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Medieval English Drama Essays Critical Contextual

Early Drama, Art, and Music has an established reputation for publishing specialized high-quality scholarship through Medieval Institute Publications at Western Michigan University. The current editorial board interprets its core business in drama, art and music in very permissive ways that reflect current critical trends. The board seeks submissions from new as well as established scholars with an interest in, for example, performativity, rituals, somatic reception and medievalism, as well as in fresh departures in the study of plays, visual and plastic arts and music. The time is ripe for a more global reach, to expand the conventional Anglophone and Latin base into explorations of a wider range of traditions from medieval Europe and beyond.

Series introduction

The current editorial board interprets its core business in drama, art and music in very permissive ways that reflect current critical trends. The board seeks submissions from new as well as established scholars with an interest in, for example, performativity, rituals, somatic reception and medievalism, as well as in fresh departures in the study of plays, visual and plastic arts and music. The time is ripe for a more global reach, to expand the conventional Anglophone and Latin base into explorations of a wider range of traditions from medieval Europe and beyond.

Series editor and editorial board

Proposals or completed manuscripts to be considered for publication by Medieval Institute Publications should be sent to the series editor, Pam King, University of Glasgow.

In addition to Prof. King, the series' Editorial Board comprises:

  • David Bevington, University of Chicago
  • Robert Clark, Kansas State University
  • Jesse Hurlbut, Brigham Young University
  • Alexandra Johnston, University of Toronto
  • Veronique B. Plesch, Colby College ME


Mary of Nemmegen: The ca. 1518 Translation and Middle Dutch Analogue, "Mariken van Nieumeghen"

Edited and translated by Clifford Davidson, Ton Broos, and Martin Walsh

Mary of Nemmegen, a prose condensation in English of the Middle Dutch play "Mariken van Nieumeghen," is an important example of the literature that was imported from Holland in the early part of the sixteenth century - literature that helped to establish an English taste for narrative prose fiction.

EDAM Monograph 31, ISBN 978-1-58044-221-3 (clothbound) © 2016

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Improvisation in the Arts of the Middle Ages and Renaissance

Edited by Timothy J. McGee

A careful reading of the essays brings with it the awareness that to ignore improvisation is to distort the art in a major way. In light of the present volume, the very concept of "faithful historical re-creation" takes on a much broader and more complex character.

EDAM Monograph 30, ISBN 1-58044-044-4 (clothbound) © 2003 Buy book from retailer

ISBN 1-58044-045-2 (paperback) © 2003 - out of print

Paying the Piper: Music in Pre-1642 Cheshire

Elizabeth Baldwin, with a contribution on music in the city by David Mills

In this book, Elizabeth Baldwin studies the early music situation in a single county, Cheshire, from the late Middle Ages to the beginning of the Civil War, focusing on music outside the regular control of the Church and looking not only at the trained professional but at music-makers from the performers at guild feasts to the gentleman who takes music lessons and the alehousekeeper who plays the pipes.

EDAM Monograph 29, ISBN 1-58044-040-1 (clothbound) © 2002 Buy book from retailer

ISBN 1-58044-041-X (paperback) © 2002 - very limited stock only, available upon request ($39.95)

Gesture in Medieval Drama and Art

Edited by Clifford Davidson

Gesture and movement on stage in early drama have previously received very little attention in scholarship. The present collection of essays is the first book to present sensible, penetrating, and wide-ranging discussions of the gestural effects that were integral to the early stage.

EDAM Monograph 28, ISBN 1-58044-028-2 (clothbound) © 2001Buy book from retailer

ISBN 1-58044-029-0 (paperback) © 2001Buy book from retailer

The Coventry Corpus Christi Plays

Edited by Pamela M. King and Clifford Davidson

One of the greatest medieval drama cycles in England was mounted annually at Coventry at Corpus Christi until suppressed in 1579 and is of particular importance because it was almost certainly seen by William Shakespeare when he was a boy in nearby Stratford-upon-Avon.

EDAM Monograph 27, ISBN 1-58044-055-X (clothbound) © 2000 Buy book from retailer

The Worlde and the Chylde

Edited by Clifford Davidson and Peter Happé, with an appendix on the dialect by Paul A. Johnston, Jr.

"The Worlde and the Chylde," issued by the press of Wynkyn de Worde in 1521, is one of the very earliest plays published in England. It also has very considerable interest for its adaptation of the ages of man iconography, which is extensively treated in the introduction, notes and illustrations.

EDAM Monograph 26, ISBN 1-58044-051-7 (clothbound) © 1999 Buy book from retailer

ISBN 1-58044-052-5 (paperback) © 1999 - very limited stock only, available upon request ($24.95)

Material Culture and Medieval Drama

Edited by Clifford Davidson

Like the editor's "Technology, Guilds, and Early English Drama," the contributions by distinguished American and British scholars to this volume recognize that early drama depended on specific developments in material culture in order to achieve its effects, which included both visual and auditory means of appealing to audiences.

EDAM Monograph 25, ISBN 1-58044-020-7 (clothbound) © 1999 Buy book from retailer

ISBN 1-58044-021-5 (paperback) © 1999 - out of print

The Play of Daniel: Critical Essays

Edited by Dunbar H. Ogden, with a transcription of the music by A. Marcel J. Zijlstra

This book, for the first time, provides a critical introduction to the staging and production, music and setting of the play in its architectural and historical context.

EDAM Monograph 24, ISBN 1-879288-77-X (paperback) © 1997 Buy book from retailer

Technology, Guilds, and Early English Drama

Clifford Davidson

This book is designed to open up a broader scope of study which calls attention to both social organization and material culture as integrally related to the civic drama of England in cities such as Coventry, York and Chester.
Copyright 1997, pp. x + 128

EDAM Monograph 23, ISBN 1-879288-79-6 (clothbound) © 1997 Buy book from retailer

ISBN 1-879288-80-X (paperback) © 1997 Buy book from retailer

Fools and Folly

Edited by Clifford Davidson

Attitudes toward the fool varied, but his place was to become assured on stage, where his role is best known to us through the plays of Shakespeare. The articles in the present volume provide indispensable analyses of the fool from a number of different perspectives.

EDAM Monograph 22, ISBN 1-879288-69-9 (clothbound) © 1996 Buy book from retailer

ISBN 1-879288-70-2 (paperback) © 1996 - out of print

Early Drama, Art, and Music Documents: A Paleography Handbook

John M. Wasson

A practical guide to late medieval and Renaissance paleography complete with facsimiles of documents, transcriptions and translations. The present volume will be of the greatest value to students and scholars who wish to consult original documents.

EDAM Monograph 20, ISBN 1-879288-33-8 (clothbound) © 1993 Buy book from retailer

ISBN 1-879288-34-6 (paperback) © 1993 - out of print

A Tretise of Miraclis Pleyinge, Revised Edition

Edited by Clifford Davidson

"A Tretise of Miraclis Pleyinge," usually believed to have been written between 1380 and 1425, is the longest and most significant piece of dramatic criticism in Middle English. It reflects the hostility of Wycliffite (or Lollard) authors toward dramatic representation and related activity, especially religious drama.

EDAM Monograph 19, ISBN 1-978-1-58044-171-1 (paperback) © 1993Buy book from retailer

The "Ordo Virtutum" of Hildegard of Bingen: Critical Studies

Edited by Audrey Ekdahl Davidson

The first collection of essays on Hildegard's wonderfully unique "Ordo Virtutum," along with a reduced facsimile of the pages in Wiesbaden manuscript that contain the drama.

EDAM Monograph 18, ISBN 1-879288-17-6 (clothbound) © 1992 Buy book from retailer

Illustrations of the Stage and Acting in England to 1580

Clifford Davidson

This richly illustrated book surveys representations of the stage and acting from manuscript illuminations, stained glass, sculpture, woodcarving, wall paintings and the woodcuts that appear in playbooks produced by the first English printers.

EDAM Monograph 16, ISBN 0-918720-47-8 (clothbound) © 1991 Buy book from retailer

ISBN 0-918720-48-6 (paperback) © 1991 - out of print

Crossing the Boundaries: Christian Piety and the Arts in Italian Medieval and Renaissance Confraternities

Edited by Konrad Eisenbichler

Despite the paramount importance of confraternities (especially to males) in medieval European society, scholars have tended to neglect not only the social role they played but also the influence they had on the art, drama, music, and thinking of the society in which they not only existed but thrived. This collection of essays serves to illuminate this oft-ignored facet of medieval society, and each essay carefully examines some element of the influence of confraternities on society and its products.

EDAM Monograph 15, ISBN 0-918720-45-1 (clothbound) © 1991 Buy book from retailer

Studies in Fifteenth-Century Stagecraft

J. W. Robinson

Before he suddenly passed away, John W. Robinson was working on a manuscript that he saw as effecting a marriage between the dramatic and the theatrical, as he felt there was too large a divide between literary scholars and practitioners of the theater. That manuscript is presented here, a close study of eight plays and the elements Robinson considers essential to performance: playwright, sponsors, location, plot, script, players, and audience.

EDAM Monograph 14, ISBN 0-918720-38-9 (clothbound) © 1991 Buy book from retailer

ISBN 0-918720-39-7 (paperback) © 1991 - out of print

Holy Week and Easter Ceremonies and Dramas from Medieval Sweden

Edited by Audrey Ekdahl Davidson

Texts, translations, musical transcriptions and facsimiles of the Swedish music-dramas for Holy Week and Easter: "Depositio," "Elevatio," and "Visitatio Sepulchri."
Copyright 1990, pp. viii + 176

EDAM Monograph 13, ISBN 0-918720-36-2 (clothbound) © 1991 Buy book from retailer

ISBN 0-918720-37-0 (paperback) © 1991 - out of print

Shakespeare's Play within Play: Medieval Imagery and Scenic Form in "Hamlet," "Othello," and "King Lear"

Cherrell Guilfoyle

In his foreward to the volume, Clifford Davidson praises Guilfoyle’s application of the concept of scenic form in her study of Hamlet, Othello, and King Lear, and her exposition of Shakespeare’s historical consciousness, noting her “sensitive examination of the shape of the playwright’s scenes when placed against traditional visual configurations and related textual resonances.” Any student of Shakespeare will benefit from the nuanced study of his imagery and how it helps to color his characters and the action in his plays.

EDAM Monograph 12, ISBN 0-918720-34-6 (clothbound) © 1990 Buy book from retailer

ISBN 0-918720-35-4 (paperback) © 1990 - out of print

Iconoclasm vs. Art and Drama

Edited by Clifford Davidson and Ann Eljenholm Nichols

The radical Protestantism that led to the suppression of the religious drama also had destroyed perhaps the majority of ecclesiastical art in England by the early years of Queen Elizabeth I.

EDAM Monograph 11, ISBN 0-918720-97-4 (clothbound) © 1988 Buy book from retailer

ISBN 0-918720-98-2 (paperback) © 1988 - out of print

The Monophonic Lauda and the Lay Religious Confraternities of Tuscany and Umbria in the Late Middle Ages

Cyrilla Barr

The study of popular hymnody is remote not only from contemporary experience but also from very many contemporary scholars. A great deal of this remove stems from the complicated origins and history of this important genre. The Monophonic Lauda aims to present for the first time an English study of the form, as such a text has not been available before. This also necessitates an exploration of previous scholarship on the lauda, though the book is not devoted to this particular exercise. The volume is well illustrated, including musical notation and black-and-white plates.

EDAM Monograph 10, ISBN 0-918720-89-3 (clothbound) © 1988 Buy book from retailer

ISBN 0-918720-90-7 (paperback) © 1988 - out of print

The Idea of Music: An Introduction to Musical Aesthetics in Antiquity and the Middle Ages

Herbert M. Schueller

Music has long been neglected by aestheticians, who tend to privilege discussions of visual arts and literature. In this volume, Herbert M. Schueller brings the aesthetics of music into the fold, tracing the development of the idea from classical antiquity through the medieval period. He writes in a manner accessible to scholars whose specialties lie outside of technical music theory, keeping in mind especially the aesthetician but also general medieval scholars, and even the general reader.

EDAM Monograph 9, ISBN 0-918720-87-7 (clothbound) © 1988 Buy book from retailer

ISBN 0-918720-88-5 (paperback) © 1988 - out of print

The Saint Play in Medieval Europe

Edited by Clifford Davidson

This illustrated volume intelligently provides a much-needed introduction to what may have been the most popular variety of drama in the Middle Ages: the saint play. A comprehensive and collaborative survey is provided with an emphasis on interdisciplinary study rather than only literary analysis. While the saint play in England is the connecting theme of the volume, the papers explore other topics necessary to fully understand the culture of the saint play, such as the genre as manifest on the continent, including plays in French, Italian and German.

EDAM Monograph 8, ISBN 0-918720-77-X (clothbound) © 1986 Buy book from retailer

The Fleury "Playbook": Essays and Studies

Edited by Thomas P. Campbell and Clifford Davidson

Growing out of a symposium on the Fleury Playbook at the International Congress on Medieval Studies, this book includes essays from the symposium, as well as additional papers written by scholars whose specialties were not represented at the conference. Each essay covers a unique topic in the study of the Playbook, utilizing a diverse set of methodological tools and interdisciplinary approaches for subjects which have not heretofore received adequate scholarly attention. The topics at hand are each of significant interest to the field at large.

EDAM Monograph 7, ISBN 0-918720-65-6 (clothbound) © 1985 Buy book from retailer

ISBN 0-918720-66-4 (paperback) © 1985 - out of print

Homo, Memento Finis: The Iconography of Just Judgment in Medieval Art and Drama

Papers by David Bevington, Huston Diehl, Richard Kenneth Emmerson, Ronald Herzman and Pamela Sheingorn

David Bevington and the other contributors to this book look at this final event of history as depicted in pre-modern times, and the result is a work of scholarly precision that, according to Professor Bevington's introduction, "attempts to see medieval drama in the context of other medieval art forms."

EDAM Monograph 6, ISBN 0-918720-60-5 (clothbound) © 1985 Buy book from retailer

Word, Picture, and Spectacle

Edited by Clifford Davidson

The topics covered include the symbolism of scatological illustration in Gothic manuscripts, connections between word and picture in religious art, and the relationship perceived between divine and human creativity.

EDAM Monograph 5, ISBN 0-918720-51-6 (clothbound) © 1985 Buy book from retailer

ISBN 0-918720-50-5 (paperback) © 1984 Buy book from retailer

Reference books

The Early Art of Norfolk: A Subject List of Extant and Lost Art including Items Relevant to Early Drama

Ann Eljenholm Nichols

The book (double columns, 357 pages, plus plates) serves as a standard reference source for students of the ecclesiastical arts and also will provide an essential dimension for drama scholars.

EDAM Reference 7, ISBN 1-58044-034-7 (clothbound) © 2002 Buy book from retailer

The Early Art of the West Riding of Yorkshire: A Subject List of Extant and Lost Art including Items Relevant to Early Drama

Barbara D. Palmer

Professor Palmer has systematically surveyed the art of the former West Riding of Yorkshire and has provided an iconographic index of this large region where medieval drama also flourished.

EDAM Reference 6, ISBN 0-918720-32-X (clothbound) © 1990 Buy book from retailer

ISBN 0-918720-33-8 (paperback) © 1990 - out of print

The Easter Sepulchre in England

Pamela Sheingorn

In addition to a catalog of Easter sepulchres in England, Professor Sheingorn has produced in her introduction a superb study of the ceremonies, rites and dramas associated with this structure.

EDAM Reference 5, ISBN 0-918720-79-6 (clothbound) © 1987Buy book from retailer

The Early Art of Coventry, Stratford-Upon-Avon, Warwick, and Lesser Sites in Warwickshire: A Subject List of Extant and Lost Art including Items Relevant to Early Drama

Clifford Davidson and Jennifer Alexander

The study of the early art of England can be frustrating for scholars, as the destruction by iconoclasm and neglect was very thorough in certain regions. This volume seeks to aid those studying the early art, including relics and musical iconography, of Coventry, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwick and other Warwickshire locations. Accompanied by 71 illustrations and 2 maps, the subject lists found within provide information from records and antiquarian accounts that should prove invaluable in visualizing the dimensions of the iconography of both lost and extant early art from the region.

EDAM Reference 4, ISBN 0-918720-63-X (clothbound) © 1985 Buy book from retailer

ISBN 0-918720-64-8 (paperback) © 1985 - out of print

Chester Art: A Subject List of Extant and Lost Art including Items Relevant to Early Drama

Sally-Beth MacLean

This book will serve as an invaluable research tool for students and scholars with an interest in art relating to early drama, as well as those whose interests lie more in local art history, specifically that of Chester. Though it may not contain the bumper-crop of surviving subject-art as a city such as York possesses, Chester nevertheless holds much of value and interest, as the list in this book aptly demonstrates. Richly illustrated and carefully arranged, this book is a tremendous catalog of surviving subject-art and will reward any scholar who pulls it from the bookshelf.

EDAM Reference 3, ISBN 0-918720-20-6 (clothbound) © 1982 Buy book from retailer

ISBN 0-918720-21-4 (paperback) © 1982 - out of print

The standard book-length overview in English remains Frank 1954, and probably the most useful and comprehensive general work in French is Mazouer 1998. Unfortunately, both suffer from an overly evolutionary and positivist point of view. Solterer 2008 is more condensed but avoids the pitfalls of Frank and Mazouer. Poirion 1983 contextualizes theater and drama within the framework of medieval French literature, while Hollier 1989 provides a useful summary narrative that quickly communicates only the most important information. Knight 1991 is still relevant as an overview of what works have received the most attention and what works might remain relatively unexamined. Lalou 1991, also reviewing the state of research in the field, provides more detail and a greater number of citations, with special attention to Francophone scholarship. For a concise and well-informed critical perspective on the field of medieval performance studies in general, with reference to the most recent key works on French drama in particular, see Enders 2009.

  • Enders, Jody. “Medieval Stages.” Theatre Survey 50.2 (2009): 317–325.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0040557409990093E-mail Citation »

    Explains the three major fissures in the study of European medieval drama: history vs. literature, Continental vs. British, and religious vs. secular. These divisions characterize much of the scholarship pre-1990 and still have influence. Readers should be aware of these preconceptions when evaluating a new resource.

  • Frank, Grace. The Medieval French Drama. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1954.

    E-mail Citation »

    A clear and nearly complete introduction to the topic. Moves chronologically from the first Latin plays performed in France to 16th-century farces, though Frank charts an evolution in dramatic forms that is no longer accepted. Provides good general definitions for common genres and theatrical terms. Reprinted in 1960, 1967, and 1972.

  • Hollier, Denis. A New History of French Literature. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989.

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    Introductory overview of French literature is accomplished in a chronological series of topical essays, two of which focus on French medieval drama: “Medieval Vernacular Drama” (pp. 103–108); and “Farces, Morality Plays, and Sotties” (pp. 124–127). Limited bibliography follows each.

  • Knight, Alan. “France.” In The Theatre of Medieval Europe: New Research in Early Drama. Edited by Eckehard Simon, 151–168. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511819834E-mail Citation »

    Provides a succinct historiographic perspective on criticism of French drama and is part of larger work on the state of medieval drama research in Latin drama, English drama, and Continental drama. The preface clarifies the overlapping political and linguistic boundaries that complicate study of this topic.

  • Lalou, Elisabeth. “Le théâtre et les spectacles publics en France au Moyen Age: état des recherches.” In Théâtre et spectacles hier et aujourd’hui: Moyen Age et Renaissance; Actes du 115e Congrès national des sociétés savantes, Avignon 1990. Edited by Comité des travaux historiques et scientifiques, 9–33. Paris: Editions du CTHS, 1991.

    E-mail Citation »

    Describes the state of the field of research into French drama and public performances of the medieval period. Well organized by topic, and selective, including many French-language works.

  • Mazouer, Charles. Le théâtre français du moyen âge. Paris: SEDES, 1998.

    E-mail Citation »

    Chronological survey of drama that participates to some degree in the evolutionary framework found in Frank 1954, using many of the same categories. Also includes many black-and-white pictures of manuscript illuminations accompanying descriptions of the plays.

  • Poirion, Daniel. Précis de Littérature française du Moyen Age. Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 1983.

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    Definitive overview of medieval French literature. Includes several sections devoted to drama: chapter 5, part 2, pp. 176–185, discusses urban and religious drama in the early 13th century and the works of Adam le Bossu (“Adam de la Halle”); chapter 6, part 2, pp. 201–203, comedy; and chapter 11, “Le jeu dramatique,” pp. 306–335, concerns production practices, miracle and mystery plays, moralities, farces, and fools’ plays.

  • Solterer, Helen. “Theatre and Theatricality.” In The Cambridge Companion to Medieval French Literature. Edited by Simon Gaunt and Sarah Kay, 181–194. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

    DOI: 10.1017/CCOL9780521861755E-mail Citation »

    Expansive perspective on what constitutes drama and theater in the period. Concise introduction to names of key texts and most common contexts for production. Connects past to present practice. Includes extremely selective bibliography.