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The Sister Fidelma series has now been published to great acclaim for over twenty years. Sometimes plays were staged as part of the occasion and a certain amount of burlesque and comedy may have entered the liturgical drama as a result of its influence. Performance of religious plays outside of the church began sometime in the 12th century through a traditionally accepted process of merging shorter liturgical dramas into longer plays which were then translated into vernacular and performed by laymen and thus accessible to a wider segment of society inclusive of the working class.
A sheep in wolf’s clothing? The other side of Henry VIII
The use of vernacular enabled drama to be understood and enjoyed by a larger audience. The Mystery of Adam gives credence to this theory as its detailed stage direction suggest that it was staged outdoors. Economic and political changes in the High Middle Ages led to the formation of guilds and the growth of towns, and this would lead to significant changes for theatre starting in this time and continuing into in the Late Middle Ages. Trade guilds began to perform plays, usually religiously based, and often dealing with a biblical story that referenced their profession.
For instance, a baker's guild would perform a reenactment of the Last Supper. These vernacular " mystery plays " were written in cycles of a large number of plays: York 48 plays , Chester 24 , Wakefield 32 and Unknown A larger number of plays survive from France and Germany in this period and some type of religious dramas were performed in nearly every European country in the Late Middle Ages. Many of these plays contained comedy , devils , villains and clowns.
The majority of actors in these plays were drawn from the local population. For example, at Valenciennes in , more than roles were assigned to 72 actors. Often providing their own costumes, amateur performers in England were exclusively male, but other countries had female performers. The platform stage, which was an unidentified space and not a specific locale, allowed for abrupt changes in location. Morality plays emerged as a distinct dramatic form around and flourished until One notable example is The Castle of Perseverance which depicts mankind 's progress from birth to death.
Though Everyman may possibly be the best known of this genre, it is atypical in many ways. Everyman receives Death 's summons, struggles to escape and finally resigns himself to necessity.
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Along the way, he is deserted by Kindred , Goods , and Fellowship - only Good Deeds goes with him to the grave. Secular drama was also staged throughout the Middle Ages, the earliest of which is The Play of the Greenwood by Adam de la Halle in It contains satirical scenes and folk material such as faeries and other supernatural occurrences. Farces also rose dramatically in popularity after the 13th century. The majority of these plays come from France and Germany and are similar in tone and form, emphasizing sex and bodily excretions. However, farce did not appear independently in England until the 16th century with the work of John Heywood — A significant forerunner of the development of Elizabethan drama was the Chambers of Rhetoric in the Low Countries.
Their plays were performed in the great hall of a nobleman's residence, often with a raised platform at one end for the audience and a "screen" at the other for the actors. Also important were Mummers' plays , performed during the Christmas season, and court masques.
These masques were especially popular during the reign of Henry VIII who had a house of revels built and an office of revels established in Depending on the area of the performances, the plays were performed in the middle of the street, on pageant wagons in the streets of great cities this was inconvenient for the actors because the small stage size made stage movement impossible , in the halls of nobility , or in the round in amphitheatres, as suggested by current archaeology in Cornwall and the southwest of England.
The most detailed illustration of a mystery play stage design is the frontispiece to Hubert Cailleau 's The Passion and Resurrection of the Savior. All medieval stage production was temporary and expected to be removed upon the completion of the performances. Actors, predominantly male, typically wore long, dark robes.
Medieval plays such as the Wakefield cycle, or the Digby Magdalene featured lively interplay between two distinct areas, the wider spaces in front of the raised staging areas, and the elevated areas themselves called, respectively, the locus and the platea.
Scenery, stage machinery and costumes enabled a more realistic depiction of the message the play was trying to promote. Changing political and economic factors greatly affected theatre at the end of the Middle Ages and beginning of the Modern Era. First, the Protestant Reformation targeted the theatre, especially in England, in an effort to stamp out allegiance to Rome.
In Wakefield , for example, the local mystery cycle text shows signs of Protestant editing, with references to the pope crossed out and two plays completely eliminated because they were too Catholic. However, it was not just the Protestants who attacked the theatre of the time. The Council of Trent banned religious plays in an attempt to rein in the extrabiblical material that the Protestants frequently lampooned.
A revival of interest in ancient Roman and Greek culture changed the tastes of the learned classes in the performing arts. Greek and Roman plays were performed and new plays were written that were heavily influenced by the classical style. This led to the creation of Commedia dell'arte and influenced Renaissance theatre. Still childbirth was a dangerous business.