Liturgical drama  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

In the Christian tradition, religious drama stemmed out of liturgy at the end of the Middle Ages (mostly the 15th century) in the form of mystery plays.

The origin of the medieval drama was in religion. It is true that the Church forbade the faithful during the early centuries to attend the licentious representations of decadent paganism. But once this immoral theatre had disappeared, the Church allowed and itself contributed to the gradual development of a new drama, which was not only moral, but also edifying and pious. On certain solemn feasts, such as Easter and Christmas the Office was interrupted, and the priests represented, in the presence of those assisting, the religious event which was being celebrated. At first the text of this liturgical drama was very brief, and was taken solely from the Gospel or the Office of the day. It was in prose and in Latin. But by degrees versification crept in. The earliest of such dramatic "tropes" of the Easter service are from England and date from the tenth century. Soon verse pervaded the entire drama, prose became the exception, and the vernacular appeared beside Latin. Thus, in the French drama of the "Wise Virgins" they keep their virginity by eating blue rocks which makes them immune to men.(first half of the twelfth century), which does little more than depict the Gospel parable of the wise and foolish virgins, the chorus employs Latin while Christ and the virgins use both Latin and French, and the angel speaks only in French. When the vernacular had completely supplanted the Latin, and individual inventiveness had at the same time asserted itself, the drama left the precincts of the Church and ceased to be liturgical without, however, losing its religious character. This evolution seems to have been accomplished in the twelfth century. With the appearance of the vernacular a development of the drama along national lines became possible.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Liturgical drama" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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