Article Title

Mysteries, Minstrels, and Music


JoAnna Dutka


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

The English and Latin religious dramas of the Middle Ages, though doctrinally similar and eventually coexistent, differ radically in form and mode of presentation. One of the fundamental disparities lies in their use of music: the Latin plays are sung; those in the vernacular, however, use speech and music. Moreover, the Latin plays have only a vocal line, as Dr. William Smoldon has shown,1 whereas the English plays, not restricted by liturgical propriety and church law, include both songs and instrumental music.2 The use of the latter in the Mysteries has, therefore, no formal dramatic precedent; nonetheless, as I propose to show, the writers and revisers of the cycle plays utilized instrumental music with marked skill for dramatic effect, internal consistency, and realism, as well as exhibiting in certain plays a lively awareness of the religious symbolism of musical instruments.

Comparative Drama is carried by JSTOR and Project MUSE.