Medieval English Drama: Performance and Spectatorship 9780745636030, 9780745636047

Medieval English Drama provides a fresh introduction to the dramatic and festive practices of England in the late Middle

511 60 1MB

English Pages 256 [190] Year 2009

Report DMCA / Copyright


Polecaj historie

Medieval English Drama: Performance and Spectatorship
 9780745636030, 9780745636047

Table of contents :
List of Abbreviations
1 Drama of Enclosure: Convent Drama
2 Drama of Inclusion: Church and Parish
3 Drama and the City: City Parades
4 Drama in the City: Processional Drama and Hybridity
5 Fixed-Place Drama: Place-and-Scaffold
6 Indoor Drama: Private Entertainment

Citation preview

Medieval English Drama

CULTURAL HISTORY OF LITERATURE Sandra Clark, Renaissance Drama Ann Hallamore Caesar and Michael Caesar, Modern Italian Literature Christopher Cannon, Middle English Literature Roger Luckhurst, Science Fiction Katie Normington, Medieval English Drama Lynne Pearce, Romance Writing Charles Rzepka, Detective Fiction Jason Scott-Warren, Early Modern English Literature Mary Trotter, Modern Irish Theatre Andrew Baruch Wachtel and Ilya Vinitsky, Russian Literature Andrew J. Webber, The European Avant-Garde Tim Whitmarsh, Ancient Greek Literature

Medieval English Drama Performance and Spectatorship KATIE NORMINGTON


Copyright © Katie Normington 2009 The right of Katie Normington to be identified as Author of this Work has been asserted in accordance with the UK Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. First published in 2009 by Polity Press Polity Press 65 Bridge Street Cambridge CB2 1UR, UK Polity Press 350 Main Street Malden, MA 02148, USA All rights reserved. Except for the quotation of short passages for the purpose of criticism and review, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher. ISBN-13: 978-0-7456-3603-0 ISBN-13: 978-0-7456-3604-7(pb) A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. Typeset in 10.5 on 12pt Sabon by SNP Best-set Typesetter Ltd, Hong Kong Printed and bound in Great Britain by MPG Books Ltd, Bodmin, Cornwall The publisher has used its best endeavours to ensure that the URLs for external websites referred to in this book are correct and active at the time of going to press. However, the publisher has no responsibility for the websites and can make no guarantee that a site will remain live or that the content is or will remain appropriate. Every effort has been made to trace all copyright holders, but if any have been inadvertently overlooked the publishers will be pleased to include any necessary credits in any subsequent reprint or edition. For further information on Polity, visit our website:

For Beatrice and Oliver


Preface Acknowledgements List of Abbreviations


viii xi xii 1

1 Drama of Enclosure: Convent Drama


2 Drama of Inclusion: Church and Parish


3 Drama and the City: City Parades


4 Drama in the City: Processional Drama and Hybridity


5 Fixed-Place Drama: Place-and-Scaffold


6 Indoor Drama: Private Entertainment




Notes Bibliography Index

135 161 174


This book has been written to explore dramatic activity in England in the Middle Ages. Where possible the performance examples chosen are those that are readily available in medieval anthologies such as: Early English Drama: An Anthology, ed. John Coldewey (Garland Reference Library of the Humanities, 1993); English Mystery Plays: A Selection, ed. Peter Happé (Penguin, 1975); Everyman and Medieval Miracle Plays, ed. A. C. Cawley (Dent, 1974); Mediaeval Drama, ed. David Bevington (Houghton Mifflin, 1975); Medieval Drama: An Anthology, ed. Greg Walker (Blackwell, 2000); Medieval and Tudor Drama, ed. John Gassner (Applause Books, 1987). In choosing material from these anthologies I hope that the examples discussed are accessible to students. Where material is not readily accessible in print I have suggested internet editions. The scope of this book is from roughly 1000 to 1576; a time that stretches from the laying down of the Winchester Regularis Concordia between 965 and 975 to the establishment of the first permanent theatre building.1 The time included within this framework comprises periods often referred to as Old English, Middle English, late medieval, Tudor, Henrician, Elizabethan, and Renaissance. For ease of reference, and in order to acknowledge the considerable cross-over between these terms, I shall refer to the drama of this period collectively as ‘early English’. This strategy is a deliberate attempt to dislodge the barriers that such periodization produces. The boundaries that have been set between terms such as medieval and renaissance have been created for the ease of scholarly study rather than as absolute markers of one set of values or another. In between any paradigm shift lies a ‘grey’ area where facets of the former epoch bleed into the



later, or conversely aspects of the later can be found springing up in isolated patches far earlier than is commonplace. It is only necessary to look at the development of Renaissance art to see the inadequacy of absolute boundaries: it is often argued that the Renaissance began in the early fourteenth century in Italy, while it did not occur in England until some two centuries later. It is hard, therefore, to make a case that the ‘Renaissance’ occurred at a particular moment in time, or that it is fruitful to study history via particular epochs. It is worth drawing attention to two distinctive features of this study: the absence of focus upon genre, and a concentration on the representation of gender. In attempting to approach early drama through the context of its performance this study offers an alternative approach to that of genre which has influenced much research in the area. The issue surrounding genre-based approaches has been outlined by Pamela King: English medieval drama has been understood throughout most of the modern period to consist chiefly of two dominant categories of play. The categories ‘mystery play’ and ‘morality play’ – also known as ‘moral interlude’ – were devised from the evidence of the few scripts which survive . . . This simple convergent model has come under increasing pressure, particularly since the work of the Records of Early English Drama project has revealed a plethora of dramatic activity in late medieval England which does not conform to the binary model derived from surviving scripts.2

The categorization of early drama into distinctive genres has marked much previous study, however, this book acknowledges the plethora of performance that existed within the period and attempts instead to retrieve the performance conditions that surround events rather than classify dramas into specific genres. As King acknowledges, part of the reason for the dependence on genre classification is due to the priority given to extant play texts. The more recent availability of a wide field of performance records has done much to challenge this theory, and the use of these within this book questions the appropriateness of a genre-based approach. There is one final distinctive element of this study to be noted and that is the focus upon gender. The position of women in early modern England is often absent or obscured within modern-day social, historical, and dramatic studies. This state of affairs is due to the relative invisibility of women within extant records and the fact that on the early stage the parts of women characters were usually played by men. Over the past thirty years the potential influence of women in



early England has received increasing attention. Bonnie Anderson and Judith Zinsser, writing in 1988, noted the disparity between ‘our own growing knowledge of women and their activities both past and present, and the almost total absence of women from the pages of history books’.3 Since then there has been a growth of interest in finding a place for women in early modern studies. Attention has been paid both to the more housebound and often invisible activities that women undertook, and to cases where women held important public roles. My previous work, Gender and Medieval Drama, explored the participation and reception of women within early drama, and in particular within the cycle dramas. However, this book follows the lead taken by P. J. P. Goldberg in Medieval England: A Social History 1250–1550 in which he advocates that women’s activity should be included within the main body of the book rather than segregated within a separate chapter outlining gender issues. In this way, gender becomes the mainstay of a study rather than a marginalized concern. In order to follow the integration of gender issues where possible each chapter makes reference to the representation of women. In examining the context of spectatorship in the Introduction reference is made to men and women’s experiences. The first chapter on monastic drama focuses specifically on performative practices within the convent. Aspects of the experiences of women are included in the discussions on parish drama, street drama, and within private settings. The figure of Mary Magdalene receives particular attention in chapter 5. It is the intention of this book to provide a comprehensive examination of the social practices of early England and to depict the heterogeneity of that community.


I would like to thank those that have made this book possible. My colleagues in the Department of Drama and Theatre at Royal Holloway University of London have, as ever, provided support, friendly criticism, and enthusiasm. This book was made possible by sabbatical leave from the Department. Particular thanks go to Liz Schafer, and Ruth Kennedy from the Department of English for reading draft chapters; any errors remain my own. My thanks to Nesreen Hussein for her help with the manuscript. Versions of this material have been presented at Theatre and Performance Research Association, Birmingham 2007, International Medieval Congress, Leeds in 2008, and a departmental research afternoon at Royal Holloway University of London, 2008. I thank colleagues at those events for their suggestions. The strength of friendship of the following has spurred me on: Andrea, Ann and Bob, Anthony and Mary, Carolyn and Keith, Dorinda and Peter, Helen and Cam, Libby, Liz and Vincent, Máire, Mollie, Rona, Sharon and Steve, Shira and Peter, Simon and Caroline, Zena and David, and, of course, Mum. Finally, I would like to thank Andrea Drugan at Polity Press and the helpful reports of their anonymous readers.



Early English Text Society ES Extra Series SS Special Series EDAM Early Drama, Art and Music ELH English Literary History JMEMS Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies METh Medieval English Theatre PMLA Publications of the Modern Language Association of America REED Records of Early English Drama RORD Research Opportunities in Renaissance Drama


Medieval English Drama: Performance and Spectatorship examines how the playing spaces of early English drama and the cultural context of the audience within that space shaped the nature of the production and reception of the event. One of the most striking features of drama of this period is the sheer variety of places where performances took place. In an age before permanent theatre buildings, drama seeped into a variety of spaces: churches, streets, village greens, private halls, inns – in fact anywhere that an audience could assemble. Few of these performance spaces were controlled in the manner that is familiar to us from modern-day indoor theatres. There were no attentive audiences sitting quietly in the darkness, often no seating, and no politely silent spectators. Instead the performances analysed in this book had to attract their audiences and hold their attention, often above the distractions of outdoor noises and that of fellow spectators. In fact the distinction between everyday life and performance was less marked than it is today. In early England life and performance bled into one another so that as a guild or parish member citizens might participate in entertainments but were simultaneously enacting their roles as workers or members of a community; the distinction between work and leisure, which is commonplace within modern society, was absent.

What is Performance? It is clear that there is a need for some definition of what constituted performance within the Middle Ages. Within contemporary society



the term ‘theatre’ is used to describe that which happens within a theatre building, while ‘drama’ is synonymous with the practice or study of the subject. There are a great number of other terms used in modern-day society to embrace a range of performance activities such as ritual, entertainment, show, or sometimes even game. The Middle Ages offered no such distinctions between types of dramatic entertainment. While there is evidence of separate terminology for what today would be distinguished as drama and music, or players and musicians (‘ludentes’ or ‘histriones’,1 and ‘ministralli’ respectively), it is difficult to determine how early performances were categorized by contemporary audiences, or if indeed they were. This book includes reference to a broad range of entertainments. Although some written texts have survived from the period it is important to acknowledge that within Medieval England there was a huge variety of festivities which included summer games, festive processions, and ritual practices for which no spoken texts exist. One major difference between performance in the Middle Ages and that of the modern-day was the influence of religious practices and beliefs. As shall be shown in the chapters that follow, early drama held a close relationship with liturgical practice both through the services conducted within the Church and the celebration of the ecclesiastical calendar within the parish. While some critics have attempted to separate the use of drama within the Church from that of the sacred world, Dunbar Ogden sensibly argues of the Middle Ages that: ‘A clear dividing line between theatre and worship cannot be drawn at this point.’2 Given the difficulty of distinguishing between theatre, drama, religious service, and ritual the parameters of the events included within this book are more usefully defined through the use of the term ‘performativity’.3 Performativity is used here to denote both that which happens within a clear performance environment (such as an act which requires a stage) and an event that is planned, executed, and witnessed but may belong to a system of cultural expression other than that which is recognized as theatrical. For example, a Lord Mayor’s parade through the city of London or a public scolding to punish a woman for inappropriate speech were pre-planned events which were deliberately constructed in order to affect the audience and participants in particular ways. The definition of performance used within this book, then, is an act which has been self-consciously prepared for deliberate spectatorship. The preparation of this event might be as little as the changing into a garment for dancing to raise money for the parish, or it might be as extravagant as the building



of stages or scaffolds to entertain the entry of a monarch into a city. Whether these events are elaborate or simple is irrelevant, for this book is concerned with how the performance practices that were utilized were received by the audience, and in turn both affected and were affected by the cultural landscape of early England. The relationship between cultural practice and everyday life has been examined by theorists such as Michel de Certeau who suggest that the two are inextricably linked. He postulates that though culture may be produced by the elite, it is important to look at how the ‘users’, the ‘common people’, shape that culture through their everyday practices. De Certeau argues that ‘We must first analyze its [a representation] manipulation by users who are not makers. Only then can we gauge the difference or similarity between the production of the image and the secondary production hidden in the process of its utilization.’4 De Certeau’s comments are pertinent to an analysis of early dramatic activity for he suggests that the importance of dramatic representation lies not only in the artefact that is produced, but also in the way that the practice is received and how it is ‘used’ by the audience that witness or participate in the event.

Reading the Event The focus on the performance and spectatorship of drama of early England creates a number of problems, since it is difficult to envision what watching these events might have been like. There are very few eyewitness accounts of the time and those that do exist are difficult to interpret with any surety since there are no foolproof systems for objectively documenting and analysing audience reactions. However, theorists such as Hans Robert Jauss have attempted to disentangle the issue of audience response within the reception of literature and some of his ideas can be expanded in order to appropriate them for the use of dramatic analysis. Jauss suggests that reader response can be imagined through the use of what he terms a ‘horizon of expectation’. In order to construct reader response Jauss suggests that three criteria are employed: comparison with the norms of the genre; other literary and historical references, and the opposition of fiction and reality.5 As Jauss admits, and this is a point pertinent to much of the material covered in this book, when the identity and therefore intentions of an author is unknown it is difficult to determine the relationship that was held with the ‘norms of the genre’. In these cases, Jauss advises that it is



best ‘if one foregrounds it (the work) against those works that the author explicitly or implicitly presumed his contemporary audience to know’.6 Jauss’s other two categories, that of literary and historical references within a work and the relationship held between the social reality and the fiction created within a text, can provide helpful pointers in ascertaining the response an audience may have had to an entertainment. The importance of the social milieu in forming an audience’s response is returned to later in this introduction when the factors that shaped their reactions are discussed further. Of interest to this study is the developing body of approaches to reclaiming theatre history that have been advanced by dance and theatre history specialists. Each of these historians has suggested ways in which methodologies can be more directly linked to the nature of performance. Any performance is, as theatre director Peter Brook has declared, ‘a self-destructive art, and it is always written in the wind’.7 The performative moment is bound by the event itself; it happens in a very specific time and place. This is perhaps best evidenced by the comments made about theatre visits today. Frequently, actors and audiences alike declare that it was ‘a good night’, ‘the audience were great’, or conversely ‘it didn’t go as well’. Such comments support the notion that performance is specific to the time it is enacted and that no two performances will be quite the same. Given the ephemeral nature of drama, it is important that methodologies address the peculiarities of performance. The new methodologies suggest how non-traditional ‘archives’ might be used to retrieve theatre history. While traditional archives house records of churchwardens’ accounts and the like, which are useful in giving evidence of parish celebrations used to raise money for the church, new methodologies look to the importance of buildings, bodies, gestures, embodied knowledge, and oral practices.8 The use of oral practices in the investigation of performance is highly appropriate for this study since many traditions of performance utilize oral knowledge in passing skills from one generation to another, and in the largely pre-literate society of early England orature would have been an important mechanism through which to pass knowledge of performances from year to year or place to place.

Material Spectatorship The argument of this book is that the conditions of spectatorship played a pivotal role in shaping the dramatic practices of early



England. As has been suggested above, one of the over-riding influences on how spectators saw performance events was the issue of how the social, economic, and cultural circumstances of the milieu affected audience response to an entertainment. Included among the factors that shaped the beliefs of the medieval world are those of religious outlook, social networks, private economies, and national stability. In discussing these four issues I will refer to the trail of ‘material remains’ left by early English architecture, writers, illustrators, and painters, as well as more traditional archival records that survive from parishes, towns, and courts. Life in the Middle Ages was different from that of today; it intertwined notions of religion, the state, economy, and rank. It is to these areas that this study now turns.

Religion The strength of religious belief within the Middle Ages and the effect that this had on the everyday lives of citizens was one of the greatest differences between medieval life and that of modern-day society. In pre-Reformation England, Catholic belief shaped the behaviour, daily lives, and yearly pattern of its inhabitants. Central to the beliefs were concerns with salvation (freedom from punishment of sin), redemption (forgiveness of past sins), meditation (achieved through prayer), the importance of the sacrament (rites, in particular the Eucharist), and the notion of an omnipotent God. These principles, as Eamon Duffy notes, permeated the whole of medieval life: The Christian calendar determined the pattern of work and rest, fasting and feasting, and influenced even the privacies of the bedchamber, deciding the times of the year when men and women might or might not marry, when husbands and wives might sleep together or must abstain. Everyone, in principle at least, subscribed to the Christian creed. This taught that the world was not a random heap of blind circumstances, a cosmic accident, but that it was a meaningful whole, which had been created out of nothing by a good God.9

The way in which Christianity shaped life can be seen in a variety of material remains from the period. One such testimony is that of Margery Kempe, a fourteenth-century wife of a Norfolk burgess, who was illiterate and dictated her biography to a priest. Within the book she details her call to a spiritual life, and her pilgrimages in England,



Europe, and the Holy Land. In recounting these journeys she reveals details of the medieval religious year, practices within parish churches, and her visionary experiences. The centrality of the religious calendar is often in evidence as events are marked by the day on which they occurred: for example, her journey to Sheen takes place three days before Lammas Day;10 in Aachen she stays for St Margaret’s Day to witness the relics and she processes with her local church congregation on Holy Thursday, seeing a vision of Saint Margaret, the namesake of the church. The Book of Margery Kempe offers an insight into the religious practices of an individual in early Europe. Beyond the annual pattern established by the Church calendar, religion affected the daily practices of citizens. On Sundays they were expected to worship three times (Chapter 6 depicts the desolate Mankind who refuses to walk to church to worship), while Holy Days (which numbered around fifty per year) were times when lay people were excused their labours in order to worship. It has been noted that during the fourteenth century there was an increase in the use of ceremonial and public processions and that the Church began to use these public means to strengthen its position and promote locally based devotion.11 As well as the use of festive practices the Church employed a variety of methods to inspire and teach; the ceremony of the liturgy was at the centre of these practices. The liturgy, the ritual of worship followed by the Catholic Church, was pivotal in promoting and reflecting the central belief systems of the Church. In England there were constant attempts to regularize the practice of the liturgy within parishes, and a number of methods were used whereby the Church tried to standardize the systems. For example, in 1281 John Pecham, the archbishop of Canterbury, laid out an educational programme for the laity and clergy called the Ignorantia Sacerdotum. Within this scheme, a priest was expected to teach his parishioners the following four times annually: the fourteen articles of faith, Ten Commandments, the Gospels, seven works of mercy and seven deadly sins, seven virtues, and seven sacraments.12 Indeed within The Book of Margery Kempe Kempe finds herself being quizzed on aspects of religious orthodoxy as she undertakes her travels; it is her possession of this knowledge which identifies her as a good parishioner rather than a heretic. When Margery visits York she is accused of heresy. She is threatened with prison and is saved only by passing the Archbishop’s test of her knowledge of the Articles of the Faith.13 The growth in interest in the liturgy at this time was also due to the rise in popularity of the notion of purgatory. The early Middle



Ages projected the belief that salvation was for a minority of devout believers. But by the later medieval period salvation was offered to a greater proportion of the population through the notion that their souls may initially rest in purgatory, a place between heaven and hell where they could be purged of their sin, and thus pass to heaven. The belief that the purification of the soul after death could affect the chances of a final resting in heaven gave rise to a growth in prayers for the dead and gifts to parish churches. It is a point picked up in William Langland’s fourteenth-century allegorical poem Piers Plowman where the author offers biting criticism of the donations being sought by churches and the readiness of the congregation to buy themselves salvation: Ac God to alle good folk swich gravynge defendeth – To written in wyndowes of hir wel dedes – An aventure prode be peynted there, and pomp of the world; For God knoweth thi conscience and thi kynde wille, And thi cost and thi coreitise and who catel oughte.14

In parishes gifts often stretched beyond new stained-glass windows and included bequests for endowments, funeral expenses, and anniversary masses.15 As will be seen in Chapter 3, the notion of purifying the soul led to elaborate funeral practices in England. A further significant aspect of religious practice involved the use of meditation, and this custom was important for it gave way to the liberal use of artistic representation. In meditation parishioners were encouraged to ponder upon images of the life of Christ in order to reach a deep spiritual experience. A number of treatises, such as the early fifteenth-century Dives and Pauper, a vernacular guide to the Commandments, advocated the use of mental images to inspire religious piety. This focus on the importance of image also played a part within the liturgy. A central aspect of this involved the elevation of the Host during communion. Gazing upon the Host carried with it a sense of receiving a blessing. The use of image in carrying religious meaning is, of course, pertinent to this book. Performance practices outlined here utilize both the word and the image, and in some cases, such as that of religious processions, little time was afforded the spoken word and the image became the central icon. Given the argument that local customs were important in establishing religious practices it is clear that the parish structure needs some discussion. As has been noted, ‘it was in the medieval parishes, not the great cathedrals, that most people in the Middle Ages



experienced daily and weekly religious ritual and [through] the landmark ceremonies marking individual and community life, such as baptism, marriage, and death’.16 The importance of the parish is evident too in Margery Kempe’s autobiography for it is here that she defines her identity as being a member of the St Margaret’s parish in Lynn. The growth of the identity of the parish occurred in England between the Norman Conquest and the thirteenth century. Most parishes grew around churches established by landlords who were keen to provide access to worship and to collect tithes. The parish served not only as a place of worship but also as a unit for administration. Parishioners are recorded as attending church for an array of business purposes, including legal settlements, and for social interaction and entertainment, as well as for worship.17 One of the most interesting things about the parish was its amorphous nature. It had no legal standing and was open to and served a wide range of social classes within medieval England. While much of medieval life was divided along the lines of rank, trade, or gender, parishes often brought diverse groups together to worship, socialize or participate in fund-raising. The constitution of parishes was as involuntary associations and membership was open to all of those who lived within the boundary of the parish. In other words, membership was based on geographic location rather than any other criteria. This traditional picture of the ‘inclusiveness’ of a parish needs to be examined more carefully. Though families of all rank could attend their parish, the wealthiest families often built private chapels, or sometimes engaged a personal chaplain to preside over a private mass. The composition of the practising members of the parish was likely then to exclude the very wealthy. A sense of segregation was also engendered within the parish by changes that were made to the architecture of the parish church. As Chapter 2 notes, churches were initially empty spaces and fixed pews within the church were only commonplace by the fifteenth century. The addition of pews created an increased sense of separation within the parish for it led to the separation of women from men. Women were now placed either on the left-hand side, or at the back of the church, removed from the Host, and thus any closeness of identification with the sacrament. The structural identity of the parish was further complicated by the existence of religious guilds. The guilds were voluntary associations, often formed around a particular saint. The activities under-



taken by guilds within the parish included the maintenance of ornaments, the provision of lights, and the upkeep of side chapels. Religious guilds had their own liveries, charged entrance fees and could exclude members for betraying secrets of the guild, or for poor behaviour. There were thus many mechanisms through which the guilds could create a sense of separateness and impose restrictions; a far more exclusive model than that offered by the parish structure. It is difficult to determine the relationship between these two religious affiliations, that of the parish and the guild, but it seems likely that most guilds complied with parish organization and operated with an awareness of that structure.18 The most important influence on religious practice during this period was the Reformation. Between the 1530s and 1540s a series of measures were taken on behalf of Henry VIII in order to detach England from the Roman Catholic Church and establish Protestantism in the country. The drive behind Henry’s actions was to produce a male heir so his dynasty might continue to reign. His marriage to Catherine of Aragon (who was now in her early forties and the mother of a sole daughter, Mary), was the main obstacle to the production of a successor. The Pope’s refusal to grant an annulment led to a series of events which were to separate England from the Roman Catholic Church and establish the country as Protestant with Henry as supreme head and king. Henry’s creation of a national Church of England was accompanied by governmental acts which ordered the suppression of religious houses. Between 1536 and 1540 a programme of dissolution of monasteries was implemented in England. It is difficult to determine the effects that the Reformation had on parish life. Some scholars have argued that anti-clericalism was in evidence in the parishes from the early sixteenth century and that the religious reforms were therefore welcomed.19 Others have suggested that the Reformation was totally imposed from above and that parish activity would have remained unchanged had Henry not been so anxious for a male heir.20 A third interpretation of the impact of the Reformation has been advocated which is that the parish was neither a place of Lollardy nor of conservatism, but a heterogeneous site where high and low ranking parishioners were bound by Christian worship and ritual.21 If this viewpoint were correct, then it is possible that modern-day histories of the period have overplayed the importance of the Reformation and the immediate effect that it was to have on the population. It has often been assumed that religious practices changed from the point of Henry’s initial reforms in early 1531.



It seems more likely now that the impact of the reforms was not felt until Thomas Cromwell reorganized the liturgical calendar and the observance of certain holy days was changed in 1536. It also appears that the effects of the Reformation were uneven and that a better understanding of the changes in religious practices can be best established at a local level whereby a more accurate sense of the impact of reforms can be gained. For example, evidence suggests that the West Country parishes of Bath and Wells were not affected by the initial Reforms.22

Social Strata The religious outlook of the Middle Ages was one of the most significant differences between modern-day and medieval life, however, the arrangement of the social structure was also unlike that of today. It has been observed that ‘medieval English society was made up of a number of different axes of social inequality’.23 Among the axes that are identified are those of class, order, status group and gender. While many of the parish activities outlined above perhaps created a sense of shared worship or celebration, other forces within society acted as a dividing power. The divisions of society according to class were inherent within the feudal system, which some scholars argue stemmed from models of slavery and free citizenship established within Roman times.24 Feudal society within early England consisted of a network of manorial estates that were leased to ‘landlords’ by the King in return for administrative duties and allegiance to serve within local and national armies. In order to obtain income from the manorial land the fief, or lord, charged peasant farmers rental to work the land, or was paid ‘in kind’ by demanding a certain number of day’s labour each week from his tenants. The manorial system, thus, set up a hierarchical model in which King governed the landlords, who in turn controlled the workers. Marxist analysis of this system sees this as a relationship between the ‘exploiter’ (those of high rank) and the ‘exploited’ (the peasants).25 By 1500 the rather rigid class system which is outlined above was thrown into instability by the rise of urban markets. Servitude for a fief was largely dispensed with and indentured land (formerly that which came under the jurisdiction of the manorial lord) was placed under a more liberal system of leasing to agricultural workers. One reason for the breakdown of the manorial system was due to



‘the incarnation of the new spirit of civic organization’.26 This organization came about as a result of the establishment of new trading centres, and the development of international trade routes. A move away from subsistence farming to more commercial agricultural development also helped to break the old agrarian patterns. It is questionable how far the growth of new economic centres changed the status of the class system. Medieval historian Jacques Le Goff argues that ‘the traditional opinion that the medieval town patriciate wrenched the peasant from servitude to the land to tie him to servitude in the workshop remains true in its essentials’.27 The old system of the rural landlord and indentured peasant was in effect replaced by a variety of town structures, including that of the guild and its apprentice systems. Guilds were societies of traders, somewhat like embryonic modern-day trade unions, whose function was to both protect and develop the skills of their craft. They were central to the structure and administration of a town since their highest ranking members often formed the town’s elite officers, the aldermen or burgesses. The government of towns was similar to that of the countryside, and fell under the auspices of a landlord, often a lord or monarch, though the responsibility for the direct management of the town was devolved to appointed officers or the townsmen themselves. Between 1200 and 1550 urban constitutions became increasingly elaborate and hierarchical. It is likely that by that point many towns comprised four strata: the governing elite of a few merchants or lawyers; independent craftsmen (who were part of the guild structure when it was formed); dependent townsmen who occupied lowly roles in the town hierarchy, and finally those too lowly and poor for any office.28 The notable absence from this list is that of women who rarely held rank in their own right, but occasionally came about it through their husbands’ position. There are a few records which show women in positions of power. In 1431 Lady Joan Abergavenny was a commissioner,29 the York Mercers had a woman (a widow) on their council,30 while the York Dyers’ ordinances show two women masters, one of whom was a widow.31 Though the development of towns had little impact on the flexibility of the structure of society, the growth of urban areas did catalyse other changes. One of these developments is noted by Le Goff: ‘It was in culture and the world of ideas above all that the medieval town was a crossroads – a workshop of cultural models, a meeting place of experience.’32 Le Goff argues that from the twelfth century



onwards the guardianship of knowledge and learning passed from the monastic movement to the towns, where the growth of schools, universities, and printing meant that culture could be transmitted more successfully. However, the spread of literacy remained patchy particularly for women: both Margery Kempe, a burgess’s wife, and Margaret Paston, the wife of a fifteenth-century Norwich landowner, could not write. Both Kempe and Paston needed scribes to write their autobiography and letters respectively. The development of the use of written language was crucial to the identity of the late Middle Ages. In 1526 William Tyndale’s translation of the Bible from Latin to English made the scriptures accessible to a wider range of the populace who had previously been dependent on priests to interpret the text. The establishment of printing through the development of William Caxton’s press in 1476 also meant that written texts could be transmitted more easily and that books were no longer hand copied. Another significant development in the use of language was the more regular adoption of English as a spoken language: until this point nobles had frequently used French. These cultural shifts meant that a greater sense of ‘English’ as a language to be spoken and read formed part of the identity of late medieval England.

National Identity The last area of medieval life that needs highlighting is that of the identity of the state. As outlined above, the increasing awareness of Englishness shown by, among others things, the increased use of the English language led to the growth of a national identity. The influences of Norman settlement, demonstrated by the use of French language and the considerable ties between the English and French aristocracy, were gradually eroded and replaced instead by regional affinities within England. Strong regionalist beliefs could be seen in the many local disputes that erupted. For example, Margaret Paston’s letters to her husband are preoccupied by details of local tensions and requests for further arms for the house. It is eye-opening that women were so concerned with such matters, and that in the absence of their husband they were equipped to deal with the protection of the estate. A sense of nationhood was inextricably linked to the issue of national stability. The stability of the state during this period was affected by the changing religious structures outlined above and by



a variety of other factors, such as regional disputes, changing monarchs and the Black Death. Though national class revolts such as the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381 did exist, the disputes that are illustrated in Margaret Paston’s letters are more typically regional and were manifest in other parts of the country in the War of the Roses between the houses of Lancaster and York, and battles with the Welsh and Scots. Such regional disputes affected the nobility in particular since knights were deployed to fight. Not all causes of national instability were as discriminating as that of warfare. The Black Death knew no bounds and affected the whole populace. The plague first arrived in England in 1348 and killed as much as 45 per cent of the population; three further outbreaks in the 1360s–1370s had dramatic effects too.33 Deaths from the plague led to a sharp decrease in population which adversely affected the workforce of England and led to a shortage of labour. Such circumstances, though dire for much of the country, did lead to opportunities for other parts of society. In 1349 the Ordinance of Labourers encouraged all women and men under the age of sixty to seek work within a craft or on the land, thus creating an opportunity for women to become more visible within the public world. Further domestic instability was caused by the frequent change in monarchs, and the ensuing disputes for the throne. Between 1000 and 1550 over thirty-five monarchs held power; some, like Jane lasted only nine days, while others, like Queen Elizabeth I served up to forty-five years. The flux of monarchs affected notions of stability and identity, particularly since the houses that brought forth monarchs were of varying allegiance. The Normans and Plantagenets were French while the Tudors had Welsh ancestry. The shifting identities of the monarchs were framed not only by their lineage, but also their religious allegiances. Chapter 3 shows how the changing identity and religious affinity of a monarch could affect the ceremonial life of a city.

Material Spectatorship The beliefs and events outlined above shaped the context in which medieval spectators viewed the world around them. There remains a question as to how these ‘material’ circumstances of life in early England affected the spectatorship of cultural events. It must be remembered that the time frame covered within this book shows a society in flux. For example, in AD 1000 medieval England was



organized around the hierarchy of the fiefdom, by the late fifteenthcentury the challenge being faced was how to adapt to the affects of the Black Death, and by the close of this book, around the mid sixteenth century, the Reformation and the growth of print culture and literacy had radically changed the social, political, religious, and cultural outlook. These challenges are also likely to have influenced how citizens saw the world around them, how they interacted with one another, and how they witnessed the spectacles that are outlined within this book. It is, of course, difficult to suggest how spectators may have witnessed an event, or how the material culture which surrounded their lives affected their watching. However, there are glimpses of spectatorship that can be revealed through extant cultural representations. I would like to close this chapter by looking closely at a moment of representation to see how a type of material spectatorship emerges from the notion of viewing. The moment is from a painting by Jean Fouquet from Les Heures D’Étienne Chevalier.34 This illumination from a fifteenth-century book of hours made for nobleman Étienne Chevalier rather teasingly depicts the funeral of Étienne, an incident that was yet to occur. The image portrays a courtyard with a coffin carried by four members of the mendicant order. The coffin is draped in Étienne Chevalier’s livery and the torchbearers carry flaming torches decorated with the same design. Mourners clad in black cloaks with hoods form the perimeter of the funeral group. The background to the illumination comprises a series of spires which commentators believe represent Étienne’s journeys: an English bell-tower, an Italian church spire and the turrets of the palace of the Louvre in France.35 Almost out of sight, on the left-hand side of the picture, two women peer from an upper window. What is of particular note is the disparity in the social order of the two events that occur in the illumination. The funeral procession is heraldic and resonates with the benefits afforded to the rank of a nobleman, while the concealed spectators are roughly hewn; they peer on uninvited because of their rank and gender. As has been noted of Fouquet’s work, what is important within his crowds is ‘The fact that every person in his pictures belongs to a community or a class in society is never forgotten.’36 Fouquet’s uninvited onlookers demonstrate material spectatorship; they draw awareness to the circumstance of the funeral, the rank and gender of those present, and the systems that were so central to early Europe. However the uninvited onlookers also remind us that spectatorship cannot be controlled. While there may seem to be



one set of rules established by the convention of the funeral procession, the presence of the uninvited personae shows that there can also be resistance to those rules and that some spectators read against the grain. This book looks at how differing performance spaces may have been used within early England. The first two chapters examine the drama that was attached to religious institutions: that of the convent or abbey and the parish church. Chapter 1 investigates performance that occurred within the closed world of the cloisters. The study begins with this drama since, unlike other forms such as street drama, it was performed to a relatively controlled spectatorship and it is therefore easier to determine the production and reception of culture. Convent drama is viewed in particular through the lens of archaeological and literary remains. Such material remains provide helpful clues in determining the reasons for the production of convent drama and its likely impact on the viewers. Chapter 2 focuses upon the importance of the parish as a centre for the production of drama. In particular the chapter investigates how the space of the parish was articulated in various forms in order to enable differing types of cultural practice to coexist. It begins by looking at drama and ritual that occurred within the body of the church, before examining that which operated within the borders of the church: its churchyards and parish boundaries. The study then moves to the urban streets. Two chapters are dedicated to drama of the city. Chapter 3 examines the cultural practices of parades through an urban centre and notes how processions were important in the self-fashioning of civic identity. It debates how far processions were part of an oligarchy. The chapter looks at case studies of civic visits by monarchy; the intersection of church and state in civic religious parades at the time of the Reformation; changes in funeral practices and the regulation of city codes through public punishment rituals. Chapter 4 examines the staging of the civic cycle dramas at York and Chester and argues that the plays were hybrid structures which could be used to articulate the voices of the church, city and guilds through the metaphor of ‘labour’. Chapter 5 looks at fixed-space performance practices, and examines the similarity between a number of texts that may have been performed through using this technique. In particular the chapter analyses the interplay between the use of the scaffold and central acting/audience areas. The book ends with an investigation of indoor playing practices and suggests that the context of performance allowed



a greater development of the form of drama and that such drama was used for a variety of social and political purposes. Taken together these chapters argue that the possible places of performance and modes of spectatorship provided a vital aspect in understanding the cultural practices of early England. It was through performance that these events gained their legitimacy and the people and places that hosted these performances were an important factor in constructing the meaning of the event.

1 Drama of Enclosure: Convent Drama

This chapter analyses drama within religious houses. It is perhaps significant that this book should start with such drama since it has been claimed that monasteries were the birthplace of early English drama.1 The first dramatic enactment within an English religious service is believed to be the Visitatio Sepuchri, a representation of the three Maries visit to Christ’s tomb after his crucifixion. The text of the drama is included in the tenth-century ‘rule book’ for church services, the Regularis Concordia, and appears to have been recorded in two versions, one for Benedictine monks and the other for Winchester cathedral. It is assumed that the Benedictine houses followed the Concordia and that the dramatic enactment of this episode occurred throughout England. The performance of the Visitatio Sepuchri is, therefore, particularly significant because it marks the establishment of a practice of religious playing which was to last until the Reformation, some five hundred years after the initial enactment of the visit to Christ’s tomb. The enactment of moments of the church service, or liturgy, was only one aspect of the performative practices that occurred in religious houses. Abbeys participated in a range of dramatic activities, including feasts and processions, ceremonies, and rituals. Evidence from Europe suggests that more formal plays inspired by the models of classical playwrights were also performed. This wide expanse of dramatic activity draws into question what can be called ‘drama’ within this context. The introduction to this book noted that within the Middle Ages dramatic terms, such as ‘theatre’, ‘drama’, and so on were not in use. Modern-day usage of ‘theatre’ is most often associated with the theatre building itself, and therefore seems


Drama of Enclosure

redundant when discussing activities in religious houses. The enactments of parts of the liturgy might be described as ‘drama’ or ‘ritual’, although, as has been noted in the preceding chapter, it is difficult to distinguish between these two terms. There remains a problem as to how to refer to the vast array of other celebratory performance activities mentioned above, the feasts, processions, and ceremonies that formed part of the religious life. It is here that the modern-day use of the term ‘performance’ seems apt. The performative life of the religious houses included a vast array of events that were prearranged by the abbey’s controlling authorities, and while these might not fall into the descriptions of that which is dramatic, they were certainly performative in that they were self-consciously planned to communicate a particular message to their audiences. It is this definition of the performative that will be used to investigate the celebrations and rituals of the religious houses.

Religious Houses and Spectatorship Since this book approaches early drama from the point of spectatorship it is important to consider how the notion of ‘watching’ may have occurred within abbeys and convents. Within the environs of a religious house-watching was more tightly controlled than it was in the secular world. Here spectatorship was carefully governed, spaces were precisely controlled and aesthetic and religious values rigorously monitored. This extreme control was due to the system of organization held by the monastic house or nunnery. Religious houses were regulated by codes laid down within the ordinances that governed that particular house, for example, codes of belief were dictated by the affiliation of a religious house to a particular set of ethics, be it Brigittine, Augustinian, etc. Furthermore the participants and spectators at a monastic house were controlled by the hierarchical model which was in operation and comprised a strict ranking of members of the religious order, with the Abbess or Abbot at the top and novices belonging to the lowest stratum. The occupants of a religious house were not limited to the brothers and sisters; it was likely that lay-members, family, and local supporters, were also inhabitants of the abbeys. As well as hosting novices and nuns, religious houses served as boarding schools for the education of children and as boarding houses for those receiving charity. The community of the convent also included male clerics and lay workers who laboured on the estate; in fact studies show that convents comprised as many lay

Drama of Enclosure


people as religious women.2 So, while this community was a cloistered and enclosed one, it was not homogenous, but comprised a population with a diversity of age, status, gender, and religious belief. It has been suggested that the influence of the convent, in particular, spread beyond the walls of the abbey. This occurred because nunneries were less self-sufficient than male monasteries and relied on trade and exchange with their surrounding communities for survival. Many monasteries grew their own food and crafted their own commodities, but it seems unlikely that the women’s houses were able to maintain this degree of self-support. Despite the fact that many convents were located in rural areas it is possible that they often formed the centre of the local community. The charitable giving, maintenance of parish churches, and celebratory feast day processions, which were all aspects of convent life, established convents as an ‘integral part of the local social landscape’.3 The hypothesis that convents were reliant upon local communities can be supported by the evidence of the growth of villages around formerly isolated convents, such as occurred at Chatteris in Cambridgeshire.4 The performative practices that grew out of religious houses were widespread. Detailed below are accounts of liturgical drama, feasts, and novice ceremonies. These activities occurred from the tenth century to the Reformation and the order that they are presented here is not chronological. This book does not offer these performative practices as part of a progressive history, but instead suggests that these events were overlapping in their nature, so that the novice ceremonies and festivities occurred throughout this period.

Liturgical Drama: The Visitatio The Visitatio Sepuchri, or Easter drama, that appeared in the Regularis Concordia was recorded in only one of the two extant versions of the manuscript. Because it appears in the Benedictine version it has been assumed that the performance accompanyed the liturgy and was adopted by Benedictine houses throughout England. However, it is difficult to trace any records of actual performance. The Visitatio text specifies that four brethren shall play out the parts of the three Maries and the angel at Christ’s grave. The textual instructions show a definite sense of awareness of the performativity of the enactment that the brothers undertook. For example, the text notes that the


Drama of Enclosure

events were undertaken in ‘imitation’ and that the alb was worn by the monk playing the angel ‘as though for some different purpose’, suggesting there was an awareness that the monk was playing a different character.5 There are other ways in which the text of the Visitatio can be read as a performance text. For example, the instructions offer stage directions for the three brethren playing the women, indicating that they should approach the sepulchre ‘haltingly, in the manner of seeking for something’, and there is a further indication of tone of voice, for example, the angel sings in a ‘sweet and moderate voice’.6 Within the enactment of the Visitatio performative practices are used to heighten the moment of dramatic climax. The discovery of the empty tomb is emphasized by the angel who rises to reveal a solitary cross in the spot where Christ’s body should lie. Then, accompanied by song, the brethren takes the shroud and spreads it before the clergy before laying it upon the altar, thus emphasizing the absence of the body. There is little question that the Visitatio should be seen to be anything other than performative. Central to the enactment of the episode was the notion of pre-planned impersonation. The stage directions for the episode make it clear that the albs are used, not for religious purposes, but for the impersonation of the three Maries by male brethren. This notion of dressing up in a costume to represent a character in a particular situation is evidence of the role that abbeys played in exploring the use of drama within a religious context. The tradition of playing the Visitatio was not limited to male religious houses and there is evidence of widespread dramatic playing within convents, particularly in Europe where better records exist. There are records of at least twenty-three extant Visitatio texts where the three Maries were played by women religious, though the only surviving English records are those at Barking and St Edith’s, Wilton. The performances at Barking are worth noting because they contain many innovative features. It appears that the Regularis Concordia was adapted by the Barking Abbess, Katherine Sutton who introduced new aspects to the ritual which reveal much about medieval modes of production and spectatorship. In rearranging the Visitatio the Abbess noted that she had altered the text in order to offer a more exciting entertainment for the ‘populorum consursus’. This term, literally translated as a congregation of the people, suggests that spectatorship of the episode extended beyond the inmates of the convent to a wider public.7 The close relationship between convents and their communities has been noted earlier, and it is the case that ‘The parish church at Barking was closely connected

Drama of Enclosure


with the nunnery.’8 It seems likely, then, that the ‘populorum consursus’ to which the Abbess referred included members of the parish as well as those of the religious house. One of the abbess’s alterations to the Regularis was the addition of a Harrowing of Hell sequence at the beginning of the enactment. The sequence began with the abbess and convent, including some priests and clerks, entering the chapel. Then a priest, accompanied by two deacons carrying censers and the Lord’s banner, and two boys bearing candles, banged on the closed door to seek admittance. On the third request they were allowed to enter the chapel and processed down the aisle. The officiating priest then removed the Host from the sepulchre and processed to the altar of the Holy Trinity. In view of the congregation the abbess proceeded to robe three nuns in white. Each then carried a silver vessel and approached the angel (played by a clerk in white) and kissed the sepulchre before playing out the quem queritis (‘Whom do you seek?) sequence. Uniquely the Barking celebration includes a stage direction that demonstrates the women’s continued doubt of the resurrection.9 The sequence is completed when the resurrected Jesus appears to the left side of the altar and Mary Magdalene throws herself at his feet. At Barking, again uniquely, each of the three Marys faced the congregation to deliver the message of Christ’s resurrection. Each woman sang a stanza to a different melody, to which the nuns’ chorus responded.10 The episode concluded with Mary Magdalene pointing to the sepulchre where the angel was sitting, and the ceremony finished with the kissing of the sudarium (the cloth that covered Jesus’ face) by the clergy and the singing of the Credendum by the male and female choirs. The Barking Visitatio demonstrates a number of interesting features. The adaptations made by the Abbess of Barking suggest that abbey dramas were played in front of parishioners. It further demonstrates the flexibility of the abbey community in accommodating audiences of mixed gender through the integration of male and female voices within the ceremony. The ceremony at Barking shows evidence of a number of important developments within liturgical drama such as the kissing of the sepulchre and sudarium, the invention of the Harrowing of Hell sequence, and the use of the Mary Magdalene chapel for the ceremony, which signalled the rise of importance within the twelfth and thirteenth centuries of the Magdalene figure.11 It has been suggested that the innovations made by the Abbess are particularly important because they articulate ‘female religious experience’.12


Drama of Enclosure

It is hard to tell how widespread the practices of abbess-led liturgical drama were. It has been suggested, despite there being no extant evidence beyond that of Barking, that the abbesses were responsible for the development of liturgical drama between the twelfth and sixteenth centuries in England. This suggestion is not so ridiculous because evidence from Europe suggests that convent drama was widespread, and indeed this has led to the speculation that activity within England may have been as rich: Although the destruction of liturgical texts in England at the Reformation makes certainty impossible, it is likely, in view of the uniformity of medieval European culture and the considerable authority of women who headed the medieval nunneries, that other English abbesses contributed to the slow, anonymous, communal growth of the medieval religious drama.13

Processions and Feasts Beyond liturgical drama, abbeys participated in a variety of celebrations including processions which were overtly attached to the religious calendar, festivities accompanying a special feast day, and subversive ritual practices. Frequently these celebratory performances diminished the separation between the cloistered world and that of the outside. Processions involved routes through the local towns, or to parish churches or sometimes brought together religious and non-religious members in order to celebrate. Evidence of feasts and celebrations can be obtained from account rolls which show the expenses that an abbey undertook and edicts, usually by bishops, who outlaw certain behaviour within religious houses. The 1461–90 account rolls from the nunnery of St Mary de Pré, St Albans, show payments for a variety of expenses to support celebratory activities. For example wassail (a spicy punch drink) was purchased in order to celebrate New Year and Twelfth Night and for May games. Bread and ale were consumed on bonfire nights, and harpers and players were hired to celebrate Christmas.14 These records provide clear evidence of the nuns’ participation in a range of festive occasions grouped around Christmas and Midsummer. The Ordinale and Customary of Barking Abbey records that processions took place every Sunday and on feast days and the processional route was mapped out to take in the cloisters, chapter house, cemetery, and the local parish cemetery.15 Religious festivities were

Drama of Enclosure


not limited to those undertaken within the convent since there are also cases of the whole convent processing outside their abbey, such as the parish processions in fourteenth-century Winchester. However, at Romsey, Hampshire, and Lymbrook, Herefordshire, such rights to process within the local town were revoked and the nunneries were ordered to process within their own cloisters.16 Christmas time provided an opportunity for a season of festivity. Abbeys participated in elaborate celebrations around the three days following Christmas. Within these particular rituals a licensed festive practice operated which subverted the ordinary authority and status of the abbey. For example, on St Stephen’s Day, 26 December, the deacons performed a service and elected an Abbot or Abbess of Fools who paraded the street to collect a levy. On 27 December, St John the Evangelist’s Day, the priests gave a mock blessing and on 28 December, Innocents’ Day, the choir, novices or schoolboys, held a Boy Bishop ceremony in which they led mock services and processed the streets to collect money and food.17 This complex yuletide celebration challenged the boundaries between each strata of serving religious; temporarily reversing the hierarchy of the bishop and novice so that this ‘letting off of steam’ allowed appropriate boundaries to be maintained for the rest of the year.18 Although some celebrations and processions that have been discussed here took place within the cloistered world, many festive performances undertaken by abbeys served to decrease their separation from their surrounding community. For example, a fifteenth-century practice at Bury St Edmunds on the town feast day included a white bull decorated with garlands of flowers which was led by monks around the town.19 In the hope that they might successfully conceive, barren wives walked alongside the bull. At the abbey the procession entered the church and the wives prayed that they might conceive. This fifteenth-century intertwining of abbey and parish demonstrates that ‘as lay and monastic piety increasingly overlapped in late medieval culture, the dividing lines between parish and monastic devotional spectacle grew ever more blurred’.20

Performative Practices: The Novice Ceremony at Syon Abbey Though the enactment of liturgical drama and celebratory events drew overtly on idioms of performance, there were other aspects of the cultural practice of the convents which tested the boundaries of


Drama of Enclosure

what may constitute performative practice. Such an example can be found in the novice ceremonies.21 Syon Abbey in Middlesex, established in 1415 as a co-habited religious house, provides rich examples of novice ceremonies that articulate a clear performative practice. Syon Abbey was a renowned religious house within the late Middle Ages for it was this abbey that Norfolk Burgess’s wife, Margery Kempe, visited when she was lodging at nearby Sheen. Aside from the novice ceremony it is notable that the life of Syon was shrouded in codes which veered towards the performative. Augier in The History and Antiquities of Syon Monastery notes the codes of behaviour that were laid down in the Brigittine Breviary, the conduct guide followed by the house. The regulations emphasize the symbolic nature of the clothing that was to be worn by abbey members. The vestments worn by the brethren and sisters were highly symbolic, with women wearing a grey mantle, a black veil, and a cap of white linen with five pieces of red cloth sewn around which was ‘allusive to the wounds of our Saviour’.22 The male robes bore similar symbolic functions: the thirteen priests resident in the abbey wore a red cross on the left side of their mantle, while the four deacons had a white circle (representing the wisdom of the four doctors they signified), and on that were four red pieces in the shape of tongues to show the Holy Spirit.23 The attire was not the only part of abbey life that was imbued with symbolic value, much of the daily lives of the religious was shrouded with codes which were performative. One regulation which affected the daily practices of the religious was the code of silence undertaken by the Syon house. The necessity of silence led to the establishment of a number of gestural signs which could be used by the religious during meal times and other moments of silence. The gestures are interesting because they led the religious member to enact a series of performative signs. The gestures involved the use of the fingers, hands and arms. For example, to make the sign of ‘brome’ the signifier is instructed to ‘Swepe with thy opene hand to and fro on they left cowl sleue’, while for ‘Aged’ – they must ‘Draw down thy right hande streght ouere thy heer, and ouere thi right eye.’24 Often words were made by adding together two signs, so that ‘abbess’ was made from joining ‘old’ and ‘woman’, and ‘sister’ (nun) from joining ‘woman’ and ‘brother’ (monk).25 This use of gestural codes had a far-reaching significance since they placed increased focus on the expressiveness of the body; a focus that is of course present within dramatic performance. In fact the rules governing the abbey overtly recognized the importance of the

Drama of Enclosure


body in communicating, and in this manner highlighted the way in which living within the abbey made the everyday lives of the religious into a type of performance. The codes of practice for the abbey reflect a strong awareness of the potency of gesture. The mid fifteenthcentury ‘Additions to the rules’ from Arundel MS No. 146 BM state that if the inhabitants break silence and speak ‘they schal haue ther handes with in ther sleues, or els, honestly and religiously joined togyder’.26 Part of the caution that surrounded the notion of bodily expression stemmed from a belief that from ‘outewarde bodily menyng is ofte knowen the inward disposicion of the sowle’.27 In other words, that the condition of the interior was revealed through external gestures. This awareness of the latency of physical expression led to many of the regulations contained within the Ordinance and Additions which concern proper physical behaviour: how a sister should laugh, stand, sit, or walk and while at the refectory table how they should reach for food, or place their hands. In many ways the physical control of the body served as a metaphor for the life that the sisters chose. It has been observed of Syon Abbey that: ‘the sisters’ control of their movement is, in reality, merely an image form or extension of, that absolute control over their movements to which they have formally vowed themselves: enclosure’.28 Some of the customs and practices which the abbey used were highly performative in their nature. An account of the ceremony for the admittance of a new novice to the order can be found in an additional manuscript (MS No. 5208). This ceremony was staged in a very formal manner and utilized the space of the church as a type of theatre in which to enact the procedure. The novice ceremony began with the Bishop going to the gate to find the novice, who was kneeling. He asked of her: ‘Art thou free, and unfettered by any bonds of the church or of wedlock; of vow, or of excommunication?’ She affirmed this and he continued to enquire if she sought ingress into the religion, she responded, ‘I seek it.’ Then as she entered the space of the church a red banner was borne before her, on one side was the image of the body of Christ crucified and on the other that of the Virgin Mary. The symbolism of the banner has been read as ‘that of the new bride, regarding the image of the new bridegroom suffering on the cross’.29 This image aligns the novice with the notion of the nun as a ‘bride of Christ’, a reflection of the matrimony between Christ and the Church. The novice service continued with the Bishop consecrating the novice’s ring before placing it upon her finger. Vestments were brought to the altar and blessed, the novice walked barefoot to the altar to


Drama of Enclosure

receive them, then at the end of mass asked for pardon by falling prostrate on the floor.30 It has been observed that the putting on of new vestments within such ceremonies signalled a type of symbolic resurrection.31 The adornment of the novice in blessed robes signified a new beginning as she dedicated herself to a life of religious servitude and contemplation. One of the most unique aspects of the Syon novice ceremony occurred when the church gates were opened by four sisters and they brought forth an empty coffin. This emphasis on the relationship between life and death, between the resurrection of the novice as she was sworn in, and the reminder of earthly sin is one particular to the Brigittine order. The image of death pervaded other aspects of the Syon house, for example an empty hearse was on view at every Mass. This was perhaps ‘to remind them silently to acknowledge, what the Ash Wednesday ceremony so vividly dramatizes, that they are dust and will return to dust’.32 The ceremony concluded with the novice being taken to the convent gate by torch lit procession and committed to ‘her spouse Jesus Christ’.33 At this point the abbess swore to protect her, and received the novice into the house. Finally the novice was taken to the chapter house and for eight days was exempt from all proceedings; on the ninth day she took up her place within the services as the lowest ranking member. The novice ceremony shows an engagement with many significant markers of performance. The space was prearranged through the setting of the coffin, the ring, and the vestments. Props were used to signify the action and reflect the status of the participants, particularly the banner that mirrored the novice’s impending status as a bride of Christ. The ceremony was tightly scripted with predetermined roles played by the Bishop, novice, abbess and other sisters. Gestural and physical actions were controlled and used deliberately to highlight the important moments: for example, the falling prostrate by the novice, and the carrying of the coffin. Significantly, the church space was used as a metaphor to articulate the journey of the novice: the gate to the abbey, the internal space of the church, and the larger space of the chapter reflected the path to being admitted to the profession.

Classical Drama The world of liturgical enactment, feast, celebration and ceremony which has been outlined within this chapter formed part of the

Drama of Enclosure


performative practices produced by convents in England within the Middle Ages. However, it is likely that within Europe there was also a strong tradition of producing dramas written by nuns that imitated classically based plays. The production of these dramas within convents in late medieval Europe followed a tradition that can be traced back as far as the work of tenth-century noblewoman Hrotsvitha, who wrote from Gandersheim convent in Germany. Six Latin one-act plays inspired by the classical works of Roman playwright Terence survive Hrotsvitha and have caused much disagreement among academics as to whether they were actually staged or were merely written to be read. John Gassner in his introduction to Hrotsvitha’s plays Dulcitius and Paphnutius in his anthology Medieval and Tudor Drama admits that there is no evidence that the plays were staged in her time but if they had been performed at Gandersheim, ‘the stage might well have consisted of the cloister walk, with the arcades providing the background’.34 Given the close relationship between the Gandersheim abbey and the Ottonian court, it has alternatively been suggested that the plays were written to be read at court.35 However it has also been argued that Hrotsvitha’s texts are ‘notations of an event rather than . . . complete and closed works of literature’.36 In other words, that the texts that survive today should not been seen as the full plays but rather shorthand notes, which suggests that within production a fuller version was staged. In the introduction to the plays, Gassner notes that Hrotsvitha wrote ‘moderately didactic plays’ based primarily upon the style of Terence, with some detectable influence of contemporary medieval popular drama and Church Latinate drama.37 Hrotsvitha’s play Dulcitius employs a comic form through which to deliver its message.38 The play concerns three virginal noble-ranking Christian sisters who refuse to forsake their religion in order to gain approval for marriage. Their actions lead to Emperor Diocletian imprisoning them. From their point of capture there are various attempts made to seduce the sisters, notably those by Dulcitius, a local Governor, before they are dragged through the streets and eventually sacrificed. The eldest two sisters are burnt, while the younger is to be sent to a brothel but instead is sacrificed on a mountain top. The play takes a number of themes: it shows the triumph of new Christianity over the old pagan system, and highlights aspects of hierarchy, setting a distinction between high-ranking persons and


Drama of Enclosure

slaves, prostitutes, and free women. The dramatic spectacles include farcical comedy and miraculous effects. Central to the comic plotting is the attempt by the play’s namesake, Dulcitius, to win the girls’ hearts by any means. While they are incarcerated in the scullery Dulcitius attempts to make love to them. The scene is filled with clashing and banging as Dulcitius mistakenly embraces the kitchen pans, thinking they are the three young virgins. Dulcitius leaves the scullery covered in soot from the pans and is mistaken by the soldiers guarding the virgins for the devil. Dulcitius is then denied entrance to the palace since he looks like a tramp. Further comic potential is wrought through the use of the shrewish wife trope when his wife appears to see him blackened and she chastises him for his stupidity. The dramatic effect of miraculous incidents is used later when Dulcitius demands that the three girls are dragged naked through the public streets. The soldiers note that the ‘clothes stick to their virginal bodies like their very skin’.39 The moment reflects the ability of the sacred body to perform the miraculous, an idea that was frequently represented in medieval drama. At such a moment the object in question, here the virginal body, but elsewhere body parts such as hands, are used to symbolize the state of the soul of the beholder. Such an incident is reflected in later drama such as the Croxton Play of the Sacrament which is discussed later in the book. Hrotsvitha’s play is important for the manner in which it sets the notion of new Christianity against old paganism and it is within this dialectic that the didacticism of the play operates. The opening action of the play in which the sisters have to forsake their Christian worship and adopt that of false idols in order to gain permission to marry their fiancés sets up this dialectic between the new and old world. These values constantly sit side-by-side within the play. It is this image that also closes the play. The soldiers take the youngest sister, Irena, to a mountain top and sacrifice her but it is Irena who has the glory. In her final speech she comments that: ‘Death for me is reason for great joy, but death for you is great grief. For the severity of your cruelty you will be dammed to Tartarus. I, moreover, shall receive the martyr’s palm and the crown of virginity.’40 It is here that the sacred path of Christianity triumphs over the pagan doom of the soldiers. Dulcitius also demonstrates a concern with the rank and status of the society that is depicted. Though the girls are noble ranking, they are still subjected to the law of the Emperor. However, their status is

Drama of Enclosure


shown to be higher than the slaves who populate the hypothetical brothel, yet the rank of governor Dulcitius’s wife, who is free to roam the city, seems to be the most enviable. Hierarchy also plays an important part within the depiction of the male roles. The soldiers obey the commands of the Governor Dulcitius, who in turn serves the Emperor. The Emperor has utmost authority, although the supremacy of the soul of the sisters demonstrates that Christ resides above this place. Through focusing on the effects of hierarchy in this manner Hrotsvitha strengthens the role of Christianity, showing that it rides above the earthly concerns with rank. However, her play offers little insight into life in the early Middle Ages since the depiction of society is one which mirrors her understanding of Roman society. An interest in utilizing classical drama as a model within convents continued in Europe for centuries after the writings of Hrosvitha. In particular there was a growth in convent drama in Europe within the sixteenth century. At this point, the influence of classical drama was married with more vernacular forms in order to develop commedie sacre. These plays seemed purposefully designed for both monastic audiences and those from the lay piety. Increasingly, these dramas demonstrate evidence of widening patterns of nuns’ reading and their ability to subsume ideas and adapt them for their own means. For example, in the mid sixteenth century Sister Beatrice del Sera wrote Virtù di Amore (Love of Virtue) whose plot was taken from Boccaccio. Within the plays she rather surprisingly used erotic love to symbolize God, though as critics have pointed out, ‘Nevertheless, this reading should have created no problem for the play’s audience – most, if not all of whom were nuns, who considered themselves brides of Christ.’41 There seems to be evidence that dramatic activity among Tuscan convents was widespread and that ‘despite the thick convent walls and the strict enclosure of nuns within them, women in convents throughout Italy and beyond shared a theatrical tradition and propagated it’.42 This preponderance of drama was not limited to Italy, studies of Hispanic convent theatre traditions also show that most convents organized theatrical activities.43 The popularity of convent drama raises the questions as to what purpose the dramas served and why conditions in convents were suitable for promoting drama. It is probable that European convents undertook dramatic activities for a number of purposes. Entertainments were performed on saints’ days, feast days, around special Christian celebrations such as


Drama of Enclosure

Christmas and Easter, and at the adoption of a novice. This pattern of performance suggests that drama was seen as a tool of devotion, education, and recreation. The dramas were potentially a useful pedagogic tool for the novice: the themes covered might assist their religious knowledge, and the oral delivery of the text would develop skills in rhetoric, memory, and articulation.44 Support for this lies in the fact that although the dramas enacted were often penned by women, they were also sometimes written by the male teachers of novices. The conditions for performance within Europe were variable. It appears that while some convents had permanent ‘theatres’ others transformed a room for the event.45 The presence of a permanent chamber for the staging of plays demonstrates the importance of such events. The practices that have been outlined within this section concern evidence that exists from Europe. The effects of the Reformation mean that any such records in England were destroyed. However, there are glimpses of evidence that some of these European practices corresponded with those within early England. For example, the Finchale Priory, a retreat for Durham monks, possessed a room called ‘le playerchambre’.46 The widespread use of drama within convents has led critics to claim that ‘this community [the convent] had an internal dynamic, which contributed to the development and permanence of its cultural forms and created within the convent a class of literate women, long before this was possible outside the walls’.47 It is perhaps curious that drama developed within the sanctuary of the convent. However, it is likely that the conditions to develop literary skills were present within the cloistered world. The reasons for entering a nunnery extended beyond those of religious dedication. For unmarried women and widows a convent offered a sanctuary from a life in which there were few opportunities for women. Illustrations of life within a convent show a variety of tasks that were undertaken: gardening, archery, needlecraft, music, painting, and writing. Examinations of both commissions of art work made by and for convents, and literary records from early modern Italian convents, have led to the suggestion that religious houses may have engendered cultural activity among women since they escaped many of the domestic chores that otherwise faced such women: The cloister, of course, restricted the movements of the women it enclosed but, freeing them from domestic cares it allowed them to

Drama of Enclosure


engage in intellectual pursuits and cultural production in ways and to an extent not possible for most of their secular sisters.48

Material Spectatorship Rather than speculate how much dramatic activity existed at this time it is more important to raise the question as to why dramatic representation became popular within convents. Clues as to the material circumstances which affected monastic events lie within changing literary practices in early England and within the architecture of the convent. In the fifteenth century, reading practices undertaken by women saw a move away from solo reading and the existence of sole mystics, such as Margery Kempe, to a more collective form of reading. These methods of ‘reading’ allowed those who were illiterate to listen to devotional works and to commit them to memory. Studies of fifteenth-century devotional reading practices suggest that terms such as ‘hiding them in their bosom’ and ‘learning by heart’ imply that the texts were not just memorized by the women listeners, but that they were somehow embodied and physically absorbed.49 This embodying of the text and formation of communal reading practices is seen as a response to growing fears of unregulated religious practices and the encouragement of a corporate sororal body which was more outward looking and public. Fifteenth-century reading patterns and religious regulation encouraged greater communal expression and the growth of this possibly accounts for the development of performative practices among religious houses.50 In a climate where participants were used to reading aloud and to listening to ‘live’ words it is only a small step to transfer this activity to being one of enactment and spectatorship. Other clues as to the nature of the material culture within the convent which affected the growth of drama can be found through examining archaeological evidence. The archaeology of the medieval nunnery has been studied to determine how relationships within the building may have operated. Roberta Gilchrist argues that the space of the abbey formed part of the material culture that both constructed and reflected social identity and relationships.51 Her analysis includes how personal space was affected by the principles of the monastic buildings, the values reflected by the architecture of the abbeys themselves, the potency of the symbolism of the spatial positioning of features of the buildings, and the indication of the hierarchy of inhabitants within the space.


Drama of Enclosure

Gilchrist’s approach included a comparison of medieval monasteries and nunneries, and it is here that there were some discernible differences. As had been pointed out, nuns, unlike monks, were not self-sufficient and relied on social links with villages in order to provide them with food, rental income and the like. Additionally, as has been suggested of Barking Abbey, convent churches were often shared by the parish and served the parochial congregation as well as the sororal body. This has led Gilchrist to observe that ‘From the nature of their archaeology and the evidence of medieval wills, it seems that nunneries were founded in order to interact closely with the local community.’52 The close relationship between a nunnery and its surrounding community may also help to explain the growth in drama since dramatic production would serve to educate a visiting population. Gilchrist’s archaeological study is useful in a further way. She suggests that the use of space within convents was gendered: ‘In contrast to male houses, communal space appears to have been better guarded against the encroachment by the desire for privacy’.53 While the fifteenth century saw greater segregation of male abbey spaces and a demand for increased privacy, shown through the partitioning of dormitories and other spaces, many convents maintained shared spaces. This preference for shared and communal spaces indicates that practices, like drama, which brought the community together were likely to be popular. The greater integration of the community and the convent would provide opportunities for the sharing of religious experiences through dramatic expression. The picture of the production and spectatorship of convent performative practices becomes increasingly complex when the layers of material remains are analysed. The convent world was one where during the fifteenth century religious anxiety about sole mystics and literary codes of communal reading led to an increase in the practice of sharing. Meanwhile, the archaeology of a nunnery shows that women defended communal spaces and were less hierarchical.54 At convents with a vow of silence did the awareness of complex gestural codes and the resultant expressivity of the body lay the groundwork for the development of performance practices? At Barking the Abbess was aware of her village audience and adapted the Easter play to better entertain, and presumably therefore, instruct them. Surprisingly it appears that within the enclosure of the cloistered world nuns may have found relative exposure through their performance practices. Tuscan Dominican nun and playwright Beatrice del Sera writing in 1555 noted how the public marvelled that within her

Drama of Enclosure


dramas ‘a woman who has always been enclosed, who hasn’t studied or seen the places and the ways of the world, can produce such things as they see coming from me’.55 Her statement highlights the many contrasts contained within the notions of enclosure and exposure. Among these are the image of the cloistered nun set against that of the public viewing audience, and that of religious isolation, innocence, ignorance and internalization in contrast with external worldliness. While some of these juxtapositions are predictable, particularly the stereotypical image of the enclosed nun, what is perhaps most surprising to the twenty-first-century reader is that convent dramas were exposed to the public eye at all. Yet it has been noted that in sixteenth-century Tuscany, nuns formed the largest group of writers.56 If records still existed is it possible that the same might have been said of England?

2 Drama of Inclusion: Church and Parish

Parish Space In a lecture delivered in 1967, French philosopher Michel Foucault remarked that the principle underlying the organization of space within medieval times was one of ‘emplacement’.1 Foucault suggested that space was deliberately positioned and controlled in order to highlight a number of binary oppositions such as that of sacred and profane, urban and rural, protected and open (for example, that of a castle as opposed to common grazing land). These oppositions, Foucault pointed out, were hierarchical in their construction so that certain values were privileged over others. In Foucault’s example it was the places that occupied a position on the sacred, urban, or protected axis that were important, while those profane, rural, and open spaces were relegated. Within this model the church building held central importance, since it occupied many positive values; it was both a sacred and a protected place, and usually occurred in urban areas or places where there was a density of population large enough to form a congregation. This chapter examines how the notion of space was articulated by the cultural practices associated with the medieval church and parish and how in turn this affected participation in and spectatorship of these practices. In examining this material a series of issues is addressed. The chapter looks at how the architecture of the church affected liturgical practices and how drama might have developed within the space of the parish church. It considers to what degree a symbolic understanding of space found resonance within ritual

Drama of Inclusion


practices associated with the church, and how the use of the outside space of the churchyard extended dramatic and performative practices. The chapter also assesses how the geographical space of the parish and its boundaries affected the development of particular performative practices. In examining the dramatic practices associated with the church and parish this chapter does not adopt a chronological approach. Early twentieth-century historiographical approaches to medieval church drama were dominated by Darwinian ideologies which assumed that liturgical drama gave way to more sophisticated dramatic forms, and that church drama became redundant. This view is most evident in the suggestion that the mystery plays developed when church drama moved outside. However, the notion that church drama was part of an evolutionary chain has now been overthrown to the extent that it has been argued that during late medieval and Renaissance England over half of all vernacular dramas were played inside churches.2 It is clear that drama formed a central part of parish life. Evidence for this can be found in the large amounts of money raised through entertainments. For example, in 1535 in Boxford, Suffolk seventeen pounds was raised from a play performance to help restore the church’s steeple.3 This considerable amount of money is testament to the importance of dramatic celebration within the social structure of a parish community. As Alexandra Johnston points out: Parish drama in its many forms was a money-making venture that allowed the churchwardens to keep the fabric of their ancient churches together. Whatever other functions this playmaking served – to build community, to celebrate the seasons, or to teach the parishioners the stories of the faith, it was nevertheless a fundamental part of the economy of every parish.4

It is, of course, impossible to be anything other than circumspect about the extent of religious playing that existed within early England. The majority of records and texts were destroyed during the Reformation and while extant European examples can suggest how religious dramatic activity might have been, there can be no certainty. However, what this chapter seeks is the examination of how spatial practices linked to the churches and parishes of medieval England developed codes of production and reception which affected the cultural matrix of the milieu.


Drama of Inclusion

Church Architecture It has been suggested that the development of church drama, in particular drama associated with the liturgical service, was determined by ‘the physical shapes of the churches and their architectural features’.5 To understand this point it is important to recognize that the internal space of a medieval church differed greatly from that of today. Until the late sixteenth century few churches had stalls or pews and the nave was a large open space, though it is possible it held a lectern and a few benches for the elderly or infirm.6 Another difference between early and modern-day church architecture was the absence of the rood or choir screen which was not introduced until the thirteenth century. The openness between the chancel and nave allowed a more direct relationship between the clergy, the congregation and the high altar. Once rood screens were established squints or small peepholes were made so that the laity might gaze into the chancel.7 Much early church drama related directly to the church service and was framed by the architecture of the church. The eighthcentury Bishop of Metz, Amalarius, is credited as being the first to realize the dramatic potential of Mass. In an attempt to illustrate the liturgy more clearly for his parishioners, Amalarius ‘staged’ allegorical enactments of the Mass. For example, at the consecration of a new church he mimicked Christ’s Harrowing of Hell by banging on the doors and seeking admission.8 Thus, even from this early point, dramatic enactments were shaped by their relationship with the church building, and used the church architecture to reflect their narrative. Early liturgical drama focused on the use of the altar for dramatic presentation. The Easter Visitatio from the tenth-century Regularis Concordia (already mentioned in chapter 1), doubtless drew upon the association of the altar with Christ’s tomb. As has been pointed out, ‘The dialogue between the three Marys and the angel was thus presented not only at the most appropriate focal area in the church building, but at the site agreed to represent Christ’s burial-place most fittingly.’9 The relationship between space and a development of the form of drama is evident through this example. However, not all playing would have been restricted to the altar; the body of the church offered a variety of playing places, such as side-altars, the nave itself, and the west door. In fact it has been suggested that the development of increasingly elaborate churches, many

Drama of Inclusion


designed with the shape of the body of the church forming a cruciform pattern, may have led to a greater freedom of liturgical staging. This new form allowed for the progression of characters across the space. Extant European drama suggests that journeys were represented by the appearance of characters at a church entrance before they crossed to the sepulchre, and that at other times the crypt steps were used, as was the organ-loft and galleries.10 In his collection of Medieval and Tudor drama John Gassner includes an updated version of an Easter Day celebration from Durham Abbey which reflects the use of procession within the body of the church. The ritual began with two elderly monks processing to the red velvet and gold-clad sepulchre from where they raised an image of Christ. They placed the image on a velvet cushion and paraded it first to the high altar, then to the south choir door where they were met by four men from the priory who held a canopy of purple velvet with a fringe of red silk and gold. This canopy was placed over the image of Christ. The whole procession promenaded around the church back to the high altar where the image was finally displayed.11 The use of both the body of the church and specific locations shows how effectively religious spaces could be manipulated for dramatic enactments. The flexibility of the church space can be witnessed in modern-day religious services which include processions through the aisles and nave, with parts of the service conducted from the altar, lectern, side-chapels, and often the nave itself for readings from the New Testament. Without the fixed pews of today’s churches the usage of space would have been much more inventive. It is likely that vernacular dramas exploited the spatial possibilities to their full extent. While there are few concrete examples of this from England, European dramas contained within David Bevington’s anthology, Medieval Drama, show the textual possibilities of utilizing the church as a performance space.12 In particular, the Play of Daniel, adapted from Old Testament material and performed at Beauvais Cathedral in France in the twelfth century, displays ‘brilliant pageantry’.13 It is likely that in addition to glorious processions down the main aisle the play required three stages to denote the areas for the palace of King Belshazzar and later King Darius, Daniel’s house, and the lions’ den, all of which could have been accommodated in the Cathedral’s wide nave. An angel that appears ‘on high’ might have done so ‘from an elevated vantage point in the church’.14 This potential use of sacred space tallies with the views of theological historian Eamon Duffy who argues that:


Drama of Inclusion

Most churches were examples of ‘complex space’, based not around a single focal point – the high altar or the pulpit – but subdivided into a series of distinct but overlapping enclaves, some more important or more private than others, and representing different sub-groups and interests within the broader community. This complexity reflected the nature of the medieval parish itself, which was rarely a single hierarchical unit, but rather a constellation of groups, families and individuals who often co-operated and sometimes conflicted.15

The complexity of the medieval church space provided a vast arena in which dramatic celebrations and ritual could be enacted, and it appears as if the multi-faceted architectural space of the church influenced the types of dramas that were produced within medieval churches.

Space and Ritual In his book on the history of performance space David Wiles suggests that ‘in medieval Christendom, the watcher was always being watched by an invisible God. Perfect sightlines were never a priority. The important thing was to arrange a complete performance space in a way that reflected God’s order.’16 This order was reflected not just in liturgical and vernacular church dramas already discussed but also in the symbolic use of space within holy rituals. The church space was also used to symbolize the human journey. The west part of the church, near the porch, contained a font used for baptisms.17 This font symbolized entry into the church and marked the beginning of a passage in life which travelled from the threshold of the building to the main body of the church. Until the Reformation the marriage ceremony, another transitional life moment, was also performed at the west porch. The architecture of the church reflected other symbolic qualities. Wiles points out that the ground plan of the late medieval church was in the shape of a cross, which suggested both the suffering of Christ and an ‘iconic replica of the human body’.18 This intertwining of the Christian and human body was found at the centre of the ritual action of the church. It was in the passage through life via baptism, marriage, churching, and death, that the congregation of the church were to feel the rituals of Christianity ‘written’ upon their body. It has been observed that ‘Every stage of the life cycle in early modern England was accompanied by ritual activity.’19 These rituals were accompanied by symbolic actions such as: ‘sprinkling with water,

Drama of Inclusion


signing the cross, kneeling at the altar, giving the bride, placing the ring, meeting the corpse and casting earth upon the body’.20 The actions formed the very notion of a type of bodily writing whereby the customs of a culture are imprinted within the bodies of its citizens. Perhaps one of the clearest ways the symbolism of the medieval church space could be seen was via the churching of women, a ceremony to cleanse their bodies after childbirth. According to the Book of Leviticus, forty days after the birth of her child a woman underwent a purification ritual in which she cleansed her body from childbirth. In early England the ritual began at the porch of the church where the mother entered carrying the baptismal cloth of her child and a candle, and was accompanied by the women or midwives that had attended the birth. At the west door the priest purified her body by symbolically blessing her candle, after which the woman walked into the body of the church and received Mass for the first time since giving birth. This ritual was closely echoed within the Purification of Mary plays found within the N-Town and York cycles, but the private ritual was further reiterated within the public celebration of Candlemas. Candlemas was celebrated forty days after the birth of Christ (on 2 February) and comprised a feast whereby the citizens of the parish processed through the town in a candlelit parade before converging at the altar of their church. It was simultaneously a celebration of the Christ-child, the Virgin and the body of faith of the parishioners themselves: ‘In the devotional theatre of the parish streets, Candlemas was transformed from sacred history into symbol of the corporate body of parish believers.’21 One of the most elaborate examples of a Candlemas celebration is that of Beverley in Yorkshire where the procession was sponsored by a religious fraternity, the brothers and sisters of the Guild of Saint Mary, who were led by ‘one of the gild . . . clad in comely fashion as a queen, like to the glorious Virgin Mary, having what may seem a son in her arms’.22 The Virgin was followed by figures of Joseph and Simeon, and angels with twentyfour thick wax candles who processed through the streets to the parish church. This interaction between private ritual and public parish festivity demonstrates how: ‘Participants and spectators gloss and create meaning as much as they perform and witness; medieval devotional theatre shaped expectation and belief but it also reflected and even created those things.’23 The intersection between cultural practices that occurred on a daily basis and the beliefs of the church were deeply entwined, and


Drama of Inclusion

nowhere is this shown more clearly than through Margery Kempe’s presence at a purification ceremony. Here she reports that seeing the women purified served as a type of affective meditation since ‘her mende was raveschyd into beholding of our Lady offering hyr blissful son, our Savyour’.24 Kempe was able to translate the experience of witnessing the purification of a fellow parishioner into a meditative experience in which she was brought closer to the life of the Virgin. The boundaries of the church were often tested through events which used the space of the margins of the church, such as the churchyard. In this space the intersection between the sacred and secular was blurred. Margery Kempe relates how Palm Sunday processions at her parish church brought together the priests and the ‘good pepyl’. It became at once both a sacred space and a popular space. Kempe symbolically replaces the churchyard with a representation of the holy land, believing that ‘as thei sche had ben that tyme in Jerusalem’.25 The churchyard served as both a local and religious space to Kempe. The churchyard was also a place for the testing of larger community issues. For those that had engaged in criminal activities the churchyard was a space for the public acknowledgement of their misdemeanour. As has been pointed out, there was a parallel between the parish processions undertaken on a Sunday and penitential parades made by offenders around the churchyard; they expressed the juxtaposition between the integration of a community and the identification of offenders as standing outside a community.26 Penitents, or those found to have disobeyed the regulations of the church, were forced to parade around the churchyard to pay publicly for their crimes, in this manner they overtly displayed the behaviours that were deemed as ‘otherness’ or beyond the permit of society.

The Parish Space The discussion so far has centred upon the importance of the architectural and ritual spaces of the church. However, as has been noted in the introduction, one of the chief social and religious structures of medieval England was the geography of the parish. This physical and notional space achieved high status by the late Middle Ages. The Fourth Lateran Council from 1215 began to encourage more localized worship so that by 1300 every person in England was assigned to a parish. Each parish had around 8000 members. As parish members

Drama of Inclusion


citizens were responsible for regular attendance at church and payment of a tithe for the upkeep of the building and its ministers.27 As has been reported in the introduction, the organization of worship was supported by a complex infrastructure in which citizens were often members of both a parish and a religious fraternity; groupings that provided communal, religious, and social support. Fraternities named themselves after a saint or religious feast and urban locations often supported several of these collectivities; some being open only to women. It is likely that most villages in the later Middle Ages had at least one fraternity. Fraternities were often responsible for the upkeep of a particular altar within the parish church or activities on a special day of the year. Beyond that they served as a social unit that would look after members, help them in times of hardship and attend their funerals. Parishes were therefore seen as ‘a more or less adaptable framework shaped by, and in turn shaping, the lives of its member’.28 The parish provided organizational and physical space in which to produce a variety of cultural entertainments. The need to provide money to support the upkeep of the church and its minister meant that parishes and their fraternities were forced to undertake moneyraising activities such as church ale, a fund-raising day when priest and lay people drank together;29 rush-bearing; parish dancing; May Day celebrations and more lavish entertainments such as Robin Hood games, St George’s celebrations and in some cases, such as that of New Romney in Kent, passion plays. The parish ‘space’, defined here as both physical and organizational, was important in the celebrations. The parish provided a structure and purpose for entertainments and it also existed as a physical entity which could be geographically mapped out. The boundary of the parish was very important since it set the parameters for the collection of tithes (ten per cent of income from the land was given to support the priest and as alms for the poor). The parish boundary, a clear example of how space was organized through Foucauldian ‘emplacement’, was carefully guarded since changes to the boundary line could affect the wealth of a parish. Each year the boundary was demarcated by the ‘beating of the bounds’ at a festival called Rogationtide (celebrated the week before Ascension Day, which was usually in May). This very obvious relationship between parish space and festivity was reiterated in a number of other festivals through the year. Hocktide, a fifteenth-century festive game held two weeks after Easter, demonstrates how parish sponsorship provided the space and


Drama of Inclusion

authority for a particularly gendered festive celebration. The game was usually played by married couples. On Monday women chased men and bound them, releasing them on payment of a forfeit. On Tuesday the pattern reversed and women were chased and bound. Hocktide revealed how sacred and secular forms could be combined within performative practices, and how gender issues and role reversal could be played out within a Bahktinian carnivalesque framework in order to maintain a status quo. The temporary release from normative patterns enabled participants to resume their daily lives.30 Not all authorities were convinced by Hocktide gaming. John Carpenter, Bishop of Worcester, complained in 1450 that ‘when that solemn feast of Easter has passed, women make a show of tying up men and on another day men women . . . and pretending to collect money for the church, but gaining the loss of the soul under this cosmetic colour’.31 Indeed by the time of the Reformation religious opposition to the custom managed to suppress the tradition. It has been suggested that ‘They [Protestants] distrusted the familiar and chaotic displays of Hocktide or May Day to which they ascribed pagan roots and popish themes. Family dues replaced ales, revels, and plays as sources of parish fund-raising.’32 The Reformation saw a demise of the revelries outlined here, and the establishment instead of a type of charitable giving in which formal donations were used to support the parish church and its priest. Other medieval parish revelries prior to the Reformation included those attached to particular saints’ days, in this case to St George’s Day. These, like so many celebratory events, were played within the post-Easter festive period, on 23 April, the saint’s day of George. Evidence from Norwich, although the city comprised several parishes, demonstrates how the celebration of a saint could be used for dual purposes: both veneration of the saint and to display guild and civic power.33 At Norwich the guild of St George sponsored an event where the town’s high-ranking officials rode behind an actor dressed as St George and were accompanied by an entourage of knights and pages. The riders journeyed out of town to the countryside and possibly enacted a play before returning to the town.34 In actual fact the Norwich festivities lasted over two days and began with the guild gathering for evensong in Norwich Cathedral the evening before St George’s Day.35 A guild member was chosen to represent St George, and another member the dragon.36 The procession included standard bearers, musicians, and torch bearers, followed by the other guild members. The city’s mayor and aldermen

Drama of Inclusion


concluded the procession. However, this was not a static celebration. There were changes made to the ride each year. Records show that in 1530 a guild member portrayed ‘Princess Margaret’ (the human sacrifice offered up to the dragon who was defended by George) and rode alongside George; most probably the rider was a man dressed as a woman. However, this addition of new elements to the ride shows how customs could be modified to incorporate changes and thus the ride became a living, responsive event which altered with the circumstances around it. The St George’s ride articulated a number of themes that could be read by the audience and participants. The route taken by the ride, from the centre of the town to the country and back again, was important, as it linked urban and rural communities and represented a type of rite of passage whereby there was a revitalization. This sense of regeneration was amplified by the timing of the ride: the end of April coincided with the advent of spring and thus the ride to the countryside and back was a mechanism for welcoming the new growing season. The St George ride had other associations too. The celebration of the saint’s day served to strengthen the faith of the participants. The legend of St George resolved with George ridding the town of the dragon if the pagan population converted to Christianity, so the legend was linked to worship. Furthermore, the celebration of a saint’s day inevitably brought associations with the martyrdom of that saint, and it has been suggested that this process recalled the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.37 An examination of other parish celebrations shows how events were able to straddle the secular and sacred worlds. In combining these dynamics, such celebrations were malleable and more able to respond to changing circumstances. The Palm Sunday play at St Mary Magdalen Church, Milk Street, London showed how the sacred and secular worlds could be mixed in order to explore the dichotomy of Foucault’s spatial analysis. At Milk Street, the parish presented biennial productions of a Palm Sunday play. Records from the early sixteenth century show payments for a cross with blood dripping from it, horses for riding, the hire of costumes, scrolls for the prophets, and payments for actors.38 It is difficult to tell whether the Palm Sunday play was a mimed drama or contained spoken text (though the payments to ‘actors’ suggests the latter). The play would certainly have used both the internal and external spaces of the church, with a palm procession taking place around the churchyard.


Drama of Inclusion

It is from the legend of Robin Hood that many parishes took inspiration. The figure of Robin Hood has been identified as serving three functions within parish drama.39 The first took place when a figure dressed up as Robin extracted money from the wealthier members of the parish in order to raise funds for parish activities, or for the poor. The second type of activity involved the character of Robin Hood combined with a Morris dance in a farcical scene; and the last was a type of combative game. The extant text of Robin Hood and the Friar from the appendix of printer William Copland’s A Mery Geste of Robyn Hoode and of Hys Lyfe gives some indication of a typical medieval depiction of Robin.40 The episode was likely to have been printed around 1560, and concerns the meeting of Robin with Friar Tuck. Copland inserted a direction at the top of the episode that suggested the play would have been performed around May. The tone of the dramatic episode is set by Robin’s opening address to his men in which he narrates a previous meeting with Friar Tuck and the violent blows that passed between them. This narrative opening sets a tone of story-telling, which then shifts into dramatic action as Robin and his men set off to capture Tuck. Much of the play is given to bragging about fighting. Numerous weapons are mentioned such as ‘staffe’, ‘plucke’, ‘swords’, ‘buckles’, ‘clubbes’, and ‘staves’. This physical energy at the centre of the piece ensures that the episode is dynamic. Alongside the fighting, other incidents concerning the body are enacted during this piece of folk drama. These include the carrying of Robin by Friar Tuck, and his being thrown in the stream, the use of the lady (an early Maid Marian) as a body with which to barter, and the dance which concludes the sequence. The corporal energy is complemented by the spoken energy of the rhyming text. Though it is possible that Robin Hood and the Friar was performed near to a stream (the only scenic element needed), the play would probably have been performed in any open space, and could have toured to a variety of villages, since few props and actors were required.41 Certainly, other versions of Robin Hood games did travel between parishes. The Robin Hood and king games at Kingston, Surrey, demonstrated how neighbouring parishes might be involved. The king game, a type of May game, was held during Whitsun week at Kingston and sponsored by All Saints parish. It has been estimated by the number of livery badges sold that large audiences witnessed the games during the sixteenth century (1700 in 1509, rising to 3000 in 1536).42 Even if every man, woman, and child of Kingston had

Drama of Inclusion


purchased a badge, there would still be 500 badges unaccounted for, and therefore the Robin Hood games of All Saints must have drawn spectators from neighbouring rural parishes.43 Though the above evidence suggests that people visited neighbouring parishes to witness entertainments, the pattern of inter-parish connection is more complicated than this. At Kingston the games visited other parishes, mainly those along the river. In 1509 10d was paid for the hire of a barge which was used to transport the summer games by river; records show that in the early sixteenth century plays were performed at up to eight riverside locations between Richmond and Windsor. The convenience of the river as a method to transport parish entertainment might have been popular but it is clear that considerable rewards could be made by travelling to inland parishes by road. In 1515 a performance of the Kingston Robin Hood games at Croydon collected a massive 9s 4d.44 Such rich rewards were metaphorically fitting for the figure of Robin Hood to collect.

The Reformation and Material Changes Though this chapter has sought to avoid discussing parish drama in a chronologically based method, it is difficult to conclude without so doing. This is because the events of the Reformation were to affect parish celebration dramatically. The introduction to this book stressed the lack of an immediate national response to Henry VIII’s religious reforms. However, the injunction placed in 1536 limited the number of local celebrations to a single day and thus severely compressed the observance of saints’ days. Many of the entertainments that have been discussed in this chapter therefore ceased to exist. However, it appears that not all festivities were outlawed. For example, St George’s Day escaped this abrogation and continued to be played throughout Henry’s reign, though an injunction against processions in Edward VI’s reign in 1547 did finally outlaw such practices.45 It appears, then, that the story of the parish is not that of the ‘emplacement’ envisioned by Foucault. The values of the parish were not placed in the privileged position of a sacred space; instead the Reformation transformed parish space to one of ‘displacement’. The demise of religious celebration cut hard at the heart of the identity of the parish. Or so it seems. However, at Norwich the Reformation, countless edicts against the celebration of saints’ days processions, and the Chantries acts against religious fraternities were not enough to suppress St George’s Day celebrations. Through various adaptive


Drama of Inclusion

means the celebration was able to continue. Once the St George’s fraternity was dissolved it renamed itself the Company and Citizens of Saint George and lost its religious affiliation, although celebrations in the form of evensong, a banquet, and election of officers continued throughout Edward VI’s reign.46 As the following chapter notes, the establishment of Mary on the throne with her Catholic sympathies meant that the ritual calendar year was re-established during her reign from 1554–5. However, despite this repeal at Norwich the guild decided to retain their plans and switched the celebration from St George’s Day, with its connotations of the saint’s day to the first Sunday after Trinity. In doing so the guild (or now Company) showed how traditions could be malleable, for in shifting the celebration away from the saint’s day, they now gave themselves a certain latitude in how they told the legend of St George.47 Indeed, the celebration of St George took on an increasing association with civic festivity and thus survived the curtailment of religious playing. The guild continued to reinvent itself in the religiously sensitive Protestant Elizabethan England, this time adopting the name ‘Company and Fellowship of St George,’ and removing the figures of St George and Margaret from the celebrations. Gradually, the original parish religious celebration of St George was affiliated with Norwich’s civic identity. In 1574 the date of the celebration was altered once more, this time to fall close to the installation of the city mayor. The former parish activity was now fully incorporated into civic and secular identity. The case of the St George’s parade at Norwich shows how cultural events were modified and shaped by the material culture and politics of the society in which they existed. The process of emplacement to displacement allowed for the reintegration of a celebratory model into the fabric of society.

3 Drama and the City: City Parades

Self-Fashioning The introduction to this book outlined how the period from the thirteenth century onwards was seen as ‘the incarnation of the new spirit of civic organization’.1 The shift from rural to urban organizational structures and the development of new trading centres meant that establishing civic identity was of paramount importance in ensuring the success of a corporation. In shaping its identity the medieval city did not merely invent its cultural life anew. The previous chapter demonstrated how the former folk structure of the St George ride at Norwich was altered over time to become associated with civic structures. The original ride had amalgamated rural and urban identities, but during the late Middle Ages it became increasingly corporate. It was noted that by the mid sixteenth century the procession had shifted from being played on the saint’s day to become affiliated with the election of a new mayor; a manoeuvre which both avoided bans on playing religious material and established the procession at the centre of Norwich’s civic life. The success of an urban centre depended upon the fortune of its traders, its craftsmen and its organizational structures. The latter were important in maintaining trading arrangements and controlling social order by regulating behaviour within the city. Each of these groups (and they were often over-lapping so that an officer from a trade guild might also serve as a burgess within the town council), benefited from the projection of a positive image of their city. Cities that were seen to be well regulated, and boasted a flourishing trade were self-perpetuating in that they attracted further visitors which in


Drama and the City

turn increased their successful mercantile reputation. It was therefore important for a city or urban conurbation to present a constructive image of itself to the monarch, the oligarchy and the wider populace. It is clear that by the late Middle Ages the fashioning of a city’s identity through the production of its cultural life was a major concern.2 The city or town sat like a central character within its own drama. The ability of the town’s elite to self-fashion a positive profile for the city was extremely important. There were many ways in which the cultural life reflected dimensions of the city. Civic pride was communicated most overtly through the welcoming of an important visitor to the city, such as a monarch. Examples such as the royal entry to a city, details of which will be discussed later, confirms the suggestion that the Middle Ages was a ‘theatre state’ in which its power relations were played out upon the public stage of a city.3 Many lesser celebrations such as Lord Mayor’s parades, the corporate sponsorship of a saint’s day and the midsummer watches, or marches, also provided an important display of a city’s regulatory bodies and its hierarchy. To the visitor to the city the very architecture of the place acted as a semiotic code. Medieval cities were walled (both to protect and enclose their inhabitants, and to exclude potential foes). The walls and the formal entrance thus provided the visitor with an immediate image: ‘The monumentality of the portal symbolized the power of the ruler. It also functioned as an ideogram for the entire city, presenting a front that was meant to impress visitors and foreign potentates.’4 Thus, the more elaborate the formal gates of a city, the more impressive the effect on the visitor. Beyond the formal processions and parades to mark an occasion, guilds and fraternities within a town often sponsored their own play. Detailed records exist of the Paternoster and Creed plays produced at York. The so-called cycle plays of Chester and York are eminent models of guild sponsored drama and will be discussed further in the subsequent chapter. However, it is clear that, like the civic processions, these dramas formed part of the identity of the towns that hosted them. The medieval towns also hosted entertainments that were more haphazard and played a lesser role in the shaping of civic identity. Events such as visits by touring players, minstrels (musicians), and waits (singers), and popular forms of entertainment such as bearbaiting and bull fighting were concerned with providing amusement for the populace, rather than promoting civic pride. In fact the many records which show towns paying visiting players and musicians not

Drama and the City


to perform demonstrate that itinerant performance was not seen to enhance the profile of a town. Finally, civic identity was also shaped by a collection of performative practices which literally ‘staged’ the city and its rules. Within medieval England punishments were served in front of the public eye. Rather than hide their criminals in jail, medieval towns displayed offenders by forcing them through the humiliation of parading through the town. In direct opposition to royal processions undertaken within the towns, the punishment rituals did not glorify the participants but instead brought public shame. In doing so, the social codes of a town and the strict reinforcement of these regulations were emphasized, and the individual corpus was subjugated to social rules. The private body was displayed in other manners within early England. Elaborate funeral parades were undertaken by the elite; these processions were arranged to ‘win’ status for the deceased both on earth and in purgatory. As will be shown later, detailed processional routes enabled the coffins of the deceased to be presented to a wide urban audience. The breadth of entertainments to be found in the medieval city is worthy of considerable attention. Because of the magnitude of the events that surrounded the urban spaces of the Middle Ages it is necessary to devote two chapters to analysing their impact. These are divided so that this first chapter on the drama of the city will focus on parades and processions, while the following chapter will examine the formal dramas of the cities of Chester and York from where extant dramatic texts survive. This chapter pays particular attention to how the changing political, religious, and devotional practices of late medieval England shaped the processions of a town.

Processional Theatre Theatre historian David Wiles has investigated the purpose of processional theatre and suggests that processions serve four different functions: those of pilgrimage, parade, mapping, and narrative.5 Medieval processions variously demonstrate the functions that Wiles identifies. Processions that accompanied a saint’s day often included the parade of a figurehead through a predetermined route to a sacred destination, usually a church that honoured that saint. Such a procession fulfilled the function of a pilgrimage. One of the most important aspects of a pilgrimage is the arrival at the sacred place.6 Within pilgrimages, the route often serves as a testing ground for


Drama and the City

the participant. The act of pilgrimage is consequently one whereby the importance lies not with spectators, but within the participants who, through undertaking the journey, make an affirmation for themselves.7 Modern-day Easter celebrations such as those in Loulé, Portugal, where the figurehead of the Virgin is carried from the town church of São Clement around the streets to the hilltop church of São Francisco demonstrate the features of a pilgrimage. The importance of this ceremony lies not with the witnessing of the event by the considerable crowds that line the streets but with the pilgrimage made by the eight men dressed in white who carry the figurehead and those that process alongside. Wiles sees the second function of the procession as being that of parading. He defines a parade as an ‘arrangement of human beings for the benefit of a separate audience’.8 A parade is enacted for visual purposes; it is an overt display of status and splendour. The order of a parade is of utmost importance and early English wills frequently specified exact details of funeral parades, citing the order and appearance of its members. Wiles’s third function of processional theatre, that of mapping, was clearly reflected within medieval events. Processional routes within medieval cities were carefully aligned with the design and function of the city, and were utilized to fashion the image of the civic authorities. As has been previously noted, medieval cities were built inside thick walls, which were used for protection, and it was usually at the formal entrance to the city that a processional route began. The processional routes then traversed important urban sites such as churches, cathedrals, market places, guildhalls: the institutions which guarded and shaped the corporate identity of a city. Processional routes were not straightforward in terms of the direction of their pathways. Although it might be assumed that visitors entered the city gates and then followed a processional route around the city, in effect there was a different flow. Visits by an important dignitary were marked by urban luminaries riding out to greet the visitor and accompanying them into the city, and ‘The greater the distance from town where one was met, the greater the honor conferred.’9 However, this action gave the procession a complex dynamic since the hosts rode out against the ultimate movement of the parade, then accompanied the guests through the city. A further complication to the flow of movement within a procession was the stops made to witness tableaux and speeches. A procession through a city often encompassed two dynamics: that of parading, and that of stopping for a short performance. While the procession

Drama and the City


followed a pathway through the city it also stopped at a variety of playing places such as market crosses, market places, fountains, or temporary stages.10 The procession couldn’t stop for long as the dynamic would be harmed, so performances within the processions centred on the use of tableau and emblematic iconography rather than longer dramatic pieces.11 The final function of processional drama that Wiles identifies is the construction of narrative. For the spectator of a processional ceremony the passing by of each individual element of the parade is placed within a narrative that is created by the watcher. However, each spectator interprets the narrative of the parade in a different manner depending on a number of factors such as the order in which they view events, at which point of the procession they witness the action, and their relationship with other spectators.

The Power of the Procession Given that medieval pageantry was so effective in shaping the identity of a city, it is worth thinking about who controlled the production of that image. It has been suggested that civic pageantry grew in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries and was linked not to the nobility but to the rise of the merchant class.12 According to this notion, the visits by dignitaries provided an opportunity for an interaction between the place, its inhabitants, and the visitors: ‘City Fathers recognized that such occasions provided an opportunity to enter into a dialogue between the citizens and the person or persons honoured that would spell out visually and verbally the significance of the occasion for both parties.’13 This reading places the power of representation with the citizens, or body politic; the mass of people who formed the city. However, it is worth questioning the degree to which ‘citizens’ were genuinely involved in the production of city pageantry. Where records exist it is evident that citizens were responsible for organizing some of the staging. At Norwich, Parnell of Ipswich, a citizen, arranged the festivities for Queen Elizabeth Woodville’s visit in 1469, while at Bristol, as will be discussed later, Thomas Churchyard and a schoolmaster arranged Queen Elizabeth I’s visit. However, this idea of the promotion of pageantry by citizens is not fully convincing. While citizens may have been responsible for the technical arrangement of the pageantry, it is likely that the identity that was projected during visits by dignitaries was more concerned with high ranking participants of the parades.


Drama and the City

The issue of whether civic processions were essentially inclusive (it included all citizens) or exclusive (it was controlled by and projected the concerns of the upper ranks of society) is important and has been central to academic debates that have arisen over the last forty years. An important study by social historian Mervyn James in the early 1980s investigated the relationship between the city and social drama. James suggested that ritual dramatic processions, such as the Corpus Christi plays at York, provided a mechanism by which ‘opposites of social wholeness and social differentiation could be both affirmed, and also brought into a creative tension with one another’.14 James argued that this tension, brought about through the expression within the dramas of a dialectic opposition between things as they stood and the ideal patterns that groups desired, was a device for maintaining social stability. His reading suggests that civic entertainment was essentially inclusive and served all groups that participated, even though events were no more than a mechanism for maintaining the status quo. There are other ways in which the ownership of city processions can be assessed. Rather than seeing it as an inclusive spectacle in which communal aspirations could be played out, it is possible to investigate those that were marginalized by the production of city spectacle: ‘To all those outside or on the edge of the community, therefore, ceremonies must have been a constant reminder of its discrete and predominantly masculine identity.’15 In other words, the use of social entertainments was often a celebration by the elite, to the exclusion of other members of society. The pageantry may have reflected the male hierarchy of a town, but excluded lower ranking citizens and women.16 In order to test whether city processions were communal affairs or were serving the town’s oligarchy it is necessary to look more carefully at a specific example. The 1521 London Midsummer’s Eve watch offers such an example. Watches, a type of patrol around a city originally developed to warn against fires, had by the sixteenth century become ceremonial affairs, comprising music, dance, large puppets, pageants as well as a procession of the city’s élite. The 1521 watch followed this pattern and evidence of the two contrasting eye-witness accounts show how the ostensible functions of the parade masked the real politics at play within the occasion. The first spectator’s account is that of the Venetian Ambassador to London, Ludovico Spinelli. Spinelli records the act of communal ‘rejoicing’ that was seen within the event and notes how the various entertainments, such as marching bands, dancers, a puppet of a

Drama and the City


giant, and seven pageants helped to create this atmosphere.17 However, there also exists an alternative account of this parade. The guild of Drapers (woollen merchants) also had their recorder note the event. From the Drapers’ point of view the function of the watch was not one of communal rejoicing but rather civic formality. Their account focuses upon the importance of the mayor and two sheriffs to the parade, so that the event was not a ‘celebration of community but a celebration of London’s oligarchy’.18 The Midsummer watch shows how the medieval processional sought to ‘reproduce power relations rather than how it reflects a given neutrality or set of beliefs’.19 The model of the processional watch is particularly interesting because of the history of its development. It has been suggested that, while it developed from practices which seemingly protected the streets and it inhabitants, it in actual fact operated as a system of surveillance and control which ‘restrained insiders while preventing outsiders from entering the city’.20 While the history of the watch suggests that it developed to protect the citizens, it simultaneously expanded the importance and wealth of the city oligarchs. Watches were first instituted in the late fourteenth century to guard the city from summer fires, and developed to incorporate two different forms: marching routes through the city, which could include riders and were enacted by guild members, and second, foot patrollers who focused upon the prevention of theft from wealthy houses.21 Watches took place through the night beginning around 11 pm and ending at 2 am, and were often enormous in scale. It has been estimated that around 2000 men took part in the London watches.22 The original function of the watches, to protect the wealth of the rich, and the later involvement of guild members in processions meant that by the fifteenth century the annual watches ‘came to serve as manifestations of the increasing power and wealth of prosperous communities and of their trade and craft guilds’.23 If this is the case, it is hard to determine how the civic celebration of the watch offered any involvement for the ordinary citizen.

Processional Spectatorship If there is any role for the ordinary citizen it is that of the spectator. If processions were controlled by civic oligarchs and primarily represented their needs, then the role of the spectator was, however, uncontrolled. The first two chapters have examined spectatorship


Drama and the City

where the conditions were controlled to some degree via gaining admittance to the cloistered life or through parish membership. However in a conurbation spectatorship was open. The processions took part in the streets and were unrestricted. The role of spectator was open to all parts of society; however marginalized they might be in other aspects of life. However, it remains to be seen how important the role of the spectator was within the procession. If the spectators are included within the event then it could be argued that they were involved within the civic displays despite playing no direct role. The question as to the involvement of a spectator within medieval procession has split academics. On the one hand the importance of the participatory nature of processions has been stressed to the exclusion of the spectator: To be in a procession is to participate in a group activity that minimizes individuality, since every member must be a part of the moving group and direct his or her own body in terms of the rhythms set by the group. Indeed, togetherness, or solidarity, is the most characteristic feature of processions, a feature that applies to the motion itself, the succession of the participants in the procession, and even the route which the procession takes, since all participants must go the same way and at the same pace.24

The above point suggests that the importance within a procession is that homogeneity of identity is developed through the loss of individuality. The procession is seen as important because of the communality that develops from partaking in the event. Such an idea excludes the notion of spectatorship from the model; instead the participatory role is limited to the people who paraded. In turn this supports the notion that the medieval city processions strengthened the power of the guilds and city fathers (who processed) but neglected ordinary citizens. There are, however, alternative viewpoints to the above argument. Other critics see the role of the spectator within processions to be central to the formation of the ‘meaning’ of the event: The value of ritual lies partly in this ambiguity of the active and passive for creator, performer and beholder: the sense of an arena of constraints within which the individual is free to some extent to search out, interpret and discover implies an indeterminacy about the full significance of what is done which is not to be taken necessarily as a defect of communication.25

Drama and the City


This pull between the dynamic of action and passivity, of the performer and the observer, is key to developing the ‘ambiguity’ of meaning. Meanings are seen in this light to be constructed fluidly and are not fixed to single interpretations. In this model the importance of an event is created by the spectator as much as the participant. Given the lack of eye-witness accounts of civic processions it is difficult to ascertain how a spectator may have formed part of the dynamic of an event. However, evidence for spectator response may lie in sources outside those of dramatic history. Edward Muir finds evidence of audience response in Pieter Brueghal the Elder’s painting The Fight between Carnival and Lent (1559).26 The oil painting depicts the annual carnival held in medieval Flemish towns (now Belgium) in the week prior to Lent. Brueghal shows a battle between the figures of a rotund Carnival and an anorexic Lent. Surrounding the battle are groups of citizens who participate in dances, watch the action, or merely go about their everyday business. Muir uses the painting to examine the reactions of the spectators to the events and notes the range of emotional responses to the carnival that are captured upon the faces of the spectators.27 He concludes that crowds are not passive in their spectatorship of a procession.28 Muir goes on to examine other artistic representations of processions from the time and he notes that the ‘gaze’ of the participants and spectators reveals much about their relative status in the entertainment: Although the fickleness of the human gaze produced a certain interchangability between the gazer and the gazed upon, processions still established social distinction, and not just gendered ones . . . What the prince or civic officials saw as they processed created the ritual performance just as what was radiated from the procession itself did. To be a public figure in the premodern period, whether a priest, bishop, pope, city councillor, prince, or king, was to be seen walking or riding in processions. To be a disenfranchised woman, a layman, citizen, or subject was to watch those who appeared in processions.29

Muir identifies the manner in which the act of processing in early Europe became self-defining and was utilized as a mechanism to mould the dynamics between the participants and spectators. His focus upon the importance of rank within the procession exemplifies the notion of material spectatorship in the reception of the event. The case studies that follow are raised to demonstrate how the identity of the city and its residents were both shaped by, and shaped civic practices. The examples chosen expound the relationship


Drama and the City

between city and monarch; city, church, and state; city and individual citizens and lastly, the city and its codes of behaviour.

Bristol: Changing Monarch: Changing Fortune Bristol, one of the most important provincial cities (it was incorporated in 1542, though it had been granted county status in 1373), was a favourite venue for visits by royalty. In just over one hundred years, between 1461 and 1574, the city played host to five visits by monarchs, each one of these reflecting a different relationship between monarch, subject, city fortune, and festive practice. The first of these visits by Edward IV in 1461 demonstrated how iconographic representation could be used to exalt the king. As he processed across the city he was greeted by performances at Temple Gate and Temple Cross. At the first station a dramatic representation of William the Conqueror welcomed Edward and a large giant presented him with keys to the city.30 These actions symbolized Edward’s shared lineage with William the Conqueror and therefore emphasized his right to the throne, and in offering the keys Edward was symbolically given freedom of the city. As he moved to Temple Cross, a pageant was played which depicted Saint George fighting the dragon, watched by a king and queen in a high castle, with a princess situated below them who held a lamb. At the moment of slaughter a melody of angels sang out.31 The dramatic representations undertaken for Edward were very chivalric; a nod to the old standards and knightly codes of honour. Edward’s second visit to Bristol in 1475 was doubtless more tense since Bristol had supported the attempt to overthrow him by raising money to attack France when Edward took refuge there.32 The visit of Henry VII in 1485 showed a vastly different ideological approach to the one used to greet Edward. It was one which celebrated both formally and informally the citizens and the city. Henry was welcomed at the town gates and viewed a pageant which was accompanied by music. This was followed by a speech in which the character of the ‘king’ lamented the tardy visit by Henry and the decline into which the town had fallen. At High Cross a pageant with ‘maydyn Childern Richely’ dressed preceded a speech by Prudence who implored Christ to save the King. The procession then moved to the gate of St John’s where another pageant was performed with maidens decked with jewellery; a speech was then delivered by ‘Justice’. On the way to the Abbey of St Augustine an impromptu act was received by the king: ‘a bakers wyff cast oute of A window A

Drama and the City


great quantitie of whete crying Welcome and good look’.33 This interference by a spectator shows both how a procession could trigger emotional reactions among the spectators, and how onlookers could affect the dynamics of the procession.34 As the King processed along the streets of Bristol he was treated to a dumb show of a Shipwrights’ pageant (Bristol was renowned for boat building), then, further along, a pageant of an elephant with a castle on his back represented the resurrection of Christ.35 Indeed, much of the pageantry presented to Henry VII aligned the king with Christ. Perhaps this was an attempt to see him as God’s chosen king and thus legitimize his claim to the throne, and to paint Henry in the role of the saviour of the city. The second day of the King’s visit coincided with Corpus Christi Day and here the King went in procession to the ‘great grene called The Sentuary’. The Bishop of Worcester preached in a pulpit in the middle of the green, and emphasized the poverty of Bristol. Henry on asking of the cause of poverty was told of the demise of the shipbuilding trade. Henry instructed them to rebuild ships and increase trade and he promised to help by ‘dyuers means’. It is not clear whether he actually did take any action. With hindsight it is easy to see how much of the entertainment for Henry was aimed at convincing him to invest in Bristol: the emphasis in the speech by the ‘king’ on the demise of the city; the reinforcement of this theme by the Bishop; the performance of the shipwrights’ pageant; speeches by Prudence and Justice; and analogies between the powers of the salvation of King and Christ. It is hard to tell if Bristol was as impoverished as it claimed for as has been pointed out: it was common for the city fathers to paint for their king the bleakest picture possible to avoid any increase in their tax burden. . . . when Henry VII returned in 1491, the city fathers presented the king with a benevolence of £180, clearly no indication of poverty.36

However, it is clear that the town of Bristol succeeded in drawing together corporate and religious agencies to successfully fashion an image of the city for the King. The pattern of fifteenth-century royal visits to Bristol demonstrated the ability to self-fashion the city according to the popular stylistic forms. The representations of the earlier part of the century drew upon chivalric patterns, while Henry’s later visit utilized the ability of the city and church to self-fashion their corporate identity through manipulating Henry’s response. By the time of the visit of


Drama and the City

the third monarch to be outlined here, that of Elizabeth I on 14 August 1574, Bristol had created yet another style of civic identity. This time there was no guild or religious involvement and the celebrations were scripted and produced by two townsfolk to maximize a spectacular display. The records that exist identify one of the earliest producers of an English event: the plans for Elizabeth’s visit were devised by Thomas Churchyard and co-produced by schoolmaster Mr Dunne. As is usual for this type of entertainment the records show what was to be prepared for Elizabeth’s visit, but do not record what actually happened. Her visit lasted two days which comprised the ‘first day an entry into the city where the queen was welcomed by allegorical characters, and on the subsequent days a battle raged at specially prepared forts’.37 The lavish celebration cost the city nearly £1000; an indication of how highly the town valued the opportunity to impress a monarch. On the Queen’s arrival at the city, she was greeted by the mayor at Laffardes gate where she was presented with a gilt mace; an oration was delivered to her and she received a purse containing £100. At High Cross a scaffold was erected, and here a boy representing the allegorical character of Fame delivered a speech welcoming Elizabeth to the city. At the next gate, Newgate, speeches were made by three school boys representing Salutation, Gratulation, and Obedient Good Will. It appears that much of the activity of the first day had the effect of serving as a prologue to the second day.38 The second part of the celebrations followed the pattern of an epic sea battle. A fort was constructed at ‘Trenemill meade’ near the water and beside it a large scaffold timber from which the monarch could witness the events. Allegorical speeches by figures such as War, Peace, and Dissension prefaced a storming of the fort. The elaborate nature of the spectacle, which included ships in a water battle, is indicated by the fact that money was spent on large quantities of gunpowder.39 The final moments of the action showed Persuasion mediating between War and Peace. The voice of the City seized the opportunity to draw a parallel with Elizabeth’s rule: O England joy with us: And kis the steps whear she doth tread, That keeps her countrey thus. In peace and rest, and parfait stay, Whearfore the god of peace: In peace by peace our peace preserve, And her long life encrease.40

Drama and the City


It has been suggested that the entertainment at the Meade was particularly successful because of the features of the site: ‘The lack of the procession and the contained nature of the location help make possible dramatic unity as well as the expected thematic unity. The conflict between opposing forces is dramatically realized, thus abandoning the more static form of the royal entry entertainment.’41 The royal pageantry that greeted Elizabeth at Bristol showed a radical development from that of earlier generations; although civic pageantry was included, the second day’s entertainment in a static site allowed the development of a more spectacular and sophisticated representation. The visits by monarchs to Bristol in early England demonstrate a capacity to mould the identity of the city using the tools of contemporary representation. Passing from the chivalric models used for Edward IV, through the religious analogies employed for Henry VII, Bristol finally drew together large scale spectacle and allegorical representations to greet Elizabeth. Bristol demonstrated how the city could fashion its identity and shape its future success. But beyond this the city was aware of its position in moulding the image of the monarchy. Many of the visits by monarchs to Bristol followed their ascension to the throne (or re-ascension in the case of Edward IV) and therefore showed an awareness of how public procession could be used to shape the identity and popularity of a monarch.

Canterbury: Political Battle between State and Church The performance of civic practices demonstrates how city, state, and key political and religious incidents became entwined. Nowhere is this clearer than the performance of St Thomas pageant at Canterbury, Kent. Records of the pageant first appear in 1504–5 where they reveal the pageant cart being constructed. The pageant depicted the martyrdom of Thomas a Becket, twelfth-century archbishop of Canterbury, who was murdered in the cathedral by four knights under the orders of Henry II. The violent death of the archbishop had been brought about by conflict between state and church, though was pardoned in 1220 when his remains were taken to Canterbury cathedral to establish a shrine. The reliquaries attracted around 100,000 pilgrims annually; and it is this shrine that Chaucer’s fictitious pilgrims visit. Two annual feasts were established to honour St Thomas, that of his death on 29 December and of his elevation to saint, on 7


Drama and the City

July. The annual pageant at Canterbury (played outdoors in July) was only one part of the cult of veneration of St Thomas within the Middle Ages that resulted in numerous chapels, paintings, and stained-glass windows being either dedicated to him, or depicting his martyrdom. The popularity of St Thomas was part of a cult of veneration of saints to be found in late medieval England. Reminders of saints occurred everywhere: engraved on cups, and bowls, carved on lintels and gable ends, as well as within the churches themselves.42 The Kent City Chamberlains’ accounts from 1504 onwards show fascinating details of the St Thomas pageant. The first wagon that was built lasted some sixteen years, but was repaired and repainted on a yearly basis. The pageant, perhaps more of a hand-drawn cart and less of a wagon than those at York and Chester, had wooden boarding and wheels and was pulled by men ‘a bowte the Citie’.43 A painted canvas hung around the pageant wagon. The pageant itself boasted a painted figure of St Thomas, who was clad in a linen garment, and gloves.44 Knights (probably played by children if a record of 1515 is correct) were shielded in armour and carried hired swords. The harnesses of the cart were clad in silver and gold foil. The pageant itself was mechanized with a device that turned an angel, and in 1519–20 money was spent on a painted image of the Virgin Mary with two angels to hang against the image of St Thomas. Each year the pageant was stored at the Priory of St Sepulchre’s for which a fee was paid to the prioress. The pageant of the martyrdom was performed in early July, close to midsummer celebrations. The St Thomas festivity adopted many of the features of other midsummer revelries, for example it was accompanied by musicians and fireworks. The St Thomas pageant succeeded in bringing together various aspects of the city: the corporate image of Becket, the organizing forces of civic authorities and the artisans who laboured to bring forth the pageant each year. Beyond this the history of the playing of the pageant reflected an intersection between the state and religion; the pageant came to serve as a litmus paper for the turmoil of late medieval England. It is possible that the St Thomas pageant was seen by Cardinal Wolsey in 1527 when he visited Canterbury and is reported to have seen ‘the great Jubilee and a fair in honor of the feast of St Thomas, their patron’.45 However, the future of both Wolsey and the St Thomas pageant was fragile. Two years later Wolsey was dismissed from office for his incapacity to arrange a divorce between Henry

Drama and the City


VIII and Catherine of Aragon; it marked the beginning of an increasingly unstable relationship between England and Rome; an event which was to lead eventually to the demise of Catholicism and the St Thomas pageant. The governance of Canterbury city within the late Middle Ages reflected the increasing tension that could be felt within the country. The city took a number of measures to try to control the hierarchy of its corporation and how civic order was presented to the populace within processions. The Burghmote Orders of 1529–30 record that a fine would be instituted for any mayor or aldermen, constable, or town clerk who failed to observe the correct sequence within the city watches. The Order made it clear that since processions were done ‘for the grete honour of theseide Cite’,46 the identity of the city was in jeopardy should the watches and parades not be correctly observed. The necessity of implementing this Order suggests that previous watches had suffered from a lack either of participation or correct orderliness. The need to re-establish the hierarchy within parades indicates a concern with protecting the stability and identity of the city. However, the 1530 Order seemed to have little effect, and the lack of stability at Canterbury was like a barometer for the unrest within the state at large. By 1532 Henry VIII had appointed Thomas Cranmer as Archbishop of Canterbury and in the following year all contact was suspended between Rome and England. Again, the mounting political and religious tension seemed to find expression in the public rituals of Canterbury. The 1532–3 City Chamberlains’ Accounts show another attempt to bring discipline to their processions. The Order of the Marching Watch laid down a further hierarchical model that the city fathers and constables were instructed to follow.47 However, the attempts by the city fathers to stabilize the city’s processions was to meet another challenge: that of the precarious position of the city’s St Thomas pageant. By 1537 the status of the Thomas pageant was fragile; perhaps in an attempt to play down the catholic nature of the pageant the Chamberlain’s accounts no longer used the term ‘Thomas the matyr’, but instead referred to the ‘Bishop Becket pageant’.48 It has been argued that in 1536 Thomas Cranmer, resident in Canterbury during July of that year, deliberately decided against attending the feast of St Thomas. His decision was perhaps taken in accordance with Cromwell’s injunctions of that same year which discouraged pilgrimages and veneration of saints.49 Cranmer’s snubbing of the


Drama and the City

St Thomas celebration was another nail in the coffin for the pageant. The ‘Bishop Becket pageant’ is recorded as being played for the last time in Henry VIII’s reign in 1538. In September of that same year, the martyrdom of Becket was denounced and the shrine at Canterbury destroyed. The following year the city sold the pageant wagon to Steven Apsley, and it was carried from the palace to Apsley’s place for a fee of four pence.50 As James Gibson points out, ‘St Thomas Becket served as a political touchstone for the Canterbury establishment.’51 This is demonstrated through the rise and fall of the pageant during the reign of the Tudor monarchs. In July 1554, almost exactly a year after Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon’s daughter, Mary I ascended the throne, the Saint Thomas pageant was reinstated and paraded through the streets. Mary was a devout Catholic and rescinded many of the actions of her father. Such behaviour allowed Canterbury to rebuild a new Thomas pageant and to honour the St Thomas celebration. The Burghmote Court Minutes note that ‘it is agreed that the wacche vsed to the kept on seynt Thomas Evyn shalbe kept and sett fourth on seynt Thomas evyn now next coming’.52 The minutes were accompanied by reminders of the correct marching order. Again, this attempt to regulate the city watch which accompanied the pageant was not universally successful since the following year Edward Carpynter, the mayor of the city, appeared in court for failing to keep the St Thomas watch. By 1559, some six months after the death of Mary I, the court agreed that the pageant should be permanently suspended.53 The succession of Elizabeth I, daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, to the throne changed the political and religious climate entirely. Elizabeth continued with her father’s Protestant reforms, and religious playing was suspended throughout the country. This time it is less clear what happened to the actual pageant cart at Canterbury, but the Chamberlain’s Accounts from 1563–4 show Mr Arden buying the wheels and bed of the old pageant, and having it transported from the palace to the guildhall.54 The example of the St Thomas pageant at Canterbury shows how the identity of the city was built upon an intersection between the State and the Church. The city had to react quickly to edicts from both of these forces in order to self-fashion itself in an appropriate manner. The perpetual attempts to order its processional life in a satisfactory manner show an awareness by the city fathers of the importance that such cultural representations had in

Drama and the City


shaping the image of the city in the eyes of the citizens and the state.

City and Individual So far this chapter has analysed the way that city processions were used to shape the identity of the city, to forge a relationship with a monarch, and to reflect religious and political concerns. Parades through a city were also used by individuals to shape their own public image. Nowhere was this demonstrated more clearly than in the funeral procession, where rituals for the elite overspilled from their own parish boundaries and often drew together many of the parishes within a city. Wills of late medieval England laid down meticulous details as to the arrangement of the funeral of the deceased. The preoccupation with interment sprang from a particular preReformation anxiety over the importance of purgatory, a place of limbo from where the soul could still progress to heaven. Purgatory provided great hope: in order to be saved the soul must be cleansed while there. Mourners were therefore charged with organizing masses to be said on behalf of the deceased so that their soul might pass from purgatory. Intercessions for the souls of the deceased were also made by the burning of candles within the period of mourning, and bells were rung out for the departed. Another important part of the funeral ritual itself was the feast that followed the service. The offer of a generous feast attracted more mourners, which in turn demonstrated the status of the soul of the deceased since the power of prayer of numerous mourners was thought to better aid the passage from purgatory to heaven.55 The practices associated with pre-Reformation funeral rites were ritualized to form very public articulations which emphasized the importance of the identity of the deceased individual, and increased the chances of their passage to heaven. However, the advent of the Reformation and implementation of the new Book of Common Prayer in 1552 drastically altered the funeral service of the late Middle Ages by shortening the service, abolishing purgatory so that the survivors could no longer intercede on behalf of the deceased, and outlawing the use of candles and bells. These changes started a trend towards a sense of death as a private not public loss and of burials being conducted at night.56 The shift from the public funeral parade of the late Middle Ages to an increasingly private model post the Reformation is reflected in the contrasting funerals of Lady Isabel Berkeley in 1516, and that of the 1596


Drama and the City

funeral of Lady Katharine Berkeley (her great-great-granddaughter by marriage). The Berkeley family seat was Caludon Castle near Wyken, Coventry. Lady Isabel’s death at the age of seventy was a lavish affair.57 Psalms were said continually from the moment of her death until the day of her burial some six days later. Bells were rung daily at the local Coventry churches of St Michael’s, Trinity, St John’s, Babylake, and the priory of St Mary’s. The day before the funeral her body was taken on a horse-drawn procession. The procession was led by over thirty women of livery wearing black gowns and carrying candles, followed by thirty-three guild members with candles, a horse parade comprised of her own servants, an order of brothers in white and grey, then priests before the hearse. Five gentlewomen followed the horse-drawn hearse. The procession was finally made up of the executors of her estate, civic dignitaries, the mayor, guild master, aldermen, sheriffs, chamberlains, and wardens. Lady Isabel’s hearse was taken to the priory where her coffin was laid to rest by the high altar while a funeral mass was held. The mayor attended mass at St Michael’s church. Following these services a feast took place, at Priory Hall. The banquet was extravagant and included cakes, comfetts, ale, marmeket, snoket, red wine and claret, wafers and blanch powder with Romney, and muskadele. The recorder rather pedantically notes, ‘and I thank God that noe plate ne spoones were lost, yet ther was xxti dozen spoones’.58 On Monday the funeral parade of Lady Isabel continued past streets lined with some 5000 to 6000 people to Binley Bridge, where the Abbot of Combe blessed the hearse before it continued on its way for interment in London. Lady Isabel’s funeral had been a public event; one which honoured her soul by involving a range of mourners from bystanders to civic authorities. The heraldic funeral of Lady Katharine Berkeley in 1596 showed a marked difference in the enactment of the ritual of a funeral. It charted the emergence of private rituals and shows how public involvement could be used for a different purpose. Lady Katharine’s corpse lay at Caludon between her death on 7 April and the funeral on 20 May; during this time she received ‘all ceremonies by day and night’.59 Two days before the funeral, her corpse was taken at night in a sealed coffin to Sampson Hoskin’s house in the centre of Coventry. The funeral parade from Hoskin’s house to the church of St Michael traversed a route of a quarter of a mile and the streets were surrounded by thousands of people; the parade followed the most

Drama and the City


circuitous route covering nearly four sides of a square to reach its destination. The parade was led by seventy poor women, followed by thirty gentlemen servants in black coats, knights in black cloaks, yeoman, seventy-four gentlemen, household officers (including the steward with a white rod in his hands – a symbol of penance), then gentlemen of the country, chaplains, the Chester Herald (supplied by the College of Arms), then the coffin followed by squires and lords with banners, then the chief mourner, Lady Strange, the eldest daughter of the late Earl of Derby clad in a gown, mantle, train, hood and veil, then women members of the family, noble women, women servants, and finally the mayor of Coventry, aldermen, and sheriffs. At the church the seventy poor women lined either side of the aisle and the coffin was taken to the east of the church near the pulpit. The chaplain’s sermon paid tribute to ‘her learned and virtuous life (a lady never known to dissemble or heard to swere with speech)’.60 During the funeral service much attention was given to the symbolic transfer of authority from Lady Katharine to her eldest son; banners were offered and taken up by him. Once this ritual was concluded the funeral participants went first to Mr Hopkin’s house and then onto Caludon Castle for a feast while the body of Katharine was interred in a vault in the church near the Drapers’ chapel. The recorder of the event remarks that, ‘I think it hardly possible to have all things better performed than were at this funeral.’61 The differences between the uses of a public funeral changed considerably during the eighty years between 1516 and 1596 which marked the burials of Lady Isabel and Lady Katharine. Lady Isabel’s funeral incorporated bells and candles, and the parade took place through both the city and the outlying parishes; it was a very public form of grief, accommodating thousands of spectators. Lady Katharine’s funeral contained elements which were performed privately at night and her parade was confined to a small part of the city centre. Much of the latter funeral was concerned with the symbolic passing of power from mother to son through the use of a heraldic funeral. So, while the funeral of Isabel evoked emotion and drew a spectatorship, Katharine’s ritual was able to control and stage grief and it manipulated the city in order to demonstrate aristocratic power.

City and Codes of Behaviour This chapter concludes with the examination of a final series of parades: that of the punishment parade. The public display of those


Drama and the City

who transgressed the city codes played an important part in regulating law and order within medieval towns. That the criminals paid their sentence in view of public witnesses increased the effectiveness of their punishment. Criminal justice proceedings in medieval Europe centred around four sites: the court, outside the courthouse or townhouse, the processional route through the city, and the place of execution: ‘Together these sites and routes comprised an entire topography of the city, which authorities often exploited for symbolic purposes.’62 Among other things, the parade of the accused to the place of execution was often used to symbolize the rank of the criminal. For example, the criminals might process on horseback and wear livery if they were high ranking, or walk shirtless if they were from a lower order. The parade often started at the courthouse in the centre of the town and accommodated a visit to the scene of the crime, ending at the gallows beyond the town walls. Thus the journey incorporated part of the official processional route that was outlined at the start of the chapter. It is significant that the criminals processed the route in reverse of that used by visiting dignitaries, so that it started in the centre and finished at the city walls. The parade included the criminal being dragged or wearing ropes or irons, so that the journey inflicted the maximum embarrassment and pain on the criminal. Ecclesiastical courts also subjected penitents to a range of humiliating public punishments which were served in the public spaces of the churchyard or market place. Records from the Rochester diocese show public beatings were enforced for adulterers, fornicators, and those that failed to observe holy days.63 The punishment of heretics, or Lollards, received elaborate consideration. Heretics, bare foot and wearing only a white sheet, carried a candle, with a bundle of offal on their back, and paraded to the four corners of a marketplace. They were led by a public official and followed by the priest’s assistant who carried a rod which was pointed at the heretic. At each corner of the market the penitent was whipped.64 As has been remarked of these religious penitential systems: ‘The practice and performance of penance in the late Middle Ages blurred the demarcation between viewer and actor, spectator and participant, law and drama.’65 The similarity between the punishment systems used in the city and those that occur within the dramatic representations of the period are marked. The York Crucifixion (examined further in the following chapter) and Buffeting of Christ demonstrate the use of punishment rituals to maximize the suffering of the body, as Jody Enders notes:

Drama and the City


Once the theatricality of medieval public ordeals is considered side by side with the ‘representations’ of public ordeals in the theatre, their interdependence is only too apparent. Both types of juridical spectacle exhort their audiences to experience the pleasures (voluntary or involuntary) of being witnesses to, participants in, and judges of acts of violence.66

Enders’ comment is pertinent, for this chapter has outlined the manner in which the performative rituals and processions of a city were interwoven with daily life, so that representation and reality were indiscernible. This chapter has discussed how a series of relationships, such as those between monarch, church, and the individual, were articulated within the processions undertaken in the early English city. These processions were responsible for self-fashioning the identity of the city and its inhabitants, and regulating behaviour. As has been noted: ‘processional movement does more than simply reflect the social power structures and ideologies: it actually creates those relations and commitments in performance’.67 The act of performing these rites in public meant that civic authority was shaped by its dramatic enactment.

4 Drama in the City: Processional Drama and Hybridity

In the winter of 1971–2 a young Canadian scholar was working at York Minister library when a librarian ‘tossed a document across the table and asked, “Would that be of any interest to you?” ’1 The document was a previously unknown fifteenth-century record from the York Mercers’ guild (exporters and importers of wool and cloth) which outlined details of their wagon used to stage The Last Judgement pageant in the annual York cycle. Two weeks later the scholar, Alexandra Johnston, was taken by chauffeur-driven Jaguar to the Mercers’ Hall in Fossgate, to study their archives. At the same time an Australian PhD student, Margaret (Dorrell) Rogerson had asked to see the Mercers’ records. Johnston, aware that Dorrell knew nothing of the 1433 indenture, reminisces that: ‘My first and entirely reprehensible instinct was to say, “Hide it!”; instead I made the best decision of my life and asked for her address, invited her to dinner, and proposed that we share the discovery.’2 The findings of Dorrell and Johnston were remarkable for a number of reasons: the discovery had taken place over five hundred years after the production of the Mercers’ pageant; the indenture provided evidence of one of the most detailed descriptions of a pageant wagon; and such a finding subsequently led Johnston to form REED (Records of Early English Drama) in 1975, an organization which has since then collected and published records of early dramatic activity in England and Scotland and shifted the shape of early drama research. The York Mercer’s 1433 indenture is a good place to start an examination of processional drama.3 It is believed that at York between the late fourteenth and mid sixteenth centuries cycle dramas comprising at least forty-eight plays

Drama in the City


were sponsored by civic authorities and trade guilds. Each guild was assigned a pageant (often one which reflected some aspect of the guild’s trade or status),4 and each pageant played in procession at a number of stations (between ten and sixteen each year). The cycle dramas occurred once a year and were associated with Corpus Christi Day which was introduced in 1311 and celebrated on the first Thursday after Trinity Sunday (a moveable date which fell between 21 May and 24 June – notably close to Midsummer’s Day). The pageant wagons, pulled by men around the city, told the story of Christ’s birth to resurrection and were prefaced by a series of Old Testament stories. As one of the wealthiest and most powerful guilds in medieval York, the Mercers were responsible for staging the climax to the occasion, The Last Judgement. The record of the staging of the pageant, discovered by Johnston and Rogerson, reveals a number of aspects regarding the use of the wagon and possible staging effects. It is clear that the wagon had two storeys, one served as a general acting area and the other, symbolized by decorative angels, represented heaven and was only used by God (who could most probably be raised on a pulley). Other aspects of the entry reveal evidence of how scenic representation was used within the plays. Here symbols were used to communicate the drama: the records refer to clouds, and a rainbow which signified heaven and God’s covenant to the people respectively. The Mercers’ indenture also provides evidence as to how the pageants were staged. Painted canvases provided a backdrop for the pageant, and the listing of side canvases suggests that the wagon was enclosed on three sides and that the audience viewed the action from the open front of the wagon for this pageant. The issue as to how the pageant stage was used in performance, and from which angle the audience viewed the action is one which has been disputed.5 Whereas it appears that for the Mercers’ pageant the audience was very tightly controlled and viewed the play from one angle, it is possible that other pageant wagons had an open back and sides and that the audience viewed them in the round, as will be discussed later. The mode of spectatorship for these processional dramas was very complex. The model of enactment meant that each pageant was played over ten times in a different location within the city, and although the pageants followed a specified order the audience was free to view these pageants however it chose. For example, they might have particular favourites, in which case they would process with the


Drama in the City

wagon to its next place of performance and watch it a second time. Audience members may have neglected other pageants; perhaps taking a break to get refreshments. It is possible that no two people had the same perspective of the plays; each watching different pageants at different places in a different order. There are a number of questions about the cycle dramas that are difficult to answer: How did they come into existence? Who actually controlled the cycles? How could forty-eight plays be played ten times each within a day? How were the pageant wagons used to stage the plays? These questions have been at the centre of much scholarly debate, and speculations over the cycles have undergone many changes since the late twentieth century. It was originally thought that between twenty or thirty medieval cities and towns hosted such cycles, but it is now recognized that perhaps this model of staging occurred only at Chester and York, from where the remaining texts and city records offer more convincing evidence. The question as to how the plays came into existence is inextricably linked to notions of who controlled the plays. An original thesis, now firmly discredited, proposed that religious drama developed in the market place when drama was expelled from the church.6 As earlier chapters have shown, drama was not simply ejected from the church, indeed religious organizations and the church building continued to play an important part in the growth of drama throughout the Middle Ages. The development of the plays has been linked more directly to the establishment of the Corpus Christi feast.7 Given that at York, and for a period at Chester, the plays were performed on Corpus Christi Day this idea seems compelling, particularly since the focus of the feast of Corpus Christi was upon the body of Christ and the cycle dramas vividly enacted the birth, crucifixion and resurrection of Christ’s body.8 There is, however, an issue as to how the plays evolved from a Corpus Christi procession; a holy day parade used to honour the body of Christ. It has been argued that the procession gradually became more elaborate so that a parade by dignitaries with a central figurehead representing Christ developed into tableaux that were placed on moving wagons, and were sponsored by trade crafts.9 However, much credence has been given to a ‘big bang’ theory in which the city elite are credited with establishing the plays as a method to control the commercial transactions of the city.10 This hypothesis is based on the fact that there was little evidence of the existence of trade guilds in York before 1349, and yet by 1376 there was indication of a possible Corpus Christi play at York. It has been

Drama in the City


argued that a mere twenty years was too short a time for guilds to be established and find the organizational backbone to launch large scale productions of the pageants. If the ‘big bang’ theory is correct the plays must have been built upon a pre-existing text or commissioned by a playwright.11 This notion of the ‘big bang’ theory is seen to answer some of the questions that surround the development of the cycle dramas. For example, the theory makes much sense of why there is ‘fundamental unity of theology and imagery’ within the cycle.12 Had each guild developed its pageant separately it would be unlikely that such unity would be found across the sequence of pageants. The ‘big bang’ theory also explains why such an unusual method of staging occurred at York: The council held jurisdiction within the walls of the city, and in the crowded streets there was no large open space where a play and its audience could be fitted. The processional mode, moving from one small playing site to another throughout the city, solved the problem and ensured civic control.13

The hypothesis of the ‘big bang’ theory suggests that the control of the plays lay with the civic elite: the city council and master guildsmen. It is clear that as well as control of the event, the council gained other benefits from staging the dramas. At York, the council, as patron of the cycle dramas, received income through hiring out the stations (the place where each pageant stopped and performed), via fines imposed upon the guilds and players, and through rents for storing the pageant wagons.14 Of course, the council received many other in-kind benefits from supporting the plays: control over their civic identity; an influx of tourists to visit the plays; and regulation of the guilds. Rather than seeing the plays as being controlled by the civic authorities, it is possible to argue that the plays fell under the auspices of several different controls. For example, scholar Kathleen Ashley, clearly influenced by the ideas of Mikhail Bakhtin, argues that the production of the cycle dramas should be seen as heteroglossic, in that they are the product of the iterations of a number of authoritative bodies.15 Ashley has suggested that: Such cultural productions as York cycle do not have one producer or audience or one social function but are so situated as to require the involvement of many kinds of producers, elicit many kinds of responses, and serve a variety of social needs.16


Drama in the City

In order to exemplify her point Ashley uses the Skinners’ pageant, The Entry into Jerusalem, to examine how the pageant might have served as a vehicle for both the city and the producing guild.17 The play dramatizes the citizens’ welcome of Christ to their city in a manner which mirrors the greeting offered by York to the plays and its audiences. There was an additional parallel between the pageant drama and the city of York that was revealed in performance. The pageant route taken by the cycle followed that of the processional route of royal entries to the city. Thus the fiction of the plays and the reality of the city were closely entwined. Ashley sees the production of the Skinners’ pageant serving not only city needs, but also those of the guild itself and visitors to the city. Although, as has been noted, there often appeared to be some link between the producing guild and the material of the play (such as the Shipbuilders’ who build an ark in the York flood plays), in the case of the Skinners on first glance there doesn’t seem to be any direct association.18 It is perhaps unclear how the Skinners might have shaped their guild identity through the production of the pageant. However, Ashley observes that since the Skinners were makers of furred garments as well as animal hides, their trade was probably reflected in the costumes worn in the procession of Aldermen within the Entry to Jerusalem pageant. In this sense, then, the guild can be seen as a ‘producer’ of the pageant in that it is able to reflect its identity and ‘differentiate itself from the common mass of guildsmen and also from the undifferentiated group of civic elites’.19 Using Ashley’s model, both the voices of the city, and the guild, can be found within the production of the pageants, and thus the pageants can be seen as heteroglossic, or comprising many voices. Modern stagings of the plays have done much to suggest how the cycles might have been performed. A great deal of critical attention has focused on the impossibility of processional playing. For example, it has been argued that it was impractical that each pageant played at every station and that instead the wagons simply processed around the city and then played once at the end of the route.20 However at Toronto in 1998, forty-eight of the York plays were played in procession in an event organized by medieval performance group, Poculi Ludique Societas. The pageants played at four stations in a performance that lasted from 6 am until midnight. Though the experiment was not conclusive, given that the processional route was far shorter than it was at York, it did suggest that processional playing was possible, though as a producer of the event remarked: ‘Whether all

Drama in the City


forty-eight pageants were ever done at one time remains an issue but we demonstrated that it could be done.’21 Another aspect of medieval pageant staging that the Toronto 1998 production illuminated was that of the relationship between the playing space of the pageant wagon and the audience. The Mercers’ record suggests they used a double-storey wagon which had a painted canvas sides and back, and that the spectators watched from the front. Not all wagons performed in this manner. One of the aims of the Toronto production was to test the effectiveness of end-on (using the front of the wagon) and broadside (the long side) playing. However, the issue of standardizing performances between pageants was soon found to be irrelevant and it became clear that different pageants held varying relationships with spectators. In The Temptation of Christ the direction of the wagon ‘was less important than the fact that one could see through the set from any angle, encouraging acting in the round’.22 In other pageants, such as The Remorse of Judas, the audience was encouraged to view predominantly from one side. Such pageants rely upon hidden stage devices, in this case equipment with which to perform the hanging of Judas. Although the spectacle worked best when viewed from the broadside of the wagon, many of the audience were tempted to circle about the wagon to see how the trick worked.23 The acting style used within the cycle plays in medieval England was highly representational, and critics have often drawn a parallel with the style advocated by German twentieth-century director Bertolt Brecht.24 Audiences of the medieval plays could not expect to identify with the actors as they might in a modern play. There was no consistency within the representation of the characters: each new pageant deployed a new actor for the role. This meant that during the course of the performance a spectator would see numerous interpretations of God, Christ, or Mary. It is likely that because of this the audience would maintain a Brechtian distance and employ critical judgement rather than emotional identification with the characters. However, such a suggestion depends on medieval spectators viewing with the same strategies as a contemporary audience. It is difficult to ascertain how the plays were enacted: were they played through the declamatory gestures and vocal style that Hamlet outlaws in his speech to the players?: Speak the speech I pray you as I pronounced it to you, trippingly on the tongue; but if you mouth it as many of your players do, I had as lief the town-crier spoke my lines. Nor do not saw the air too much


Drama in the City

with your hand thus, but use all gently; for in the very torrent, tempest, and, as I may say, whirlwind of your passion, you must acquire and beget a temperance that may give it smoothness. Oh, it offends me to the soul to hear a robustious periwig-pated fellow tear a passion to tatters, to very rags, to split the ears of the groundlings, who for the most part are capable of nothing but inexplicable dumb-shows and noise. I would have such a fellow whipped for o’erdoing Termagant – it out-Herods Herod. Pray you avoid it.25

In Hamlet’s criticisms there are perhaps some clues as to the style used by early drama. Hamlet identifies the over-passionate mode used by Herod, which concurs with textual indications from cycle drama. A stage direction from the Coventry Shearman and Taylors’ play indicates that ‘Here Erode ragis in the pagond and in the street also’,26 which suggests that such was Herod’s fury he descended from the pageant and continued to rant in the street. Hamlet’s criticism of over-passionate acting, shouting, and violent gesturing perhaps offers a model of medieval acting, but the texts also demand other modes. For example, records from York show that players were required to be well presented and speak clearly and that they could be fined for the breach of this.27 It has been argued that ‘What we know of acting styles [in early theatre] confirms a range from the formal, pictorial and emblematic, to the emotive, the rhetorical and the realistic.’28 It is evident within the texts that there is call for ‘realistic’ performance, such as the intimate scene between Mary and Elizabeth in the Visitation. However, the degree to which such a scene can be called ‘realistic’ is drawn into question by the fact that women’s roles were played by men. These figures were probably not the boy actors of Shakespeare’s theatre but apprentices or journeymen; probably late teenagers. Evidence from the Yorkshire town of Beverley has been used to discuss the way in which male actors portrayed women characters on stage. One entry notes that a male actor was ‘arrayed and robbed in the manner of a Queen and in the likeness of St Helena’. The terms such as ‘in the manner’ and ‘in the likeness’ suggest that a representational style of performance was used.29

Material Spectatorship and Hybridity In the last chapter some time was given to an investigation of processional models. There was consideration of the constituent characteristics and functions of processions, as well as the experience

Drama in the City


of participants and spectators. While the previous chapter was concerned with how various civic entertainments and cultural practices articulated a sense of the city, this chapter has shifted to focus upon the plays associated with the city, in particular those of Chester and York. So far this chapter has looked at how the pageants may have been staged but attention needs to shift now to the issue of production and reception of meaning and how the notion of material spectatorship might be embodied within the plays. In her study of fifteenth-century drama Ruth Nisse suggests that the pageants are rich with cultural connotations: In these works the reading of Scriptures, literary texts, bodies and signs indicates a dialogue between performance and locale that reflects the social production of meaning in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.30

In this section I shall argue that the production and reception of the cycle dramas was based upon the notion of hybridity. The term hybridity stems from the biological field where the cross-breeding of two species occurs, although it has been defined as ‘anything of heterogeneous origin or composition’ or even more vaguely as ‘a composite’.31 It is through this definition that the cycle dramas can be read: they are formed by the hybridity of the church, civic, and artisan voices. There are similarities between the notion of hybridity and that of anthropologist Lévi-Strauss’s ‘bricolage’, a mixed style in which forms are unhinged ‘from their rootedness in history and recombine[d] . . . in novel ways’.32 I shall be arguing here that the Chester and York cycles were important for the way in which they created a composite form. The ‘bricolage’ of the cycle dramas was formed through the hybrid voices of the city, church, and guilds. The pageants reflect the concerns of the city in maintaining its power; those of the church in controlling their ecclesiastical authority and in educating the laity; and those of the citizen producers and performers in representing their interests and status. Denise Ryan’s speculation on the listing in the Chester preReformation Banns of a performance overseen by the ‘Worshipful Wives’ offers an insight into how ‘hybridity’ can be seen within the cycles. Though the group of women are listed as sponsors there are no textual remains of the Assumption pageant at Chester. The Assumption pageant, if those at York and within the N-Town plays are anything to go by, celebrated the elevation of Mary’s body to Heaven. The Chester Banns describe the following:


Drama in the City The wurshipffull wyffys of this towne Ffynd of our Lady thassumpcion It to bryng forth they be bowne And meytene with all theyre might.33

As Ryan points out, the Banns clearly set out the role of the women as producers: ‘Their role was to “find,” to furnish or supply; “bring forth,” produce or cause, and to “maintain,” to preserve the play in working order.’34 Ryan suggests that the wives may have received their status of ‘worshipful’ if they were married to husbands holding important positions within the civic hierarchy,35 and points out that the term ‘worshipful’ was normally used at that time with regard to male justices of peace.36 It is also possible that the women might have been members of a religious guild set up specifically to honour the Virgin, and that this play was attached to that fraternity.37 If it is true that the Assumption play demonstrated the type of hybridity that I have been suggesting, then a variety of voices would be found within the production of the pageant. Firstly, it must be assumed that the Chester wives gained some benefit from their association. As ‘producers’ of the pageant, presumably the wives were responsible for the financial upkeep of the pageant; a position which affected not only them but also all women members of trade guilds. Given that the pageants were sponsored through the financial contributions of guilds, wealth gained through subscriptions and fines levied on the members, then it must be assumed that women (who made up a small percentage of guild membership) alongside men, were responsible for paying these dues, and thus funding the plays. As Ryan suggests of these women, ‘there is some possibility that their contribution purchased them a level of control over the cultural product which in turn consolidated (to some degree) their position within the guild, and hence civic, hierarchy’.38 Furthermore, the privilege and power afforded the Virgin Mary in medieval Europe must have meant that the women who were associated with the Chester pageant were elevated through her association.39 The Assumption was also a useful reflection of civic issues: The Assumption as an iconographic or dramatic theme was a pliable subject but was most readily adapted for honouring England’s queen consorts, whose positions in relation to their husbands were seen to parallel Mary’s position, as Queen of heaven, in relation to God.40

Drama in the City


The Assumption pageant indeed proved to be pliable in honouring a queen consort when it was used to celebrate the London coronation of Margaret of Anjou, wife of Henry VI in 1445.41 The voice of the church can doubtless be found within the Assumption play. The subject of the assumption formed a central part of the Catholic belief system. The doctrine was captured in numerous early writings and, although it was only officially made dogma as late as the 1950s, the celebration of the feast of the Assumption on 15 August was an annual part of the medieval celebratory world. The occasion was important locally and a late fifteenth or early sixteenth century sandstone carving of Mary’s assumption can be found at Chester cathedral.42 The assumption was important as it established Mary as the Queen of Heaven and as an intercessor between heaven and earth. However, the assumption can also be used as a touchstone to measure developments within the Reformation. The introduction of Archbishop Cranmer’s new prayer-book in 1549 and the 1548/9 Act of Uniformity, which regularized church services and celebrations, meant the feast of the Assumption was no longer observed.43 By the time of the composition of the Chester Register the Assumption play had been outlawed; a blow not only to Mariology, but also the worshipful wives who supported the play. The Assumption pageant at Chester demonstrates how a hybridity of voices can be heard. The pageant was important for the religious material it portrayed, for the civic representation of women in power, and for the individual status of the wives as producers. However, without a surviving text it is difficult to ascertain exactly how some of these concerns were made public.

Hybridity and the Texts One of the distinctive features of the cycle plays is how the pageants shaped their subject matter so that it was accessible to the citizens who viewed the cycles. One way in which the cycles were able to do this was by focusing on the activity of work. The notion of labouring was commonplace in medieval society, and is depicted in texts such as Langland’s Piers Plowman. The theme is woven into the cycle dramas: it begins with the notion of God’s work in The Creation to the Fifth Day, and continues through the Old Testament pageants such as Cain and Abel, Noah’s emphasis on the labour of building the ark, and the focus on the shepherds’ toil within the nativity pageant. Similarly the later pageants are often told through the


Drama in the City

experiences of the activity of the citizens, such as the soldiers at the Slaughter of the Innocents and the Crucifixion. Such is the emphasis on the notion that critic Kathleen Ashley posits that: Throughout the first seven plays of the cycle, which depict the Creation of the world and falls of Lucifer, Adam, Eve, and Cain, God establishes the importance of work by describing himself as the perfectionist master craftsman, continually seeking recognition for his accomplishments.44

She sees the theme of work explored in many subsequent pageants, and suggests it is an appropriate subject matter ‘for a city of merchants and guildsmen seeking to justify their activities’.45 The articulation of labour within the cycles forms one part of their hybridity. It is through this theme that the voice of the artisans can be heard. Their concern with trading is expressed through this dimension of the plays, and it is via this concern that I shall tackle the readings of the pageants that follow. The following section analyses a range of pageants from the York and Chester cycles. The selection is based on texts readily available within anthologies and is ordered in a manner that reflects the chronology of the cycles. I have chosen to focus primarily on York and Chester because the relationship that they held with their respective cities is clearer than the plays of Towneley and N-Town.46 The exception to this rule is the inclusion of the Towneley Second Shepherds’ Pageant, which is included here as it is such a popular text for study. At other times conventions within the N-Town and Towneley plays are referred to in order to offer a comparison with the particular pageant being discussed.

The Extant Texts Before looking at some individual pageants it is important to assess the nature of the evidence offered by such texts. At York there exists a ‘Register’ of the plays, a copy of the individual pageants, which was compiled in the 1460s–70s (some one hundred years after the first record of performance, and thus it is difficult to ascertain what may have played in either preceding or subsequent years). The Register contains forty-seven pageants and is held at the British Library.47 The copies of the pageants are recordings of the spoken word, and contain few indications of how the pageants were staged. Furthermore, it is not particularly easy to match these texts with the records

Drama in the City


of props and such like that have been unearthed by the work of the Records of Early English Drama project. It is not clear why the Register was held, although the possible date of its compilation is close to the time when the plays moved to Corpus Christi Day in 1476, and it may be that the city wanted to vet the pageants more carefully. Certainly by the sixteenth century there is evidence that the pageants were checked by a town clerk, and his annotations provide some useful details of stage action.48 The York Register is also useful for showing how the plays changed: crosses appear against the plays that concern the Virgin. These perhaps show the increasing Protestant concerns with such material and sometime between 1540 and 1550 these pageants were suspended before being fully withdrawn from the cycle in 1561. The Register reveals the degree to which the playing of the cycles was a shifting affair. Over the 200 years of the production of the plays at York there were many alterations made due to the civic, political and religious changes in the landscape of the city. Further evidence of the changing nature of the production of the plays can be found in a document contained within the city’s Memorandum Book. The Ordo Paginarum dates from 1415 and catalogues the name of the pageant, the guild responsible for it, and a short description of the subject matter. When placed alongside the Register, the Ordo reveals how the fortunes of the guilds and thus the plays changed in the fifty-year period that separates them. The Chester texts reflect a very different picture from those of York. The extant texts from Chester are believed to be from the sixteenth century and are thus much later than those of York. Four manuscript copies of the Chester plays survive, but interestingly they all post-date the last known production of the plays at Whitsun. It is probable that the surviving manuscripts were copied from an earlier version that has now been lost; but it is unclear what drove the copyists to create further manuscripts after the cessation of the performance of the plays. One suggestion is that they represent a desire to preserve a part of Chester’s history. But the fact that the text of the plays was recorded both after the production of the dramas and in the post-Reformation period challenges the sense of how far they might correspond to what was played. This late recording has also been used to explain the rather more formal and distant tone that has been identified in the Chester plays: ‘In contrast to the sometimes urgent demands for empathetic response made by York and Towneley, Chester holds its material at a contemplative distance, inviting its audience to ponder its plays calmly and thoughtfully.’49


Drama in the City

Additional documents which are of use in considering the Chester plays are the two sets of Banns that accompany the manuscript. The pre-Reformation Banns, intended to advertise the plays each year, were originally composed between the early 1500s and 1520s. The Banns directly associate the former Corpus Christi plays with the Whitsun plays (at Chester the plays moved from Corpus Christi Day to Whitsun by 1521). They divide the celebrations into two parts. It charges the clergy to organize the Corpus Christi procession; while the plays are to be brought forth by each craft. The list of the various pageants and a brief description of each gives some indication of the performance details. For example, the instructions given to the Mercers shows the degree of elaborate design that might have accompanied the pageants: With sondry cullors it shall shine Of velvit, satten and damaske fyne.50

In listing the numerous crafts that were to bring forth plays the preReformation Banns create a sense of the procession on the page, each guild and their play follows one after another. The post-Reformation Banns, dating from sometime after 1575, demonstrate a radial change in tone. The exuberance of the preReformation Banns is replaced by a more formal and stately tone. It has been pointed out that the instructions to the Bakers over the presentation of The Last Supper are particularly pertinent. Here the craft is reminded that they are presenting a ‘memoriall’ of Christ’s passion; a clear stamp of Protestant theology which did not believe in transubstantiation (that the host was actually Christ’s body).51 The existence of these two sets of Banns show how over time the plays were subject to alterations in their playing day, the nature of the plays included, and the religious outlook of the material. In interpreting the extant texts it is important to remember that these are not reliable records of what occurred, and that during the 200 year period of the plays’ production substantial changes to the text would have been seen.

Chester The Fall of Lucifer and York Fall of Man The Fall of Lucifer begins the Chester cycle and has an important function in starting the chronology which dictates the cycle. The cycle tells the narrative of the creation of the world and concludes at the end of time. Although the play is based on non-biblical material, The

Drama in the City


Fall of Lucifer is important theologically as it explains how evil came to be part of the creation process.52 Of particular note within the play is the establishment of an over-riding dramatic pattern: that of overreaching with a subsequent fall. In this respect the pageant prefigures not only the Fall of Man, but the dramatization of Lucifer/Satan acts as a prototype for a whole series of characterizations of proud rulers that follow including Herod, Pilate, and at times God. The establishment of hierarchy and order is of utmost importance in the play and it is a theme which is repeatedly revisited. The identification and maintenance of rank is a trope which is initiated by the presentation of God, who establishes himself as the prime leader at the top of the ladder. As he labours to create order in heaven, he is quick to assign exact positions to his angels: ‘Eche one of you kepe well his place.’53 Lucifer’s pride places himself in his mind’s eye as God’s equal: ‘Then sholde I be as wise as he.’54 Lucifer ignores the warnings of the other angels, and spurred on by Lightburne and with a growing sense of pride, places himself in God’s seat and asks that the other angels bow down to him. As Lucifer takes God’s throne he draws an analogy between himself as a lord above his fiefdom: I am your comfort both lord and head, The myrth and the might of the maiesty.55

This notion of lordly power would be well known to the medieval citizens who often suffered at the hands of their fief and this likely predisposed them to be unsympathetic towards Lucifer. The theme of hierarchy is continued within the pageant. In discovering Lucifer’s sin, God ensures that the punishment matches the crime. Lucifer’s price for usurping order is the loss of all status. A sorrowful God, in a tone reminiscent of that which Christ uses later in the Harrowing of Hell pageant, states: I made thee my frende, thou arte my foe! [Whie hast thou] trespassed thus to me?56

God’s disappointment will, of course, be repeated in the ensuing Fall of Man. The pageant closes with a depiction of Lucifer in hell, the lowest point of all, from where he begins to plot the downfall of man. This moment, like many others that occur within the cycles, is anachronistic since man has yet to be made. This use of multi-chronologies would not have been confusing to a medieval audience used to


Drama in the City

representations such as stained glass windows which presented multiple time frames. The Fall of Lucifer offers some indications of stagecraft which are worthy of note. The thematic use of light within the pageant bears a correspondence to the time of performance. Lucifer, the bearer of light, frequently refers to his brightness: ‘All heaven shynes throughe my brightnes’.57 The continual references to light are a reminder that the performance of this pageant took place at the start of the day, perhaps as dawn broke. Other indications of performance factors come from the scenic aspects that are required by the pageant. The expulsion of Lucifer and Lightburne to hell, described by Lightburne as a dungeon, provided the opportunity for a spectacular Hell’s Mouth to be situated below the main pageant stage. Furthermore the reference to Lucifer’s decaying or ‘stinking face’ was probably shown by the actor wearing a mask which perhaps cracked at this point.58 The York Fall of Man continues the preoccupation with the themes of hierarchy and labour. Here, the attempt at usurping order is paid for with the punishment of earthly labour. The pageant shows Satan, disguised as a serpent, approaching Eve and tempting her with the very thing that led to his own downfall: equality with God. Eve and Adam bite of the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. God’s punishment for the crime of disobedience includes Adam and Eve’s expulsion from Eden and that they shall labour on the land: In earth then shall ye sweat and swink, And travail for your food.59

As in the previous pageant, liturgical material has been augmented by other sources. The words spoken between Satan and Eve do not appear in biblical sources. A dimension that the dramatist introduces here is the notion of gender difference. Since Eve takes the first bite of the apple she is seen by Adam to be more responsible for the Fall, and through this portrayal holds a greater share of the burden of original sin; the sin of the Fall. Eve’s portrayal within the pageant sets up a pattern of representing sinful women within the cycles. The harsh treatment generally of women within both the Bible and other cultural and social representations is upheld by the cycle dramatists. In casting Eve as the original sinning woman, she becomes a prototype for a series of representations that follow: Mrs Noah, The Woman Taken in Adultery, Pilate’s wife, and aspects of Mary Magdalene.

Drama in the City


It is worth noting that a closer examination of Adam within the Fall of Man shows that he too is not above moral reproach. Adam is similarly tempted by the desire to move up the hierarchical order, and bites the apple after Eve has tempted him. However, having bitten the apple, he is quick to blame Eve. As has been noted: Adam is not of particularly impressive moral stature in this play: he accepts the fruit for the same selfish reasons as Eve, rather than out of love for her. Later when God confronts him with his crime, far from presenting an example of contrition, Adam peevishly blames his wife.60

In terms of staging, the pageant demonstrates some features which are typical to many other plays in the cycle. The pageant begins with a prologue by Satan recapping the events that led to his fall. Many pageants used the prologue to ensure that members of the audience could understand the action whether or not they had seen the previous pageant. Modern-day experiments have shown that such prologues could be useful in covering the set up of a wagon when it arrived at a station.61 The costumes for the Fall of Man pageant are challenging since Adam and Eve must transform from their state of naturalness to carrying the burden of original sin and thus covering their bodies. Records from Coventry show that white leather skin costumes were used for Adam and Eve, presumably they represented the pre-fallen state.62 At Norwich the fallen Adam and Eve donned coats, ‘hosen’ and wigs.63 The pageant obviously required scenic effects too. How far the wagon may have depicted Eden is difficult to tell, but at the least a Tree of Knowledge and apple were required for the action.

Chester Noah Play The Noah pageants continue the themes of labour, hierarchy, and gender representation. The Chester Noah pageant, since it concerns the flood, was aptly presented by the Waterleaders and Drawers of Dee. However, in comparison with the other extant pageants, particularly that of Towneley, it has been pointed out that ‘the Chester dramatist was more orthodox and comprehensive in his approach to the story’.64 The Chester Noah pageant focuses more strongly on the roles of God and Noah, perhaps another indication of the postReformation concern with order that permeates the lateness of the Chester manuscripts. Other versions of this pageant use the


Drama in the City

opportunity to focus upon the battle between Noah and his wife,65 and cast Mrs Noah as a type of second Eve in which her reluctance to enter the ark is paralleled with the original sin of Eve. The flood sequence is important theologically as it represents the renewal of God’s covenant with humankind. The subject matter shows the sins of the world being punished by God’s devastation through forty days and forty nights of flood. The ark, loaded with different species of animals and the Noah family, survives the flood to offer new hope. Within this narrative the presentation of Mrs Noah, who turns from doubter to believer, is of importance. This over-arching pattern from sinner to saint has led critics to interpret Mrs Noah as offering an allegory for conversion to Christianity.66 The concern with hierarchy is expressed from the outset of this pageant through the portrayal of God. The Chester pageant starts with a vengeful God disappointed by the sinful behaviour he witnesses on earth. He resolves to obliterate the sin by destroying each strata of creation: Manne that I made I will destroy, Beast, worme, and fowle to flie; For on earthe thwy doe me nye, The folke that is theron.67

God’s assertion of hierarchy is continued as he instructs Noah to build the ark. The tone of the commanding Chester God has led observers to remark on the effect this has on the portrayal of other characters within the pageant: ‘The emphasis on a powerful God in the Chester cycle seems also to inspire the persistent elevation of man above women.’68 Noah’s completion of the ark is used as a moment to establish his obedience to God, as well as to highlight his aptitude as a workman. Other versions of this pageant find much comedy within this situation and play upon Noah’s decrepit status and incompetence at building. At Chester Noah is a confident workman; he understands God’s commission for the ark and instructs his sons to help him. Centrality is given to the notion of labour, which is linked here to a sense of obedience: Have done, yow men and women all! Helpe for ought that may befall To worke this ship, chamber and hall. As God hath bidden us doe.69

Drama in the City


The ark is continually used as a metaphor through which to demonstrate issues of rank. For example, once the ark is completed, Noah instructs his family to board the ‘castle’, a term which reflects medieval associations with high ranking fiefs. It is over the issue of the ark that Mrs Noah’s disobedience is first revealed. Her refusal to take her natural place on the ship leads Noah to open up a gender war. In a speech, perhaps addressed directly to the men in the audience, Noah complains about women’s bad-temperedness and lack of humility.70 The dispute over natural order and hierarchy is amplified by Mrs Noah’s preference to reside in the town with her ‘gossips’ whom she wants to save from drowning since ‘They loved me full well’.71 Noah uses his children to beg their mother to enter the ark, but as the waters rise she prefers to stay drinking malmsey with her friends. Obedience is forced upon Mrs Noah as she is carried on to the ark by her sons, though she manages one last attack against the forced hierarchy when she strikes Noah as she crosses the threshold of the boat. For the rest of the journey Mrs Noah is silenced, apart from joining the family for hymn singing during the fullness of the flood. The pageant succeeds in portraying the re-establishment of orderliness and obedience through the image of the Noahs on board the three-storey ark. The theme of labour is explored within the flood pageant through the task of building the ark.72 The pageant’s scenic requirement of an ark gave guilds the opportunity to show off their skills; this is perhaps most evident at York where the shipbuilders’ craft were assigned the flood pageant. At Chester craftsmanship is emphasized as Noah’s sons display their might and prowess with the tools they are assigned to build the ark: axe, hatchet, and hammer. The construction of the ark is also used to heighten gender difference, since the women are less active within the building, though somewhat paradoxically Mrs Noah declares that ‘Women be weake to underfoe / Any great Travayle,’73 while carrying timber planking. The presentation of Mrs Noah within the pageant as a worker, through both her help with the construction of the ark at Chester and her spinning within other versions of the pageant, has encouraged interpretations of Mrs Noah within the context of conditions for medieval women. As medieval literature such as the ‘Ballad of the Tyrannical Husband’ depicts, women were assigned the doubleburden of raising a family and earning a living. Ruth Evans has examined ‘the ways in which Towneley Noah’s wife challenges and not confirms a dominant patriarchal ideology’.74 Even within the Chester pageant Mrs Noah tests patriarchal order as her concerns


Drama in the City

are shown not to be domestic, but with her wider social existence. She is less troubled by losing her husband and grown-up children than she is by the destruction of her community, and the loss of her friends. In other versions, particularly that of Towneley, Mrs Noah is shown spinning with her distaff and as the flood comes it is this work that she refuses to leave. Mrs Noah is depicted as a spinner, a successful lone trader, standing her ground rather than joining her family. Evans reads Mrs Noah’s trading success, and the subsequent treatment that she receives at the hands of Noah, as a response to ‘women’s specific economic threat to the received sex-gender system’75 Indeed, such a threat seems to have been felt within fifteenth-century England where regulations increasingly excluded women spinners from trading.76 Perhaps for women in the audience watching Mrs Noah give up her distaff amidst the increasingly prohibitive regulations of late medieval England found particular resonance. It is worth asking why the dramatists chose to represent Mrs Noah as a unruly wife. Within Genesis it is Noah who is presented in an adverse manner (drunk and asleep in the vineyards), while Mrs Noah offers no resistance to boarding the ark.77 Though Mrs Noah has been perceived as the ‘roof-form of the shrewish wife’,78 the AngloSaxon Caedmon Manuscript depicts a wife reluctant to enter the ark.79 Further representations in the Queen Mary’s Psalter show the devil influencing Mrs Noah as a way to prevent the ark from floating.80 Representations of hen-pecked husbands abound in the popular French medieval stories or fabliaux. So the cycle dramatists may have sketched Mrs Noah as a hen-pecking wife in order to appeal to popular interest and to add comic play to the pageant. Indeed the popular elements within the Noah play and Mrs Noah’s dominance resemble ‘a state of topsy-turvy licensed by traditional practice on St John’s Day, Midsummer Day’.81 Festive battle of the sexes, in which there can be seen a parallel with the Noahs, also occurred on the Spinners’ St Distaff’s Day held on 7 January when women returned to their spinning after Christmas. This festive event included men setting fire to women’s flax and the women then dousing both the flax and their husbands with water.82

Towneley Second Shepherds’ Pageant The Towneley Second Shepherds’ Pageant, like the Noah plays, used an integration of popular elements to communicate its theology. It is the most famous of the ‘mystery’ pageants. The skill of the dramatist

Drama in the City


in contrasting the rough humour of the shepherds with the birth of Christ is to be admired. Little is known about the performance conditions of the pageant. It was originally referred to as the Wakefield Second Shepherds’ Pageant, however there is no convincing evidence to tie the collection of plays to the Yorkshire town of Wakefield and the plays are now known by the name of the family who held the manuscript; the Towneleys. The collection of plays held within the manuscript seem to form a cycle, and at times show much similarity to York, creating a sense that material had been borrowed and adapted from there. However, recent studies have shown that the material is not part of a cycle, and it is uncertain in what contexts plays such as the Second Shepherds’ Pageant were performed.83 It is possible that the pageant was performed at Christmas as a discrete entertainment in a private house, or that it was presented as a short sequence of plays, but it unlikely it was performed in a cycle on the scale of York or Chester. An indication within the text of the Second Shepherds’ Pageant links it to the vicinity of Wakefield. The mention of Horbury, a village to the south of Wakefield, suggests the play was a piece of local drama.84 The Second Shepherds’ Pageant is subject to such frequent study because of the skill of the conceit of the drama. The play effortlessly weaves together the labours of the common man (represented by the shepherds) with the theology of the nativity, and carefully counterpoints these two dynamics through use of irony. The three Shepherds, Mak and his wife Gyll are used within a comedic sub-plot to mirror the birth of Christ. The first half of the pageant explores the hardship of the shepherds and Mak and Gyll. The shepherds complain about taxation, and the harshness of living under landlords: We are so hamyd For-taxed and ramyd We are mayde hand tamyd With thys gentlery men.85

Mak and Gyll then exemplify these themes: we see the starvation that leads them to steal the sheep (‘I ete not an nedyll / Thys moneth and more’),86 and witness the battle of the sexes, a theme familiar from earlier pageants. It is significant that the pageant tells the story of the nativity through the voices of not only the shepherds, but also the low-status characters of Mak and Gyll. The effect of this is to highlight the situation of the underclass and by association to identify Christ with poverty.


Drama in the City

The pageant makes much play of that which is disguised and that which is real. The topic is first introduced when Mak appears on stage covered in a tunic or cloak and sporting a ‘southern tooth’ or accent. Though the shepherds see through this disguise, Mak is still able to employ the deceit of magic to induce the shepherds to sleep so that he can steel a sheep to eat. The main descant of deceit is employed when Mak and Gyll attempt to disguise the stolen sheep as a newly born baby. It is a scene where the sheep-child is paralleled with the birth of the Lamb of God in the second half of the pageant. Gyll claims that: I pray to God so mylde, If ever I you begyld, That I ete this chylde That lygys in this credyll.87

She offers to eat the lamb if she has tricked the shepherds over the identity of the child. Of course the moment is full of irony, for it is Gyll’s intention to devour the lamb. The moment also parallels the notion of the Lamb of God; for the Eucharistic body or wafer is eaten by the communicant. In revealing the disguise of Mak’s sheep the shepherds are able to discover the true Lamb of God: Christ. The pageant’s focus on the nativity through the eyes of the characters of the sub-plot has the effect of emphasizing the quality of humility. It is the humble actions of the shepherds that reveal the trickery of Mak. The shepherds, having been swayed by Mak and Gyll’s scheme, leave the cottage but then return a second time realizing they have not given a gift to the newly born child: ‘I trow not oone farthing’.88 Their willingness to give what little they have is repeated at the true Nativity when they present Christ with the gifts of cherries, a bird and a ball. The focus upon the action through the eyes of the workers is a theme that is reiterated by the pageants time after time. The effects of this technique are at their most startling in the York Crucifixion pageant that is told from the point of view of the workers who nail Christ’s body to the Cross.

York Crucifixion The climax of the cycle dramas, although by no means the conclusion of the sequence, is in many ways the Crucifixion of Christ. It is here that spectacle and theology are conjoined to create a sensational

Drama in the City


effect. The iconic presence of the mutilated body of Christ served as a reminder as to the purpose of the celebrations of Corpus Christi Day and placed the representation of the body centre stage. Through a process which has been referred to as ‘cross-referencing’89 a build up of pageants which concern sacrifice, such as Noah’s flood, Cain and Abel and Abraham and Isaac find conclusion here in the Crucifixion play. Within the York cycles some twelve pageants group around the theme of the Crucifixion, and thus dramatically pinpoint its importance.90 The York Crucifixion pageant is among one of the most skilfully drawn plays of the cycles and the craft of the playwriting has led to suggestions that a figure called the ‘York Realist’ was responsible for drafting this pageant. The pageant was sponsored by the Pinners, makers of nails and pins, and the gruesome Crucifixion of Christ gives plenty of opportunity for them to display their wares. The dramatist decides to focus the action of the pageant around the four soldiers as they stretch, pull and hammer Christ to the Cross. Christ is afforded only two speeches; for most of the pageant his body lies horizontal on the floor of the wagon and probably out of sight of most audience members. Instead the pageant centres on the action of the labours of the soldiers who act as workmen for the construction of the Cross. Indeed, the whole of the rhythm and action of the pageant is constructed so that the soldiers can fit in their work on the Cross.91 Aware that they must complete their work by noon, the soldiers work with urgency and focus their attention on the mechanics of their labour: ‘So that oure wirkyng be noght wronge.’92 The soldiers demonstrate polemical views in their attitude to Christ, calling him a ‘traitor’ and hurrying to complete their task of hanging him. As the soldiers continue with their work they spend much time describing exactly how they shall fit Christ’s body to the Cross. No details are spared as they pull his body to the point where sinews rip. However, the plausibility of the soldiers’ techniques is undermined by the eventual mismatch of Christ’s body to the Cross, and their workmanship is tested further when they need to raise his body and the Cross to a point of standing. The Third Soldier is apprehensive as to whether they will manage the task: Now certis, I hope it schall noght need To calle us more companye.93

The soldiers show the physical difficulty of the task of lifting a real body by complaining afterwards of the stress it has placed on their


Drama in the City

bodies: ‘My schuldir is in soundre’, declares the first soldier, ‘And sertis I am nere schente’, complains Soldier 2.94 Unable to fix the Cross in place the breathless soldiers lay Christ down again, believing that he has worked some magic to prevent them from completing the task. As revenge, the second time they lift the Cross they drop it into the mortice with a jolt so that ‘This falling was more felle / Than all the narmes he hadde’.95 Even when they have the Cross erect they cannot rest. The soldiers discover the mortice is too wide (presumably Christ on the Cross would sway precariously at this point) and again reveal their bodged workmanship as they are forced to wedge the Cross in order to anchor it. The moment of Christ on the Cross signals a change in tone. Focus shifts from the labours of the soldiers to the emotional and theological impact of the wounded body on display. As has been noted, Christ’s plea to ‘For-giffis thes men that dois me pyne’,96 is ‘ambiguous [in] that it can include the members of the audience who have passively stood by and allowed the Crucifixion to happen’.97 The pageant’s clever ending finishes not with a focus on Christ but with the pettiness of the soldiers bickering over who should keep his coat. This ‘game’ demonstrates that the pageant is able to shift tone between the comic soldiers and the Crucifixion of Christ which speaks much of the complexity of production and spectatorship of early drama. The spectacle of the suffering body of Christ serves a multitude of purposes. On the one hand, the physical pain of Christ is used to promote an affective piety; an individual religious relationship encouraged through reflecting on Christ’s pain and a popular form of devotion in the Middle Ages.98 Beyond that the fragmented body on display served to remind the spectators of the notion of Corpus Christi and the importance of the host or sacrament. Christ’s body has also been subjected to numerous critical readings: it has been seen as a type of double-gendered body in which the bleeding wound is seen as a type of lactating breast, and the Crucifixion has been read as a type of gang-rape.99

York The Last Judgement The York Mercers, textile traders and one of the wealthiest guilds at York, seemed well placed to produce a spectacular finale to the pageant cycles. The play is the theological climax to the cycles and is based upon the biblical gospel of Matthew. Judgement Day, the moment at which souls were condemned to hell or could ascend to

Drama in the City


heaven, was a popular subject for portrayal among stained glass windows and parish church walls. This popularity shows the importance of the soul in medieval times. Much of their lives were spent ensuring the well-being of their souls through regular worship and meditation. The Doomsday pageant offered another opportunity for medieval audiences to contemplate their spiritual health. As was noted at the beginning of this chapter, the Mercers Indenture from 1433 gives some details of the possible staging of the pageant. The record suggests that the wagon used had two storeys; and contained a mechanical swing which allowed God, as Christ, to descend from the top storey to make the judgement. The upper level contained clouds and stars and was used to represent heaven. The lower platform of the wagon was used for earth, while Hell’s Mouth, according to the Indenture, was represented by a separate structure, perhaps placed to the side of the wagon. The play begins with God sitting in heaven recounting the Fall of mankind, the futile descent of Christ to earth, and his disappointment and hopeless in humankind. Much of his speech recounts the action of earlier parts of the cycle and it thus is a fitting finale to the event. The language and verse structure of the pageant is formal: full of alliteration, and written in tight rhyming couplets. The effect of this formality is to create a tone of authority; the sense of lecturing also creates a didactic tenor for the members of the audience to contemplate their own behaviour. God laments the sin of the world and the inability of humankind to recognize their actions: Men seis the worlde but vanite, Yitt will no manne be ware ther-by; Ilke a day ther mirroure may their se, Yitt thynke thie noght that thei schall dye.100

He sends his angels to blow their trumpets to call the beginning of the judgement. The pageant continually uses a tone which is akin to that of a sermon. Within this pageant there is no comedic play and the devils are kept under rein. The authority lies with God and the implications of doomsday. The pageant requires a large cast of characters: God, Christ, Angels, Good and Bad souls, Devils, the Apostles (his twelve disciples). The Indenture provides some detail concerning the spectacle that accompanied these: the devils wore two-sided masks, the angels and God wore gilt (golden) masks. The pageant was accompanied by


Drama in the City

trumpets and song (the angels sing twice within the pageant, although there is no record of precisely what was sung). The pageant steers between the judgement of onstage characters and the deliverance of a series of warnings to the audience. This movement from internal to external address shapes the play so that the audience perceives that the doomsday belongs not just to those on stage but also to spectators. The pageant ends with Christ extending his welcome to heaven beyond the chosen good souls to include the audience: Mi chosen childir, comes unto me; With me to wonne nowe schall ye wende; There joie and blisse schall ever be; Youre liffe in lyking schall ye lende.101

As night falls, the final moments of the play are given over to spectacle: a stage direction reveals that the angels sing a melody while they traverse to and fro across the wagon.

City Spectatorship As can be seen from the examples above, the cycle dramas of York and Chester reflect concerns which extend beyond that of religious didacticism. Frequently the subject matter is used to open up a discourse on issues of hierarchy and labour. This shows how the concerns of the citizens formed part of the hybridity of the texts, and it is with the figure of the city spectator that this chapter concludes. As has been discussed throughout this book, the act of spectatorship formed an important part of the production of an event. Nowhere was this clearer than within the cycle dramas since they were performed on the streets among spectators. Critics have investigated the importance of the city to the spectatorship of the cycle dramas. For example, Claire Sponsler examines the habitation patterns of civic residents and postulates that the development of ‘quarters’ and areas dedicated to certain trades within the medieval city, meant that spectatorship was also marked by differing interests. Through utilizing ideas of divergence (the way in which individual audience members differ in their response), she unsettles the traditional notions of medieval spectatorship as homogeneous ‘corporate and . . . sharing, within broad socioeconomic groupings’.102

Drama in the City


Sponsler argues that the constituency of medieval towns was diverse, for although the town walls formed an enclosed community for the inhabitants, the town itself was divided into very specific neighbourhoods which frequently reflected rank and occupation, such as Butcher’s Row, Ironmonger’s Row, while the town centre hosted civic and religious buildings alongside the quarters for the wealthiest members of the town. According to this argument, an urban performance would provoke a variety of responses within an audience since the audience was not homogenous. Sponsler is quick to point out, however, that though groups sharing similar socioeconomic backgrounds might suggest they received performances in a shared way: ‘Agreeing on basic elements does not imply a unified, collectively shared meaning for the performance. Instead, a range of meanings is available for each individual, although cultural and social forces will tend to encourage one reading over another.’103 Sponsler’s ideas are interesting. However, she assumes that the pattern of division of specialist quarters could be mapped onto patterns of spectatorship. Since the dramas were performed on a holy day, when labour ceased, there is nothing to suggest that inhabitants watched the plays from their own quarters. Indeed, the processional mode of performance suggests that many of the audience were probably not tied to one place of spectatorship, but perambulated with the procession. What is significant in Sponsler’s analysis is the notion that the audience was not homogenous and that it received the spectacle through a diversity of viewpoints. The hybridity on display within the cycles was also at play within the responses of the spectators. In this manner the cycle dramas were able to articulate a fluid dialogue with their spectators and it is this ability which explains the longevity of the pageants within medieval society.

5 Fixed-Place Drama: Place-and-Scaffold

The previous two chapters have focused upon the fluidity of processional performance. The form of spectatorship analysed within this chapter demonstrates a paradigm shift from drama that processed to that of fixed-place staging. Within fixed place-and-scaffold staging the openness of the streets was replaced by an increasing formalization which curtailed the movement of the spectator. Instead of crowding around pageant wagons within the streets here spectators were assembled on open spaces to watch players. In this form of spectatorship the hybridity of the cycle dramas was replaced with fixed stages, and clearer definition between the often semi-professional players and the local spectators. The type of drama that I am examining in this category is that performed using place and scaffold staging, which ‘is basically a method of staging, a use of space rather than a demarcation or design of space’.1 Within this construction the place, or platea, is a general open space, while the scaffolds act as loci, and represent specific locations. While pageant playing can be read as using a type of place and scaffold staging, whereby the wagons served as loci and the street as the platea, it is debatable to what degree the streets performed this function. As has been discussed in the previous chapter, aside from the stage direction which shows Herod rampaged through the streets, there is little evidence which supports the idea that playing occurred off the wagon. I am not arguing that the relationship between the actors and audience was static within place-andscaffold staging but that the audience and action was more contained and this was a distinctive shift from processional to fixed-place drama.

Fixed-Place Drama


The discussion of spatial conventions within place-and-scaffold staging is aided by the work of Robert Weimann. Weimann has argued that the notion of the platea and locus were a central dynamic which could be found within many forms of early drama. He suggests that the use of these two spaces brought about a ‘doubleness’ within the representative space of the medieval ‘stage’ in which ‘the platea becomes part of the symbolic meaning of the play world, and the locus is made to support the dialectic of self-expression and representation’.2 In other words, the platea demonstrates wider representations while the locus reflects more individually based concerns. It is within a series of plays that are believed to have originated from East Anglia that use of place-and-scaffold staging can perhaps be seen. There are no records that testify as to how and where these plays were performed, but as will be shown, they embrace a number of similar dramaturgical devices. Part of the similarity of approach may stem from the circumstances surrounding the area from where they were most likely located. Within the Middle Ages, East Anglia was prosperous but because it was dependent upon the wool trade it was ‘persistently rural’.3 The towns in this region did not develop cycle dramas as at York or Chester since they did not have the guild infrastructures to do so, but instead hosted a wealth of drama which was more suited to playing within rural communities. It is possible to identify some of the themes and features of the place-and-scaffold East Anglian dramas through an initial survey of The Castle of Perseverance, a fifteenth-century manuscript of unknown provenance. It is perhaps fitting that the text of The Castle of Perseverance concerns itself with the mercantile vices of covetousness since these themes were attractive to a busy trading community, such as those of the towns of East Anglia. Within the play it has been noted that while the overriding theme concerns the pilgrimage of life, its social metaphor involves that of economics.4 There are a number of ways that money matters are explored within the play, such as frequent gift-giving and promises of rewards between Mankind and Covetousness. It has been noted that the text is littered with the language of repayment, as can be seen in the exchanges between God and Mankind.5 Feudal terminology also permeates the play; in fact Mankind has been read as World’s liveried retainer since he receives a type of feudal investiture (the ceremony to assume a fiefdom) at his scaffold and his endowment occurs at Covetousness’s scaffold.6 Beyond its demonstration of mercantile concerns The Castle of Perseverance is of particular interest because it includes details of what is thought to be either a stage design or spatial plan for the


Fixed-Place Drama

staging of the play.7 It must be remembered though ‘The status and provenance of the Perseverance manuscript leaves us in some doubt about whether we can certainly conclude that it was ever performed . . . nevertheless it is clear that performance was at least envisaged in some detail’.8 The stage plan shows five scaffolds arranged in a circle, in the middle of a platea is a scaffold representing the Castle, with a bed for Mankind underneath. The platea itself is surrounded by a circle which denotes either a ditch or a fence. Scholars have noted how the plan forms a type of mappa mundi with heaven in the east and earth in the west; the castle in the centre occupies the usual position of Jerusalem.9 This plan has created endless speculation among scholars: some have used the drawing as evidence of widespread in-the-round playing during medieval times, while others suggest that the drawing should be read metaphorically.10 One of the greatest points of disagreement is where the audience was placed within the possible performance space. The drawing indicates that they should not be allowed to sit on the Castle, but there is disagreement as to whether the audience was placed within the platea, or whether the ditch provided banks upon which the spectators could watch.11 Beyond the possible stage plan, the text of The Castle of Perseverance also offers an insight into the nature of the physical space used within such epic texts. Andrea Harbin has analysed the spatial proxemics (the use of the body within space) within medieval religious texts including that of The Castle of Perseverance. She draws upon the work of semiotician Kier Elam to aid her discussion. According to Harbin, Elam identifies three ‘syntactic’ (structural) proxemic systems at work within performance those of fixed-feature, semifixed-feature, and informal. These systems are determined by the flexibility between the actors and audience, whereby the fixed system is one in which the two parties are divided, whereas within the informal system they are integrated.12 Harbin hypothesizes that: ‘The staging of The Castle of Perseverance is both a semi-fixed feature, because of the mansions or scaffolds upon which some of the action takes place, and informal because of the action on the platea in and among the audience itself.’13 Harbin’s analysis assumes that the spectators were placed among the actors in the platea, which therefore leads her to interpret a more informal actor/audience contract. The informality of the actor/audience address within scaffold playing needs to be quantified. The plays analysed within this section, The Castle of Perseverance, the Digby Mary Magdalene Play and the N-Town Mary Play have been chosen for the similarity of the

Fixed-Place Drama


performance systems they employ: the plays operate on a large-scale epic mode, require numerous locations and utilize spectacular effects. They often employ complex metrical schemes and rhetorical modes of address. As has been remarked of the plays, the playwrights ‘were remarkably alert to the relationship between formal variety, verbal and thematic emphases, and dramatic situation’.14 So while some of the exchanges between characters (most usually the demons) and the audience may seem to operate within an informal scheme, the context of the drama is far more fixed than this suggests. The informality of the street was absent from this spatial arrangement and instead a ‘semi-fixed’ usage developed from the scaffolds. A close analysis of The Castle of Perseverance indicates how the text encourages a particular type of spectatorship. It has been argued that for a number of medieval texts, including The Castle of Perseverance, ‘the idea of an arena-like auditorium is deeply embedded in the writing’.15 In particular, the spatial relationship engendered by the text is one which establishes a vertical arrangement in that the characters from the scaffolds frequently talk to those on the ground and vice versa. The texts studied in this chapter provide an insight into the relationship that was held between the staging conventions and the audience with texts that were probably staged on place-andscaffold arrangements.

The Castle of Perseverance The Castle of Perseverance concerns the moral journey of Mankind, a type of Everyman figure, who is accompanied by a Good and Bad Angel. The Bad Angel succeeds in tempting Mankind to try the delights of the world: the seven deadly sins. Eventually the Good Angel deploys Confession, Shrift and Penitence to win back Mankind and they protect him by placing him in the Castle. Despite a fierce battle the Vices are unable to retake Mankind, until he falls prey to old age, falters and leaves the Castle to find solace in Covetousness. In the throes of death Mankind realizes his error and repents, leaving the four daughters of God to rescue his soul. It has been noted that the play utilizes a number of common themes from medieval literature: the pilgrimage of life, the ages of man, good and bad angels, battle between virtue and vice, deathbed of the miser, and the representation of the Four Daughters of God – who originated from Psalm 84 : 11.16 Certainly the play offers something more than moral or religious guidance, and many of the thematic


Fixed-Place Drama

concerns relate to issues of wealth, economy, and mercantile living. For example, much play is made of the visual grandeur of Mankind after he has been influenced by Voluptas. As Mankind returns to World’s scaffold he is now clad in rich clothing: In bryth besauntys he is bownde, And bon to bowe to you so bolde.17

The effect of the clothing change must be spectacular because Mundus comments upon it several times, but the incident is a reminder of the sort of self-fashioning that occurred within communities, and reveals an increasing fascination with the developing textile trade. In fact the subject of trade and commerce can be found within much of the advice given by Covetousness to Mankind. This spans various behaviours which were presumably common place enough for the author of The Castle to recognize them: the selling of church offices; trading false measures; withholding wages from servants; avoiding tithes; and ignoring beggars.18 The play has thirty-six characters, which would be a huge cost to a company travelling with such a large cast; it is more likely that doubling of parts occurred, thus requiring a cast of close to twenty. If the drawing of the stage plan that is appended to the Macro manuscript is correct then the space was arranged so that around the outside of the ditch were five scaffolds, representing heaven, hell, earth, and the homes of Covetousness and Flesh. In the centre of the platea was the Castle, underneath it was a bed for Mankind. I am concerned here with how the text offers an insight into the relationship between the play and the audience. Clues as to the nature of this relationship begin with the Banns of the play. Played one week before the actual performance, it is likely that the Banns were presented at a number of outlying communities. The use of Banns suggest that the play was performed by an itinerant company, though it has been observed the staging requirements of the Castle are so complex that it is difficult to see that the play could have easily travelled.19 The Banns, delivered by the two voices of the Vexillators (standard bearers), suggest that the play was performed on the ‘green’.20 It is possible that greens or common land held at the centre of small towns were surrounded by the type of ditch indicated in the stage plan. A mound and ditch would enclose any common grazing livestock and prevent their escape, but it is difficult to be certain of any locations for the performance of the play.

Fixed-Place Drama


The text itself offers some clarification about the relationship between audience and action. As has been mentioned, there is division of opinion over exactly where the audience may have been placed within place-and-scaffold drama. At the beginning of Castle, Mundus speaking from the western scaffold, commands that the audience be quiet and take up their proper places: ‘Thorwe this propyr pleyn place, in pes be ye bent!’21 Bevington reads the reference to the ‘proper playing place’ as the platea rather than the whole performance area. However, subsequent lines by Mundus refers to those that ‘all same sittith on side!’;22 a possible reference to spectators sitting on the bank that surrounded the ditch. This notion is later reinforced by Flesh when he commands that the spectators should wait patiently for his chance to overthrow Mankind: Therfor, on hille, Sittith all stille, And seth with good wille Oure riche array.23

As well as giving indications of the placement of the audience the text also offers an insight into the spatial configuration of the central place and the scaffolds. As Scherb argues of the Castle: Relationships between stage loca have significance beyond the moral character they give to theatrical space. They also stage the basic thematic and visual contrasts between the masculine and feminine, the material and the spiritual, the world and God, which find their most intriguing figuration in the central bipartite stage set- the castle itself.24

This association of the scaffolds with moral themes is established early in the play when the pattern of using allegorical characters on scaffolds, or towers (‘tourys’25) who speak directly to the audience is introduced. These include Flesh, delightfully characterized as having sampled too much earthly pleasure with a ‘brod brustun-gutte’, who speaks from his highly decorated scaffold (‘With tapitys of tafata I timbyr my towrys’).26 Other scaffolds are similarly decorated to demonstrate their moral affiliation, so that the World’s scaffold is highly ornate. In fact the World scaffold becomes a metaphor for medieval living. Mundus refers to his ‘semly sale’ and ‘hende hale’ and emphasizes his liking of pleasure by repeatedly drawing analogies between his own status and that of a medieval lord.27


Fixed-Place Drama

Not only are the themes of the play reflected in the use of the scaffolds but they are also iterated in the employment of the platea. The battle over the fate of Mankind is played out in the platea with the Good and Bad Angels verbally (and perhaps physically) tugging Mankind one way then another. It has been suggested that the use of particular textual language here reveals an attempt by the Bad Angel to force Mankind to move or follow him, while the Good Angel is more concerned with establishing a type of stasis.28 The importance of the platea as a place of transition, or space that is associated with earthliness and with which the spectators can identify is further emphasized in the use of the messenger figure, Backbiter or Detractio (Distraction). Backbiter is a type of trickster figure who inhabits the platea, he tempts Mankind with a range of deadly sins, and is a willing bystander when the Vices blame and flog each other, referring to it as a ‘good game’.29 Backbiting was closely linked to envy within the fifteenth century, and the Worcester Chapter sermon which attacked backbiting suggested that it developed from the envy that arose in circumstances in which some people grew wealthier while others remained in poverty.30 The platea also serves to display or enhance the characteristics of the characters as they pass through the space. When inhabiting the platea characters often exhibit their type. The characterization of Gluttony as he crosses the platea deserves special mention. The alliterative language creates a rhythm that suggests swinging rolls of flesh: A grom gan gredyn gaily on grounde: Of me, gay Glotoun, gan al his gale. I stampe and I stirte, and stint upon stounde; To a staunched eth I stakyr and stale.31

Much of the action throughout the play is shaped, as Scherb suggested, in order to create a dynamic interplay between the spaces of the scaffolds and that of the platea. The action flits between scaffolds and the platea so that the two modes of space are set up as both didactic counterparts and symbiotic partners. The dramaturgy of the play is based upon journeying from scaffold to scaffold and the rhythm of the drama incorporates the action of passing through the platea to reach the next scaffold. In this sense the two contrasting spaces are dependent upon each other. However, as several incidents illustrate, the spaces are also placed in contradiction to one another and in doing so the audience is actively brought into the spectacle.

Fixed-Place Drama


One such moment occurs when Mundus calls upon Voluptus on the World scaffold to accompany him. As Voluptus descends into the platea he silences the audience: Pes, pepyl! Of pes we you pray. Sith and seethe wel to my sawe!32

Once in the platea Voluptus, who is joined by Folly, asks the audience to decide if it will follow either the sinful world or choose a Godly path. The platea is used then as a place in which to involve the audience in the moral decisions made by Mankind. The interplay between the platea and locus is made more complicated in The Castle because of the use of the Castle itself which occupies the centre of the circular playing space. The Castle serves as a metaphor for Mankind’s moral state. Mankind’s battle with his conscience begins when Penance ‘pierces Mankind’s heart with the prick of conscience’.33 Mankind realizes his error in following world’s vices and descends from the scaffold to the platea to repent, and it is here that a new dynamic is introduced into the play; that of the Castle. Mankind takes refuge within the Castle with an entourage of Virtues who protect him from sin. The battle pitches corresponding Virtues and Vices against each other in a linguistic display in which they fight for their worth in rhetorical speeches. The battle was probably an elaborate affair: the stage drawing of The Castle of Perseverance indicates that Belial shall have ‘gunpowder burning in pipes in his hands and his ears and in his arse when he goeth to battle’.34 The final manipulation of the relationship between the scaffold and the platea is demonstrated when the four daughters of God, Mercy, Truth, Righteousness and Peace, go to God’s scaffold in the east to intercede on behalf of Mankind’s soul. In terms of the stagecraft of the play this means that both their gaze and that of the audience simultaneously shift to look upon God, and that the scaffolds and platea are joined in one purpose.35 God speaks from his throne in judgement over Mankind and releases his soul from torment. In a final address to the audience God emphasizes the didactic nature of the play and offers a moral lesson to the audience: Thus endith oure gamys. To save you fro sinninge, Evyr at the beginninge Thinke on your last endinge! Te Deum laudamnus.36


Fixed-Place Drama

The Castle demonstrates a number of features of fixed-place staging, in particular interplay between the place and scaffold, and it is through this that the meaning of the play is articulated. This is of particular relevance to how the spectators received the event since they were likely placed within or close to the platea. Within The Castle these staging methods are used to great effect in order to articulate the concerns of the dynamic market towns of East Anglia: those of moral, religious and mercantile values.

Digby Mary Magdalene It has been suggested that the staging possibilities offered by the late fifteenth-century Digby Mary Magdalene play mark it out as ‘the most complex and interesting play in the whole repertoire of early English drama’.37 The play, named after the manuscript held in the Bodleian Library, covers both the scriptural and the legendary aspects of Magdalene’s life; a feat that adds to the complexity of the drama. The play seems to have been written for a placeand-scaffold type of staging, though perhaps not in the same circular configurement as The Castle of Perseverance (though Bevington supplies a possible arrangement of scaffolds in the round within his edition). Critics have argued the play may be a composite of two shorter pieces, although ‘the text in fact gives no justification for such a practice and provides no clear point of demarcation’.38 The plot of the play opens with the Emperor of Rome who serves to ‘depict the morally bankrupt character of a world divorced from its spiritual foundations’.39 Meanwhile at the Castle of Magdalena, Cyrus prepares for his death by dividing his inheritance between Lazarus, Martha and Mary. The death of Cyrus is completed in a short stanza but typifies a medieval death-bed scene in its bonetearing horror. As Lazarus, Mary and Martha grieve the dramatist switches to utilize simultaneous action: Her[e] shal entyr [on their respective stages] the King of the Wor[l]d, the Flesch, the Dylfe, with the Seven Dedly Sinnes, a Bad Angyll an[d] as Good Angyl.40

The appearance of the devil, whose scaffold accommodated a Hell’s Mouth underneath, is particularly moot since he leads the temptation of Magdalene. The Digby play interweaves ideas from the Romance

Fixed-Place Drama


tradition and the Golden Legend and in doing so a variety of roles are projected onto Magdalene, starting here with that of maiden tempted from the enclosure of her castle. After her ‘fall’ Magdalene repents and seeks Christ, and in an image which combines that of sexuality with penitence, throws herself at his feet, washes them, dries them with her hair and anoints them with oil. Magdalene’s full conversion is made after the resurrection of her brother Lazarus by Christ. This performance of a miracle is seen by some commentators to signal the end of the first part of this drama, with the second part starting with the King and Queen of Marseilles. It is in this second part of the play that Magdalene demonstrates a transition from ‘passivity to one of active spiritual authority’.41 In the first part of the play she was dependent upon her father, then the allegorical character of sin, and finally Christ. Here she starts to have more self-authority. The second half of the play begins by focusing upon the King and Queen of Marseilles and depicts their spiritual debauchery. They participate in a gargantuan feast with spices and wines, and sacrifice animals to a false God. Interspersed with the depiction of the King and Queen is Satan’s narration of Christ’s Crucifixion, the enactment of the three Maries at the tomb, and the establishment of Magdalene’s role as the first key witness. The two plots are brought together when Christ appears to Mary and instructs her to travel to Marseilles as his apostle. At Marseille a type of double-plot is established when Magdalene’s behaviour symbolically reflects that of Christ. While Christ is established rather sketchily within the play his being is made more tangible through the parallels that are established with Magdalene’s actions. On her visit to the Temple she shatters the false idol, and sets the Temple ablaze; she appears to the King in a vision; arranges for his wife to conceive, and revives her after she perishes at sea. These acts persuade the King to redeem himself and convert to Christianity. Magdalene later forsakes city life to live as a hermit in the wilderness where, in a type of Eucharistic parallel, she is fed manna by the angels. In the wilderness Mary receives ministry from a priest before her final assumption to heaven. Through a type of epilogue delivered by the Priest the play calls for salvation for all those who have witnessed the event. A later addition to the manuscript provides a stanza which reflects an increasing sense of desire to protect the players and author from any accusations,


Fixed-Place Drama

and perhaps echoes the growing religious unease within the country: Iff onything amisse be, Blame conning, and nat me. I desire the redars to be my frynd; Iff ther be ony amisse, that to amend.42

As can be seen from the complex plot the demands of staging the Digby play are enormous. The scale of the text is grander than The Castle of Perseverance since Mary Magdalene has fifty-two characters, and requires at least twelve different scenic locations. Like Castle the play manipulates the relationship between the loci and platea in order to create a greater interaction between the players, the audience, and the space. The first time the play attempts this is with the opening speech by Emperor Tiberius Caesar in Rome. Here, from the locus of ‘Rome’ he addresses the audience which is seated in the platea. I command silyns, in the peyn of forfetur, To all min[e] audiens present general!43

In this command he silences the pre-show chatter of the audience. The relationship between the scaffolds and platea is used in a differing manner to that of Castle. In the Digby play the author switches confidently from stage to stage. There are none of the speeches to announce movement from one scaffold to another, nor the discourse that deliberately covered the crossing of the platea. Perhaps the scaffolds were closer to one another than in Castle. They are certainly more flexible and multi-functional and appear to have been reset during the performance to allow representation of new locations, and simultaneous action to unfold. The scaffolds are referred to in a variety of terms throughout the play: here World calls it his ‘tent’,44 which Bevington in his edition of the text takes to refer to a curtained area on the scaffold, but which might well denote the whole scaffold.45 The platea is used to create a variety of effects. For example, Magdalene’s loneliness and vulnerability in her fallen state in the first half of the play is emphasized by the dramatist who places her alone in an arbour in the platea. The dramatist uses the garden as a dichotomous space; a place which can be either secular or sacred: ‘As with so many of the settings in Mary Magdalene, the playwright first

Fixed-Place Drama


explores the secular dimensions of a central image before charging it with religious meaning and finally spiritualizing it altogether.’46 The garden is first created as a secular place of sensual delight after Mary’s visit to the tavern, however, the dramatist imbues the imagery with religious undertones through the use of biblical allusions. Later the image of the garden is ‘metaphorically spiritualized’ in the hortulanus scene when Christ appears to Magdalene as a gardener.47 The platea is also used as a canvas against which to place messengers who knit together the tyrants on their individual scaffolds. The use of the platea as a space for the ordinary courier acts as a ‘means to characterize the moral nature of the playing space’.48 It has been suggested that the messengers that criss-cross the space denote the platea as belonging to the fallen world, but that ‘through Mary’s agency, the dramatist increasingly identifies the platea as sacred space’.49 One of the distinguishing features of the play is the manner in which spectacular effects are used throughout the play. Many of these are attached to the notion of the miraculous, such as the resurrection of Lazarus and the Queen of Marseilles, and the exorcism of the devils from Magdalene: ‘With this word, seven dyllys shall devoide from the woman, and the Bad Angyll enter into hall with thondyr.’50 Others are linked to displays of fury and involve large scale set pieces, such as Satan’s setting fire to the tower of hell, and the use of the boat which travels across the platea to take Magdalene to Marseilles. The play also shows how comedic effect can be used. The Temple scene begins with the comic boy Hawkin insulting the Priest rather than aiding him with his duties. In a type of living fabliaux, the boy accuses the Priest of being lecherous, and gluttonous, and in what Bevington takes to be an aside to the audience, further charges the priest of being from lowly stock and related to the devil. The boy, in a parody of the liturgy, uses mock Latin to further taunt the priest. A repeat of the descant of the comic duo is made when Magdalene travels by boat. The boat is crewed by the Captain and an idle cabin boy. Like the priest and serving boy, these two boatmen draw upon the importance of status and hierarchy to the medieval audience. The Digby Magdalene play is a strange pastiche of representational modes, literary allusions and narrative fragments. As has been pointed out, the ‘presence of Mary herself is an important unifying element in the play’ and the success of the play depends on keeping focus upon her.51 Central to such plays is the notion of conversion and this manifests itself within the play in a series of dichotomies, between


Fixed-Place Drama

worldly and spiritual, or diabolic and divine,52 and through the spaces of the scaffolds and platea.

N-Town Mary Play The N-Town plays are thought to comprise a composite of dramas, including one which concerns the life of the Virgin Mary. Despite being labelled ‘The plaie called Corpus Christi’ by the copyist, there are many differences between the N-Town plays that appear in the mid to late fifteenth-century century Cotton Vespasian D. viii (thus among the earliest of manuscripts of medieval drama) and the Corpus Christi Cycles of York. The N-Town plays are most likely touring dramas, and the ‘N’ within the Proclamation signals that the place name of their performance could be inserted. Like the other plays covered within this chapter, the plays seem to originate in East Anglia; there have been suggestions that this might be Bury St Edmunds or Thetford, but there are no watertight arguments for a distinctive home for the plays.53 The N-Town plays are arranged in a basic pattern of Creation to Last Judgement, but closer examination reveals that this is not a cycle but a collection of plays: there appears to be a series of twenty-four plays based on biblical material, the Mary plays and two Passion sequences. The Mary Play has been seen as a discrete drama since Peter Meredith’s publication of a separate edition of the play in the 1980s.54 As well as covering the incidents of her miraculous birth, the presentation in the Temple, Mary’s marriage to Joseph, the Annunciation, and her visit to her cousin Elizabeth, ‘the play provides instruction in how to live a good Christian life, and guidance in understanding the Psalms and the origins and significance of acts of devotion’.55 It is possible that the Mary Play was produced specifically to celebrate St Anne’s Day, since the pageant depicts Mary’s immaculate conception by Anne, and the celebration of St Anne’s Day was extensive among Eastern England and in particular Norfolk.56 Certainly the N-Town Mary Play shares many features of the place-andscaffold dramas discussed in this chapter. It required multiple loci but is smaller in scale than the other two dramas; a feature that has led to the suggestion it was played on a single, multi-levelled scaffold.57 The play, like the other fixed-place dramas studied here, contains a number of spectacular effects such as a magic flowering wand and celestial beams of light.

Fixed-Place Drama


However, there are some aspects of the play that call into question whether it was performed outside in a place-and-scaffold manner. The frequent use of music ‘may indicate indoor production with the main central structure being the rood screen and loft of a church, or possibly the screens and gallery of a medieval hall’.58 The play requires scaffolds to represent the houses of Anna and Joachim, Mary and Joseph and Zacharias and Elizabeth, but they are not central to the action, and could be quite small spaces. The temple demands more sophisticated scenic representation since it is occupied by twenty actors and is reached by fifteen steps. It has been proposed that this scaffold was double-storeyed so that the angels occupied the upper levels. Were this the case, the various loci would be close together since the angels need to reach the occupants of all of them. This argument for the close proximity of the loci adds more weight to the argument that the play was performed inside.59 What the Mary Play demonstrates, however, is that like the other plays discussed within this chapter, there is a strong contrast made between the locus and platea, and that the relationship between these spaces is used to communicate the theological message of the drama. This relationship is demonstrated within the opening scenes of the Mary Play. While Anna weeps over her barrenness at their home, Joachim crosses the platea to the temple; after the rejection of his sacrifice he seeks solace in the fields where he is visited by the angel. The declaration of the Annunciation to Joachim in the platea occurs as Anne is simultaneously shown weeping at their home. After the angel’s appearance to Anne, the couple search for each other across the platea to share their good tidings. This use of the scaffold- and- place setting to show private and simultaneous action is very effective. The figure of Contemplacio is central to the success of the relationship between the scaffolds and place. Contemplacio serves as a narrator and a device through which the audience can contemplate the meaning of the drama. His role is fundamental to this drama in many ways; his interjections link scenes, connect epic time frames, and instruct and represent the audience when it needs guidance.60 He frequently shifts time forward in order to focus upon new aspects of Mary’s life in order to accommodate an epic time frame. For example, after the conception of Mary, Contemplation advances the action by three years when she is presented at the temple. After marriage to Mary, Joseph leaves the home for nine months. Here time is shown to pass through a divertissement comprising Contemplacio and the virtues. Contemplacio trawls through biblical history before the


Fixed-Place Drama

Virtues appear on stage with the Holy Trinity. It is here that a strange reversal of time occurs, the audience first sees Christ before he is born of Mary. It is the sophistication of the narratorial control of Contemplacio which enables such devices to occur in a way that time passes both forwards and backwards. It is not surprising, then, that the play starts with the figure of Contemplacio who addresses the audience directly, referring to it as the ‘congregation’, a term synonymous today with church-going but here used to refer to a gathering of people. The prologue takes the form of a prayer in which Contemplacio hopes the audience gains Christian benefit from the play. It has been noted that Contemplacio’s role here is ‘one of the most telling of the expositor speeches in medieval drama, making manifest that it is both Christ and his creatures who are being played for in these holy stories’.61 Much of the drama focuses upon how to make the holy stories accessible for a lay audience. The portrayal of the child Mary demonstrates how the play manipulates the audience. The depiction of the Virgin’s early life is seen as one of the most successful representations of a holy child in medieval literature, and one which particularly reaches out to women in the audience: ‘the role of the Virgin in the early N-Town plays of her life is a complicated blend of theology and domesticity which would have brought together the different elements of the female community for the great communal festival of drama’.62 The empathetic portrayal of the child Mary begins with her display in the Temple. It is here that she shows her prodigious talent as she recites the fifteen psalms – some ninety lines of text. This scene calls into question who might have played the child Mary; if she were played by a young child she would have needed a phenomenal memory.63 Critics have noticed that the depiction of the separation of Mary from her parents is particularly moving and apposite: Mary in her childlike humility and in her simple ‘dedys of mercy’ performs as a recognizable and emulatable model for lay piety, and the N-Town playwright’s scene of Mary’s separation from her aged and tearful parents willfully tugs on the heartstrings of a popular audience.64

The betrothal of Mary to Joseph is also depicted in a manner that would cause members of the audience to be drawn into the action. Though the betrothal is made through the spectacular method of choosing the person for whom the wand will spontaneously blossom,

Fixed-Place Drama


the rest of the episode focuses upon the match between fourteen-yearold Mary and Joseph. Audience sympathy is given to the mismatch between the youthful Mary and the elderly Joseph. Joseph’s immediate reaction to being selected as Mary’s spouse is to protest about his age: Com? ζa, ζa God help. full fayn I wolde. But I am so agyd and so olde βat both my leggys gyn to folde, I am ny almost lame.65

The matching of an elderly husband with a young bride was a common theme within medieval popular literature. Many fabliaux, comic French tales told by travelling jongleurs, depict the notion, and it is resonated in Joseph’s plea: An old man may nevyr thryff With a ζoung wyf, so God me save66

Further sympathy from a popular audience was achieved by the staging of a rare onstage wedding. Later while Joseph searches for a home for the couple, Mary is left at a ‘lytyl praty hous’. It has been observed that for an East Anglian audience this space would be associated with the Holy House of Walsingham; a popular place of pilgrimage.67 That Mary is accompanied at the prayer house by three maidens: Rebecca, Susanna, and Sephora may be significant. The latter of these two were the maidens assigned alongside Mary to spin the Temple veil. Since spinning was an important part of every East Anglian household this may have provided further identification for the audience.68 Another distinctive feature of the Mary play is the use of spectacle. The trick of the flowering wand within the temple has already been noted. Another spectacular moment occurs during the Annunciation which is conducted with aplomb. First, the moment of Mary’s deliberation over whether she agrees to conceive God’s son is staged. It is a decision which focuses upon the ‘charged and expectant silence, the actors on heaven’s scaffold and the prophets and patriarchs in Hellmouth join the uneasy audience in waiting for the word’.69 Then in a moment of spectacular effect, representations of the Holy Ghost, the Father and the Son descend and conduct the Annunciation by shining beams of light at Mary. It is a moment when ‘visible signs of miracle on Mary’s body’70 are literally inscribed upon her body.


Fixed-Place Drama

The Mary Plays certainly have a different tone from the large-scale texts of Castle and Digby Magdalene. Although the Mary plays cover an epic time frame, are spectacular and use a series of loci and the platea, much of the dramatic arrangement is concerned with intimacy and as has been noted, ‘the dramatic structure works to focus the spectator’s attention on a series of contemplative (and often spectacular) stage pictures . . . The play in effect presents a series of devotional and mnemonic images about the Holy Family.’71

Cornish Drama The final type of drama to be examined here is that of Cornwall. It is included because the staging practices and texts offer a helpful comparison with the other forms of place-and-scaffold drama that have been examined. There are two surviving collections of Cornish drama: the Ordinalia, comprising three late fourteenth/early fifteenth-century plays and the Creacion of the World, probably from the mid sixteenth century. The Ordinalia, or Cornish cycles, are thought to have been staged on three successive days at plen-angwaries, or what are referred to ‘rounds’, an earthwork, such as those that exist at Perran and St Just, which comprise a raised circular bank with a ditch outside it, inside there is a flattened, open space with two entrances opposite each other. This model of staging makes an interesting comparison with the drawing appended to The Castle of Perseverance. Another difference with Cornish drama is that more detailed stage directions are in evidence. It has been suggested that these plays should be seen differently from cycle dramas in that ‘they were near to the actuality of performance’.72 The dramatic episodes that have been studied here are mainly without stage directions and are to be read more as blueprints for the drama than accurate records. Cornish drama differs in that it is easier to get a clearer sense of what actually happened. The Ordinalia is a type of cycle play which runs from Creation to the Resurrection but excludes and includes material in a different pattern from the English cycles.73 One important addition is the inclusion of the Legend of the Cross, the myth that the cross that Christ was crucified upon grew from the seeds of the Tree of Knowledge, and was linked to episodes of Moses, David, Solomon, and others. Another addition to the Cornish cycle is that of the Death of Pilate in the third part of the cycle. A. C. Cawley includes this episode as

Fixed-Place Drama


an appendix to his selection of medieval plays, as does John Gassner in Medieval and Tudor Drama. It has been suggested that the scene shows Christianity spreading into the Gentile world, and that Pilate’s death serves as a ‘bridge between the Resurrection and the Ascension; his inglorious but supernatural death . . . is a counter to the miraculous events of Christ’s rising from the grave and the equally supernatural culmination, the Ascension into heaven’.74 The Death of Pilate is useful for the way it highlights two reoccurring themes from this chapter, namely the use of the spectacular and journeying across the platea. It has been observed that within the text of the Cornish cycle many of the stage directions are concerned with ‘movement from place to place, and with movement up to and down from the stations’.75 This can be seen within the use of the Messenger who crosses between the scaffolds of the Emperor and Pilate within the Death of Pilate episode. In particular the text demonstrates a feature that is linked to ‘pompabit’, ‘a verb which suggests walking about, on occasions parading or showing off authority or status’.76 When Pilate sends the Messenger to amble in the countryside in search of Christ in order to cure the Emperor’s leprosy, the stage direction is translated by Cawley thus: ‘And then the Messenger shall go and walk about in the plain a little, and Veronica shall meet him.’77 This walking in the platea demonstrates how the space could reflect the notion of a journey. It is during the Messenger’s meeting with Veronica that one of the spectacular pieces of stagecraft occurs. Veronica has an imprint of Christ’s face on her handkerchief, and this is used to heal the Emperor. Other spectacular effects are used later after Pilate commits suicide and the gaolers attempt to bury him. As they drag his body into the ground it is violently thrown back out twice. Pilate’s body is placed in an iron coffin and cast into the Tiber; presumably the platea served as the river. It is in here that a passing traveller washes his hands, but having been polluted by Pilate’s sinful body he immediately drops dead. Pilate’s body is excavated from the river and at Veronica’s insistence placed upon a boat and sent out to sea. The staging effects required here are sophisticated and brings to mind the boats used in the Digby Mary Magdalene play, and Noah’s flood. Once Pilate is at sea the devil comes to fetch him to take him to hell; presumably this offered another spectacular representation. The Cornish Ordinalia demonstrates how within the fixed staging spaces of early English drama a number of related concepts and concerns could be exemplified by the use of the space. These concerns often centred on the notion of a journey whereby a series of


Fixed-Place Drama

transformations were undertaken. These changes were linked to moral development so that the relationship between the place and scaffolds was used to set up a dialectic which enabled the character to plunge the depths of despair before receiving salvation. The metaphor of the journey was essential to medieval life. It could be used allegorically to represent many tropes such as the passage from birth to old age; life to death; earth to heaven. The image of the journey was also central to much literature and was expressed in the forms of quests, pilgrimages, travels, and trails. For example, Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales embodied the notion of how a pilgrimage by a group of people from London to the St Thomas shrine at Canterbury could be used as a framework through which to chart their progress across time and space. During this fictional journey the participants reveal stories of their individual biographies, establish a dialogue among a group of participants, and test codes of practice for moral behaviour. The parade of the pilgrims, like parades through medieval cities, is one which tests a series of hierarchies. The pilgrims utilize their narratives to jostle for order and attention. Each subsequent narrative displaces and challenges the previous tale and gives a sense of the parade being reordered. Similarly, it is within these dramas that the journey through life is explored and the platea offered a symbolic space for this to occur.

6 Indoor Drama: Private Entertainment

In some ways this book has come full circle; starting with the restricted audiences of monastic drama, and encompassing the open access performances of the streets, this story concludes with an examination of entertainments that went on behind closed doors. These doors may be those of private households, of guildhalls, of Inns of Court, or of royal palaces, but what is important is that in each case the closed door symbolized control over those admitted and those omitted. While many entertainments that happened behind closed doors were no different from those performed publically, some were unique to a private setting. The entertainments discussed here embrace those by itinerant performers such as minstrels and acrobats (who might also have also performed on the outdoor streets), participatory games including chivalric practices and masking, and the presentation of plays such as Mankind, and the work of Thomas Heywood. It is the last category of events that were unique to an enclosed setting and this chapter will identify how facets of those dramas offered a very distinctive relationship with an indoor audience. There is a distinction to be made here between what I refer to as ‘indoor’ and ‘outdoor’ performance. The terms are to be taken in their metaphorical state, so that the sense of ‘indoor’ is created within settings which control and restrict their audiences by charging them or inviting them to the spectacle. This definition includes audiences of private households, royal palaces, Inns of Court, guildhalls, innyards and religious houses. Strictly speaking these venues may have utilized outside spaces, such as the innyard,1 or hosted tournaments in the outdoor parks of stately homes, but the audience for these entertainments was controlled. The main distinction between the


Indoor Drama

events that are discussed here and those of the streets is that of selectivity. The street entertainments covered in Chapters 3 and 4 could be accessed by any members of the population, while the acts covered in this chapter were played before an audience that was either invited or was willing to pay. One of the central tenets of private playing was the scope offered by the architecture of the great hall. This room was the centrepiece of any household, be it a royal court, a lord’s manor, a guildhall, a college, or the Inns of Court: ‘It was the social and administrative heart of the household, used for public business, for dining and for what we would call “functions” ’.2 Evidence suggests that the hall was used extensively for dramatic playing; of the eighty-one playbooks printed before 1580, forty-seven of them contain features which suggest they were written for performance within a hall.3 Given that the drama covered in this chapter might have been written specifically for the great hall it is worth identifying dramatic features that arose because of the particularity of the venue and its audience. It has been claimed that the size of the hall made a significant difference and that ‘playing in one of the 100-foot halls must have been almost like playing outside’.4 However, I believe there are several factors that made playing within a hall very unlike that of outside. As has been observed above, the audience was restricted and unlike street drama which was based upon notions of communal identity and hybridity, the playing space of the hall was concerned with reflecting concepts of hospitality and hierarchy. The hall, as centre of the household, was the space in which guests were entertained, and within the late Middle Ages the philosophy of providing for one’s guest was of utmost importance. The space of the hall was also very different from an outside space: the enclosure of the room by the thick walls of the building made it acoustically stronger than out-ofdoors spaces, and the layout of the room turned it into an oligarchic space. The great hall was most usually a rectangular space, at one end there was a dais upon which the host and his party sat, at the other end were screens which led to the other parts of the household.5 It is from the screens that guests and members of the household would enter the space and also from here that servants would bring food and drink from the kitchens. Guests would sit on benches which ran down either side of the hall. Thus an audience for the event was seated on three or four sides and actors entered via the screens from one end of the space.6 The ‘stage’ of the great hall was an

Indoor Drama


undifferentiated space; there was no divide between the actor’s space and that of the audience, and it was the actor’s job to clear a performing space for themselves.7 The resonances of the space of the great hall were powerful: the raised dais signified the upper strata of society whereas those seated towards the screen end of the hall would be seen as lower ranking. The association of the actors with the screen end of the hall with its service doors did much to limit the status of the actors, and thus deepened the sense of social divide which permeated the space.8 As has been pointed out, the feel of indoor and outdoor early English drama was very different, and this difference was often mirrored within the texts: The indoor plays feel much more ‘professional’ than their outdoor counterparts. This may be owing to a variety of circumstances. Indoor acoustics are much less defeating than outdoor ones, making it possible for dialogue and plotting to be more subtle. But the main factor must be that they were written for actors who were at least approaching professionalism.9

This chapter will argue that indoor playing led to forms of entertainment that displayed a number of distinctive features: they were concerned with notions of hospitality; metatheatrical techniques; and with ideologies of hierarchy.

Hospitality Many critics suggest that the late Middle Ages were particularly concerned with decorum, for instance, the period from the twelfth century has been described as ‘a new era in the history of manners’.10 This interest in behaviour, which has already been seen through the development of civic identity at this time, was in particular evidence within households of the Middle Ages where an anxiety over protecting rank was on display. Support for the idea of the importance of ‘manners’ is based upon a growth of concern with outward display and publication of etiquette and conduct books, such as the early sixteenth-century ordinance, ‘for the household of an earl’, thought to be associated with the fifth earl of Northumberland.11 The household has been read as a site for reciprocity and exchange; this exchange occurred between fellow nobles as well as among householders, such as that between the head of the household and


Indoor Drama

his servants: ‘The household, because it intimately expressed the values of its head, could readily provide the environment for ritualized gestures of exchange, trading favors for adherence, deference for patronage, and hospitality for honour.’12 This description by Felicity Heal goes on to use theatrical metaphors to describe how these codes operated: the house is seen as a ‘theatre’ for nobles where ‘honor could be played out in ritual form, and the household servants are viewed as the “supporting cast” ’.13 Within the theatrum mundi of the household a number of occasions gave rise to particular performance opportunities: ‘Great households, for example, boasted their own individual calendars based on quarter days, the rhythms of the hunting seasons, adopted holy days and the timings of trips to distant parts of their lord’s estates or the capital.’14 Other occasions such as that of visits by other nobles and the festivities surrounding Christmas provided opportunities for entertainments by players, waits, musicians, minstrels, acrobats, and animal tamers.15 Entertainment within a private house could be produced either within the household, if the noblemen had their own players or Chapel, or arise from a visit by travelling companies. The Chapel existed to provide music for worship and was divided into two groups of choristers, the Gentlemen and the Children. Chapels were most probably called upon to support household players, sometimes to replace them or to participate in various entertainments. It is difficult to construct a picture of the Chapel’s involvement since their expenses are frequently not recorded within household records. It is likely, though, that Chapels performed within plays, masks, and other courtly entertainments.16 Many records of visits by touring entertainers were lodged in household books, but the study of these private documents has often been more difficult than other public records of early entertainment such as those found in church wardens’ and Lord Chamberlains’ accounts. Despite the limitations of records, it is possible to construct a picture of the entertainments that were likely performed within a household. It is also notable that many of the references to household performance are by players who travelled not only throughout England, but also across the continent. For example, in 1520 Edward Stafford, the Duke of Buckingham, played host to French men and two French women ‘playing afore the said Duc the passion of our lorde by a vise’. As well as these actors playing in disguise, the evening saw, perhaps as a prologue to the play, the performance by a female tumbler.17 Other entertainments included those involving animals. In Plymouth in 1528 performers travelling

Indoor Drama


under the Duke of Suffolk’s livery presented a display which included ‘the daunsyng bere and the dansyng wyff’.18 What is surprising is the amount of money that households spent on entertainment. For example in 1616 the Clifford household at Skipton Castle spent over fifteen shillings on players, a cost that increased annually so that by 1631 they spent in excess of £82. The price of hospitality was indeed large. There are two issues which arise from this catalogue of entertainments which are worth further examination: the first is the increasing occurrence of sponsorship by a patron and the second the large-scale travelling undertaken by troupes. Records of itinerant performance show that increasingly entertainers wore the livery of a patron. This was in part due to the introduction of The Vagrants Act in 1572 which made it necessary for performers to travel under the protection of a lord, but also due to the opportunity that the sponsoring of travelling troupes provided for nobles. Through sponsoring a troupe of players a nobleman could expect to gain several benefits. Their troupe was, of course, on hand to provide entertainment for visitors to their own households and the touring of players wearing their livery showed their support for the cultural milieu of late medieval England, and did much to bolster their own identity. The nationwide travel undertaken by players fashioned the image of their supporting sponsor throughout the country. In her excellent paper on early modern travelling players, Barbara Palmer argues that early English society was extremely mobile, and that travel was an accepted part of life. She notes that the passage of goods from ports to markets ensured that even villages enjoyed a good system of communication networks, and that evidence of visits to religious houses demonstrates that players were accustomed to travelling.19 Palmer’s ideas are borne out by the work of Mark Brayshay, a historical geographer, who has analysed the inter-urban travel undertaken by entertainers in the late Middle Ages. He argues that such players travelled vast distances (on average nearly 50 miles between performances),20 and that there was fluidity between those that performed in metropolitan and provincial areas.21 Brayshay suggests that travelling players served a function beyond that of entertainment and provided a network through which information could be disseminated and national identity established: ‘In addition to bringing the pleasure of music to the places and people they visited, they helped indirectly to forge links between communities, to spread geographical awareness and to bind English communities together as a unity.’22


Indoor Drama

The picture that emerges is of a world where great significance was placed upon visual display. In fact, outward exhibition was thought to be so important within parts of early modern Europe that critics writing about Burgundian rule have referred to it as a ‘theatre state’.23 Part of the reason for placing such emphasis on display was due to the codes of the time: The human body is not always impressive enough to bear the burden of signifying all the wealth and power which late medieval royalty and nobility hoped to display. To make their physical presence more splendid such men had themselves draped in furs and cloths of gold, seated on daises above the throng or out of view in withdrawing chambers, served abundant and extravagant foods, located in vast castles or palaces, and surrounded by massed disciplined bodies of servants and followers.24

The emphasis on the magnitude of a nobleman led to the establishment of a number of practices which verified the importance of the dignitary. These included the lavish costumes they wore, sumptuous banquets, an entourage of servants and splendid buildings. The significance of display can be seen in royal visits to noblemen’s estates. The visit by Queen Elizabeth I in 1591 to Elvethan in Hampshire, as a guest of the Earl of Hertford, demonstrated the range of private entertainments that could be arranged for a guest by a benign host.25 The visit entailed the building of a temporary building to accommodate the Queen’s entourage, and included a great hall for entertainment, and an artificial lake to host water spectacles. The entertainments offered to the queen were wide ranging and included orations, dances, fireworks, water displays, pageants, songs and music, and banquets. Such events would not have been uncommon; at that time the court was peripatetic and frequently visited other nobles’ castles. Such visits would require the building of temporary accommodation to host the large royal party, and would result in lavish entertainments. The entertainments could include participatory games such as chivalrous tournaments, in which a knight was required to defend his lady. The design of Pas d’Armes tournaments placed women within a central obstacle, such as a tower, or gateway, and it was from this location that the knight had to pledge himself to his lady through defending her from any attacks. In particular jousting, where knights in armour rode in combat against each other, was a popular form of tournament. The entertainments that were performed in the early modern period developed from a notion of hospitality. What is striking is the

Indoor Drama


manner in which feasting, living and display are intertwined with one another: ‘The conception of “theatre” as part of an ongoing continuum of entertainment and performance is important both for understanding what theatre was and how it sat alongside other forms of entertainment without very clear-cut distinction in the early period.’26 Like the dramas of the street, there was often little differentiation between the everyday lives of medieval aristocrats and the spectacles which occurred within their private manors or castles; the two practices frequently bled into one another so that a feast could be read as a theatrical practice. The emphasis on private entertainment so far within this chapter has been largely upon divertissements, smaller acts, pageants and the like. An examination of the ‘theatre’ performed within private locations shows how indoor drama developed in order to exploit metatheatrical techniques.

Indoor Drama and Metatheatre: Mankind Dramas performed privately in the late Middle Ages were largely tailor-made for playing companies of four to six players. This often required the doubling of parts so that the full extent of characters could be portrayed. Mankind, written between 1465–70, is an example of a text which was likely performed inside by a company of six players, if the characters of Titivillus and Mercy doubled up. It has been observed that the play is ‘the first recorded instance in England of openly commercial acting’,27 in that the text includes the actors taking payment from the audience.28 It is this incident that has led critics to hypothesize that the play was performed in an inn-yard situation rather than a private house, since at the latter the players would have been paid for by their host. Mankind has received increasing critical interest and has been described as ‘an extraordinary play, and one of extremes. It provides a highly instructive example of how serious theme and comic action can play off each other in late medieval popular theatre.’29 Mankind depicts the journey of the figure Mankind (seen to represent humanity) being tempted by sin, through the four Vices, Mischief, New-Guise, Nowadays, and Nought. Mankind eventually realizes his errors and is redeemed in the final throes of the play. The theme of moral correctness espoused by the play can be seen in Mercy’s statement that: The corn shall be savyde, the chaffe shall be brente30


Indoor Drama

Alongside the theme of moral correctness the play explores the popular themes of earthly labour, and the interest in new commodities. Mankind is first seen carrying a spade, an icon of the worker. His status as an indentured labourer is continuously undercut by the Vices. While he attempts honest labour, they call to question the wisdom of his strenuous toil which will produce such little corn. The Vices taunt and tease Mankind, for example suggesting that he might fertilize his land with his own shit.31 Unable to beat them with rhetoric, Mankind eventually beats the Vices with his spade. The buffeting of the Vices causes them to retreat while Mankind ironically notes how effectively the worker’s tool acted as a weapon for God in defending him against evil. Titivillus, the devil, uses Mankind’s labour as a means to tease him. He plots a series of devices to test the patience of Mankind: a board is placed under Mankind’s field so that when he digs his spade will strike it. Titivillus also mixes Mankind’s corn seed with weeds, making it unusable. Titivillus’s plot works and in a symbolic act Mankind throws down his spade in disgust, and abandons attempts to attend church for Evensong, refusing to walk the mile to church. Other topical issues are raised through the play. Two of the Vices, Nowadays and New-Guise represent modish fascination with commodities, and they are set in counterpoint to Mercy. Other facets of medieval life are satirized, one particular example is the mock manorcourt session. During the session Mankind is ordered to remove his long coat, and at the end of the session the coat is returned, though it is now a comically short jacket. The mock manor-court session is full of absurdity. The year the session is held is referred to as that of ‘Edward the nothing’, and it is held on the day after the year’s end. In the court all values are inverted and Mankind pledges to rob, steal and kill. The satirical remarks doubtless hit hard at the practices seen within some parts of England at the time. The structuring of the play is such that major themes and techniques are established at the beginning of the play. For example, the methods that Mercy uses to draw the audience into the action of the play in order to implicate them in the moral action, and the thematic use of a dialectic between spoken and bodily languages are repeated throughout the drama. The play begins with Mercy addressing the audience. It has been suggested that Mercy would be poorly received by the audience: ‘Mercy, dressed as an old cleric, does not come off well initially: and his pompous language and moral pontifications to the audience . . . are allowed to continue just long enough to establish his humorless credential.’32 However, Mercy’s speech is useful for the

Indoor Drama


detail that it provides on the spectatorship of the play. Mercy separates the audience into a hierarchy of seated and standing members: O ye soverens that sitt, and ye brothern that stoned right uppe.33

This reference suggests that the play was performed to an audience of varying rank, some that sat and some standing, rather than a homogenous spectatorship. The text reveals other aspects of the playing space. Later the Vices attempt to get Mercy to forsake his moral correctness and dance, however, they admit it is difficult because ‘it is a narrow space’.34 Later, as Nowadays and Nought push their way through the crowded space, we discover the text assumes a densely packed audience: ‘Make rom, sers, for we habe be longe!’35 Other indications as to the possible playing of Mankind occur when the Vices draft Titivillus, the devil, on stage in order to aid their temptation of Mankind. Titivillus is brought to the ‘wings’ of the performing space and it is here that the action is interrupted and the members of the audience are told that in order to see Titivillus they must pay a fee. The Vices pass among the audience to collect their dues, declaring that ‘At the goode-man of this house first we will assay’,36 suggesting that the drama was played at the house of a host, though perhaps the phrase could also refer to the host of an inn-yard. Once the audience have paid up, Titivillus is brought onto the stage dressed as a devil; he instructs the Vices to go in search of property to steal, and they depart to wreak havoc in a series of villages that are local to Cambridgeshire and Norfolk; perhaps another indication of where the performances of the play occurred. The audience is carefully brought into the moral action of the play. The incident above shows how in paying for the devil to appear on stage they are aligned with the values of the Vices. The technique of drawing the audience into the play is repeatedly utilized within Mankind so that the audience performs the role of witness. Audience involvement begins with Mercy’s opening speech. Here he ensures that they are implicated in the action of the play. Through the use of an analogy with the body the audience is advised to obey God: Prike not yowr felicites in thingys transitorye! Beholde not the erth, but lifte yowr ey[e] uppe! Se how the hede the members daily do magnifye.37


Indoor Drama

The use of the metaphor of a body politic is significant since it introduces the idea of the audience as one corpus joined together to worship God. At other times the audience is brought into the action by participating in the singing of a Christmas ballad. Nought invites the audience to join in: Now I prey all the yemandry that is here To singe with us, a mery chere!38

The ballad also has the effect of drawing the audience into the action since members are encouraged to sing the chorus. As has been noted, this is just one of the ‘structural provisions for ensuring that the audience submits to its processes and become involved in the action, so that the moral lesson becomes an object lesson’.39 The play ensures that the moral lesson has been learned by the audience by giving Mercy a final epilogue in which he instructs them to: ‘Searche your condicions with drew examinacion!’40 The final aspect of Mankind that I would like to draw attention to is the use of language and the way in which this is continually set against bodily values. The use of word play is evident from the outset of the play. Mercy is interrupted by Mischief who satirizes his speech by delivering nonsense riddles, and Latin parodies of the proverbs and the Bible. The importance of language within Mankind has been noted: ‘improper control of the mouth is played out through the theme of “jangling” ’, or a battle of words’.41 Evident in this battle are the ‘dull’ tones of Mercy set against the Vices who are ‘wellschooled in techniques of oral mischief’.42 In fact, the image of the mouth is linked within the play to that of bodily orifices. New-Guise jests to Mankind: I shall tell yow of a marriage: I wolde yowr mowth and his ars, that this made, Wer mariede junctly together.43

The thematic linking of language to the orifices is merely one thread that is developed within the play. As will be seen, language is utilized in a highly developed manner throughout the play and becomes the centre through which metatheatrical devices are explored. The Vices continually taunt Mercy, both linguistically and physically, ridiculing him for his use of ‘English Latin’ and at one moment literally tripping him up. In fact, much of the combat between Mercy

Indoor Drama


and the Vices can be regarded as a battle between oral and somatic codes. While Mercy attempts to win with fine phrases, the Vices parody his language and through their horse-play place a renewed emphasis on a Bakhtinian association with the grotesque body through the mentioning of shit or vagina. One such example is NewGuise who tells of the wounds and bandages on his head and penis sustained in a battle with his wife. The base trope of New-Guise clashes against the moral language of instruction used by Mercy. Another moment where base language is emphasized is during the singing of the carol which is in actual fact a lewd ballad that concerns shitting and wiping one’s arse on one’s breeches. In fact, it is bawdy songs such as these that have caused some critics to believe that Mankind is the equivalent of a European Fastnachtspiel and served as a type of pre-Lenten drama.44 This argument is strengthened by the use of quotations from Job, which are part of the Ash Wednesday liturgy.45 Physical comedy can be seen throughout the play. This is exemplified when the Vices appear each having been chastised for attempting to steal. First, New-guise comes running on stage having been caught for stealing and escaped a hanging when the noose broke; its remnants still around his neck. Next, Nowadays appears having stolen the sacrament; it is a moment that is mindful of the Croxton Play of the Sacrament. Taken together the constituent parts of this drama form a sophisticated entertainment. Part of the success of this is due to the relationship held between the spectators and the act. The play seems to locate the action within the hall of a private house. Within the play the audience is addressed variously as ‘soverens’, ‘brothern’ and ‘yemandry’, and it is unlikely that an inn (another possible venue for the play) would provide such a range of spectatorship. The ranks that are mentioned here are better represented by the composition of a noble house:46 The servants in an earl’s household would, obviously, have been of lesser rank than the earl but still of high enough status to reflect well on the household. Between a quarter and a third of the household would have probably been members of the gentry and many others would have been of yeoman rank.47

Furthermore, the references to a narrow, crowded space would fit with that of a great hall, and the use of a few costume and props pieces rather than any scenic devices fit with the notion of a touring


Indoor Drama

play. Additionally, Mankind depends upon the audience understanding Latin ‘which suggests a university or at least an educated venue’, and therefore supposes a community which distinguishes itself from those that don’t comprehend Latin well enough to enjoy the jokes.48 Mankind, as an indoor drama, demonstrates several features which are enabled by the specifics of the setting and the relationship with the selected spectators. It has already been mentioned that the atmosphere of a close-knit household and their guests allows for the development of sophisticated word play; in effect the equivalent of the contemporary enjoyment of in-jokes. The play demonstrates many metatheatrical techniques, moments when the action of the play comments upon its own status as a fictional device. The characters frequently break the distance between themselves and the audience, for example, asking the audience to join the song, and framing the spectators so that they are cast as Titivillus’s accomplices. Indeed, perhaps the most apt term for describing the play Mankind, is through the term that Mischief uses, a ‘game’. The game with the audience is played not just through the tricks of language or metatheatrical devices which are outlined above, but also by the establishment of a set of principles based on inversion. Within this framework one of the overlying tropes is that of the replacement of spoken rhetoric (as represented by the character of Mercy) with that of physical debasement (shown through the continuous lewd references made by the Vices). Other principles are debased throughout the play, such as that of marriage (in which women are frequently debased), law and order (shown by the mock manorial-court session), and commodities (devalued by the frequent theft that occurs within the play). Taken together these devices seem to place Mankind within a preLenten context. Certainly this would explain the one remaining anomaly of the text, why, if it was performed within a private household did audience members have to pay the actors? In the upsidedown world of the game of Mankind the disregard for rules of hospitality would be entirely fitting. As has been pointed out, were the actors taking a real collection it would take a considerable time for the three Vices to collect from an audience full of people.49 It is possible that the playing of such dramas as Mankind in front of a controlled audience allowed the development of the form of dramas. The intricacy of word play, the metatheatrical devices, and clever parodic inversions are all typical of an event where word triumphs over image. The spectacular staging of the outdoor dramas of

Indoor Drama


the previous chapter is replaced here by a cleverness that depends upon playing within an enclosed space and to a more limited spectatorship with greater linguistic education.

The Politics of Heywood John Heywood’s The Play of the Weather has been described as ‘suited for a courtly environment’.50 Though the text was first printed by William Rastell in 1533, it is likely that the play was in circulation prior to this and Greg Walker suggests that internal evidence from the events of the play indicate that it was written some time after 1529, since the position of Jupiter parallels that of Henry VIII after the discharge of Cardinal Wolsey when Henry was solely responsible for decision-making.51 Heywood was accustomed to the courtly world. He was a musician at Henry’s court who began as a singer in his early twenties, later played the virginals, and may have performed in some of his own plays. In addition he was a poet, and presented plays by St Paul’s choir school.52 He was a devout Catholic and the unsteady world of Henry’s break with Rome doubtless brought him personal anxiety. However, his place as a courtier also provided him with an insight into the politics of the time. The plot of The Play of the Weather draws upon Roman satirist Lucian’s Icaromenippus. The figure of Jupiter had been identified with Henry VIII in John Skelton’s poem Speke, Parrot and it is possible that Heywood deliberately built upon that connection in The Play of the Weather.53 If the play is read in this manner, then Heywood seems to advise that the King take a traditional stance, since Jupiter listens to the different requirements by the petitioners but eventually resorts to his own opinion and allows the weather to continue to be varied so that each person may get something of what they need. The text of the play suggests that it was performed in a busy hall in the evening. Mery-Report asks that the torch-bearers provide a little more light: ‘Brother, holde up your torche a litell hyer!’54 And later refers to the over-crowded hall: Frendes, a fellyshippe, let me go by ye. Thinke ye I may stand thrusting amonge you there?55

It is also clear that the play was written for an audience comprising women as well as men. Mery-Report jests that the Gentleman who


Indoor Drama

appears before Jupiter would ‘hunte a sow or twaine out of this sorte’.56 The comment was directed towards a particular group of women in the audience and would, therefore, gain a humorous response. In fact, much of the play is pre-occupied with a bawdy sense of humour which is instigated by Mery-Report but finds a match in the comments of the washerwoman (an exchange which is less shocking given that the women characters within the play would have been performed by men). The play begins with Jupiter on a throne, the only set piece that is required by the play. Jupiter’s elegant rhyming verse and austere tone set him as a ruler, and establish the analogy between his portrayal and that of Henry VIII. The development of long rhetorical speeches within the play and the absence of much scenic action distinguish the drama from that examined within previous chapters. The play is established as primarily concerning ideas rather than action. Such a distinction is shown in Jupiter’s opening speech. Here he notes, perhaps in parallel with the political atmosphere within Henry’s court, that the gods are given over to infighting and are unable to agree which type of weather is most necessary. Their fighting is rendering them ineffective. Jupiter’s desire to discover ‘And so in all thinges with one voice agreeable’,57 leads him to establish a type of court in which he will receive petitions as to which type of weather is preferable. Within this situation the performance hall is metaphorically transformed into a type of court, with Jupiter playing the role of sovereign half-hidden behind a curtain, and the audience taking on the position of courtiers and witnesses to the decision-making process. Jupiter calls for an usher to help facilitate the process of hearing appellants; it is then that Mery-Report emerges from the audience. Mery-Report continually tests the boundaries of the role of the usher. He is often rude, and allows or denies access to Jupiter on random grounds. He is appointed because he is the only candidate: ‘I saw no man sew for office but I!’58 and has the ability to tell bad news in a jovial manner by ‘Minglinge the mater accordinge to my nature’.59 Heywood’s depiction of the role shows the considerable influence and bias that such posts could carry. For example, MeryReport allows the first petitioner, the high-ranking Gentleman with an entourage to speak directly to Jupiter, as he does the merchant, however he denies access to other low-ranking petitioners such as the Ranger. The play is time and again concerned with battles over hierarchy. Frequently the petitioners see Mery-Report not as the servant of

Indoor Drama


Jupiter but as a mere doorkeeper. After initially encountering MeryReport the Water Miller confesses to the audience ‘Herke how familiarly he calleth me knave!’60 and is perplexed by Mery-Report’s familiar tone which presumes social authority until it is revealed that Mery-Report is high-ranking as ‘goddes servant.’61 The interplay between characters with regard to status is not limited to MeryReport and the petitioners, but also occurs among the petitioners themselves. This is most clear in the fight that develops between the two millers. As the Water Miller notes the two have different objectives: By meane of our craft we may be brothers, But whiles we live shall we vener be lovers. We be of one crafte, but not of one kinde: I live by water and he by the winde.62

The fundamental disagreement between the needs of the petitioners means that Jupiter will be left to resolve the issue. Mery-Report paves the way for the decision-making by signalling a possible path of compromise when he breaks up the fight between the two millers: Betwene water and winde there is no suche let But eche mill may have time to use his fet.63

Though there can be no mutual agreement between the two millers, they can at least have times when the weather allows each mill to undertake its business. This concept of moderation is one which reoccurs in Jupiter’s judgement and which Heywood seems to be advising as a path for Henry VIII. The appearance of the Gentlewoman and Laundress opens up a new dynamic for Mery-Report. Though much of the play has been littered with innuendo and base humour, the interaction with the women characters gives much opportunity for Mery-Report to indulge in lewd behaviour. Opportunity for innuendo arises immediately the Gentlewoman tries to bypass the queue to Jupiter by being asked to enter through the ‘back side’. Mery-Report takes the opportunity for a sexual joke, but denies any short-cut to Jupiter instead deciding himself whether she should gain access. The Gentlewomen is successful and pleads with Jupiter for moderate weather to aid her complexion. On her exit Mery-Report attempts to kiss her; an act which is denied but which establishes the scene for the


Indoor Drama

entry of the washerwoman who jealously notes ‘I saw you dally with your simper-de-cokket.’64 The argument between the Gentlewoman and Laundress mirrors that of the two millers earlier in the play, and is resolved by the intervention of Mery-Report. The Laundress intimates that she will bribe the usher with sexual favours, but she receives short shrift from him. The final petitioner offers a balance to the lewd washerwoman. Here a small boy, sent by his friends, pleads that the children might have snow with which to play. After the last petitioner Mery-Report summarizes the arguments for Jupiter and realizes that the energy he has put into soliciting opinions for Jupiter and the wide consultations have achieved very little. Perhaps Heywood here was advocating that the King should trust his own judgement. As has been noted, Heywood’s play was written at a time of changes to governmental practices. The Lords’ Articles of 1529 served to strengthen the King’s absolutist reign and demoted the roles of his advisers: ‘Heywood reminded the King of his own resolution, and suggested that he pursue it to its logical conclusion.’65 It seems likely that Heywood sought to convince the King that he should use his judgement in a moderate fashion so that he might best serve the country. In this sense, Heywood’s plays are not overtly political but aim to persuade those in power through humanist debate.

Private Negotiations The entertainments covered within this chapter show how forms of private drama grew in order to address both specific audiences and particular places of performance. Private households held a variety of entertainments, some of which, for example, tournaments and other such game-playing, were performed outside. However, the majority of the events within the private household centred on the use of the great hall. It is within the hall that the hospitality codes could be played out to most effect. Here the lord provided entertainment and nourishment for his guests. The use of the dais emphasized the importance of visual display to nobles’ households. It is from here that the lord and his party could be both looked at and do the looking. They could be seen by the assembled mass on the floor of the great hall, and the host’s party could, from their advantage of a raised platform, see others in the room. This emphasis on appearance was a key feature of life within

Indoor Drama


a private house in early England. Many of the entertainments discussed in this chapter placed great significance on developing the status of the householder by the visual spectacle associated with the host. This meant that ornate games, elaborate feasts and the like were popular. The use of the indoor space of the Great Hall meant that the form and content of the dramas that were hosted there could develop considerably from those used for outdoor performance. Here members of the audience were selected and invited, which meant that the possibility of a shared level of knowledge and education was far greater than the random street audiences. The acoustics of the Great Hall meant that the use of language could be more highly developed and that rhetorical devices could explore subject matter in a more detailed manner. The development of the Great Hall meant that the dramas that were played there could advance their complexity. This led to a growth in dramas that self-consciously fashioned themselves and were often used to commentate on the form itself. These metatheatrical tricks are evident in plays such as Mankind. Such works deliberately draw upon the audience to break the fictional sense of the event and create a sense of the drama as a ‘game’. It is within the work of dramatists such as John Heywood that the political dimension of early drama was explored. Here the dramatist was writing for a courtly audience that was known to him, and was most concerned to influence a small group of figures, particularly the monarch. The writing could respond to specific incidents and was embedded within the particular context of its production. However, this essentially private form of writing was to change with the coming of the Reformation and the development of wider audiences. It has been noted that: Where the Court playwright broadly speaking knew his audience, the later Reformation polemicist, aiming at a wider ‘public’ readership, did not. Hence the arguments of the latter had to be pared down to their simplest form, to the lowest common denominators.66

The household entertainments of the early sixteenth century were, however, private, often political, and deeply persuasive.


The main tenet of this book is that early drama should be analysed through possible modes of production. Of particular importance is the place of performance. The spaces used for performance in early England show enormous variation on those of today and each had its own set of properties which affected the event in particular ways. This book has shown how the ‘private’ audiences of the convents and households were able to produce events which were specifically addressed to select spectators who were bound by specific outlooks. Set against these exclusive forms of performance were those that enjoyed open access; the processions and dramas of the street. Partway between these two forms of exclusive and inclusive drama were those that were semi-selective; the entertainments for which inclusion was based on parish membership, or attendance at semi-fixed placeand-scaffold performances where admission fees might have been paid. Central to the argument of this book is the notion that performance should be analysed within its broadest form through considering that which is performative rather than merely theatrical.1 Therefore, this book looks beyond the evidence of extant written play texts to consider other records of performance; these include ritual practices, dances, parades, and the like. The study of performance requires a distinct set of approaches. The texts studied within this book offer examples of particular spatial relationships between the action of the text, the place of performance, and the reception of the spectators. The play text is, then, one material remnant of the past that might provide clues as to the reception of an event. Any performance of a play involves the transposition of



the audience from one world to another, from that of reality to that of fiction. How one gets from one world to another, from the real to the representational is of great importance. Within modern-day theatre the auditorium lights go out or the curtain rises, but it has been suggested that in medieval drama given the fact that there was often no formal boundary between the spectators and the actors the only method of recognizing the switch from reality to fiction was via ‘the word’.2 Within medieval drama speech is often used for the purpose of attracting the audience and keeping its attention, as opposed to creating a dialogue with another character on stage, which is a modern concern. For example, many cycle pageants adopt a strategy whereby the audience is addressed directly at the beginning of the play; such a technique is demonstrated in pageants such as the York The Fall of Man when Satan confesses the turmoil within his mind, or the York Crucifixion pageant where the soldiers’ discussion of the situation sets the scene at Calvary. Differences within the use of speech and the playing spaces of drama are only a few of the considerations that need to be employed when examining early drama. I have argued within this book that the previous division of plays according to genre needs to be reassessed. In doing this, I am aware that new categories have been created based often on hypothetical readings of performance, and that in aligning certain texts with certain spaces a new set of problems are encountered. As a way of demonstrating the issues of reading texts within certain frameworks I would like finally to turn to a play which seems to defy attempts to link it to a particular set of values. In choosing this example I am selecting only one of a number of similar problems which could be highlighted. In raising this issue I would like to highlight that much analysis of early drama is based upon hypothesis, but also that the patterns that I have been suggesting within this book are meant as indications of a broad grouping rather than fixed definitions. Earlier drafts of this book placed the fifteenth-century Croxton Play of the Sacrament within the section on parish drama on the grounds that it was perhaps hosted by a parish church in order to raise funds for the church. Numerous commentators suggested that the play might have been performed within the churchyard and that the audience could have processed into the church at the end.3 One anonymous reader of the manuscript asked what the play was doing in a section on parish drama. In the next draft I tried to resite the play in the chapter concerning place-and-scaffold staging. After



all it shared many of the features of the plays discussed in that section in terms of location (Eastern England), type of staging (scaffolds), purpose (a conversion drama), and the use of spectacular effects. The text is associated with Croxton, Suffolk, because it is the village named in the banns, and the play seems to be local to East Anglia since references are made to Babwell Mill, near Bury St Edmunds. The play calls for place-and-scaffold staging, with two scaffolds to represent the houses of merchants Aristorye and Jonathas respectively and a platea, a common ground space where meetings occurred between the two households.4 The parish church was either represented by a third scaffold or by the actual church itself. The play, like many of the other place-and-scaffold dramas, is a conversion play. The plot concerns a wealthy merchant Aristorye who in an opening monologue of some forty lines praises his own virtues; it is a speech not unlike that of the proud Pilate in the cycle dramas. In order to increase his wealth further he steals the sacrament from the local church and sells it to the trader Jonathas the Jew. The Jews then put the bread through a mock scourging, buffeting, crucifixion and burial in order to test if it is the body of Christ. During this process the hand of Jonathas is ripped off, though it is later restored by a vision of Christ. The reinstatement of the hand symbolizes the conversion of Jonathas and his absolution from sin. The grand use of spectacle within the play also resembles that of the place-and scaffold dramas discussed earlier in the book. Here the Host (embodied on stage as a loaf of bread) spurts blood; it later sticks to Jonathas’s hand resulting in the severing of his hand when he tries to free himself of the Host. The Host is later thrown into a pot of oil, which bubbles blood, then baked in an oven which explodes spectacularly: the oven bursts open with blood oozing from it and from where an ‘image appere owt with woundys bleding’.5 This image, which represents Christ, speaks to the Jews, converting them to believe in the Host and performs the miracle of restoring Jonathas’s hand. This ‘image’ of Christ might have been played by a puppet (with a ventriloquist) or by an actor, although the length of his sermons suggest an actor would be more effective. In many ways the Croxton Play of the Sacrament seems to fit with the elaborate place-and-scaffold plays that were outlined in Chapter 5. It belongs to the same geographical area, concerns conversion and utilizes spectacular effects. But there is something that sticks here. Like the image of the Host fixed so firmly to Jonathas’s hand that it cannot be shaken off, the play cannot simply be placed into a category, it hangs on. The place-and-scaffold plays of Chapter 5 showed



a link between their form and content; the journeying across space and the use of the platea was essential in creating the underlying conversions which occurred within the plays. Even the smallest of these plays, the Mary Play, used the platea to develop a relationship between Mary, Joseph, the Annunciation, and the audience’s response to this event. The Croxton Play of the Sacrament offers, rather than the journeying of the large-scale place-and-scaffold plays, a tightness of form that is used to debate a number of issues including: transubstantiation, racial, and religious difference. The platea here was a place of stasis, a space for debate and dialogue. The issues raised within the Play of the Sacrament were all extremely topical. The issue of transubstantiation was important in the fifteenth century, and it has been suggested that the Croxton play might well have been directed to the Lollards, and other followers of John Wycliffe who did not believe in the true presence of the sacrament.6 In portraying Jews with performance the Croxton play presents a number of complications for the viewer. For the twenty-first-century reader the play appears as anti-Semitic. Walker argues that this cannot be the case since there were no English Jews at the time, and most scholars seem content to interpret the play as being about anti-disbelievers rather than concerning Jewishness in particular. The play is though, as Walker remarks, ‘a useful index of prevailing anxieties about racial and religious difference in medieval English culture’.7 But can the play be left there? The presentation of ‘prevailing anxieties’ offers a clue as to the importance of the Croxton play. In a radical reading of the play David Lawton suggests that the text demonstrates a number of post-colonial sympathies.8 The play contains an episode, perhaps interpolated into the play, between a quack doctor and his boy servant. Lawton points out that it is significant that the doctor is Flemish. Trade between East Anglia and the Low Countries both in terms of migrant workers and commodities was flourishing at this point in time. The author of the play may have been making a particularly pertinent observation. It is not only in the figure of the European incomer that Lawton sees traces of contemporary critique. Lawton re-examines the issue of the presence of Jews in East Anglia and questions whether the expulsion of Jews from England in 1290 meant that they were totally absent or whether the trading links meant that, as in the Croxton Play of the Sacrament, Jewish merchants were frequently passing through the ports of Eastern England. The play is read by Lawton not as a piece of local community drama performed in Croxton



parish church, but rather as a ‘stage in breakdown, in the developing anxiety of Christian empire’.9 The text demonstrates concerns with demographic and religious change, and issues often found at the margin of sixteenth-century life. If the Croxton is a play about ‘slippage’, about not fitting, and was perhaps, as Lawton suggests, performed on a portable cart with an additional plinth,10 then it demonstrates how despite the many recognizable patterns and groupings within early drama there are some texts which escape all classification. I raise this point not to retract the hypothesis of how early plays held a relationship with their audiences, but to caution the reader that try as we might to categorize such drama there will still be performance events that blur such distinctions.


preface 1

2 3

The first permanent theatre is usually identified as James Burbage’s Theatre, however, Janette Dillon observes that recent discoveries of documents show the Red Lion may have been closer to a purpose-built theatre than it was to an inn. If this were the case, it would set the date of the first permanent theatre at 1567 (see Janette Dillon, The Cambridge Introduction to Early English Theatre (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006) 40. Pamela King, The York Mystery Cycle and the Worship of the City. Westfield Medieval Studies. Vol. 1 (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2006) 1. Bonnie S. Anderson and Judith P. Zinsser, A History of Their Own: Women in Europe from Prehistory to the Present. Vol. 1 (London and New York: Penguin, 1988) xiii.

introduction 1

2 3

James Gibson argues in Kent that the term ‘ludentes’ referred to amateur players within the borough and ‘ioculatores’ or ‘histrones’ related to performers travelling under noble patronage (Kent: Records of Early English Drama. Ed. James Gibson (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2002) lvi. Dunbar H. Ogden, The Staging of Drama in the Medieval Church (Newark: University of Delaware Press; London: Associated University Press, 2002) 17. The term was originally coined by linguist J. L. Austin to define the speech-act relationship where some clauses of speech seem to suggest


4 5 6 7 8

9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

Notes to pages 3–9 action. See J. L. Austin, How To Do Things With Words (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1962). Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, trans. Steven Rendell (Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press, 1984) xiii. Hans Robert Jauss, Towards an Aesthetic of Reception. Theory and History of Literature 2. Trans. Timothy Balti (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984) 24. Ibid. Peter Brook, The Empty Space (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1972) 18. See for example, Roach in Cities of the Dead who suggests that a methodology for approaching the retrieval of performance can be found through the use of ‘orature’, a term that he adopts from the Kenyan novelist, Ngugiwa Thiong’o. Roach outlines that orature includes the ‘gesture, song, dance, processions, storytelling, proverbs, gossip, customs, rite and ritual’ (Joseph Roach, Cities of the Dead: Circumatlantic Performance: The Social Foundations of Aesthetic Forms (New York and Chichester: Columbia University Press, 1996) 11). The work of Susan Leigh Foster looks at how the notion of the body can be used to unearth performance history. See Susan Leigh Foster, ed. Choreographing History (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995). Diane Taylor distinguishes between the archive of material and the repertoire of embodied practice. See Diane Taylor, The Archive and the Repertoire: Performing Cultural Memory in the Americas (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2003). Eamon Duffy, ‘Religious Belief’, A Social History of England 1200– 1500 Eds Rosemary Horrox and W. Mark Ormrod (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006) 293. It is while she is here that she visits Syon Abbey which is studied in the following chapter. Katherine French, The People of the Parish: Community Life in a Late Medieval English Diocese (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001) 181. Ibid. 177. Margery Kempe, The Book of Margery Kempe. Ed. Barry Windeatt (Woodbridge: D. S. Brewer, 2004) 250 lines 4163–6. William Langland, Piers Plowman. A complete edition of the B-Text. Ed. A. V. C. Schmidt. New edn (London: Dent, 1987) III, lines 64–8. For further details see French, The People of the Parish 103. Sarah Stanbury and Virginia Chieffo Raguin, eds, ‘Introduction’, Women’s Space: Patronage, Place, and Gender in the Medieval Church (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2005) 1–2. French, The People of the Parish 2. Eamon Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England 1400–1580. 2nd edn (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2005) 144–5.

Notes to pages 9–19 19 20 21 22 23

24 25 26 27 28

29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36

See the views of A. G. Dickens, The English Reformation, 2nd edn (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1989), cited in French, The People of the Parish 15. See J. J. Scarisbrick, The Reformation of the English People (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1985), cited in French, The People of the Parish 15. Cited in French, The People of the Parish 16. Ibid. 208. S. H. Rigby, ‘Introduction: Social Structure and Economic Change in Late Medieval England’, A Social History of England 1200–1500, eds Rosemary Horrox and W. Mark Ormrod (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006) 1. See M. M Postan, The Medieval Economy and Society: An Economic History of Britain in the Middle Ages (London: Penguin, 1972) 88–92. S. H. Rigby, English Society in the Later Middle Ages (Basingstoke: Macmillan Press Ltd, 1995) 17. Jacques Le Goff, ‘The Town as an Agent of Civilisation 1200–1500’, The Fontana Economic History of Europe: The Middle Ages. Ed. Carlo M. Cipolla (Glasgow: Collins/Fontana, 1972) 76. Ibid. 79–80. This structure is developed by Britnell from Maryanne Kowaleski’s work on Exeter. See Richard Britnell, ‘Town Life’, A Social History of England 1200–1500, eds Rosemary Horrox and W. Mark Ormrod (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006) 158–9 for further details. Rigby, English Society in the Later Middle Ages 269. Ibid. 277. P. J. P. Goldberg, Women, Work and Life Cycle in Medieval Economy (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992) 121. Le Goff, ‘The Town as an Agent of Civilisation 1200–1500’ 84. Rigby, ‘Introduction: Social Structure and Economic Change in Late Medieval England’ 14. The illumination can be seen at mtdavis/Art%20302/Hours/Images/funeral.jpg Accessed 2 Feb. 2008. See The Hours of Étienne Chevalier by Jean Fouquet: The Forty Miniatures in the Musée Condé. (Paris: Somogy editions d’art, 2005) 54. Otto Pächt, ‘Jean Fouquet: A Study of His Style’, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes (1940) 97.

1 1 2


drama of enclosure: convent drama

Gail McMurray Gibson, The Theater of Devotion: East Anglian Drama and Society in the Late Middle Ages (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1989) 107. Marilyn Oliva, The Convent and the Community in Late Medieval England (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 1998) 126–7.

138 3 4 5

6 7 8

9 10 11 12 13 14 15

16 17


Notes to pages 19–23 Ibid. 139. Roberta Gilchrist, Gender and Material Culture: The Archaeology of Religious Women (London and New York: Routledge, 1994) 69. Dunbar H. Ogden, The Staging of Drama in the Medieval Church (Newark: University of Delaware Press; London: Associated University Presses, 2002) 19. This moment is translated by David Bevington differently and reads as ‘if on other business’ (David Bevington, Medieval Drama (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1975) 27). Bevington, Medieval Drama 27. Karl Young, The Drama of the Medieval Church. Vol. 1 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1933) 167. Peter Meredith and John Tailby, eds, The Staging of Religious Drama in Europe in the Later Middle Ages: Texts and Documents in English Translation, EDAM 4 (Kalamazoo: Western Michigan University, 1982) 226. Ogden, The Staging of Drama in the Medieval Church 149. Ibid. Ibid. 150. Ibid. 153. Nancy Cotton, Women Playwrights in England C. 1363–1750 (Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press; London and Toronto: Associated University Press, 1980) 28. Eileen Power, Medieval English Nunneries c. 1275–1535 (Biblo and Tannen, 1922) 309. The exact processional route is laid out ‘through West Door, passes north, through passage under dormitory, turns right to pass through south walk of cloister, passes door to church at the head of that cloister, turns to north walk, passes Chapter-House door, out of cloister by a passage into nuns cemetery. Then beyond this to Parish cemetery, follows south wall of church and re-enters West Door’ (J. B. L. Tolhurst, ed. The Ordinale and Customary of the Benedictine Nuns of Barking Abbey University College, Oxford MS. 169 Vol. 2 Sanctorale (London: Henry Bradshaw Society, 1928) 368). It is impossible to recreate this route since the abbey was destroyed in the sixteenth century. Power, Medieval English Nunneries 369. Ibid. 311–12. There is evidence of a girl abbess tradition at Barking (see Tolhurst, The Ordinale and Customary of the Benedictine Nuns of Barking Abbey 372) and within Devon (see Devon: Records of Early English Drama, ed. John Wasson (Toronto: Toronto University Press, 1987) 325–6. For further discussions on the function of carnivalesque practices such as these see Mikhail Bakhtin, Rabelais and His World, trans. Hélène Iswolsky (Massachusetts: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1968; reprint Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984), and Michael Bristol, Carnival and the Theatre (New York: Methuen, 1985).

Notes to pages 23–27 19 20 21

22 23 24 25

26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36



Charles Phythian-Adams, ‘Ritual constructions of society’, A Social History of England 1200–1500, eds Rosemary Horrox and W. Mark Ormrod (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006) 369. Gail McMurray Gibson, The Theater of Devotion 108. The subject of novice ceremonies as drama has received little attention, one exception being George Klawitter, ‘Dramatic Elements in Early Induction Ceremonies’, Drama in the Middle Ages: Comparative and Critical Essays, 2nd series, ed. Clifford Davidson and John H. Stroupe (New York: AMS Press, 1991) 43–60. George James Aungier, The History and Antiquities of Syon Monastery, the Parish of Isleworth and the Chapelry of Hounslow (London, 1840) 23. Ibid. 24. Ibid. See pp. 405–9 for a full list of the gestures used by the abbey. Though these gesture codes seem to place women in relation to men (for example, there is no code for nun but rather she is depicted as a female monk), Ellis argues that the Ordinances otherwise favour women and that ‘Every chapter which explicitly refers to men . . . does so only in relation to the women’. See Roger Ellis, Viderunt eam Filie Syon: The Spirituality of the English House of a Medieval Contemplative Order from its Beginnings to the Present Day, Analecta Cartusiana 68 pt. 2 (Salzburg: Institut fur Anglistik und Amerikanistik, 1984) 32. Cited in Aungier, The History and Antiquities of Syon Monastery 297. Ibid. 298. Ellis, Viderunt eam Filie Syon 103. Aungier, The History and Antiquities of Syon Monastery 313. Ibid. 315. Klawitter, ‘Dramatic Elements in Early Induction Ceremonies’ 49. Ellis, Viderunt eam Filie Syon 37. Aungier, The History and Antiquities of Syon Monastery 316. John Gassner, Medieval and Tudor Drama (New York: Applause Books, 1963, 1987) 1. Peter Dronke, Women Writers of the Middle Ages (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984) 57. David Wiles, ‘Hrotsvitha of Gandersheim: The Performance of Her Plays in the Tenth Century’, Theatre History Studies 19 (June 1999) 136. In making this argument Wiles makes a number of assertions about the possible mode of production and spectatorship that was employed. He notes that Hrotsvitha wrote for men as much as for women and suggests that a cast could have been found at court or among the labourers or male clerics (139). Wiles concludes by hypothesising that the church at Gandersheim ‘seems . . . the optimum place of performance’ (141). Gassner, Medieval and Tudor Drama 1.

140 38 39 40 41

42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49


51 52 53 54 55 56

Notes to pages 27–34 A translation of the text can be found at halsall/basis/roswitha-dulcitius.html. Accessed 12 February 2008. Gassner, Medieval and Tudor Drama 7. Ibid. 11. Elissa Weaver, ‘Spiritual Fun: A Study of Sixteenth-Century Tuscan Convent Theater’, Women in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, ed. Mary Beth Rose (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1986) 186. Ibid. 6. Electa Arenal and Stacey Schlau, Untold Sisters: Hispanic Nuns in their Own Works, trans. Amanda Powell (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1989) 148. Elissa Weaver, Convent Theatre in Early Modern Italy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002) 62. Weaver, ‘Spiritual Fun: A Study of Sixteenth-Century Tuscan Convent Theater’ 176. E. C. Chambers, The Mediaeval Stage, Vol. 2 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1903) 244. Weaver, Convent Theatre in Early Modern Italy 3. Ibid. 9. For further discussion of this see Julia Mortimer, From the body of the Religious to the Religious Body: The influence of the Middle English Writing of St Bridget of Sweden on Fifteenth Century Instructional Literature for the Sisters of Syon Abbey, Diss. (University of London 2002) 32. Mortimer draws upon the work of Felicity Riddy and Carol Meale to establish reading methods. For example, Margery Kempe outlines how a priest read aloud to her for seven or eight years. Her texts included the Bible, St Bride’s book (thought to be the Revelations of St Bridget), books by Hilton, and the Stimulus Amoris and Incendium Amoris (Margery Kempe, The Book of Margery Kempe, ed. Barry Windeatt (Woodbridge: D. S. Brewer, 2004) 115, lines 1251–61). Gilchrist, Gender and Material Culture 15. Ibid. 191. Ibid. 194. Gilchrist points out there were fewer separate abodes for Abbesses than there were for Priors (ibid. 125). Weaver, Convent Theatre in Early Modern Italy 1–2. Weaver, ‘Spiritual Fun: A Study of Sixteenth-Century Tuscan Convent Theater’ 173.

2 1

drama of inclusion: church and parish

Michel Foucault, ‘Of Other Spaces’, trans. J. Miskowiec, Diacritics 16.1 (1986) 22.

Notes to pages 35–37 2

3 4

5 6


8 9 10


John Wasson, ‘The English Church as Theatrical Space’, A New History of Early English Drama, eds John Cox and David Scott Kastan (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997) 25–6. Wasson builds his case upon the evidence of numerous complaints lodged by bishops throughout England during this period, which suggest that dramatic playing must have been widespread. This view is opposed by scholars such as Lawrence Clopper who argues ‘there are no unequivocal references to non-liturgical dramas in English monasteries and cathedrals . . . we should not expect to find religious institutions as sponsors of vernacular dramas until Cromwell, John Bale and others’ (Lawrence Clopper, Drama, Play and Game: English Festive Culture in the Medieval and Early Modern Period (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2001) 112). Victor I. Scherb, Staging Faith: East Anglian Drama in the Later Middle Ages (Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2001) 34. Alexandra Johnston, ‘ “What Revels are in Hand?” Dramatic Activities Sponsored by the Parishes of the Thames Valley’, English Parish Drama, eds Alexandra Johnston and Wim Hüsken. Ludus. Medieval and Early Renaissance Theatre and Drama 1 (Amsterdam and Atlanta: Rodopi, 1996) 101–2. William Tydeman, The Theatre in the Middle Ages (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978) 51. See Wasson, ‘The English Church as Theatrical Space’ 28. It is likely that the introduction of pews led to greater segregation within the congregation. Pews were separated by rank, with the wealthiest families reserving special seats. Congregations were also separated on the basis of gender with men and women on different sides of the church, as has been noted in the introduction to this study. Stanbury and Raguin report that the act of kneeling and peering through squint holes had the effect of magnifying the Mass and that the sense of a private viewing increased the intimacy and intensity of the experience (Sarah Stanbury and Virginia Chieffo Raguin, ‘Introduction’, Women’s Space: Patronage, Place, and Gender in the Medieval Church, eds Virginia Chieffo Raguin and Sarah Stanbury (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2005) 7–8). John Wesley Harris, Medieval Theatre in Context (London and New York: Routledge, 1992) 23. Tydeman, The Theatre in the Middle Ages 63. Ibid. 55. Margery Kempe reports that the sepulchre was used at Lynn to stage an Easter play where priests enacted the burial and resurrection (Margery Kempe, The Book of Margery Kempe, ed. Barry Windeatt (Woodbridge: D. S. Brewer, 2004) 275, lines 4697–701).

142 11 12

13 14 15 16 17

18 19 20 21

22 23 24 25 26 27

Notes to pages 37–41 John Gassner, Medieval and Tudor Drama (New York: Applause Books, 1963, 1987) 36. Though it is difficult to trace precise examples of vernacular drama being played in England, John Wasson suggests that records from Lincoln cathedral show some seventeen accounts of plays being presented there including the Coronation of the Blessed Virgin and an Assumption play (Wasson, ‘The English Church as Theatrical Space’ 27). David Bevington, Medieval Drama (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1975) 138. Ibid. Eamon Duffy, ‘Religious Belief’, A Social History of England 1200– 1500, eds Rosemary Horrox and W. Mark Ormrod (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006) 306. David Wiles, A Short History of Western Performance Space (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003) 41. Margery Kempe details how a papal bull was granted for a chapel to have a font so that they could undertake baptisms and purifications. The incident led to a dispute between rich parishioners and the priest because it was feared the parish church would be undermined if the chapel gained a font (Kempe, The Book of Margery Kempe, 2004: 147, lines 1888–1903). Wiles, A Short History of Western Performance Space 44. David Cressy, Birth, Marriage, and Death: Ritual, Religion, and the Life-Cycle in Tudor and Stuart England (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997) 1. Ibid. Gail McMurray Gibson, ‘Blessing from Sun and Moon: Churching as Women’s Theater’, Bodies and Disciplines: Intersections of Literature and History in Fifteenth-Century England, eds Barbara Hanawalt and David Wallace. Medieval Cultures v. 9 (Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 1996) 141. Alan Nelson, The English Medieval Stage: Corpus Christi Pageants and Plays (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1974) 88. Ibid. 144. Kempe, The Book of Margery Kempe, 357, lines 6667–9. Ibid. 337, lines 6187–90. Scherb, Staging Faith: East Anglian Drama in the Later Middle Ages 83. Gervase Rosser, ‘Parochial Conformity and Voluntary Religion in Late Medieval England’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 6th Ser., Vol. 1 (1991) 174. In actual fact the operation of the parish system was much looser than this supposes. As Gervase Rosser points out, there was also in existence a system of worship via local chapels (175).

Notes to pages 41–44


28 Ibid. 173. 29 James Stokes describes this as ‘When the vicar and parishioners mimicked the communion process by symbolically drinking ale together, they were connecting sublime theology with comic local custom in ways utterly consistent with the mixing of high and low’ (James Stokes, ‘Processional Entertainments in Villages and Small Towns’, Moving Subjects: Processional Performance in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, eds Kathleen Ashley and Wim Hüsken. Ludus. Medieval and Early Renaissance Theatre and Drama 5 (Amsterdam and Atlanta, Georgia: Rodopi, 2001) 253). 30 Natalie Zemon Davis suggests that the motif of the unruly woman was not only used to keep women down but also ‘helped to change them into something different’ (Natalie Zemon Davis, ‘Women on Top’: Symbolic Sexual Inversion and Political Disorder in Early Modern Europe’, The Reversible World, ed. Barbara Babcock (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1978) 183). 31 Quoted in Sally-Beth MacLean, ‘Hocktide: A Reassessment of a Popular Pre-Reformation Festival’, Festive Drama, Papers from the Sixth Triennial Colloquium of the International Society for the Study of Medieval Theatre, ed. Meg Twycross (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1996) 235. 32 Katherine L. French, ‘ “To Free Them from Binding”: Women in the Late Medieval English Parish’, Journal of Interdisciplinary History 27.3 (Winter 1997) 411. 33 See Muriel McClendon, ‘A Moveable Feast: Saint George’s Day Celebrations and Religious Change in Early Modern England’, The Journal of British Studies 38.1 (Jan 1999) 13. McClendon also notes the work of Benjamin McRee in examining how the St George celebrations were used to political ends. They were first used to display national pride after the defeat of France, then used more locally as an expression of turbulence after mayoral contests (13–15). 34 The Paston Letters make reference to one of the household servants being chosen to ride as St George in Norwich. See Carl Lindahl, ‘The Festive Form of the Canterbury Tales’, ELH 52.3 (Autumn 1985) 541. 35 McClendon, ‘A Moveable Feast: Saint George’s Day Celebrations’ 12. 36 McClendon suggests that the dragon was worn over a person and was made from basket work covered in canvas (ibid.). 37 Ibid. 8. 38 Mary Erler, ‘Spectacle and Sacrament: A London Parish Play in the 1530s’, Modern Philology 91.4 (May 1994) 450. 39 Alexandra Johnston, ‘An Introduction to Medieval English Theatre’, The Cambridge Companion to Medieval English Theatre, eds Richard Beadle and Alan J. Fletcher, 2nd edn (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008) 18.


Notes to pages 44–51


This can be found at friarpot.htm. Accessed 5 August 2008. 41 See Accessed 5 August 2008, for the suggestion that the play was performed near a stream. 42 Sally-Beth MacLean, ‘King Games and Robin Hood: Play and Profit at Kingston Upon Thames’, RORD 29 (1986–7) 311. 43 Ibid. 44 Ibid. 312. 45 Muriel McClendon, ‘A Moveable Feast: Saint George’s Day Celebrations’ 17. 46 Ibid. 18. 47 Ibid. 20.

3 1 2


4 5 6 7

8 9 10

drama and the city: city parades

Jacques Le Goff, ‘The Town as an Agent of Civilisation 1200–1500’, The Fontana Economic History of Europe: The Middle Ages, ed. Carlo M. Cipolla (Glasgow: Collins/Fontana, 1972) 76. The discussion of ‘self-fashioning’ here owes much to the work of Renaissance scholar Stephen Greenblatt. See Stephen Greenblatt, Renaissance Self-Fashioning: from More to Shakespeare (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983). The quotation made by anthropologist Clifford Geertz is discussed in Lorraine Attreed, The King’s Town: Identity and Survival in late Medieval Boroughs, American University Studies IX History, Vol. 197 (New York and Washington, DC, Peter Lang: 2001) 90. Yi-Fu Tuan, Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience (Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 1977) 42. David Wiles, A Short History of Western Performance Space (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003) 64. Ibid. Meg Twycross, ‘Some Approaches to Dramatic Festivity’, Festive Drama, ed. Meg Twycross, Papers from the Sixth Triennial Colloquium of the International Society for the Study of Medieval Theatre (Woodbridge, Suffolk: D. S. Brewer, 1996) 9. Wiles, A Short History of Western Performance Space 64. Attreed, The King’s Town: Identity and Survival in Late Medieval Boroughs 78. Alan Knight refers to these places as ‘nodes’. See in Kathleen Ashley, ‘Introduction’, The Moving Subjects of Processional Performance in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, eds Kathleen Ashley and Wim Hüsken. Ludus. Medieval and Early Renaissance Theatre and Drama 5 (Amsterdam and Atlanta, Georgia: Rodopi, 2001) 23 for a discussion of this.

Notes to pages 51–56 11

12 13 14 15



18 19 20 21 22

23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30


Glynne Wickham, The Medieval Theatre (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1974) 3rd edn (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987) 167. Wickham hypotheses that the use of historical figures within civic processions led to the later development of the history play with Renaissance times. Wickham, The Medieval Theatre 166. Ibid. Mervyn James, ‘Ritual Drama and Social Body in the Late Medieval Town’, Past and Present 98 (1983) 4. Charles Phythian-Adams, ‘Ceremony and the Citizen: The Communal Year at Coventry 1450–1550’, Crisis and Order in English Towns, eds Peter Clark and Paul Slack (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul Ltd., 1972) 59. Attreed is clear that civic celebrations were oligarchic: ‘As public events, they boasted of cohesion and civic unity, but tended to celebrate the male leaders of a town, leaving women, artisans and servants on the sidelines or confined to private and parochial rituals’ (Lorraine Attreed, The King’s Town: Identity and Survival in late Medieval Boroughs 72). See Sheila Lindenbaum, ‘Ceremony and Oligarchy: The London Midsummer Watch’, City and Spectacle in Medieval Europe, Medieval Studies at Minnesota, Vol. 6, eds Barbara Hanawalt and Kathryn Rogerson (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1994) 171–88. Ibid. 171. Ibid. Ibid. 175. Ibid. 174. Caroline Barron, ‘Chivalry, Pageantry and Merchant Culture in Medieval London’, Heraldry, Pageantry and Social Display in Medieval England, eds Peter Coss and Maurice Keen (Woodbridge, Suffolk: The Boydell Press, 2002) 228. Barron takes this figure from John Stow’s 1598 Survey of London where Stow reflects on pre-Reformation practices. William Tydeman, The Theatre in the Middle Ages (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978) 95. Clifford Flanigan cited in Kathleen Ashley, ‘Introduction’ 14. Gilbert Lewis cited in ibid. 28. The picture can be viewed at brueghelcarn.JPG. Accessed 8 August 2008. Edward Muir, ‘The Eye of the Procession: Ritual Ways of Seeing in the Renaissance’, Ceremonial Culture in Pre-Modern Europe, ed. Nicholas Howe (Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame, 2007) 150. Ibid. 149. Ibid. 144. Sheila Lindenbaum notes that the image of the giant represented ‘generative power’ and were sometimes also seen as procreative


Notes to pages 56–62

symbols. They were formed of canvas and wickerwork with jointed limbs so that they could be manipulated and appear lifelike (Lindenbaum, ‘Ceremony and Oligarchy: The London Midsummer Watch’ 179). 31 Bristol: Records of Early English Drama, ed. Mark Pilkington (Toronto: University Of Toronto Press, 1997) 708. 32 Peter Fleming and Kieran Costello, Discovering Cabot’s Bristol: Life in the Medieval and Tudor Town (Tiverton, Devon: Redcliff Press, 1998) 29. 33 Bristol: Records of Early English Drama 13. 34 Attreed reports that a monarch’s visit to York resulted in spectators being involved as citizens were instructed to hang tapestries from their houses so that the streets were lined with colour (Attreed, The King’s Town: Identity and Survival in Late Medieval Boroughs, 2001: 75). 35 The pageants presented to Henry must have been carried rather than wheeled as Bristol was not allowed wheeled carts because of the precarious subterranean vaults and sewers (Bristol: Records of Early English Drama xxix). 36 Ibid. 272. 37 David Bergeron, English Civic Pageantry 1558–1642 (London: Edward Arnold, 1971) 26. 38 Ibid. 28. 39 Bristol: Records of Early English Drama 91. 40 Bergeron, English Civic Pageantry 1558–1642 29. 41 Ibid. 30. 42 Eamon Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England 1400–1580, 2nd edn (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2005) 155. 43 Kent: Records of Early English Drama, ed. James Gibson, Vol. 1 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2002) 113. 44 The 1519–20 records suggest that St Thomas’ shirt was painted red (Kent: Records of Early English Drama, 1, 117). 45 Robert E. Scully, ‘The Unmaking of a Saint: Thomas Becket and the English Reformation’, The Catholic Historical Review 86.4 (2000) 286–7. 86.4scully.html Accessed 3 April 2007. 46 Kent: Records of Early English Drama, 1, 139. 47 Ibid. 144. 48 Ibid. 149. 49 Robert E. Scully, ‘The Unmaking of a Saint: Thomas Becket and the English Reformation’ 590. 50 Kent: Records of Early English Drama, 1, 153. 51 Ibid. lxxix. 52 Ibid. 175. 53 Ibid. 183.

Notes to pages 62–69 54

Ibid. 192. It is strange for the carcass of a pageant that was so politically charged to remain within the institutions of the palace or guildhall for over four years; it is to be expected it would be destroyed more rapidly. Clare Gittings, ‘Urban Funerals in Late Medieval and Reformation England’, Death in Towns: Urban Responses to the Dying and the Dead, 100–1600, ed. Steven Bassett (Leicester, London and New York: Leicester University Press, 1992) 171. Ibid. Details of the funerals can be found in Coventry: Records of Early English Drama, ed. R. W. Ingram (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1981) 507–13. Ibid. 509. Ibid. Ibid. 513. Ibid. Mitchell B. Merbeck, The Thief, the Cross and the Wheel: Pain and the Spectacle of Punishment in Medieval and Renaissance Europe (London: Reaktion Books Ltd., 1999) 131. Dave Postles, ‘Penance and the Market Place: a Reformation Dialogue with the Medieval Church (c. 1250–c. 1600)’, Journal of Ecclesiastical History 54.3 (July 2003) 444. Ibid. 445. Ibid. 447. Jody Enders, The Medieval Theater of Cruelty: Rhetoric, Memory, Violence (Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1999) 185–6. Kathleen Ashley, ‘Introduction’ 15.


56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67

4 1


drama in the city: processional drama and hybridity

Walter Stewart, ‘All Work and Old Plays: Stages in the Life of Alexandra Johnston’, VicReport 28.3 (Spring 2000) 6. http://vicu.utoronto. ca/Assets/Victoria/assets/2671860_SPRING.pdf Accessed 17 September 2007. 2 Ibid. 3 It is published in York: Records of Early English Drama, Vol. 1, eds A. F. Johnston and Margaret Dorrell (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1979) 55–6. 4 This meant that the shipbuilders were responsible for the Noah plays and the Mercers, textile traders and one of the wealthiest guilds in medieval York, were given the most splendid and final pageant, that of the Last Judgement. 5 Meg Twycross, ‘The Left-hand-side Theory: A Retraction’, METh 14 (1996) 77–94.

148 6 7 8

9 10 11

12 13 14 15 16


18 19 20 21

22 23 24

Notes to pages 70–73 E. C. Chambers, The Mediaeval Stage. 2 vols. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1903). Miri Rubin, Corpus Christi: The Eucharist in Late Medieval Culture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991). At Chester the plays were moved to Whitsun by 1521. At York the Corpus Christi procession and the plays were originally held on the same day, until the procession was moved to a subsequent day in 1476. William Tydeman, ‘An Introduction to Medieval English Theatre’, The Cambridge Companion to Medieval English Theatre, ed. Richard Beadle, 1st edn (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994) 21. R.B. Dobson, ‘Craft Guilds and City: The Historical Origins of the York Plays Reassessed’, The Stage as Mirror, ed. Alan E. Knight (Woodbridge: Boydell and Brewer, 1997) 100. Alexandra Johnston, ‘The city as patron: York’, Shakespeare and the Theatrical Patronage in Early Modern England, eds Paul Whitfield White and Suzanne R. Westfall (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002) 152. Ibid. Ibid. 153. Ibid. 155. For further information on the ideas of Bakhtin see Mikhail Bakhtin, The Dialogic Imagination, ed. Michael Holquist, trans. Caryl Emerson (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981) 11. Kathleen Ashley, ‘Sponsorship, Reflexivity and Resistance: Cultural Readings of the York Cycle Plays’, The Performance of Middle English Culture: Essays on Chaucer and the Drama in Honor of Martin Stevens, eds James Paxson, Lawrence Clopper and Sylvia Tomasch (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1998) 9. For further discussion on this pageant and its similarity to Palm Sunday processions see Eamon Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England 1400–1580, 2nd edn (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2005) 26–7. Ashley, ‘Sponsorship, Reflexivity and Resistance’ 14. Ibid. 15. Alan Nelson, The English Medieval Stage: Corpus Christi Pageants and Plays (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1974) 14. Alexandra Johnston, ‘York Cycle 1998: What We Learned’, Early Theatre 3 (2000) 199. For further details on this production see Katie Normington, Modern Mysteries: Contemporary Productions of Medieval English Cycle Dramas (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2007) 44–50. David Bevington, ‘Context and Performance: The York Plays at Toronto’, Early Theatre 1 (1998) 147. Ibid. 148. See Donna Smith Vinter, ‘Didactic Characterisation – The Towneley Abraham’, English Medieval Drama, ed. Peter Happé (London:

Notes to pages 74–77

25 26 27 28 29 30 31

32 33 34 35 36 37

38 39 40 41


Macmillan, 1984; reprint 1993) 87 and Meg Twycross and Sarah Carpenter, Masks and Masking in Medieval and Early Tudor England (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2002) 10. Hamlet III, ii, 1–13. See Two Coventry Corpus Christi Plays, ed. Hardin Craig, EETS, ES 87 (London: Oxford University Press, 1957) play 1, line 783. York: Records of Early English Drama, Vol. 1, eds A. F. Johnston and Margaret Dorrell (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1979) 24–5. Janette Dillon, The Cambridge Introduction to Early English Theatre (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006) 92. Meg Twycross, ‘Transvestism in the Mystery Plays’, METh 5.2 (Dec. 1983) 152. Ruth Nisse, Defining Acts: Drama and the Politics of Interpretation in Late Medieval England (Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 2005) 2. Kapchan and Strong find more cultural significance in this definition offered by Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary. Deborah A. Kapchan and Pauline Turner Strong, ‘Theorizing the Hybrid’, The Journal of American Folklore 112.445 Theorizing the Hybrid (Summer 1999) 240. Ibid. Peter Happé, ed., English Mystery Plays (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1975) 48, lines 174–7. Denise Ryan, ‘Women, Sponsorship and the Early Civic Stage: Chester’s Worshipful Wives and the Lost Assumption Play’, Research Opportunities in Renaissance Drama XL (2001) 151. Ibid. Ibid. 153. David Mills, Recycling the Cycle: The City of Chester and Its Whitsun Plays, Studies in Early English Drama 4 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1998) 86. Mills notes that the Assumption pageant was chosen, perhaps because of the proximity to Assumption Day, when Prince Arthur visited Chester to inaugurate the extension of the Prentice in 1497. The performance occurred at the Abbey Gates but celebrated the ‘major civic building, and confirming the new confidence and authority of the city’s administration’ (Ibid.). This moment reflects the hybridity of the event which was sponsored by wives of citizens, celebrated city accomplishments and performed in front of a religious building. Ryan, ‘Women, Sponsorship and the Early Civic Stage’ 157. Ibid. 159. Ibid. 166. This analogy between queens of heaven and earth was not a simple one, since it was also based upon limitation. As Kipling points out, the queens (or heaven and earth) are ultimately there to serve


42 43 44 45 46



49 50 51 52

53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60

Notes to pages 77–83 their kings and to demonstrate the greater power of their spouses (Gordon Kipling, Enter the King: Theatre, Liturgy, and Ritual in the Medieval Civic Triumph (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998: 307). Ryan, ‘Women, Sponsorship and the Early Civic Stage’ 161. Eamon Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England 1400–1580, 2nd ed. (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2005) 465. Ashley, ‘Sponsorship, Reflexivity and Resistance’ 18. Ibid. 19. There is no convincing link that can be tied between Wakefield and the Towneley cycle. The N-Town plays are likely a composite of texts that were performed on a variety of occasions rather than as one cycle. For a further discussion on the N-Town Mary Play see Chapter 5. British Library Additional MS 35290. For a facsimile of this see The York Play: A Facsimile of British Library MS Additional 35290 together with a Facsimile of the ‘Ordo Paginarum’ section of the A/Y Memorandum Book, eds Richard Beadle and Peter Meredith (Leeds Texts and Monographs Medieval Drama Facsimiles 7; Leeds: University of Leeds School of English, 1983). See Richard Beadle, ‘The York Corpus Christi Play’, The Cambridge Companion to Medieval English Theatre, eds Richard Beadle and Alan J. Fletcher, 2nd edn (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008) 105–6. David Mills, ‘The Chester Cycle’, The Cambridge Companion to Medieval English Theatre, eds Richard Beadle and Alan J. Fletcher, 2nd edn (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008) 125. Happé, ed., English Mystery Plays 44, lines 69–70. See David Mills, Recycling the Cycle: The City of Chester and Its Whitsun Plays, 141. Happé suggests that this pageant is a later addition, developed sometime between 1467 and 1488 (after the Tanners, leatherworkers, separated from co-producing with the Skinners and Shoemakers). See Happé, ed., English Mystery Plays 49. Ibid. 54: line 91. Ibid. line 110. Ibid. lines 171–2. Ibid. lines 203–4. Ibid. line 123. Ibid. 652. A. C. Cawley, ed., Everyman and Medieval Miracle Plays (London: J. M. Dent and Sons Ltd., 1956; revised 1974) 24 lines 161–2. Richard Beadle and Pamela King, eds, York Mystery Plays. A Selection in Modern Spelling (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1995) 8.

Notes to pages 83–86 61 62 63 64 65 66

67 68 69 70

71 72

73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80


For further comments on the use of this technique in modern productions see David Parry, ‘The York Mystery Cycle at Toronto, 1977’, METh (1979) 20. James Laver, Costume in the Theatre (London: Harrop, 1964) 48. William Tydeman, The Theatre in the Middle Ages (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978) 213. Happé, ed., English Mystery Plays 118. For a fuller reading of the gender issues evoked within the Noah plays see Katie Normington, Gender and Medieval Drama (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2004) 121–32. Rosemary Woolf reads Mrs. Noah as representing the sinner to saint narrative: ‘Noah’s wife, therefore, who does not wish to be in the ark when the flood comes, represents the recalcitrant sinner, perhaps even the sinner on his deathbed, who refuses to repent and enter the church’. (Rosemary Woolf, The English Mystery Plays (London: Routledge, 1972) 139). Happé, ed., English Mystery Plays 119, lines 9–12. Martin Stevens, Four Middle English Mystery Cycles (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1987) 277. Happé, ed., English Mystery Plays 120, lines 49–52. Richard Daniels sees Noah’s conflict between his wife’s behaviour and obedience to God as providing a dialectic between ‘experience and doctrine’ that would be familiar to an audience (Richard Daniels, ‘Uxor Noah: A Raven or a Dove’, Chaucer Review 14 (1979) 29. Happé, ed., English Mystery Plays 205. Sarah Beckwith notes how at York the insistence on work is to be found within the building of the ark and that ‘God does indeed become the master craftsman teaching the ignorant Noah the tricks of the trade of shipbuilding’ (Sarah Beckwith, Signifying God: Social Relation and Symbolic Act in the York Corpus Christi Plays (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001) 43). Happé, ed., English Mystery Plays 121, lines 67–8. Ruth Evans, ‘Feminist Re-enactments: Gender and the Towneley Uxor Noe’, A Wyf Ther Was, ed. Juliette Dor (Liège: Liège Language and Literature, 1992) 141. Ibid. 154. See P. J. P. Goldberg, Women in England. 1275–1525 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1995) 204–5. Genesis 7.13. She has been identified as this in V. A. Kolve, The Play Called Corpus Christi (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1966) 144. For further details of this and possible Islamic and Jewish origins of the stubborn wife see Anna Jean Mill, ‘Noah’s Wife Again’, PMLA LVI (1941) 613–26. The fragment of the Newcastle play dramatises the devil instructing Mrs. Noah.

152 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89

90 91

92 93 94 95 96 97


Notes to pages 86–90 Richard Axton, European Drama of the Early Middle Ages (London: Hutchinson and Co., 1974) 186. Gail McMurray Gibson, The Theater of Devotion: East Anglian Drama and Society in the Late Middle Ages (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1989) 43. See Garrett P. J. Epp, ‘The Towneley Plays, or, The Hazards of Cycling’, RORD 32 (1993) 121–50 and Barbara Palmer, ‘Recycling “The Wakefield Cycle”: The Records’, RORD 41 (2002) 88–130. Happé, ed., English Mystery Plays 283, line 456. Ibid. 266, lines 15–18. Ibid. 274, lines 233–4. Ibid. 286, lines 535–8. Ibid. 287, line 572. David Mills outlines the technique used at Chester, but also found in the York cycle whereby ‘Nothing in the cycle exists solely in its own right’. Through this multiple links are created between various pageants so that resonant themes and characterizations help to build the dramatic structure. (David Mills, Recycling the Cycle: The City of Chester and Its Whitsun Plays, 161). Sarah Beckwith notes that ‘these scenes are boisterous and busy, composed of multiple level and tensions, and scenically enormously complex’ (Beckwith, Signifying God, 2001: 65). Sarah Beckwith draws upon the work of Martin Bartlett who notes that the breaks in the order of the lines attributed to the soldiers are due to the stage action they must undertake, and that this forms the structure of the scene itself (Ibid. 68). Happé, ed., English Mystery Plays 526, lines 26. Ibid. 531, lines 169–70. Ibid. 531, lines 190 and 191 respectively. Ibid. 533, lines 225–6. Ibid. 535, line 260. Pamela King, The York Mystery Cycle and the Worship of the City, Westfield Medieval Studies, Vol. 1 (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2006) 149. Greg Walker takes this moment further and believes that not only are the audience placed at a point where they share responsibility for the Crucifixion, but they also share the Redemption: ‘The audience, in one of the most powerful moments in the entire Cycle, is placed literally as well as figuratively at the foot of the Cross, and is able to feel the power of the Christian dictum that, just as each of them shares equally in the responsibility for Christ’s death, so each of them shares also in God’s forgiveness, granted freely and unprompted through grace at the Redemption’ (Greg Walker, ‘Medieval Drama: the Corpus Christi in York and Croxton’, Readings in Medieval Texts: Interpreting Old and Middle English Literature, eds David Johnson and Elaine Treharne (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005) 376). For further details of this notion see Alexandra Johnston, ‘The City as Patron: York’, Shakespeare and the Theatrical Patronage in Early

Notes to pages 90–96


100 101 102 103

Modern England, eds Paul Whitfield White and Suzanne R. Westfall (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002) 153. See Caroline Walker Bynum, Fragmentation and Redemption (New York: Zone Books, 1991) 93 for a commentary on the doublegendered nature of Christ and Peter Travis, ‘The Semiotics of Christ’s Body in the English Cycles’, Approaches to Teaching Medieval English Drama, ed. Richard K. Emmerson (New York: The Modern Languages Association of America, 1990) 71 on the rape of Christ’s body. Happé, ed., English Mystery Plays 634, lines 49–52. Happé, ed., English Mystery Plays 645, lines 365–8. Claire Sponsler, ‘The Culture of the Spectator: Conformity and Resistance to Medieval Performance’, Theatre Journal 44.1 (1992) 20. Ibid. 28.

5 1 2

3 4 5 6 7 8 9

10 11


fixed place drama: place-and-scaffold

Janette Dillon, The Cambridge Introduction to Early English Theatre (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006) 4. Robert Weimann, Shakespeare and the Popular Tradition in the Theater: Studies in the Social Dimension of Dramatic Form and Function, ed. Robert Schwartz (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, reprint 1987) 78, 83. Weimann suggests that all forms of medieval staging offered this dialectic, for example he postulates that indoor performance within the great hall used the middle of the hall or end near the dais as a locus with the space among the audience serving as a platea. Pamela King, ‘Morality Plays’, The Cambridge Companion to Medieval English Theatre, ed. Richard Beadle, 1st edn (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994) 244. Victor I. Scherb, Staging Faith: East Anglian Drama in the Later Middle Ages (Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2001) 154–5. Ibid. Ibid. 156. Issues regarding the provenance of the text relate to whether it is the work of one scribe (see Peter Happé, English Drama Before Shakespeare (London and New York: Longman, 1999) 43). Ibid. 53. See Scherb, Staging Faith 151 and Meg Twycross, ‘The Theatricality of Medieval English Plays’, The Cambridge Companion to Medieval English Theatre, ed. Richard Beadle, 1st edn (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994) 60. See Richard Southern, The Medieval Theatre in the Round (London: Faber, 1957, 2nd edn, 1975). For views on this perspectives see Pamela King, ‘Spatial Semantics and the Medieval Theatre’, The Theatrical Space. Themes in Drama.


12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30

31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40

Notes to pages 96–102 Vol. 9. Ed. James Redmond (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987) 48. Meg Twycross discusses modern-day experiments which have tried locating the audience on the bank or within the platea (see Tywcross ‘The Theatricality of Medieval English Plays’ 58–9). Andrea R. Harbin, Space and Movement on the English Religious Stage, Diss. (Catholic University of America, 2006) 75. Ibid. Theresa Coletti, Mary Magdalene and the Drama of Saints: Theater, Gender, and Religion in Late Medieval England (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004) 15. Happé, English Drama Before Shakespeare 14. Scherb, Staging Faith 150. David Bevington, Medieval Drama (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1975) 819, lines 701–2. Ibid. 823, lines 841–8. Happé, English Drama Before Shakespeare 44. Bevington, Medieval Drama 803, line 134. Ibid. 804, line 160. Ibid. line 163. Ibid. 808, lines 271–4. Scherb, Staging Faith 152. Bevington, Medieval Drama 807, line 235. Ibid. line 239. Ibid. 812, lines 456 and 458 respectively. Harbin, Space and Movement on the English Religious Stage 81–2. Bevington, Medieval Drama 849, line 1823. Marjorie K. McIntosh, ‘Finding Language for Misconduct: Jurors in Fifteenth-Century Local Courts’, Bodies and Disciplines: Intersections of Literature and History in Fifteenth-Century England, eds Barbara Hanawalt and David Wallace, Medieval Cultures v. 9 (Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 1996) 94. Bevington, Medieval Drama 826, lines 958–61. Ibid. 811, lines 419–20. Ibid. 838. The stage direction, however, is probably an addition made by Bevington. Ibid. 797. Scherb, Staging Faith 162. Bevington, Medieval Drama 900, lines 3645–7. Daryl Grantley, ‘ Saints’ Plays’, The Cambridge Companion to Medieval English Theatre, ed. Richard Beadle (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994) 273. Bevington, Medieval Drama 687. Peter Happé has suggested that the play might have been performed over two days (Happé, English Drama Before Shakespeare 41). Scherb, Staging Faith 172. Bevington, Medieval Drama 699.

Notes to pages 103–107 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53

54 55 56

57 58 59



Grantley, ‘ Saints’ Plays’ 279. Bevington, Medieval Drama 753, lines 2141–4. Bevington, Medieval Drama 690, lines 1–2. Ibid. 702, line 386. Ibid. 702 note. Scherb, Staging Faith 176. Ibid. 177. Ibid. 173. Ibid. 179. Bevington, Medieval Drama 711. Grantley, ‘Saints’ Plays’ 279. Ibid. 280. For further details see Alan J. Fletcher, ‘The N-Town Plays’, The Cambridge Companion to Medieval English Theatre, eds Richard Beadle and Alan J. Fletcher, 2nd edn (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008) 184–7. See details in Peter Meredith, ed., The Mary Play from the N. Town Manuscript (London: Longman, 1987). Greg Walker, ed., Medieval Drama: An Anthology (London: Blackwell, 2000) 167. See Ruth Nisse, Defining Acts: Drama and the Politics of Interpretation in Late Medieval England (Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 2005) 66, and Eamon Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England 1400–1580, 2nd edn (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2005) 48. Walker, Medieval Drama 167. Scherb, Staging Faith 194. Peter Happé finds ‘the interlocking of locations’ which he sees as a feature of place-and-scaffold drama lacking in the Mary Play, although admits it is difficult to be certain (Peter Happé, Cyclic Form and the English Mystery Plays, Ludus Medieval and Early Renaissance Theatre and Drama 7, ed. Wim Hüsken (Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi, 2004) 291. The role has been seen by Hans-Jürgen Diller as that of a ‘liturgical choir’. For a full discussion of the role see Diller, The Middle English Mystery Play. A Study in Dramatic Speech and Form, trans. Frances Wessels (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992) 154–6. I refer to Contemplacio as male here and although most critics assume that Contemplacio is male, Ruth Nisse argues that the use of the Latin feminine-gendered name, the subject matter of the play, and the use of a similar female figure in Nicholas Love’s translation of Meditations all point to a female narrator here (Nisse, Defining Acts 66–7). Further she sees the Mary Play as a ‘Bridgettine-influenced account of the possibilities of female visionary and contemplative authorship’, and thus observes a similarly with the practices at Syon (Ibid. 74 and 67).

156 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70

71 72 73 74 75 76 77

Notes to pages 108–113 Gail McMurray Gibson, The Theater of Devotion: East Anglian Drama and Society in the Late Middle Ages (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1989) 128. J. A. Tasioulas, ‘Between Doctrine and Domesticity: The Portrayal of Mary in the N-Town Plays’, Medieval Women and their Communities, ed. Diane Watt (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1977) 240. Walker notes that contemporary stagings of the play demonstrate that the role can be played by an adult actor to good effect (Walker, Medieval Drama 167). Gibson, The Theater of Devotion 135. Walker, Medieval Drama 182, lines 816–19. Ibid. 183, lines 869–70. Gibson, The Theater of Devotion 142. Ibid. 164. Ibid. 144. Ibid. Gibson points out that representations of the Virgin being impregnated by beams of light are common in European medieval art and there are examples of this in East Anglia. A stained-glass window in St Peter Mancroft Church, Norwich shows a dove and a Christ Child being transported to Mary in a beam of light which radiates from Gabriel (Ibid. 146). Theresa Coletti reads the use of Mary within the plays in a similar fashion to Gibson and notes that the infancy plays of the N-Town cycle ‘undercut traditional discourses of gender’ in placing authority within Mary’s body (Theresa Coletti, ‘Purity and Danger: The Paradox of Mary’s Body and the En-gendering of the Infancy Narrative in the English Mystery Cycles’, Feminist Approaches to the Body in Medieval Literature, eds Linda Lomperis and Sarah Stanbury (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993) 87). Scherb, Staging Faith 194–5. Peter Happé, Cyclic Form and the English Mystery Plays 40–1. Happé notes that the Cornish cycle was closer to continental models in terms of the incidents included (Peter Happé, English Drama Before Shakespeare (London and New York: Longman, 1999) 64). Brian O. Murdoch, ‘The Cornish Medieval Drama’, The Cambridge Companion to Medieval English Theatre, ed. Richard Beadle, 1st edn (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994) 224. Happé, Cyclic Form and the English Mystery Plays 282. Ibid. 283. A. C. Cawley, ed., Everyman and Medieval Miracle Plays (London: J. M. Dent and Sons Ltd., 1956; revised 1974) 239.

6 1

indoor drama: private entertainment

Barbara Palmer notes that although a myth of playing within inns has dominated theatre historiography, there is little evidence of such

Notes to pages 114–116

2 3 4 5


7 8 9 10 11


13 14 15


practice within the records she has examined of West Riding and Derbyshire (Barbara Palmer, ‘Early Modern Mobility: Players, Payments, and Patrons’, Shakespeare Quarterly 56.3 (2005) 271). Meg Twycross, ‘The Theatricality of Medieval English Plays’, The Cambridge Companion to Medieval English Theatre, ed. Richard Beadle, 1st edn (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994) 66. Greg Walker, The Politics of Performance in Early Renaissance Drama (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998) 34. Twycross, ‘The Theatricality of Medieval English Plays’ 66. Greg Walker points out that not all halls had the dais at one end and that smaller halls were likely to place it in the middle against a wall, but that the dynamic of the privilege of spectators was likely to remain (Walker, The Politics of Performance 53). Greg Walker notes the similarity between the great hall space and the architectural features of the Tudor playhouse. There is a similarity between the screens of the hall and the tiring house of the playhouse (Ibid. 48–9). Ibid. 50. Twycross, ‘The Theatricality of Medieval English Plays’ 76. Ibid. 79. Quoted in Julie Kerr, ‘ “Welcome the Coming and Speed the Parting Guest”: Hospitality in Twelfth-Century England’, Journal of Medieval History 33.2 (June 2007) 130. See Felicity Heal, ‘Reciprocity and Exchange in the Late Medieval Household’, Bodies and Disciplines: Intersections of Literature and History in Fifteenth-Century England, eds Barbara Hanawalt and David Wallace, Medieval Cultures v. 9 (Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 1996) 186 for further details. Felicity Heal, ‘Reciprocity and Exchange in the Late Medieval Household’ 180. See also the work of Kim Phillips who argues that ‘Many historians have noted the English higher nobility’s efforts through the fifteenth century to carve out a more eminent and clearly delineated niche for themselves, against a background of shifting economic structure, greater social mobility, and newer forms of social prestige’ (Kim Phillips, ‘The Invisible Man: Body and Ritual in a Fifteenth-Century Noble Household’, Journal of Medieval History 31 (2005) 151). Heal, ‘Reciprocity and Exchange in the Late Medieval Household’ 185 and 186 respectively. Charles Phythian-Adams, ‘Ritual Constructions of Society’, A Social History of England 1200–1500, eds Rosemary Horrox and W. Mark Ormrod (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006) 378. It is often noted that Christmas provided one of the main opportunities for private households to undertake entertainments, however, Peter Greenfield’s study of festive drama in aristocratic households shows that visits by itinerant professional companies were not focused at Christmas and it was more likely that households drew




18 19 20

21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28

29 30 31 32

Notes to pages 116–120 on local amateur performers for their yuletide celebrations. See Peter Greenfield, ‘Festive Drama at Christmas in Aristocratic Households’, Festive Drama, ed. Meg Twycross, Papers from the Sixth Triennial Colloquium of the International Society of the Study of Medieval Theatre, Lancaster 13–19 July 1989 (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1996) 35. Dillon points out that the Chapels were the antecedents of playing companies in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. The Chapel of St Paul’s and the Queen gave rise to the children’s companies (Janette Dillon, The Cambridge Introduction to Early English Theatre (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006) 253 n. 32). Cumberland, Westmoreland and Glouc: Records of Early English Drama, eds Audrey Douglas and Peter Greenfield (Toronto: Toronto University Press, 1986) 359. Household Accounts of Edward Stafford, Duke of Buckingham. Devon: Records of Early English Drama, ed. John Wasson (Toronto: Toronto University Press, 1987) 223. Palmer, ‘Early Modern Mobility: Players, Payments, and Patrons’ 261–2. See Mark Brayshay, ‘Waits, Musicians, Bearwards and Players: The Inter-urban Road Travel and Performances of Itinerant Entertainers in Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century England’, Journal of Historical Geography 31.3 (July 2005) 437. This figure relates to waits arriving at Nottingham. Ibid. 431. Ibid. 437. Cited in Phillips, ‘The Invisible Man: Body and Ritual in a FifteenthCentury Noble Household’ 152–3. Ibid. 161. The full record of this visit is available via British Library link strFest=0234 Accessed 30 August 2008. Dillon, The Cambridge Introduction to Early English Theatre 35–6. David Bevington, Medieval Drama (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1975) 901. Claire Sponsler suggests that the use of the term ‘gathering’ is akin to the collections made by parish dramas such as Robin Hood plays and that the play was perhaps performed by amateurs rather than professionals. See Claire Sponsler, Drama and Resistance: Bodies, Goods, and Theatricality in Late Medieval England, Medieval Cultures 10 (Minneapolis and London: University of Minneapolis Press, 1997) 88. John Coldewey, ed., Early English Drama: An Anthology (New York and London: Garland Reference Library of the Humanities, 1993) 105. Bevington, Medieval Drama 904, line 43. Ibid. 916, lines 374–5. Coldewey, Early English Drama 106.

Notes to pages 121–127


33 Bevington, Medieval Drama 904, line 29. 34 Ibid. 906, line 97. 35 Ibid. 915, line 331. 36 Ibid. 920, line 467. 37 Ibid. 904, lines 30–2. 38 Ibid. 915, lines 333–4. 39 Pamela King, ‘Morality Plays’, The Cambridge Companion to Medieval English Theatre, ed. Richard Beadle, 1st edn (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994) 250. 40 Bevington, Medieval Drama 938, line 908. 41 Claire Sponsler, Drama and Resistance 85. 42 Ibid. 43 Bevington, Medieval Drama 915, lines 345–7. 44 Tom Pettit, ‘Mankind: An English Fastnachtspiel?’, Festive Drama, ed. Meg Twycross, Papers from the Sixth Triennial Colloquium of the International Society for the Study of Medieval Theatre (Woodbridge, Suffolk: D. S. Brewer, 1996) 190–202. 45 See King, ‘Morality Plays’ 250 for a further discussion of the seasonal placing of this play. She argues that the use of a Christmas carol is not out of keeping for a Lent play, since Shrovetide was seen as the climax of the Christmas celebration. 46 This is the conclusion that Claire Sponsler reaches too. However she suggests that the play might have been performed by household members at Shrovetide (Sponsler, Drama and Resistance 88–89). 47 Phillips, ‘The Invisible Man’ 156. 48 Twycross, ‘The Theatricality of Medieval English Plays’ 79. 49 Lawrence Clopper, ‘Mankind and Its Audience’, Drama in the Middle Ages: Comparative and Critical Essays, 2nd series, eds Clifford Davidson and John H. Stroupe (New York: AMS Press, 1991) 240–1. 50 Bevington, Medieval Drama 990. 51 Walker, Medieval Drama 456. 52 Greg Walker, Plays of Persuasion: Drama and Politics at the Court of Henry VIII (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991) 133. 53 Peter Happé, English Drama Before Shakespeare (London and New York: Longman, 1999) 123. 54 Bevington, Medieval Drama 995, line 98. 55 Ibid. 997, lines 176–7. 56 Ibid. 1000, line 249. 57 Ibid. 995, line 79. 58 Ibid. 996, line 130. 59 Ibid. 997, line 144. 60 Ibid. 1007, line 477. 61 Ibid., line 483. 62 Ibid. 1008, lines 548–51. 63 Ibid. 1013, lines 716–17.

160 64 65 66

Notes to pages 128–134 Ibid. 1017, line 876. Walker, Plays of Persuasion 166. Ibid. 236.

conclusion 1



4 5 6 7 8 9 10

For an excellent discussion of the wider parameters of early performance see John McGavin, Theatricality and Narrative in Medieval and Early Modern Scotland, Studies in Performance and Early Modern Drama (Aldershot and Burlington: Ashgate, 2007) 15–17. Diller, Hans-Jürgen. ‘Theatrical Pragmatics: The Actor-Audience Relationship from the Mystery Cycles to the Early Tudor Comedies’ Drama in the Middle Ages: Comparative and Critical Essays. 2nd series, eds Clifford Davidson and John H. Stroupe. New York: AMS Press, 1991: 321. See David Bevington, ed. Medieval Drama (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1975) 755; Janette Dillon, The Cambridge Introduction to Early English Theatre (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006) 5–6; Greg Walker, ed. Medieval Drama: An Anthology (London: Blackwell, 2000) 214; John Wasson, ‘The English Church as Theatrical Space’, A New History of Early English Drama, eds John Cox and David Scott Kastan (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997) 31. Bevington’s edition of the text has inserted additional stage directions which are of his own design and the reader must therefore be careful in relying on the accuracy of these. Bevington, Medieval Drama 788, line 714. Greg Walker, ed., Medieval Drama: An Anthology, 213. Ibid. 214. Lawton, David, ‘Sacrilege and Theatricality: The Croxton Play of the Sacrament’. JMEMS 33.2 (Spring 2003) 281–309. Ibid. 298. Ibid. 294.


primary sources Aungier, George James. The History and Antiquities of Syon Monastery, the Parish of Isleworth and the Chapelry of Hounslow. London, 1840. Beadle, Richard and Pamela King, eds York Mystery Plays. A Selection in Modern Spelling. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1995. Bevington, David. Medieval Drama. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1975. Bristol: Records of Early English Drama. Ed. Mark Pilkington. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997. Cawley, A. C., ed. Everyman and Medieval Miracle Plays. London: J. M. Dent and Sons Ltd, 1956; revised 1974. Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Canterbury Tales. Trans. Nevill Coghill. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1951. Coldewey, John, ed. Early English Drama: An Anthology. New York and London: Garland Reference Library of the Humanities, 1993. Coventry: Records of Early English Drama. Ed. R. W. Ingram. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1981. Cumberland, Westmoreland and Glouc: Records of Early English Drama. Eds Audrey Douglas and Peter Greenfield. Toronto: Toronto University Press, 1986. Devon: Records of Early English Drama. Ed. John Wasson. Toronto: Toronto University Press, 1987. Fox, Sally, ed. The Medieval Woman: Illuminated Book of Postcards. London: HarperCollins, 1991. Gassner, John. Medieval and Tudor Drama. New York: Applause Books, 1963; reprint 1987.



Happé, Peter, ed. English Mystery Plays. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1975. The Hours of Étienne Chevalier by Jean Fouquet: The Forty Miniatures in the Musée Condé. Text by Patricia Stirnemann, in collaboration with Marie-Thérèse Gousset, Claudia Rabel and Emmanuelle Toulet. Paris: Somogy editions d’art, 2005. Kempe, Margery. The Book of Margery Kempe. Ed. Barry Windeatt. Woodbridge: D. S. Brewer, 2004. Kent: Records of Early English Drama. Ed. James Gibson. 3 vols. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2002. Langland, William, Piers Plowman. A complete edition of the B-Text. Ed. A. V. C. Schmidt. New edn. London: Dent. 1987. Meredith, Peter, ed. The Mary Play from the N-Town Manuscript. London: Longman, 1987. Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Eds Ann Thompson and Neil Taylor. London: Arden Shakespeare, 2006. Tolhurst, J. B. L., ed. The Ordinale and Customary of the Benedictine Nuns of Barking Abbey. University College, Oxford MS. 169 Vol. 2. Sanctorale. London: Henry Bradshaw Society, 1928. Two Coventry Corpus Christi Plays. Ed. Hardin Craig. EETS, ES 87. London: Oxford University Press, 1957. Walker, Greg, ed. Medieval Drama: An Anthology. London: Blackwell, 2000. The York Play: A Facsimile of British Library MS Additional 35290 together with a Facsimile of the ‘Ordo Paginarum’ section of the A/Y Memorandum Book. Eds Richard Beadle and Peter Meredith. Leeds Texts and Monographs Medieval Drama Facsimiles 7; Leeds: University of Leeds School of English, 1983. York: Records of Early English Drama. 2 vols. Eds A. F. Johnston and Margaret Dorrell. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1979.

secondary sources Anderson, Bonnie, S. and Judith P. Zinsser. A History of Their Own: Women in Europe from Prehistory to the Present. Vol. 1. London and New York: Penguin, 1988. Arenal, Electa and Stacey Schlau. Untold Sisters: Hispanic Nuns in their Own Works. Trans. Amanda Powell. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico, 1989. Ashley, Kathleen. ‘Introduction’. The Moving Subjects of Processional Performance in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Ludus. Medieval and Early Renaissance Theatre and Drama 5. Amsterdam and Atlanta: Rodopi, 2001. 7–34. —. ‘Sponsorship, Reflexivity and Resistance: Cultural Readings of the York Cycle Plays’. The Performance of Middle English Culture: Essays on



Chaucer and the Drama in Honor of Martin Stevens. Eds James Paxson, Lawrence Clopper and Sylvia Tomasch. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1998. 9–24. Attreed, Lorraine. The King’s Town: Identity and Survival in Late Medieval Boroughs. American University Studies IX History. Vol. 197. New York and Washington D.C.: Peter Lang, 2001. Austin, J. L. How To Do Things With Words. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1962. Axton, Richard. European Drama of the Early Middle Ages. London: Hutchinson and Co., 1974. Bakhtin, Mikhail. The Dialogic Imagination. Ed. Michael Holquist. Trans. Caryl Emerson. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981. —. Rabelais and His World. Trans. Hélène Iswolsky. Massachusetts: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1968; reprint Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984. Barron, Caroline. ‘Chivalry, Pageantry and Merchant Culture in Medieval London’. Heraldry, Pageantry and Social Display in Medieval England. Eds Peter Coss and Maurice Keen. Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2002. 219–41. Beadle, Richard, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Medieval English Theatre. 1st edn Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994. —. ‘The York Corpus Christi Play’. The Cambridge Companion to Medieval English Theatre. Eds Richard Beadle and Alan J. Fletcher. 2nd edn Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008. 99–124. Beadle, Richard and Alan J. Fletcher, eds The Cambridge Companion to Medieval English Theatre. 2nd edn Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008. Beckwith, Sarah. Signifying God: Social Relation and Symbolic Act in the York Corpus Christi Plays. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001. Bergeron, David. English Civic Pageantry 1558–1642. London: Edward Arnold, 1971. Bevington, David. ‘Context and Performance: The York Plays at Toronto’. Early Theatre 1 (1998) 143–9. Brayshay, Mark. ‘Waits, Musicians, Bearwards and Players: The Inter-Urban Road Travel and Performances of Itinerant Entertainers in Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century England’. Journal of Historical Geography 31.3 (July 2005) 430–58. Bristol, Michael. Carnival and the Theatre. New York: Methuen, 1985. Britnell, Richard. ‘Town Life’. A Social History of England 1200–1500. Eds Rosemary Horrox and W. Mark Ormrod. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006. 134–78. Brook, Peter. The Empty Space. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1972. Buettner, Betina. Boccacio’s ‘Des cleres et noble femmes’: Systems of Signification in an Illuminated Manuscript. College Art Association Monographs on the Fine Arts 53. Seattle and London: College Art Association; University of Washington Press, 1996.



Burke, Peter. What is Cultural History? Cambridge: Polity Press, 2004. Bynum, Caroline Walker. Fragmentation and Redemption. New York: Zone Books, 1991. Chambers, E. C. The Mediaeval Stage. 2 vols. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1903. Clopper, Lawrence. Drama, Play and Game: English Festive Culture in the Medieval and Early Modern Period. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2001. —. ‘Mankind and Its Audience’. Drama in the Middle Ages: Comparative and Critical Essays. 2nd series. Eds Clifford Davidson and John H. Stroupe. New York: AMS Press, 1991. 240–8. Coletti, Theresa. Mary Magdalene and the Drama of Saints: Theater, Gender, and Religion in Late Medieval England. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004. —. ‘Purity and Danger: The Paradox of Mary’s Body and the En-gendering of the Infancy Narrative in the English Mystery Cycles’. Feminist Approaches to the Body in Medieval Literature. Eds Linda Lomperis and Sarah Stanbury. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993. 65–95. Cotton, Nancy. Women Playwrights in England C. 1363–1750. Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press; London and Toronto: Associated University Press, 1980. Cressy, David. Birth, Marriage, and Death: Ritual, Religion, and the LifeCycle in Tudor and Stuart England. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997. Daniels, Richard. ‘Uxor Noah: A Raven or a Dove’. Chaucer Review 14 (1979) 23–32. Davis, Natalie Zemon. ‘Women on Top’: Symbolic Sexual Inversion and Political Disorder in Early Modern Europe’. The Reversible World. Ed. Barbara Babcock. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1978. 147–90. de Certeau, Michel. The Practice of Everyday Life. Trans. Steven Rendell. Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press, 1984. Diller, Hans-Jürgen. ‘Theatrical Pragmatics: The Actor-Audience Relationship from the Mystery Cycles to the Early Tudor Comedies’. Drama in the Middle Ages: Comparative and Critical Essays. 2nd series. Eds Clifford Davidson and John H. Stroupe. New York: AMS Press, 1991. 321–30. Dillon, Janette. The Cambridge Introduction to Early English Theatre. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006. Dobson, R. B. ‘Craft Guilds and City: The Historical Origins of the York Plays Reassessed’. The Stage as Mirror. Ed. Alan E. Knight. Woodbridge: Boydell and Brewer, 1997. 91–106. Dronke, Peter. Women Writers of the Middle Ages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984.



Duffy, Eamon. ‘Religious Belief’. A Social History of England 1200–1500. Eds Rosemary Horrox and W. Mark Ormrod. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006. 293–339. —. The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England 1400–1580. 2nd edn New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2005. Ellis, Roger. Viderunt eam Filie Syon: The Spirituality of the English House of a Medieval Contemplative Order from its Beginnings to the Present Day. Analecta Cartusiana 68 pt 2. Salzburg: Institut fur Anglistik und Amerikanistik, 1984. Enders, Jody. The Medieval Theater of Cruelty: Rhetoric, Memory, Violence. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1999. Epp, Garrett P. J. ‘The Towneley Plays, or, The Hazards of Cycling’. RORD 32 (1993) 121–50. Erler, Mary. ‘Spectacle and Sacrament: A London Parish Play in the 1530s’. Modern Philology 91.4 (May 1994) 449–54. Evans, Ruth. ‘Feminist Re-enactments: Gender and the Towneley Uxor Noe’. A Wyf Ther Was. Ed. Juliette Dor. Liège: Liège Language and Literature, 1992. 141–54. Fleming, Peter. Family and Household in Medieval England. Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2001. Fleming, Peter and Kieran Costello. Discovering Cabot’s Bristol: Life in the Medieval and Tudor Town. Tiverton: Redcliff Press, 1998. Foster, Susan Leigh, ed. Choreographing History. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995. Foucault, Michel. ‘Of Other Spaces’. Trans. J. Miskowiec. Diacritics 16.1 (1986) 22–7. Freedberg, David. The Power of Images: Studies in the History and Theory of Response. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1989. French, Katherine L. The People of the Parish: Community Life in a Late Medieval English Diocese. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001. —. ‘ “To Free Them from Binding”: Women in the Late Medieval English Parish’. Journal of Interdisciplinary History 27.3 (Winter 1997) 387–412. Gathercole, Patricia M. ‘Illuminations on the French Manuscripts of Boccaccio’s De Claris Mulieribus’. Italica 42.3 (Sept. 1965) 213– 17. Gibson, Gail McMurray. ‘Blessing from Sun and Moon: Churching as Women’s Theater’. Bodies and Disciplines: Intersections of Literature and History in Fifteenth-Century England. Eds Barbara Hanawalt and David Wallace. Medieval Cultures v. 9. Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 1996. 139–54. —. The Theater of Devotion: East Anglian Drama and Society in the late Middle Ages. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1989.



Gilchrist, Roberta. Gender and Material Culture: The Archaeology of Religious Women. London and New York: Routledge, 1994. Gittings, Clare. ‘Urban Funerals in Late Medieval and Reformation England’. Death in Towns: Urban Responses to the Dying and the Dead, 100–1600. Ed. Steven Bassett. Leicester, London and New York: Leicester University Press, 1992. 170–83. Goldberg, P. J. P. Medieval England: A Social History 1250–1550. London: Hoddern Arnold, 2004. —. Women in England 1275–1525. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1995. —. Women, Work and Life Cycle in Medieval Economy. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992. Grantley, Daryl. ‘Saints’ Plays’. The Cambridge Companion to Medieval English Theatre. Ed. Richard Beadle. 1st edn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994. 265–89. Greenfield, Peter. ‘Festive Drama at Christmas in Aristocratic Households’. Festive Drama. Ed. Meg Twycross. Papers from the Sixth Triennial Colloquium of the International Society of the Study of Medieval Theatre, Lancaster 13–19 July 1989. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1996. 34–40. Hanawalt, Barbara and David Wallace, eds Bodies and Disciplines: Intersections of Literature and History in Fifteenth-Century England. Medieval Cultures v. 9. Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 1996. Happé, Peter. Cyclic Form and the English Mystery Plays. Ludus Medieval and Early Renaissance Theatre and Drama 7. Ed. Wim Hüsken. Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi, 2004. —. English Drama Before Shakespeare. London and New York: Longman, 1999. —, ed. English Medieval Drama. London: Macmillan, 1983; reprint 1993. Harbin, Andrea R. Space and Movement on the English Religious Stage. Diss. Catholic University of America, 2006. Hardison. Christian Rite and Christian Drama in the Middle Ages: Essays in the Origin and Early History of Modern Drama. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1965. Harris, John Wesley. Medieval Theatre in Context. London and New York: Routledge, 1992. Heal, Felicity. ‘Reciprocity and Exchange in the Late Medieval Household’. Bodies and Disciplines: Intersections of Literature and History in Fifteenth-Century England. Eds Barbara Hanawalt and David Wallace. Medieval Cultures v. 9. Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 1996. 179–98. Horrox, Rosemary and W. Mark Ormrod, eds A Social History of England 1200–1500. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006. James, Mervyn. ‘Ritual Drama and Social Body in the Late Medieval Town’. Past and Present 98 (1983) 3–29.



Jauss, Hans Robert. Towards an Aesthetic of Reception. Theory and History of Literature 2. Trans. Timothy Balti. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984. Johnston, Alexandra. ‘The city as patron: York’. Shakespeare and the Theatrical Patronage in Early Modern England. Eds Paul Whitfield White and Suzanne R. Westfall. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002. 150–75. —. ‘An Introduction to Medieval English Theatre’. The Cambridge Companion to Medieval English Theatre. Eds Richard Beadle and Alan J. Fletcher. 2nd edn Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008. 1–25. —. ‘ “What Revels are in Hand?” Dramatic Activities Sponsored by the Parishes of the Thames Valley’. English Parish Drama. Eds Alexandra Johnston and Wim Hüsken. Ludus. Medieval and Early Renaissance Theatre and Drama 1. Amsterdam and Atlanta: Rodopi, 1996. 95–104. —. ‘York Cycle 1998: What We Learned’. Early Theatre 3 (2000) 199–203. Kapchan, Deborah A. and Pauline Turner Strong. ‘Theorizing the Hybrid’. The Journal of American Folklore 112.445 (Summer 1999) 239–53. Kerr, Julie. ‘ “Welcome the Coming and Speed the Parting Guest”: Hospitality in Twelfth-Century England’. Journal of Medieval History 33.2 (June 2007) 130–46. King, Pamela. ‘Morality Plays’. The Cambridge Companion to Medieval English Theatre. Ed. Richard Beadle. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994. 240–64. —. ‘Spatial Semantics and the Medieval Theatre’. The Theatrical Space. Themes in Drama. Vol. 9. Ed. James Redmond. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987. —. The York Mystery Cycle and the Worship of the City. Westfield Medieval Studies. Vol. 1. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2006. Kipling, Gordon. Enter the King: Theatre, Liturgy, and Ritual in the Medieval Civic Triumph. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998. Klawitter, George. ‘Dramatic Elements in Early Induction Ceremonies’. Drama in the Middle Ages: Comparative and Critical Essays. 2nd series. Eds Clifford Davidson and John H. Stroupe. New York: AMS Press, 1991. 43–60. Kobialka, Michael. This is My Body: Representational Practices in the Early Middle Ages. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1999. Kolve, V. A. The Play Called Corpus Christi. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1966. Kowaleski, Maryanne. ‘A Consumer Economy’. A Social History of England 1200–1500. Eds Rosemary Horrox and W. Mark Ormrod. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005. 238–59. Laver, James. Costume in the Theatre. London: Harrop, 1964. Lawton, David. ‘Sacrilege and Theatricality: the Croxton Play of the Sacrament’. JMEMS 33.2 (Spring 2003) 281–309.



Le Goff, Jacques. ‘The Town as an Agent of Civilisation 1200–1500’. The Fontana Economic History of Europe: The Middle Ages. Ed. Carlo M. Cipolla. Glasgow: Collins/Fontana, 1972. 71–106. Lerer, Seth. ‘ “Representyd now in yower sight”: The Culture of Spectatorship in Late Fifteenth-Century England’. Bodies and Disciplines: Intersections of Literature and History in Fifteenth-Century England. Eds Barbara Hanawalt and David Wallace. Medieval Cultures 9. Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 1996. 29– 62. Lindahl, Carl. ‘The Festive Form of the Canterbury Tales’. ELH 52.3 (Autumn 1985) 531–74. Lindenbaum, Sheila. ‘Ceremony and Oligarchy: The London Midsummer Watch’. City and Spectacle in Medieval Europe. Medieval Studies at Minnesota. Vol. 6. Eds Barbara Hanawalt and Kathryn Rogerson. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1994. 171–88. —. ‘Rituals of Exclusion: Feasts and Plays of the English Religious Fraternities’. Festive Drama. Papers from the Sixth Triennial Colloquium of the International Society for the Study of Medieval Theatre, ed. Meg Twycross. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1996. 54–65. MacLean, Sally-Beth. ‘Hocktide: A Reassessment of a Popular PreReformation Festival’. Festive Drama. Papers from the Sixth Triennial Colloquium of the International Society for the Study of Medieval Theatre. Ed. Meg Twycross. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1996. 233–41. —. ‘King Games and Robin Hood: Play and Profit at Kingston Upon Thames’. RORD Drama 29 (1986–7) 85–93. McClendon, Muriel. ‘A Moveable Feast: Saint George’s Day Celebrations and Religious Change in Early Modern England’. The Journal of British Studies 38. 1 (January 1999) 1–27. McGavin, John. Theatricality and Narrative in Medieval and Early Modern Scotland. Studies in Performance and Early Modern Drama. Aldershot and Burlington: Ashgate, 2007. McIntosh, Marjorie K. ‘Finding Language for Misconduct: Jurors in Fifteenth-Century Local Courts’. Bodies and Disciplines: Intersections of Literature and History in Fifteenth-Century England. Eds Barbara Hanawalt and David Wallace. Medieval Cultures v. 9. Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 1996. 87–122. Merbeck, Mitchell B. The Thief, the Cross and the Wheel: Pain and the Spectacle of Punishment in Medieval and Renaissance Europe. London: Reaktion Books Ltd, 1999. Meredith, Peter and John Tailby, eds The Staging of Religious Drama in Europe in the Later Middle Ages: Texts and Documents in English Translation. EDAM 4. Kalamazoo: Western Michigan University, 1982. Mill, Anna Jean. ‘Noah’s Wife Again’. PMLA LVI (1941) 613–26. Mills, David. ‘The Chester cycle’. The Cambridge Companion to Medieval English Theatre. Eds Richard Beadle and Alan J. Fletcher. 2nd edn Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008. 125–151.



—. Recycling the Cycle: The City of Chester and Its Whitsun Plays. Studies in Early English Drama 4. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1998. Mortimer, Julia. From the Body of the Religious to the Religious Body: The Influence of the Middle English Writing of St Bridget of Sweden on Fifteenth Century Instructional Literature for the Sisters of Syon Abbey. Diss. University of London, 2002. Muir, Edward. ‘The Eye of the Procession: Ritual Ways of Seeing in the Renaissance’. Ceremonial Culture in Pre-Modern Europe. Ed. Nicholas Howe. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame, 2007. 129–53. Murdoch, Brian, O. ‘The Cornish Medieval Drama’. The Cambridge Companion to Medieval English Theatre. Ed. Richard Beadle. 1st edn Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994. 211–39. Nelson, Alan. The English Medieval Stage: Corpus Christi Pageants and Plays. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1974. Nisse, Ruth. Defining Acts: Drama and the Politics of Interpretation in Late Medieval England. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2005. Normington, Katie. Gender and Medieval Drama. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2004. —. Modern Mysteries: Contemporary Productions of Medieval English Cycle Dramas. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2007. Ogden, Dunbar H. The Staging of Drama in the Medieval Church. Newark: University of Delaware Press; London: Associated University Presses, 2002. Oliva, Marilyn. The Convent and the Community in Late Medieval England. Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 1998. Pächt, Otto. ‘Jean Fouquet: A Study of His Style’. Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes. (1940) 85–102. Palmer, Barbara. ‘Early Modern Mobility: Players, Payments, and Patrons’. Shakespeare Quarterly 56.3 (2005) 259–305. —. ‘Recycling “The Wakefield Cycle”: The Records’. RORD 41 (2002) 88–130. —. ‘ “Towneley Plays” or “Wakefield Cycle” Revisited’. Drama in the Middle Ages: Comparative and Critical Essays. 2nd series. Eds Clifford Davidson and John H. Stroupe. New York: AMS Press, 1991. 290–320. Parry, David. ‘The York Mystery Cycle at Toronto, 1977’. METh (1979) 19–31. Phillips, Kim. ‘The Invisible Man: Body and Ritual in a Fifteenth-Century Noble Household’. Journal of Medieval History 31 (2005) 143–62. Phythian-Adams, Charles. ‘Ceremony and the Citizen: The Communal Year at Coventry 1450–1550’. Crisis and Order in English Towns. Eds Peter Clark and Paul Slack. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul Ltd, 1972. 57–85. —. ‘Ritual Constructions of Society’. A Social History of England 1200– 1500. Eds Rosemary Horrox and W. Mark Ormrod. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006. 369–82.



Postan, M.M. The Medieval Economy and Society: An Economic History of Britain in the Middle Ages. London: Penguin, 1972. Postles, Dave. ‘Penance and the Market Place: a Reformation Dialogue with the Medieval Church (c.1250–c.1600)’. Journal of Ecclesiastical History 54.3 (July 2003) 441–68. Power, Eileen. Medieval English Nunneries c 1275–1535. Biblo and Tannen, 1922. Prosser, Eleanor. Drama and Religion in the English Mystery Plays. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1961. Raguin, Virginia Chieffo and Sarah Stanbury, eds Women’s Space: Patronage, Place, and Gender in the Medieval Church. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2005. Rigby, S. H. English Society in the Later Middle Ages. Basingstoke: Macmillan Press Ltd, 1995. —. ‘Introduction: Social structure and economic change in late medieval England’. A Social History of England 1200–1500. Eds Rosemary Horrox and W. Mark Ormrod. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006. Roach, Joseph. Cities of the dead: Circum-Atlantic Performance. New York and Chichester: Columbia University Press, 1996. Rosser, Gervase. ‘Parochial Conformity and Voluntary Religion in Late Medieval England’. Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 6th Ser. 1 (1991) 173–89. Rubin, Miri. Corpus Christi: The Eucharist in Late Medieval Culture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991. —. ‘Identities’. A Social History of England 1200–1500. Eds Rosemary Horrox and W. Mark Ormrod. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006. 383–412. Ryan, Denise. ‘Women, Sponsorship and the Early Civic Stage: Chester’s Worshipful Wives and the Lost Assumption Play’. RORD XL (2001) 149–75. Sanok, Catherine. ‘Performing Feminine Sanctity in Late Medieval England: Parish Guilds, Saints’ Plays, and the Second Nun’s Tale’. Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 32.2 (Spring 2002) 269–303. Scherb, Victor I. Staging Faith: East Anglian Drama in the Later Middle Ages. Madison: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2001. Schulenburg, Jane Tibbets. ‘Gender, Celibacy, and Proscriptions of Sacred Space: Symbol and Practice’. Women’s Space: Patronage, Place, and Gender in the Medieval Church. Eds Virginia Chieffo Raguin and Sarah Stanbury. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2005. 185–205. Scully, Robert E. ‘The Unmaking of a Saint: Thomas Becket and the English Reformation’. The Catholic Historical Review 86.4 (2000) 579–602. 3 Apr. 2007. Shahar, Shulamith. The Fourth Estate: A History of Women in the Middle Ages. Trans. Chaya Galai. London: Methuen, 1983.



Southern, Richard. The Medieval Theatre in the Round. London: Faber, 1957, 2nd edn 1975. Sponsler, Claire. ‘The Culture of the Spectator: Conformity and Resistance to Medieval Performance’. Theatre Journal 44.1 (1992) 15–29. —. Drama and Resistance: Bodies, Goods, and Theatricality in Late Medieval England. Medieval Cultures 10. Minneapolis and London: University of Minneapolis Press, 1997. Stanbury, Sarah and Virginia Chieffo Raguin, eds ‘Introduction’. Women’s Space: Patronage, Place, and Gender in the Medieval Church. Albany NY: State University of New York Press, 2005. 1–21. Stevens, Martin. Four Middle English Mystery Cycles. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987. Stewart, Walter. ‘All Work and Old Plays: Stages in the Life of Alexandra Johnston’. VicReport 28.3 (Spring 2000) 5–7. 17 Sep. 2007 . Stokes, James. ‘Processional Entertainments in Villages and Small Towns’. Moving Subjects: Processional Performance in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Eds Kathleen Ashley and Wim Hüsken. Ludus. Medieval and Early Renaissance Theatre and Drama 5. Amsterdam and Atlanta: Rodopi, 2001. 239–57. Tasioulas, J. A. ‘Between Doctrine and Domesticity: The Portrayal of Mary in the N-Town Plays’. Medieval Women and their Communities. Ed. Diane Watt. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1977. 222–45. Taylor, Diane. The Archive and the Repertoire: Performing Cultural Memory in the Americas. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2003. Travis, Peter. ‘The Semiotics of Christ’s Body in the English Cycles’. Approaches to Teaching Medieval English Drama. Ed. Richard K. Emmerson. New York: PMLA, 1990. 67–90. Tuan, Yi-Fu. Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience. Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 1977. Twycross, Meg. ‘The Left-hand-side Theory: A Retraction’. METh 14 (1996) 77–94. —. ed. ‘Some Approaches to Dramatic Festivity’. Festive Drama. Papers from the Sixth Triennial Colloquium of the International Society for the Study of Medieval Theatre. Woodbridge: D. S. Brewer, 1996. 1–33. —. ‘The Theatricality of Medieval English Plays’. The Cambridge Companion to Medieval English Theatre. Ed. Richard Beadle. 1st edn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994. 37–84. —. ‘Transvestism in the Mystery Plays’. METh 5.2 (Dec. 1983) 123–80. Twycross, Meg and Sarah Carpenter. Masks and Masking in Medieval and Early Tudor England. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2002. Tydeman, William. ‘An Introduction to Medieval English Theatre’. The Cambridge Companion to Medieval English Theatre. Ed. Richard Beadle, 1st edn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994. 1–36.



—. The Theatre in the Middle Ages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978. Vinter, Donna Smith. ‘Didactic Characterisation – The Towneley Abraham’. English Medieval Drama. Ed. Peter Happé. London: Macmillan, 1984; reprint 1993. 71–88. Walker, Greg. ‘Medieval Drama: The Corpus Christi in York and Croxton’. Readings in Medieval Texts: Interpreting Old and Middle English Literature. Eds David Johnson and Elaine Treharne. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005. 370–85. —. The Politics of Performance in Early Renaissance Drama. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998. —. Plays of Persuasion: Drama and Politics at the Court of Henry VIII. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991. Walker, Simon. ‘Order and Law’. A Social History of England 1200–1500. Eds Rosemary Horrox and W. Mark Ormrod. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005. 91–112. Wasson, John. ‘The English Church as Theatrical Space’. A New History of Early English Drama. Eds John Cox and David Scott Kastan. New York: Columbia University Press, 1997. 25–37. Weaver, Elissa. Convent Theatre in Early Modern Italy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002. —. ‘Spiritual Fun: A Study of Sixteenth-Century Tuscan Convent Theater’. Women in the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Ed. Mary Beth Rose. Syracuse NY: Syracuse University Press, 1986. 173–205. Weimann, Robert. Shakespeare and the Popular Tradition in the Theater. Ed. and trans. Robert Schwartz. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press; 1978. Westfall, Suzanne. Patrons and Performance: Early Tudor Household Revels. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990. Wickham, Glynne. The Medieval Theatre. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1974. 3rd edn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987. Wiles, David. The Early Plays of Robin Hood. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1981. —. ‘Hrotsvitha of Gandersheim: The Performance of Her Plays in the Tenth Century’. Theatre History Studies 19 (June 1999) 133–50. —. A Short History of Western Performance Space. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003. Woolf, Rosemary. The English Mystery Plays. London: Routledge, 1972. Young, Karl. The Drama of the Medieval Church. 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1933.

websites Accessed 5 August 2008.


173 Accessed 5 August 2008. funeral.jpg Accessed 2 Feb 2008. Accessed 12 February 2008. Accessed 8 August 2008.


Abergavenny, Lady Joan 11 acting style 73, 74, 115 Amalarius, Bishop of Metz 36 Anderson, Bonnie and Judith Zinsser x animals 84, 116–17 Ashley, Kathleen 71–2, 78 Augier, George 24 Bakhtin, Mikhail 71, 123 Barking Abbey 20–2, 32 Bath 10, 190 Berkeley, Lady Isabel 63–4 Berkeley, Lady Katharine 64–5 Beverley, Yorks 39, 74 Bevington, David 37, 99, 102, 104, 105 body 24–5, 28, 31, 88–90, 96, 109, 118, 122–3 Book of Common Prayer 63, 77 Boxford, Suffolk 35 Brayshay, Mark 117 Brecht, Bertolt 73 Bristol 51, 56–9 Brook, Peter 4 Brueghal the Elder 55 Bury St Edmunds 23, 132

Caludon, Coventry 64 Cambridgeshire 121 candlemas 39–40 Canterbury 59–63, 112 Canterbury Tales, The 112 Carpenter, John, Bishop of Worcester 42 Castle of Perseverence, The 95– 102, 104, 110 Cawley, A. C. 110, 111 Caxton, William 12 chapels (the Gentlemen and the Children) 116 Chatteris, Cambs. 19 Chaucer, Geoffrey 112 Chester plays 70, 79–80, Assumption 75–6, Fall of Lucifer 80–2, Noah Play 83–6 Christ 7, 20, 21, 25, 38, 70, 80, 87, 88, 89, 103, 105, 132 Christmas celebrations 22, 23, 30, 86, 87, 116, 122 church space 8, 26, 31–3, 36–40 churchyard 35, 40, 43, 66, 131 Churchyard, Thomas 51, 58 city 47–9, 50, 56–9, 72, 92–93 classical influence 26–9, 125 Clifford family 117 commodities 120, 124, 133

Index convents 18–33 Copeland, William 44 Cornish drama 110–12 Corpus Christi Day 57, 68, 69, 70, 79, 80, 89 costumes 43, 72, 83, 91, 98, 120 Coventry 64, 74, 83 Cranmer, Thomas, Archbishop of Canterbury 61–2, 77 Cromwell, Thomas 10 Croxton, Suffolk 132 Crucifixion 17, 43, 66, 88–90, 132 cycle plays 48, 68–93 de Certeau, Michel 3 Death of Pilate (Cornwall) 111 Del Serra, Sister Beatrice 29, 33–4 devil 81, 82, 83, 86, 91, 102, 103, 105, 111, 120, 121, 131 didacticism 97, 99, 101, 112, 119– 20, 121, 122 divertissements 41, 48, 52, 113, 115–16, 118, 128 Dives and Pauper 7 dramatic terminology 2–3, 17–18 Drapers guild 53, 65 Duffy, Eamon 5, 37–8 Dulcitus 27–9 Durham Abbey 37 Earl of Hertford 118 East Anglia 95, 102, 106, 109, 132, 133 Easter 19, 30, 32, 36, 37, 50 Edward IV 56, 59 Edward VI 45 Elam, Kier 96 Elizabeth I 13, 51, 58–9, 62, 118 Elvethan, Hants 118 Enders, Jody 66–7 Evans, Ruth 85–6 Eve 78, 82–3, 84 fastnachtspiel 123 feasts 5, 17, 22, 23, 64, 103, 129


feudalism 10–11, 14, 81, 85, 95 Finchdale Priory, Durham 30 Foucault, Michel 34, 41, 43, 45 Fouquet, Jean 14–15 French 12, 13, 86, 109, 116 funerals 14, 49, 63–5 Gassner, John 27, 37, 111 genre ix, 3, 131 Gibson, James 62 Gilchrist, Roberta 31–2 God 5, 38, 69, 77, 81, 82, 83, 84– 85, 91, 101, 121–2 Goldberg, PJP x great hall 114–15, 123, 125, 128–9 guilds 11, 53, 5, 68, 69, 70, 71–2, 76, 79, 85 Gyll 87–8 Hamlet 73–4 Harbin, Andrea 96 Harrowing of Hell 21, 36, 81 Heal, Felicity 116 Hell’s Mouth 82, 91, 102 Henry II 59 Henry VII 56–7, 59 Henry VIII 9, 45, 61, 62, 125, 126, 127, 128 Herod 74, 94 Heywood, John 125–8, 129 hocktide 41–42 hospitality 114–16, 117, 124, 128 Hrotsvitha of Gandersheim 27–9 hybridity 75, 78, 92, 93 James, Mervyn 52 Jauss, Hans Robert 3–4 Jews 132, 133 Johnston, Alexandra 35, 68, 69 Joseph 106, 108–9 journey 26, 37, 38, 111–12, 117 Kempe, Margery 5–6, 8, 12, 24, 31, 40



King, Pamela ix Kingston-upon-Thames 44–5 language 12, 91, 100, 120, 122–3, 129 Lawton, David 133–4 Le Goff, Jacques 11–12 Lent 55, 123 Lévi-Strauss, Claude 75 lighting 82, 106, 109, 125 literacy 12, 14, 31 locus 94–5, 99, 104, 106 Lollardy 9, 66, 133 Lynn (East) 8 Mak 87–88 Mankind 6, 119–25, 129 Margaret of Anjou 77 Mary I 46, 62 Mary Magdalene (Digby) 102–6, 111, 133 Mary Magdalene 21, 82 Meredith, Peter 106 Noah, Mrs 84–6 Noah 83–6 Muir, Edward 55 music 2, 30, 52, 56, 92, 107, 116 narrator 107 national identity 12–13, 117 Nisse, Ruth 75 Norfolk 5, 24, 106, 121 Norwich 42–3, 45–6, 47, 51, 83 novice ceremonies 25–6 N-Town 39, 75, 78, 106–10 Ogden, Dunbar 1 Ordinalia (Cornwall) 110–112 pageant wagon 68, 69, 73, 83, 91, 94 Palm Sunday play 43 Palmer, Barbara 117 parade 40, 49, 50, 66, 112 parish 8–9, 34–46

Pas d’Armes 118 Paston, Margaret 12, 13 Peasants’ Revolt 13 Pecham, John. Archbishop of Canterbury 6 Perran (round) 110 Piers Plowman 7, 77 Pilate 81, 111, 132 pilgrimage 49–50, 95, 109, 112 place-and-scaffold 94–112, 132–3 plague 13, 14 platea 94–5, 96, 99–102, 104–5, 111–12, 132, 133 Play of Daniel (Beauvais) 37 Play of the Sacrament 28, 123, 131–4 Play of the Weather, The 125–8 Plymouth 116–17 Poculi Ludique Societas 72 processions 22–3, 49–67, 69–70, 72 punishment 40, 49, 65–7 purgatory 6–7, 63 Purification of Mary 39 Rastell, William 125 Records of Early English Drama ix, 68 Reformation 9–10, 22, 30, 35, 42, 45, 63, 77, 80, 129 Regularis Concordia viii, 17, 19, 20, 21, 36 religion 1, 5–10, 59–63, 77, 79, 80, 90–91 religious fraternities 41, 45–6 religious guilds 8–9 Renaissance ix Robin Hood 44–5 Rogationtide 41 Rogerson, Margaret (Dorrell) 68, 69 Roman Catholic Church 9, 61, 62 royal entries 56–9 Ryan, Denise 75–6

Index Scherb, Victor 99, 100 Second Shepherds’ Pageant (Towneley) 78, 86–8 Shakespeare, William 73–4 Sheen 6 Skelton, John 125 Skipton Castle 117 space 34–5, 94, 95–100, 114–15, 121, 130 spectacle 58, 73, 91–2, 105, 106, 109, 111, 118, 132 spectatorship 1, 3–4, 14–15, 130– 1, 134 in convent 18; at pageant wagons 69–70, 73, 74–5, 90, 92–93; place-andscafold 94, 96–7, 99, 108, 109; private drama 113–15, 120–4, 125–6; at processions 53–6, 57 Spinelli, Ludovico, Venetian Ambassador 52–3 spinning 85, 86, 109 Sponsler, Claire 92 St Anne’s Day 106 St Distaff’s Day 86 St George’s Play 42–3, 45–6, 47, 56 St Just (round) 112 St Mary’s de Pré, St Albans 22 St. Thomas, Thomas a Becket 59– 63, 112 Stafford, Edward, Duke of Buckingham 116 Sutton, Katherine of 20 Syon Abbey 23–6 Terence 27 Toronto 72–3 Towneley 78, 79, 83, 85, 86–8 Tuscany 29, 32, 33 Tynedale, William 12


urbanization 10, 11–12, 47–8, 50 Vagrants Act (1572) 117 Virgin Mary 25, 39, 60, 76–7, 106–10 Visitatio Sepuchri 17, 19–21, 36 Wakefield 87 Walker, Greg 125, 133 Walsingham 109 War of the Roses 13 watches 52–3, 61 Weimann, Robert 95 Wells 10 Wiles, David 38, 49–51 Wolsey, Cardinal 60–1, 125 women ix-x, 20–2, 25–33, 63–5, 82, 116, 117, 124, 125–6, 127–8 work 10, 13, 77–8, 82, 83, 84–5, 87, 88–90, 120 Wycliff, John 133 York 6 Buffeting of Christ 66 Creed play 48 Crucifixion play 66, 88–90, 131 Cycle drama 52, 68–72, 74 Dyers 11; Entry into Jerusalem 72 Fall of Man 82–3, 131 Last Judgement 69, 90–2 Mercers 11, 68, 69, 73, 90–2 Ordo Paginarum 79 Paternoster Play 48; register 78–9 The Remorse of Judas 73 Temptation of Christ 73 York Realist 89