate pageantry of the courts and the outdoorfestivities organized by town guilds and other local bodies.