Tuesday, 27 September 2016

The Medieval Theatre: Roots in the Mass

In The Medieval Theatre, Glynne Wickham (1986) imagines a society that understood performance as ludus, inheriting a Latin tradition that included sport and tragedy in a single category. The key quality of the ludus, Wickham believes, is that it is not 'real life': it contains a set of rules which allow for its repeat performance. Since the Roman ludus included gladiatorial combat, that repeat might not always feature the same players...

Whatever: but Wickham observes the introduction of a theatricality into the Mass, with a seasonal addition to the Introit: the shepherds asking where they can find the saviour. But I think this misses a trick. The status of the Host is intrinsically theatrical, in that it is both literally a wafer and allegorically the Body of Christ. So that's bisociation, which I believe allows theatre audiences not to get confused by those blokes pretending to be kings or something. 

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