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Theater and the Sacred in the Middle Ages

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Andrzej Dąbrówka

The book presents a theory of relationships between the forms of devotion
and early drama genres. The historical background is the circumstances of the Church becoming independent of the Empire. A theological and philosophical aspect of the transformation of piety at the time was the specification of the ontological status of the sacred (spiritualization) and "shifting it to Heaven" (transcendentalization). In opposition to a theory of Western civilization as a process of increasing individual self-control, the author argues for the need to take into account purely religious conditions (the idea of recapitulation). This allows the author to develop a holistic aesthetics for the religiously inspired creativity in the period spanning the 11th-15th centuries and to propose a new typology of medieval drama.

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23. The Miracle Play

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1. REASSURING. When discussing the mystery plays, we stated that the historicity of the world must be translated into individual beliefs and experiences. The condition for the persistence of these beliefs is the constant confirming of revelation, already after the shift in the ontological location of the sacred. What most clearly reflects miraculousness is the fact of the concrete recognition of the new status of the sacred. No preparation is necessary to distinguish a work of art that is rooted in a miracle, nor is it necessary to understand the essence of its uniqueness. However, the functioning of miracular motifs does not stem from complete spontaneity or randomness. In a represented world in which miracles occur, some people see and recognize them while others do not.

The profane was something entirely different from paganism, as it stems from the belief that holiness remains within reach even after the division. One of the proofs for this was the miracle. According to the views of the Augustinians of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries – the most influential school at that time – the miracle was “a sign inviting, urging, but not imposing faith” (Rusecki 1991: 116). Scholastics following Thomas Aquinas inclined to overestimate the miracle as proof, perhaps somewhat paradoxically, as they usually stressed the rationality of the religious system.

Henry of Ghent (d. 1293) proclaimed that God manifests Himself in miracles, but the purpose of miracles is not to demonstrate divine power but bring people into personal...

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