Medieval Theatres in Europe

Before the conversion of the Teutonic Knights to Christianity, and after the fall of the Roman Empire, the medieval theatre was a grand part of the pagan festival for the Nomadic Tribes. The theatre consisted of rope dances and jugglers’ performance, which preserved the pagan tribal histories. However, after the 7th century and the conversion of these tribes, the power of the church over these communities got strengthened, and the church denounced such festivals and rites which led to the decline of the theatrical performances at this early age. Between the years 926-975 AD, drama got introduced into the church, and the theatre re-born again. It helped to fight back the pagan rites by introducing the Christian teachings through the ceremonies and drama. Thus, the church introduced these ceremonies at the time of pagan festivals, for example Easter supplanted the spring festivals for the pagan rites. In such a way the theatre became a tool for preaching of Christianity. In the hands of the church, which worked to denounce it previously, the priest and nuns became the actors in the performances and also wrote plays like Hrosvitha of Gandersheim  and many religious plays, for example Second Shepherds Play, Lives of Saints, Last Supper, Noah.

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Liturgical drama was mostly in Latin, which was the language of the church. Anachronisms were common, for instance in The Second Shepherds Play, the stolen lamb became the baby, and in the content they were using Christian reference before the arrival of this baby Jesus. The plays were serious because they intended to teach and spread the biblical principles and were performed in cycles. In addition, these plays were melodramatic, where the good always wins. Most of them were episodic with odd mixture of comical and serious characters.

Secular drama, on the other hand, was represented by the plays which were farce, secularized and based on classical gods and heroes with political flavor. The actors were professional and not attached to clergy, as compared to  liturgical drama. The plays were written in Vernacular language rather than Latin, and church had no control on the scripts, comparing to liturgical drama, where approving of church was obligatory.

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