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IMC 2015: Sessions

Session 305: Structures, Symbolic Architecture, and Medieval Theatre

Monday 6 July 2015, 16.30-18.00

Moderator/Chair:Alexandra F. Johnston, Records of Early English Drama, University of Toronto, Downtown
Paper 305-aThe Castle of Perseverance's Stage Plan as a Medieval Concordance Diagram
(Language: English)
Elisabeth Trischler, Institute for Medieval Studies, University of Leeds
Index terms: Art History - General, Language and Literature - Middle English, Manuscripts and Palaeography, Performance Arts - Drama
Paper 305-bExit Stage Left: Architecture and Theatre in the Ashburnham Pentateuch
(Language: English)
Dorothy Verkerk, Department of Art, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Index terms: Architecture - Religious, Biblical Studies, Manuscripts and Palaeography, Performance Arts - Drama
Paper 305-cDesigned for Drama?: The Textual and Intellectual Architecture of MS Digby 133
(Language: English)
Danielle Magnusson, Department of English, University of Washington
Index terms: Manuscripts and Palaeography, Performance Arts - Drama

Paper -a:
Scholars have considered the stage plan of The Castle of Perseverance, a morality play, as a practical guide for arranging the space; however, some of the impractical elements are best explained if we consider the form of concordance diagrams as a model for the plan’s design. The plan subverts the iconographic conventions of Pride as the leader of the sins as well as the harmony of concordance diagrams in order to present a counter-discourse to the text of the play. By understanding the stage plan in this way, the reader understands the play's fixation with balance and imbalance as well as the role of Greed, ideas that may be glossed over when reading the play.

Paper -b:
The 6th-century Ashburnham Pentateuch is replete with architectural depictions. The rendering of buildings is distinctive from other architectural depictions in manuscripts and mosaic. Architecture frames the figures as opposed to showing a building as a small-scale model. Figures walk through doorways, staircases provide access to second stories, and arcades surround figures. I argue that the unusual architecture illustrated in the manuscript is a late influence of the Roman scaenae frons. Reform of the theatre under Christian emperors may have opened the way for a new pantomime and mime of Christian content and staging, even if only limited to manuscript illustration.

Paper -c:
For too long modern critics and editors have been willing to separate the four medieval Digby plays from the rest of the miscellany in which they appear (MS Digby 133), ignoring any relationship between these plays and the astrological and alchemical texts surrounding them. This paper argues for the presence of intellectual threads connecting the Digby plays to surrounding texts, suggesting a re-evaluation of modern editorial practice. I believe the Digby manuscript's textual arrangement provides insight into the relationship between forms of scientific knowledge and medieval drama, offering clues about the dating, ownership, and readership of these important early plays.