Medieval Drama: From Sanctuary to Stage

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Medieval Drama: From Sanctuary to Stage (48:00)
Item# 10819

This definitive program traces the development of medieval drama, from Hildegard von Bingen’s musical morality play Ordo Virtutum (The Ritual of the Virtues) to the seminal Everyman. Featuring extended excerpts from these influential works, as well as from The Second Shepherd’s Play and the 1998 staging of the mystery cycle in York, England, the video also establishes the genre’s socioreligious context. Expert commentary from a variety of scholars, including Meg Twycross of Lancaster University and Alexandra Johnston of the University of Toronto, as well as interviews with theater staff help to capture the vitality of an art form that bridges dramatic history from the classical age to Shakespeare. A Films for the Humanities & Sciences Production. (48 minutes)

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Segments in this Video - (15)

1. Hildegarde von Bingen (02:01)
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"Ordo Virtum" is a 12th century liturgical play with all of the elements of a modern musical. It grew out of the liturgical changes in the church.

2. Revival of Greek Drama (03:32)

Flourishing in the century before Christ, Greek drama disappears for a millennium. It comes back in the Catholic Church. In "Ordo Virtum" the soul is caught between spiritual and moral perfection.

3. Church Educates Commoners (02:11)

Liturgical drama is widespread by the 10th century both in England and on the Continent. In 1215 the Church decides that the best way to reach the people is through the arts.

4. Golden Age (02:16)

The Golden Age of Medieval drama thrives from 1350 to 1575. The best examples of vernacular drama are the Mystery Plays dramatizing Biblical tales.

5. Craft Guilds Performances (03:46)

Craft guilds make it possible for great numbers of people to participate. They divide the plays based on individual skills and supplies. Pageant wagons provide a moving theatrical play.

6. Replicating Authenticity (02:31)

Producers of the "York cycle" use representations of props from authentic set lists and items from churches of the period. They use spectacle and bold tricks that capture the imagination.

7. Theatrical Techniques (02:59)

The climax of the play is the redemption of Christ through the resurrection. The actors learn the language well to be understood. The audience identifies with the part, not the actor.

8. Women in the Theater (01:30)

In modern renditions of Mystery Plays female actors perform feminine roles. There is no evidence that women acted in the plays in Medieval times.

9. Comedy (04:42)

"The Second Shepherd's Play" from the Wakefield Cycle is a Christmas show turned upside down. Colloquial humor is evident in the low comedy with a sheep stolen and hidden in a crib.

10. "The Shepherd's Play" (04:59)

Humorous and comical scenes from "The Second Shepherd's Play" lament the difficulties of Feudalism. The scene of the sheep theft is played out.

11. Purpose of the Mystery Plays (02:42)

Some plays run for 250 years. They bind audiences in an increasingly fractured society and bridge past and present. The Church's educational functional becomes secular.

12. Morality Plays (04:28)

Morality Plays tell of a single life on earth and are psychological dramas. One of the most famous is "Everyman" dating from the 16th century. Scenes are acted in this segment.

13. Archetype of "Everyman" (03:46)

"Everyman" is an archetypical play that everyone knows about. It is a translation from a 14th century Dutch play. Scenes from the play continue.

14. Dramatic Techniques (03:02)

Plays like "Everyman" are allegories that essentially tell the same story. Setting and connotation is different. Narrative is strong and rhetoric is unique.

15. Shakespeare's Medieval Roots (00:55)

Religious plays from Medieval times reinvent and refine the art of dramatic storytelling and captivate audiences. Shakespeare brings a new light into the theater.

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