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Chapter 6:
Medieval Theatre
Who Goes There?!
“Quem Queritas”: Latin for ”whom seek
ye.” These are the earliest “play” from
medieval era. It was approximately 4
lines long, performed on Easter
morning as part of the mass. About
1000 A.D. and was done in the
language of the church – Latin.
Medieval Theater – oh Boy.
Mummers: masked performers probably
descended from Roman mimes.
Jongleurs: wandering poets and minstrels.
Medieval Theater – oh Boy.
Short religious plays, probably
sung or chanted in antiphonal
styles of medieval music in which
contrasting voices and musical
themes play off each other. (like
the Gregorian chants)
Bring on the Church
(You will have to write this out)
Liturgical Drama: elaborate plays performed
within the confines of the church.
Mansions: various areas of the church were
specified for the performance of Liturgical
dramas. Mansions were very similar to the
Stations of the Cross which are still standard
in most Catholic churches.
Bring on the Church
Nativity Plays: plays in which the story of
Christmas was acted out. These plays are still
popular in churches today.
Guilds: associations of craftsmen were one of
the most stable forms of organization in the
medieval world. They protected their workers,
set prices, assured quality, and were
benevolent organizations providing for needs of
their members in life and beyond.
• Tableau Roulant: literally, “rolling scenes”. Large
wagons bearing rather elaborate scenery and
the actors for a particular episode that would
ride into view and stop to perform for spectators.
• Tableau Vivant: literally, “living representation”.
Similar to the tableau roulant, but these wagons
would remain stationary and the audience would
move from one wagon to the next to watch
different scenes.
Portable Theatre
• Pageant Wagon: elaborate rolling stages
on which various scenes were performed.
• Cycle Plays: a series of 24 to 48 plays in
order and at the same time on the
occasion of a feast day.
Other Medieval Theatre
• Morality Plays: Abstract and didactic in nature,
these plays showed individuals struggling with
the temptations of the world. These plays dealt
with moral conflicts.
• Allegory: a dramatic device in which an actor
represents or symbolizes an idea or principle
(good, evil, death, fortune, etc.).
• Interludes: plays performed in between other
forms of entertainment (feasts, dancing). These
plays were often comedic in nature.
An Early Hybrid
• Farce: a comic play where the focus is on
the ridiculousness of human nature and
punishment of vice is treated humorously.
The farce remains extremely popular
today. It originated in 1300’s France.
Closing the Church
• Passion Plays: Dramas which play out the
final hours of the life of Jesus with great
spectacle and theatricality.
• Hrothsvitha: Danish nun copying plays in a
monastery. She later writes plays (never
performed), that were read in the
monastery, but not performed. She later
inspires Shakespeare.