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Minstrels could be the bawdy          In time, plays that centred on
                                            ‘jongleurs’, or the more courtly   Biblical history were complimented by
                                            ‘joculatores’. They might have attended  Morality plays that posed questions of
                                            the annual schools for minstrels (scolae  right and wrong, virtue and vice. God
                                            ministrallorum) in France or they might  and the Devil were usually present.
                                            have learned their art on the road. By  Other characters included priests,
                                            the early sixteenth century, many  doctors and public officials. The plays
                                            minstrels were employed by local   might almost be considered to be
                                            municipalities to entertain on civic  religious. However, in the presentation
                                            occasions.                         of these moral dilemmas, a certain
                                               In the thirteenth century, Francis of  measure of bawdiness was sometimes
                                            Assisi described his own friars as  necessary. Perhaps this harks back to
                                            ‘joculatores domin’ (minstrels of the  the Classical Age. It is not however, the
                                            Lord). They preached the gospel in the  only classical inheritance. As noted,
                                            vernacular by means of parables    masks remained prevalent, as did
          damned and breathe clouds of smoke
                                            (storytelling). In this way they were  machinery that could, for example,
          required the coordinated efforts of
                                            able to depict Jesus less as a figure of  descend a god to the stage. Sometimes
          seventeen men! Livestock were used,
                                            mystery and more of an imitatible,  classical architectural elements were
          with perhaps a ram for sacrifice. Stage
                                            conscientious human being. This was  included in the outdoor theatre settings.
          carpenters produced mock floods, fires
                                            an important development toward the   The rapid change of emotions and
          and earthquakes.
                                            ‘humanising’ of Christian drama.   the compulsiveness of the Morality
            Clothing was often lavishly
                                               In England important manuscripts  plays are comparable to those of
          embroidered and the actors bejewelled.
                                            that involve biblical drama belong to  classical times. The despair of the
          Devils wore suits of leather and God
                                            the Cycles. They cover the history of  Crucifixion and the spiritual uplift of
          wore fine gloves. Both God and the
                                            Man from creation to the Day of    the Resurrection could clearly touch the
          archangels wore gilded masks. Even the
                                            Judgement. The prominent Cycles were  hearts and minds of a captivated
          dress of musical performers was
                                            Chester, York, Coventry and Towneley  audience. The first known English
          elaborate to add to the spectacle in
                                            (also called Wakefield). Chester   Morality play concerned the Lord's
          which red or black costumes of the
                                            (c.1328) is probably the oldest. It  Prayer and was performed in York in
          devils contrasted with brightly painted
                                            appears to have been presented on   the fourteenth century. The most
                                            two-tier wagons over three days at five  interesting extant example is perhaps
          Christian drama - genres and      different locations within the city.  Everyman. It is believed to be of Dutch
          origins                           Cycles were also produced at       origin. English translations occurred
            The liturgical plays of Europe are  Canterbury, Lincoln and Newcastle.  between 1493 and 1530.
          not traceable to an exact place of  The fourteenth century work The     Some Mystery and Morality plays
          origin. The ‘Mystery’ plays of England  Building of the Ark is the only one to  were undoubtedly long-winded and
          and France (discussed below), the  have survived from Newcastle.     dull, because it was common to insert
          ‘sacraments’ of Italy and Spain, the  ‘Mystery’ plays probably came to  ‘interludes’ within the performances.
          ‘Geitspiele’ of the Germanic lands and  England from France after the Norman  Interlude means 'between the games'
          other examples from central and   Conquest (1066). During the        and explains how they were utilised in
          Eastern Europe have common themes.  fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth  Italy. They are sometimes referred to as
          Similarly they all assume belief and  centuries there appears to have been a  Shrovetide plays, little more than
          devotion from their audiences.    steady flow of them. The fifteenth  slapstick farces, probably more notable
            The simple scene of the three Marys  century is the true century of the  for their vulgarity than for their
          described earlier was enlarged to  Mystery. The Passion of Christ is the  humour. The French farce Pierre
          include other scenes from the Bible  most famous example. More than 100  Pathelin (1464) is arguably the most
          such as the Nativity, the trial of Jesus,  English towns, some of them extremely  famous.
          the Crucifixion, the Resurrection and  small, are known to have performed
          the Second Coming. Other popular  such plays.
          biblical works included Noah's Ark,  Mysteries were also popular in
          Jonah and the Whale, Daniel in the  France where they included non-
          Lion's Den and Samson and Delilah.  biblical stories such as Joan of Arc and
          There were also tales of the saints.  the Fall of Troy. They were intended to
          Although the initial performers were  showcase huge spectacles in which
          priests and choirboys, laymen were  three hundred to five hundred
          added. Women were still not permitted  performers were on stage at once. The
          to appear on stage.               performance of a Mystery must have
            Minstrels were popular entertainers.  been all-important. In England,
          During the reign of Edward I, 426  magistrates were known to order all the
          minstrels performed at the wedding of  shops closed and forbade any noisy
          Princess Margaret to John of Brabant in  activities elsewhere in the town during
          1290.                             the performance.

          10  2008 CINEMARECORD
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