Ritual and Drama: Mediaeval Theatre

Francis Edwards is best known for his experimental work in the field of medieval theatre and drama, and for his association with the Surrey Community Players, founded by him in 1947. This association resulted in the 1952 production, under his direction, of a series of Towneley Plays in Southwark and the City of London. A notable feature of the initial Surrey production was the mounting of the play of The Creation on a simulated medieval pageant for performance at a number of 'stations': the first recorded performance of a miracle play in true medieval style for over 300 years. Ritual forms the basis of all popular theatrical entertainment and is the root from which dramatic art had grown; and having been engaged for some 30 years in research into the relationship between the ritualistic and dramatic instincts of humankind, Francis Edwards concentrates in this book upon the audience impact, rather than the artistic qualities, of the medieval plays. He devotes much of his attention to the emotional effects of religious and dramatic ritual on the spectator, illuminating the impact of Christian ritual, Christian images and Christian stories upon the medieval imagination, and wherever possible draws illustrative parallels between habits of mind which are as familiar to us today as they were to the people of the Middle Ages. Describing how medieval drama developed from the liturgy, the growth of the dramatic idea, styles of representation of the mystery cycles, and the evolution of the morality play, the author presents in simple and straightforward terms a theme which is fundamental to our understanding of dramatic art.