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Ritual and Drama, by Francis Edwards

Ritual and Drama

The Medieval Theatre

By Francis Edwards


A masterly exposition of the development of medieval drama from its liturgical origins, with particular emphasis on the audience impact of the performance. Illustrated by George Tuckwell.

Available as: Paperback

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About this Book

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.



1. Ritual and the Theatre
2. The Theatre of the Early Church
3. The Growth of the Dramatic Idea
4. The Spirit of Irreverence
5. The Theatre of the People
     I. The Transition from Latin to the Common Tongue
     II. The Miracle Plays
6. Religion and the Stage

Glossary of Terms
Book List

Reviews and Comments

"Attractively produced in linen-back. Mr. Edwards writes in a friendly style and takes care to explain the relevant details of Christian ritual in terms which anyone can understand. The comprehensive book-list, which includes the texts of the plays, should be helpful to those wishing to go more deeply into this fascinating subject. An excellent introduction and a useful addition to the school library."
Music Teacher

"When Mr. Edwards writes about mediaeval theatre, he knows what he is about. Authoritative about what happened to the Gospel in the plays, this book will also convey something about the Gospel itself."
Baptist Times

"The author shows in simple terms, free from jargon and cliché how mediaeval drama developed from the liturgy."
Church Times

"A good introduction to the Mediaeval theatre, and provides a useful starting point. May also be of interest to those exploring the place of drama in the life and worship of the church."
The Outlook

"Presenting the story in an objective way acceptable to the student and present-day reader who may or may not be familiar with or accept the Christian ethic. The treatment is particularly useful to those involved in staging medieval drama."
Amateur Stage

"The story of the emergence of the Mediaeval theatre is at all times embellished by a wealth of background information. I kept meeting with fresh and unexpected insights. A fascinating story. Recommended reading."
Information for Drama

"Filled with a very vivid sense of the possibilities of medieval drama as theatre."
The Year's Work in English Studies, Vol 59

"Francis Edwards concentrates admirably on the audience impact on the medieval plays and how they grew from the liturgy."
The Yorkshire Post

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