Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Beginning of Drama; Middle English Drama

Drama is the most natural of the arts for its being based on one of the most fundamental faculties of human- being which is imitation. In the middle ages, drama was connected tightly to religion. 

As the primitive society was mainly an agricultural one, the priests and monks wanted to teach the peasants and simple people about their religion, they could not convince them with reading pages or verses from the bible as they did not seem to understand the meaning of resurrection, devotion, incarnation, salvation etc. So, the stories mentioned in the bible were turned into simple plays that have been acted by young men, and held in religious festivals or in magical ceremonies. 

The dramatic themes were woven out of the biblical stories by monks, who neither mentioned their names, nor revealed their real characters.  Stories such as Abrahaam and Isaac was turned into a play acted on wagons carried on carts and pulled by horses through scenes for actions and advices given to the commons by the monks to obey God’s instructions however difficult they are. Christianity, this way, is connected remotely with what we call "fertility myths". 

The Mass of the Catholic Church celebrates the sacrifice of Christ. It is religious ritual, but it is also drama. There is still exist in England certain plays that are basically plot-built on the fertility Myth, overlaid with historical characters in the life of Christian people.

The play Saint George - patron saint of England - is there still performed in England at Christmas - oftenly in villages for simple people to watch and entertain. At York and Chester, plays presented on wagons and were acted by the guilds, the grocers, the Dyers or the shearers, were performed in Summer festivals especially the corpus Christi, saw connected sequences of such performances on old and new testament themes.

These amusing plays were theological and instructive plays dramatized out of Christian teachings, and played out in the Mass, with plots that are concerned with salvation and redemption.

The Deluge is another theological play derived from the biblical events about the prophet Noah and his flood as he says:

I, God, that all the world have wrought, 
Heaven and earth, and all of nougt, 
I see my people, in deede and thouglt, 
Are are sett foele in sinne. 

Many other Miracle plays depending on theological instructions were there "The Betraying of Christ", which lacks sophistication and polish, but presents God and Angles in a simple sublimity. "The Sacrament" in which the Jews mock and misuse the host and wine of the sacrament, and are rewarded by a series of crude miraculous signs.

A more significant is the emergence of the Morality plays in which an allegorical treatment of the human situation is presented.

“Everyman” that belongs to the very end of the fifth century, is a play that can stand on its own literary merit, at the beginning of the play, God sends Death to summon Everyman to come and to give an account of his life in the world. Everyman wants any of his cousins, kindred or fellowship to accompany him on his Journey, but all of them refuse to go with him, So, Everyman has to lay on the ground to confess his sins in front of Good-deeds who comforts him as to entrust his soul into God’s hands.