The Chaucer Review: An Indexed Bibliography (Vols. 1-30)Return to the Subject List
Stevens, Martin. "The Theatre of the World: A Study in Medieval Dramatic Form." 7 (1973): 234-49.
For medieval drama, the theatrical space could contain the entire cosmos, show interaction between humans and supernatural figures, and depict all of salvation history. Medieval drama tended to stage a contest between cosmic powers of good and evil over human souls. Since good always won, evil characters were never protagonists. Generally, medieval plays had similar structures: the action was either a conversion or a martyrdom. Thus, all stages used similar layouts, which could serve corpus christi, saint, and morality plays. Such a staging may have been similar to Langland's landscape in Piers Plowman, with a tower for heaven, a dungeon (valley) for hell, and a field in the middle for earth. Since the play progresses as characters move from place to place, the journey becomes the focus of medieval plays. The audience is thus drawn into the play, and the off-stage area ceases to exist. Time is linear, so each play or part of the action is essential to the next, though similar patterns of action recur. These elements comprise "native tradition."