Article Title

Some Clerical Notions of Dramatic Decorum in Late Medieval England


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

The pronouncements and regulations put forth by the late medieval Church, including those of English bishops, suggest that the religious establishment was quite opposed to theatrical performance. The tradition established by Tertullian and other early Christian Fathers provided a foundation for the Church's views.1 But the decree of Pope Innocent III in 1207 shows that the hierarchy was responding to contemporary conditions, not just voicing traditional resistance to mimetic performance:

From time to time theatrical games are produced in certain churches. Not only are imitations of devils introduced in parody; in truth, in certain festivals of the year that immediately follow Christ's birth, deacons, presbyters, and subdeacons in turn present mad parodies with obscene gestures in the sight of the people. They thus tarnish the honor of the clergy who ought better, at that time, to be delighting people by preaching the word of God. The house of God mocks us and the reproaches seem to fall on us. Brothers, we command you to root out these customary parodies and commend the observance of divine and holy orders in your churches...2

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