Article Title

Techniques of Transcendence in Medieval Drama


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

Criticism of medieval drama has for the most part been Aristotelian. The categories of the Poetics as well as the structure Aristotle creates for them have shaped the manner in which not only scholars but the general audience view the plays. Implicit in E. K. Chambers' The Mediaeval Stage (1903) and Karl Young's The Drama of the Medieval Church (1933) is a belief that the plays imitate action and character, and even so radical a study as 0. B. Hardison, Jr.'s Christian Rite and Christian Drama in the Middle Ages (1965) recurs to Aristotelian bases. Hardison maintains that "in the ninth century the boundary . . . between religious ritual (the services of the Church) and drama did not exist. Religious ritual was the drama of the early Middle Ages and had been ever since the decline of the classical theater.'' As the Mass comes to be viewed as a drama by commentators from the ninth century onwards, the framework of liturgy also becomes dramatic so that "in one sense, at least, the Easter liturgy is a transitional phase between the sacred drama of the Mass and liturgical drama." "Its descending action begins with Lent. The point of crisis is reached on Good Friday, and Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday are devoted to the entombment and Resurrection, respectively." The model for this larger structure is Gilbert Murray's concept of the ritual form of Greek tragedy whose Aristotelian orientation Hardison calls "obvious from its terms."1

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