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(detail)12. century | Opening


Liturgical drama was performed exclusively in cathedrals and churches during this period. Mansion stages, were structures of a small size, designated for performing smaller pictures, events or places. The so-called mansions were placed along or around the main 'playing surfaces', the plateau. The choir was often used for depicting heavenly scenes while the crypt was in contrast employed for depicting hell.


"Sometime in the tenth century, a part of the Mass for Easter Sunday was embellished by a question and answer sequence telling the story of the Three Maries at the Sepulchre [PI. 26]: 'Whom do you seek in the Sepulchre, O followers of Christ?' asks one speaker representing the angel. 'Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified', is the reply. 'He is risen, as he foretold; go and tell how he is risen from the tomb.'
As the years passed, other episodes from the Gospels were dramatized in the same simple way. The performers were priests and choristers, the language Latin, the setting the chancel of the parish church. But the dialogue was working itself free from the actual words of the Biblical text, a few stage properties were introduced and there was action of a sort. Subjects included the Nativity, the Journey to Emmaus, the Ascension and Pentecost. The staging was elaborated so that the whole church, including the nave, was used, with each bay of the arcade representing a particular place (Pilate's Palace, Gethsemane, etc.). Rich costumes were provided and the characters carried their traditional attributes. In spite of ecclesiastical controls, comedy kept breaking in and certain characters (for instance the man who sold spices to Mary Magdalene) became recognized comic types."


In: TIDWORTH, Simon. Theatres; an illustrated history. London: Pall Mall Press, 1973, 224 p. ISBN 02-690-2833-1. Available from: http://amzn.com/0269028331, p. 35.




Author: Simon Tidworth

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