Medieval Drama, The
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The religious medieval drama, like the Church which produced it, was international. As such, from its earliest beginnings in the tenth-century Quem quaeritis to the thirteenth-century Ludi Paschales and Passion Plays, it exhibits a cultural and thematic unity binding the various plays: a thematic unity from the fabric of Christian thought, and a cultural unity from the fact that these productions, at least up to the end of the thirteenth century, generally share a technical-philological medium: the Latin language.
In later centuries, this religious drama expressed in the vernacular remained an act of faith; its purpose being to strengthen the faith of the worshippers and to express in visible, dramatic terms the facts and values of Christian belief.
These essays were, in their original form, addressed to the third annual conference of the Center for Medieval and Early Renaissance Studies at the State University of New York at Binghamton. The work of international authorities on the medieval drama, they span many centuries and bear witness to the growth of the religious dramatic form and of the dramatic movement and temper of the liturgy in which that form finds its origin.
Omer Jodogne establishes a difference, on the aesthetic level, between dramatic works and their theatrical performance by pointing out that the surviving texts, whether they were meant for reading or for a theatrical performance, reproduce only what was said on the stage, and, succinctly, what was done.
Wolfgang Michael suggests that the first medieval drama did not originate in a slow growth from the Easter trope Quem quaeritis but was rather an original creation of the author or authors of the Concordia Regularis. He indicates that subsequent dramatic endeavors in their slow process of change and expansion reflect the working of tradition rather than an original spirit and form.
Sandro Sticca examines the creation of the first Passion Play and shows that Christ's passion became increasingly popular in the tenth century, and that the new forces which allowed a more eloquent and humane visualization and description of Christ's anguish first appeared in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. He also refutes the traditional view that the Planctus Mariae is the germinal point of the Latin Passion Play.
V. A. Kolve seeks to account for certain central facts about Everyman which have never had close critical attention. He analyzes the Biblical and Patristic references within which the story is shaped and which are central to the understanding of other actions and to determining the meaning of the play.
Glynn Wickham, after exploding on the evidence of reference alone the old categorizing of English Saint Plays as by-products or late developments of Mysteries and Moralities, turns to a critical discussion of the three surviving texts of English Saint Plays and of their original staging by means of diagrammatic illustrations providing a vivid visualization of their performance.
William Smolden takes an unaccustomed approach to the controversial question of the origins of the Quem quaeritis. He maintains that when musical evidence is called on, it brings about, on a number of occasions, a confutation of the theory of a "textual" writer. From a detailed consideration of the two earliest Quem quaeritis he feels convinced that the place of origin of the trope was the Abbey of St. Martial of Limoges.
Sandro Sticca is Associate Professor of French and Comparative Literature at State University of New York at Binghamton. Professor Sticca is the author of The Latin Passion Play.