Medieval Drama on the Continent Themes

Other Dramatic Themes

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Christmas and Easter themes represent the greatest number of liturgical plays. Other New Testament themes included the Raising of Lazarus, the Conversion of Saint Paul, and plays about the Blessed Virgin. Highly developed plays about Lazarus are found in the Benediktbeuern Passion Play and in the Fleury playbook. The plays about the Blessed Virgin, destined to attain great popularity in the vernacular miracle plays, followed scriptural or apocryphal texts in the liturgical drama. The four most important feasts celebrated the Presentation, on November 21, the Annunciation, on March 25, the Purification, on February 2, and the Assumption, on August 15. Of these, the drama at Avignon in 1385 for the Presentation is the most ambitious, with twenty-one characters, among them symbols, foreshadowing the later morality plays, and a complete set of rubrics for the stage. The plays for the Assumption are rather limited in scope, and some seem to have been of an indecorous type.

Other than the Ordo prophetarum, Old Testament themes were limited in subject. The most important themes were Isaac and Rebecca, Joseph and his brethren, and Daniel. Liturgical plays of nonscriptural origin were based on legends or miracles of the saints. They did not attain great popularity in the church dramas, but they were to reach enormous proportions in the vernacular plays of the late Middle Ages. The only saint to be widely treated in church plays is Saint Nicholas, about...

(The entire section is 416 words.)