The Chester text straddles an uneasy border between text and performance and between medieval and modern. This paper considers Chester from a different angle. Records suggest different forms of staging yet the text doesn’t match. This is doubly significant because ideas of medieval staging began with Chester. Lucy Toulmin Smith applied her understanding of Chester to York. Then an empire of scholarship grew around any town with pretensions to a Bible play. Clues are scarce. Can we find a relationship between text and setting, between place and players? Are we treading the boards at Chester or walking the plank?
This paper will explore how medieval angel costumes used in dramatic performances were depicted in paintings in church wall murals, often to serve as meditative aids. Peter Happé has connected the drama cycle plays with the carvings in Norwich cathedral bosses, but parish churches also bear marks of similar links. In East Anglia and Southern England, such a connection between costumes and paintings occurs in two 15th-century wall murals, both featuring angels wearing costumes, namely the doom paintings at St Lawrence Broughton and at St Mary’s, Attleborough. The visual and conceptual resonance between the performances of the two N-Town plays, Doom and Assumption, in connection with these mural paintings, establishes an ongoing narrative loop of meaning for parishioners in those churches.
From the onset of the English Reformation, elites stereotyped incidents of stained glass window iconoclasm as spontaneous, homogenous acts of destruction. Recent scholarship has challenged the elite narrative, instead contending that glass-breaking was a premeditated, sophisticated event. This study alternatively addresses the question of the motive behind the iconoclasm of stained glass. Glass-breaking of the Reformation should be properly viewed as a strongly emotional action, since even Continental religious authorities tolerated glass for its practical advantages. This paper applies affect theory in order to interpret the charged and non-rational nature of glass-breaking as a performance, publicly theatricalizing latent affective impulses.