Medieval Theatre

November 2021

Medieval Places Of Seeing

Episode 63

In a coda to season 3 somewhere in England an acting troupe travels through a cold December at the tale end of the Medieval period, in search of an audience. A fictional account using the facts and assumptions discussed in the Medieval Theatre season of the podcast.

September 2021

Medieval Conclusions

Episode 62

With the Reformation came the final end of the great Religious plays of the medieval period. The episode sumarises the great trends of medieval theatre and charts the final end as Europe descended into religious disagreement.

A reminder of the journey from the religious trope, thorough the folk festivals, the cycle plays, the saints play, the morality play and the interlude.

The end of Medieval Theatre as brought about by the Reformation and political and sociological changes.

Some final thoughts on the legacy of Medieval Theatre.

To support the podcast:

For the Money: The Medieval Commercial Theatre

Episode 61

Once the medieval theatre had moved out of the confines of the church and away from religious obligation a form of commercial theatre began, but how was money spent and income generated and was it profitable?

The rise of commercial theatre through the Interlude and the Travelling Players

Play expenses and income

The rising costs of the Cycle Plays and other entertainments

The actors contract

The production of ‘Mystery Des Trois Doms’ and what it tells us about collaboration

The relationship between the concerns of the Church, the State, and the Guilds

The player in the service of a Lord.

To support the Podcast:

Just For Fun: Medieval Secular Theatre

Episode 60

Religious theatre dominated the Medieval period, but there are some examples of works written just for fun and entertainment.

How celebrations like The Feast of Fools, The Boy Bishop and The Feast of Asses developed into secular theatre.

The rise and influence of the travelling players and the church reaction to some of their work.

The French travelling players Rutebeuf and Adam De La Hale.

French Medieval comedy

The establishment of performers guilds and the role of the player in service of a king or lord.

A rare example of political satire in Medieval France.

The Interlude and the work of Henry Medwell and John Hayward

To […]

August 2021

Everyman: Dutch Morality

Episode 59

Everyman is the most well known of all the Morality plays and probably an English adaptation of a Dutch original.

Different types of Morality Plays

The Morality play in Europe and how they differed from the English offering

A synopsys and analysis of Everyman

The Dance Macabre and the role of Death

To support the podcast:

The Castle of Perseverance

Episode 58

The Castle of Perseverance is a great example of how difficult it can be to discuss the form of a play separately from the content and in this case we have an illustration that shows how the play might have been presented

A summary of the plot of the play

Details from the manuscript about dating the play

The illustration contained in the manuscript reviewed in detail

The problems with the way the audience might have been positioned and the play presented

The role of the ‘Stytlery’

The ditch and how it might have been used.

To see the illustration discussed in this episode go to […]

Virtues Vs Vices: The Morality Play

Episode 57

The Morality play is a type of play that for all its similarities and shared heritage with the Corpus Christi cycle plays brought something new to the world of drama and had a profound effect on the future development of theatre.

How the Morality Plays are different from Cycle Plays

The Development of the ideas around the seven vices and virtues and how they developed into personified characters

The development of education in the Middle Ages and the influence on monastic preaching

The presentation of Morality plays and the move away from the church feast day

Examples […]

Hell Harrowed, the World Flooded

Episode 56

The history of the Harrowing of Hell and the way it was portrayed in the cycle plays, including some thoughts on how it would have been staged and how the play comes alive when the demons and devils take to the stage.

The play of Noah and the Great Flood must have provided the medieval set designers with some real challenges. Some thoughts on how that might have been done and a look at some of the detail around the story of Mrs Noah, doves, ravens and Rainbows.

While Shepherds Watched

Episode 55

The Second Shepherds play is considered the best of the medieval cycle plays. In this episode I take a look at not only the second shepherds play, but the first play as well, which is often overlooked.

Why are there two shepherd’s plays in this cycle?

The plot and characters in the first play

The plot and charaters in the second play

The similarities and differences between the plays

What the plays say about the social conditions of the time

The Wakefield Master, author go the plays

Support the podcast here:

July 2021

The Home of the Cycle Plays: York, Chester, Coventry and Wakefield

Episode 54

In this episode we look at the way the cycle plays developed in the four major centres from where we have complete versions of the cycle: York, Chester, Coventry and Wakefield.

The development of the York Plays

Further details on the guilds and how they functioned in society

The development of the Chester plays

The development of the Coventry Cycle

The development of the Wakefield cycle

The N-Town cycle Manuscript

The Wakefield cycle plays

The literary merits of the plays

For the list of plays and associated guilds from York see:

Support the podcast here:

Medieval Stage Effects

Episode 53

Stage sets, costuming and special effects became quite sophisticated in the cycle plays during the sixteenth century. This episode looks at the examples of stage sets that we have from Valenciennes. You can see the drawing that is described in the podcast here:

A look at evidence for costuming the has survived

And then we take a look at the the different stager special effects used to impress the audience, especially the representations of Hell’s Mouth, with associated demons, fires and pyrotechnics.

Support the podcast here:

Medieval Performance and Rehearsal

Episode 52

This episode looks at how the Corpus Christi plays were organised and staffed with actors, tradesmen and other organisers and supporters.

How rehearsals were organised and what was expected of actors, including details of the contrast they were expected to sign.

The different playing spaces that were used for the plays, including three main types, the round, the wagon, and the market place.

The role of ‘The Ordinary’ and other things we know about the way the plays were presented.

The rise and fall of the Saints Play

For the illustration of the martyrdom of St Appolonia see:

To support the podcast:

June 2021

Corpus Christi: New Feast Day, New Plays

Episode 51

The instigation of the Corpus Christi feat day too theatre out of the church and into the town and village. This episode looks at the development of the celebration of the new feast day and how the new trades guilds and other organisations took over the production of biblical plays from the church.

An understanding of the theology behind the feast day is important to an understanding of how the plays developed, so this is outlined and the concepts of time and place within the plays is discussed.

Then it’s on to more practical matters such as learning lines and the […]

Synods Tropes Asses and Fools

Episode 50

The Synod of Winchester issued direction on the performance of the Trope in 960 and the door was open for further developments on other feast days.

Then a look at other church festivals with dramatic elements. The Boy Bishop, The Day of Fools and the Festival of the Ass.

And in the late twelfth century the Trope starts to get too big for the likes of some in the church as stage directions get more complicated and props and scenery get put to use to represent individual places and characters.

You can support the podcast at:

Uncomfortable Bedfellows: Theatre and Worship

Episode 49

The story of how theatre found it’s way into the church service on the most important days in the Christian calendar, Easter Sunday and Christmas Day. For a long time drama was a small elaboration to the massif the same way music, architecture and art were only included to amplify the message of the service and the word of God. Following a lot at their impact and use we get to the Trope, but it that really the beginnings of church drama? The Synod of Winchester in 970 might just have the answer.

From Roman to Medieval

Episode 48

To open season three a summary of how theatre and dramatic activity survived despite the restrictions placed on it from the growing influence of the Christian Church.

May 2021

Go to Top