The Medieval French Drama

The Medieval French Drama

The Medieval French Drama

The Medieval French Drama

Excerpt

The histories of the medieval French drama that now exist are for the most part pioneering efforts and except for a few books designed for popular consumption none is of recent date. Since their publication further exploration of new and old territory has been undertaken and some discoveries of importance have resulted. Moreover, various parts of the terrain have been subjected to intensive investigations which have proved of value for a study of the whole. The present volume has been written in the hope that the time is now ripe not only for following in the footsteps of the pioneers and the recent explorers but also for further adventuring and a fresh attempt at synthesis.

In considering the liturgical plays I have restricted my discussion almost entirely to those produced in France, cognizant, of course, of the international nature of the church drama, but desiring to stress here not its development everywhere but only its significance for the history of the French theatre.

No attempt to define the limits of the term 'medieval' has been made. In 1548 Parisians were forbidden by Parliament to produce religious mystery plays in public, but these plays continued to be performed in the provinces, and interest in the lay theatre and in the farces, sotties, and moralities did not cease until much later. Many a Renaissance and seventeenth-century dramatist witnessed medieval plays and was subsequently influenced by what he had seen.

Actually the prodigious multiplication of plays of all kinds during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries has rendered the task of analysing all of them impossible. As the Middle Ages waned before the dawning Renaissance, dramatic pieces pullulated and with certain notable exceptions they tended to become stereotyped. In this book, therefore, although many plays of the later Middle Ages are considered, it is the more significant earlier periods that have received most detailed attention.

A word should perhaps be said about the frequent practice, followed here, of separating the serious from the comic theatre. Probably taking their rise in a common source and certainly . . .

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