M. A. Katritzky studies the evolving changes to the ‘merchant scene’ in
European (Romanish, Latin, German) plays. This scene specifically relates to
the Holy Women’s Visitatio Sepulchri, developed from Gospel accounts of the
Marys’ visit to the tomb of Christ. Katritzky considers this scene in
juxtaposition to significant manuscript and stone images, thereby
underlining how it intersects with evolving traditions of the biblical stage
as it absorbs and reflects varied historical, political, religious, and
The role of Noah’s wife in the Chester play of Noah’s
This chapter focuses on the role of Noah’s wife as a radical, impious
questioning of both patriarchal and divine authority in the Chester play of
Noah’s Flood. Lawrence Besserman argues that in the performative
foregrounding of this character, through her refusal to board the Ark, can
be seen as coinciding with the emergence of outspoken female critics (e.g.
Margery Kempe, Joan White, anonymous female Lollard ‘preachers’) of a
male-dominated Church hierarchy.
Elisabeth Dutton focuses on how Reformation Protestant writers asserted the
historicity of scriptural events. She asks a crucial question: How do the
Protestant playwrights manage to create any form of ‘scene’ by which their
audiences might be able to situate themselves in these events? Dutton argues
that to encourage these audiences, these playwrights – specifically John
Bale, John Foxe, and Nicholas Grimald – used the accessible, physical
reality of props to thereby overcome the challenges of presenting a
Greg Walker discusses John Heywood’s The Pardoner and the Friar, focusing on
a confrontation between a seemingly evangelical friar and a corrupt
pardoner. He argues that Heywood’s innovative dramatisation of a specific
incident from the early English Reformation is a means of powerfully
embodying the jarring nature of contemporary religious controversy. Walker
also argues that beyond the linguistic and physical disorientation, the
interlude pursues a deliberate affective strategy, cueing audience responses
to shift several times through the evolving drama to powerful creative
Biblical plays between Czech drama and English comedy in early modern
Pavel Drábek discusses High Baroque dramaturgy as surviving in
seventeenth-century scripts, arguing for a biblical teleology of the style.
Among the plays he discusses are variants of the Esther play (English–German
comedy and Czech puppet play), their variants in the Alcestis and Hercules
myth (in Baroque opera, German plays and puppet plays), and in the popular
Genevieve (or Jenovéfa) plays – all of which comprise multiple layers of
early modern dramaturgies and performance practices within a biblical
Hannibal Hamlin focuses on one significant play, A Looking Glasse for London,
by Thomas Lodge and Robert Greene. Called the most popular biblical play of
the Elizabethan stage, it is rich in spectacle and scandal – designed to
succeed in the popular theatre. Yet Hamlin proposes that in both moralising
and stagecraft it looks back to the mystery plays of the earlier fifteenth
century. It thus offers a unique Elizabethan example of staging God himself,
though done in such a peculiar way as to avoid censure.
In her chapter, Chanita Goodblatt discusses English, German and Yiddish
dramatisations of the Book of Esther. She focuses specifically on the
performative dimensions of the Fool, enacted through two different
dramaturgical strategies: in comic interludes; or inserted directly into the
narrative. Goodblatt discusses the Fool as an exemplar of the Bakhtinian
carnivalesque, enacted through parodic language and embodying (in the
material and corporeal aspects of its performance) his ultimate authority as
incisive commentator on monarchy, family, and religious tradition.
Jonathan Stavsky analyses the representation of Jewish–Christian relations in
the N-Town ‘Trial of Mary and Joseph’. He situates this play within a wide
intertextual context, including the apocryphal source and its Middle English
retelling. Considered in this way, Stavsky proposes that the play offers a
nuanced vision of Christianity’s roots, as it translates salvation history
to fifteenth-century East Anglia in order to forge a just community capable
of resisting scandalmongers.
Episcopal authority and the reconciliation of excommunicants in England and Francia c.900–c.1150
This chapter records specific services for the reconciliation of excommunicants in Francia in the early tenth, and in England only from the early eleventh century. Investigation of the textual history of these services is intended to help fill this lacuna in the historiography and to illuminate further episcopal ideology in this period. The locus of the English rite is also different from that of the Frankish rite; the repentant excommunicants, with their intercessores, meet the bishop at the gates of the cemetery and not at the doors of the church, as in the Frankish rite. The textual history of the reconciliation rites reveals a living tradition: bishops invested time and parchment in improving a liturgy which symbolized their supreme authority, as the representative of St Peter, who had the power to bind and to loose.
This chapter considers those in their teens and twenties whom society recognised as physically young and still in a developmental stage. It focuses on the image of and attitudes towards youths and the opportunities open to them. The growing strength of the youth's body was matched by an increasing sharpness in the mind. Youth has had an association with social disorder, and the young in late medieval society were no exception. Beyond theory, medieval society at large acknowledged the existence of young people who were going through a period of formation and transformation before full adulthood. This might be because they were still pursuing education and employment training, had not yet received their inheritance, or had not yet married and taken responsibility for their own lives and those of others. The chapter highlights the type of training and life experiences gained by adolescents as they gradually assumed their adult roles.