A Companion to the Medieval Theatre

A Companion to the Medieval Theatre

A Companion to the Medieval Theatre

A Companion to the Medieval Theatre

Synopsis

"Vince has provided a useful and, for the most part, usable reference work. His introduction should be required reading for anyone approaching medieval theater." Choice

Excerpt

As recently as thirty years ago a book such as this, providing basic information on the medieval theatre to non-specialist readers and students of the drama, would hardly have seemed worth the effort. Indeed it would have proved difficult to recruit contributors or to persuade a publisher of the need for such a volume. The medieval theatre had long been something of an embarrassment to literary scholars, who viewed it as a crude and irrelevant interlude between the classical theatres of Greece and Rome and the mature flourishing of the Renaissance and baroque theatres of England, Spain, and France. In the public mind it was often associated with a naive religiosity, primitive theatrical effects, and amateurish performance. A handful of scholars had labored long and mightily in dusty archives, patiently gathering and publishing basic information concerning the dramatic activities of our medieval ancestors, but few people had ever seen a performance of a medieval play and even fewer had any desire to.

Performance, however, is the key to the medieval theatre, and modern scholarship has exploited this insight to shed entirely new light on the subject. The dramatic texts that have come down to us took their life from their performance in the context of a civilization directed by religious and chivalric values and sustained by a robust urban and commercial life, a civilization remarkably rich in iconography, ceremony and pageantry, a civilization that over a thousand- year period had developed a multitude of institutions and activities fundamentally mimetic in nature. A medieval drama was an event rather than a literary text, related far more closely to other events--political, social, military, diplomatic, religious, recreational--than to literature. It is this realization that has informed the revaluation of the medieval theatre over the past thirty or so years, and it is this premise that underlies A Companion to the Medieval Theatre.

Literary analysis and appreciation per se have been kept to a minimum and the . . .

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