Medieval drama

  • Medieval drama

    Posted by Encyclios on May 3, 2023 at 12:58 PM

    The medieval drama has different manifestations and currents. The erudite and profane currents try to perpetuate as much as possible the cult of ancient literature; among its forms we find the “convivial patrician mime” and the “elegiac comedy”, both written in Latin and more literary than dramatic (they were in fact read in restricted cenacles).

    The religious currents – to remedy the corruption of customs – try to reconcile the new religious spirit with the old pagan forms. The result is the sacred representation: its birth can be traced back to the sacred homily, when it becomes a dialogue for didactic and exhortative purposes. A more well-founded thesis traces the sacred representation to the development of the Roman liturgy, which already in its pure celebratory form is pervaded by dramatic elements (the sacrifice of the Mass as a symbolic representation, in a dialogical form between celebrant and assistants). The liturgical drama remains closely connected to the rite: it is recited in Latin by priests who play the most diverse parts and change identity not so much through costumes or physical transformations as through an exterior stylization. In the figure of the actor-priest, believers contemplate the longed-for anticipation of Christ’s coming on earth.

    Liturgical drama, unlike classical drama, does not adopt the criterion of the three Aristotelian units and expresses itself more in pictorial than representational form. If the classical drama staged a single event in a linear manner and in a single place, the medieval drama on the other hand follows the hero in all his ages: it is not represented, for example, the moment when Jesus resurrects Lazarus, but the whole life of the protagonist. Necessarily the scene becomes multiple, created by different scenes aligned and divided from each other by a compartment: they are the so-called “deputy places”.

    Finally we have a popular theater, characterized both by the buffoonish aspect (typical of mimes and farces) and religious. Typical was the “Mixed Drama”, which distinguished itself from the liturgical drama for the contaminatio of genres and the introduction of the first vernacular phrases. In the production of this current we also find comedies, of which a famous pantomime, the Cena Cypriani, has remained. The popular theater also finds space in the so-called Libertates Decembris. These are occasional representations, consisting of a pseudo-ecclesiastical procession led by a young man dressed as a bishop; the procession starts from the church and arrives at the episcope, where the clergy and/or the real bishop are blessed in a ridiculous and parodic way.

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