Article Title

Time, Eternity, and Dramatic form in Ludus Coventriae "Passion Play I"


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

Few students of the English mystery cycles would contest the truism that, in general, the dramatic conventions of Ludus Coventriae "Passion Play I" and all other medieval plays are in• tended to interpret a Christian world and universe.1 Yet even the most perceptive critics appear reluctant to construe "conventions" as more comprehensive than staging and theme, or to consider the fundamental likelihood that such touchstones of analysis as character, conflict, and development possess a low priority in the interpretation of a medieval Christian universe. These concerns, which are inseparable from the post-medieval appeal of world, individual, and time, however, bear only minimal relation to the primary medieval interest in the timeless structure of eterruty and reality. The liturgy and sacramental system, philosophical interest in being rather than becoming, and the iconographic and typological system of correspondences between earth and heaven-all relevant in some degree to "Passion I" --demonstrate the seminal position of timelessness in medieval thought. Time itself, with its attributes of causality, sequence, and change, was thought to be of secondary and deceptive importance.2 In "Passion I," which dramatizes the intersection of history and eternity in the displacement of the Paschal Feast by the Eucharist, the distinction between time and timelessness is crucial not only to theme, but to the action and total structure of the play. The ways in which the play gives substance and shape to this distinction challenge the reliability of time oriented interpretive criteria and indicate that medieval belief and aesthetic imagination and medieval dramatic decorum are sometimes indivisible.

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