How did drama develop during the Middle Ages?

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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Depending upon one's definition of what constitutes a drama, most dramas of the Middle Ages were performed by troops, or bands, of nomads who would perform for any audience (or small group of people). These performances included story-telling, acrobatic acts, and jesters. Given the power of the Church, during this period, it had great influence over the productions of the times. Many churches denounced the traveling troops and named the performances as sinful.

The Church, in order to satisfy the need for entertainment of its members, performed dramas of its own. These dramas would tell stories of the Bible. The most famous reenactments were "Daniel and the Lion's Den" and "Mary's Visit to the Tomb." If any other dramas were performed, the plays tended to be morality plays and mystery plays.

While some of the productions were typical of the ones seen today, others took many days to perform. These dramas were named cycle plays. The cycle plays consisted of multiple short plays encompassing the same ideas or following the same storyline.

In a sense, the movement of dramas during the Middle Ages was three-fold. First, nomads put on plays. The Church, wanting to educate on Christianity, brought dramas into the walls of the church. At one point, the churches could no longer contain the number of people wanting to watch the productions. The plays were moved back into the streets (where the Church could no longer control them). Movement from secular to non-secular, at this point, was a given.

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