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Drama, Play, and Game

English Festive Culture in the Medieval and Early Modern Period

How was it possible for drama, especially biblical representations, to appear in the Christian West given the church’s condemnation of the theatrum of the ancient world?In a book with radical implications for the study of medieval literature, Lawrence Clopper resolves this perplexing question.

Drama, Play, and Game demonstrates that the theatrum repudiated by medieval clerics was not "theater" as we understand the term today. Clopper contends that critics have misrepresented Western stage history because they have assumed that theatrum designates a place where drama is performed. While theatrum was thought of as a site of spectacle during the Middle Ages, the term was more closely connected with immodest behavior and lurid forms of festive culture. Clerics were not opposed to liturgical representations in churches, but they strove ardently to suppress May games, ludi, festivals, and liturgical parodies. Medieval drama, then, stemmed from a more vernacular tradition than previously acknowledged-one developed by England’s laity outside the boundaries of clerical rule.

384 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2001

Literature and Literary Criticism: British and Irish Literature

Table of Contents

1. The Theatrum and the Rhetoric of Abuse in the Middle Ages
2. Miracula, Ludi inhonesti, "Somergames," and the Tretise of Miraclis Pleyinge
3. Communitas: The Ludi of Monasteries and Cathedrals, Towns and Parishes
4. Civitas: Drama and the City
5. Texts and Performances
6. The Matter of These Plays
7. Variety in the Dramas of East Anglia
8. The Persistence of "Medieval Drama" in the Tudor and Elizabethan Periods
Appendix I. References to Miracula, Miracles, and Steracles in Medieval and Early Modern England
Appendix II. Communitas: The Play of Saints in Late Medieval and Tudor England
Works Cited


Theatre Library Association: George Freedley Memorial Award

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