Flamboyant Drama: A Study of the Castle of Perseverance, Mankind, and Wisdom

Flamboyant Drama: A Study of the Castle of Perseverance, Mankind, and Wisdom

Flamboyant Drama: A Study of the Castle of Perseverance, Mankind, and Wisdom

Flamboyant Drama: A Study of the Castle of Perseverance, Mankind, and Wisdom

Synopsis

In addition to providing new readings of three anonymous morality plays differing in design and texture, Kelley's book gives an overview of the fifteenth-century flamboyant art form, that strange mixture of artistry, moral theology, bawdy irreverence, physical action, and sermonic eloquence, which succeeded the mystery plays at the end of the medieval period. As John Gardner notes in his Foreword, Kelley has done for the morality plays what earlier scholars did for the mysteries: "He has pointed out their controlling aesthetic and shown why, in their time and place, they were a joy to see and hear."

Excerpt

In the Middle Ages, especially in England, drama was more popular than it had ever been before, even in ancient Greece, or has ever been since, even in Shakespeare's London. Thousands upon thousands of people went to see plays of all kinds--folk plays, masquelike plays, guild plays, and so on. For a long time scholars were baffled by the popularity of medieval theater. Reading the plays' dull poetry, as they thought it, or studying the seemingly clumsy dramatic structure, they shook their heads in puzzlement at the astounding attendance records and the huge sums of money involved in dramatic production.

Then, for one group of plays at least--the guild or "mystery" plays--scholarly opinion began to change. Over the past twenty years, scholars began to see and point out, in one fascinating book after another, how subtly some of the mystery- play poetry worked when taken on its own terms, how ingeniously the plays were in fact constructed, and how fine the theatrical effects must have been. As a result of that work, it no longer seems a mystery that the mystery plays were so well attended. On the contrary, the mystery has come to be that such wonderful entertainments should give way, toward the end of the medieval period, to the seemingly stiff, deadly dull "Macro plays," as they've unfortunately come to be called.

Now Michael Kelley has done for the Macro plays what earlier scholars did for the mysteries: he has pointed out their controlling aesthetic and shown why, in their time and place, they were a joy to see and hear. They were, he shows, a kind of entertainment for which we can find no easy parallels--part op-

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