Theatre from the Middle Ages through to the Renaissance Period.

Essay by Cassie14University, Bachelor'sB, May 2003

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Theatre was totally abolished after the fall of the Roman Empire in 476 A.D. There were only wandering actors, referred to as jongleurs, who would travel from town to town to tell stories, juggle, and do acrobatic tricks. With the decay of theatre, Christianity became popular. Ironically it was the Catholic Church which revived theatre through The Middle Ages after initiating the decline of theatre in Rome. The Catholic Church wanted to re-establish itself in the community so the Church services now included short dramatic performances from the clergy, as they wanted to illustrate the stories of the religious holidays to reinforce their religious connotation and to better communicate the stories to an illiterate congregation. At Christmas and Easter, priests and choirboys would perform short dramatic scenes inside the Church depicting the birth and death of Jesus. These were generally called "Liturgical plays" because they were still associated with the service of liturgy.

It is believed that the plays began in France in the 9th century and spread rapidly.

From simple beginnings, the production techniques used developed into incredibly elaborate affairs. The plays were originally performed in Latin, but by the end of the 11th century, as the performances spread across Europe, they were also being performed in Medieval French, German, and English.

By the 13th century, the liturgical plays had developed as far as they could within the confines of the church, and so the plays could no longer be performed as part of the service inside the Church, because even the largest Churches couldn't accommodate the numbers of spectators that flocked to see them. The plays were performed outside on the steps of the Church and in the Church courtyard, although liturgical plays would continue to be presented by the clergy within the Church for another 300 years.