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date: 20 October 2019

Drama and medieval artlocked

  • Elina Gertsman


Art and drama in the Middle Ages existed in a complex, symbiotic relationship. Material culture certainly formed an integral part of a wide variety of medieval performances, including liturgical drama and Latin comedies, Apocalypse and Passion plays, farces and moralities, mystery and miracle plays, and processions and tableaux vivants. While some scholars have argued that drama influenced visual culture, and others have asserted the primacy of images, it has become clear that both art and drama drew on common cultural resources and played an active role in the shaping of medieval culture.

It is, however, difficult to reconstruct the ephemera of medieval performances, because the remaining material artefacts—textual and visual—are steeped in uncertainty. Although stage plans indicate possible configurations, the spaces where performances took place were fluid: a church or a square, a tavern or a street, a hall or a cloister. Sometimes the make-shift stages—scaffolds or mansions—were static, as in Rouen; sometimes pageant wagons, which designated particular action locations, moved through city streets, as in York. In this way, the very architectural and topographical fabric of urban or rural communities was incorporated into and provided an interactive setting for a performance....

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