Proseminar: Introduction to Medieval Theatre (Intro.)

Enseignant(s): Dutton Elisabeth
Cursus: Bachelor
Type d'enseignement: Proséminaire
Langue(s) du cours: Anglais
Semestre(s): SP-2023

‘Medieval drama’ includes scriptural mystery cycles, allegorical morality plays, and early humanist debate plays.  Medieval drama could teach about scripture and salvation, and debate ethical questions, but the plays were not drily didactic teaching tools but were full of humour, humanity, and spectacle.  Medieval literary theories connected enjoyment and learning, so it is possible that the comedy was the sugar to help the educational medicine go down: however, modern revivals of medieval plays have repeatedly demonstrated that their human power is far more than a sweetener, and scholars have applied theories of carnival to demonstrate medieval theatre’s potential to be politically and socially subversive. 

              Theatrically, medieval plays can be highly innovative, particularly in their self-conscious exploration of the nature of performance and the relationship between actors and audiences.  This course will comprise introductory study of selected examples of different genres of medieval play: the morality, the mystery, the miracle play.  Plays will be considered as scripts for performance and as part of a verbal and visual culture by which the medieval world explored its relationship with the divine.

21.02.   The Ordo Paginarum
28.02    York: Fall of the Angels
07.03    Chester Adam and Eve
14.03    York: Josephs’ Trouble About Mary and Nativity
21.03    York: Crucifixion
28.03    N Town Mary Play
04.04    Castle of Perseverance I
18.04    Castle of Perseverance II
25.04    Everyman I
02.05    Everyman II
09.05    Mankind I
16.05    Mankind II
23.05    Croxton Play of the Sacrament I
30.05    Croxton Play of the Sacrament II


  • Basic familiarity with late Middle English language
  • Knowledge of the different genres of medieval drama
  • Familiarity with the content of selected examples of medieval drama
  • Understanding of the importance of performance location
  • Appreciation of place of the medieval drama in the development of English theatre


The coursebook will be: Medieval Drama: An Anthology, ed. Greg Walker (Oxford: Blackwell, 2000). It might be a good idea to order the book for yourself well in advance, although there are also library copies.  Assessment will be by Proseminar Paper.