Medieval Theatre Objectives

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Medieval Theatre

After studying this chapter, the student should be able to:

  • Describe the development and production of liturgical drama.

  • Describe the development of religious, vernacular drama.

  • Compare and contrast mystery and morality plays.

  • Describe secular theatre of the Middle Ages.

  • Trace the decline of religious theatre in the Middle Ages.

Lecture Topics

What was the relationship between the Catholic Church and theater during the Middle Ages?

What are the origins of the medieval theatre?
What led to the development of religious vernacular drama? Why is it significant that plays were performed in the vernacular language?

Why was Hrosvitha ignored for so long?
How did the Quem Quaeritis impact the growth of medieval theatre?
How were mystery plays staged?
How were morality plays staged?
What led to the decline of religious theatre in the medieval era?


Please choose the answer that best completes each sentence.

1. The earliest known female dramatist is:
A. Aphra Behn
*B. Hrosvitha
C. Maya Angelou
D. Xersis

2. The scenic building used for staging liturgical drama was the:

A. Skene
*B. Platea
C. Mansion
D. Filii

3. The _______________________________________troupe portrays the three Marys' visit to the tomb of Christ.

A. Spirtus Sancti
*B. Quem Quaeritis
C. Corpus Christi
D. Summa Theologia

4. Mystery plays on the European continent were produced by religious guilds or clubs called:

A. interludes

B. quem quaeritis

*C. contraternities

D. tropes

5. What were the two most popular mansions?
*A. Heaven and Hell
B. Castle and Dungeon
C. Church and Pub
D. Scaffold and Brewery

6. Everyman is an example of a ____________________________play.

A. cycle
*B. morality
C. miracle
D. mystery

7. Liturgical dramas primarily used two areas for its staging:

A. nave; sepulchre
B. rectory; mansion
*C. mansion; platea
D. nave; platea

8. A _______________________________________play attempts to teach a lesson through allegorical characters.

A. mystery
B. miracle
C. cycle
*D. morality

9. Liturgical dramas were written in what language:

A. Latin
*B. The vernacular
C. Greek
D. English

10. The Second Shepherds Play and The Mysteries are both examples of what type of medieval drama:

A. Liturgical Drama
*B. Cycle Plays
C. Morality Plays
D. Commedia dell'Arte Plays

11. The person who supervised the mounting of plays on wagons in the Middle Ages was known as the:

*A. pageant master
B. choregus
C. archon
D. secrets master

12. An important innovation of cycle plays is that they were in the __________________ language.

A. Latin
*B. vernacular
C. Greek
D. prosaic

13. A medieval dramatic form that was staged for royalty along town routes was the:

A. trope
B. interlude

*C. street pageant

D. morality play

14. The Quem Quaeritis is an example of a ___________________, a musical passage added to church services.

*A. trope
B. platea
C. vernacular drama
D. all of the above

15. The _______________________ allowed altar boys and young priests the opportunity to reverse roles with their superiors.

A. Ludi Romani
*B. Feast of Fools
C. Atellan Farce
D. Teutonic minstrelsy

16. The german nun who wrote plays modeled after Terence's comedies was:

A. Hettera
*B. Hrosvitha
C. Aphra Ben
D. Frauhausen

17. Actors in cycle plays were initially:

*A. amateur
B. paid by the performance
C. given a share of the profits
D. none of the above
18. ___________________ wrote short musical plays, which are thought to have been performed in the convent she oversaw.

A. Hrosthvita

*B. Hildegard von Bingen

C. Eleanor of Aquitaine

D. St. Teresa of Avila
19. _________________ was a favorite occasion for the presentation of cycle plays.

A. Christmas

*B. The Feast of Corpus Christi

C. Halloween

D. Epiphany
20. Which of the following dramatic techniques is evident in The Second Shepherd’s Play?

A. The play is written in the vernacular language.

B. The play is in verse.

C. The story is filled with anachronisms.

*D. All of the above.
21. Rehearsal time for the cycle plays was normally

A. extensive, lasting months at a time.

*B. minimal, with fewer than five rehearsals per cycle.

C. paid for by the church.

D. none of the above
22. In _______________, a wagon would move from locale to locale, so the play could be presented for various audiences along its route.

*A. processional staging

B. stationary staging

C. climactic drama

D. all of the above
23. The cycle plays used special effects known as:

A. plateas

B. mansions

*C. secrets

D. mysteries
24. Morality plays are sometimes called _____________ because the protagonist is often confronted by a series of crises analagous to Christ’s journey.

A. cycle drama

B. miracle plays

C. mystery plays

*D. station dramas
25. The ____________ if the French version of medieval native farce; it was frequently critical of the church.

*A. sottie

B. interlude

C. trope

D. platea


Please choose whether the statement is true or false.
26. Hrosvitha was the earliest known female dramatist.


27. Liturgical dramas were never actually performed in churches.


28. There is no clear agreement among scholars regarding the origins of medieval theatre.


29. Liturgical dramas were written in Latin.


30. Medieval actors performed inside mansions, which realistically depicted contemporary locales.


31. Early French medieval drama was somber, with no evidence of comic moments.


32. Mystery plays dramatized biblical events as well as other stories concerning biblical figures and the lives of saints.


33. Mystery plays were historically accurate, placing all characters and events in appropriate chronological order.


34. Spring and summer were the most popular times for the presentation of vernacular drama.


35. Early traces of episodic structure can be found in medieval drama.




36. Compare and contrast processional and stationary stages.

37. Compare and contrast one example of medieval religious drama with one example of medieval secular drama.

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