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Theater and the Sacred in the Middle Ages


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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Concluding Remarks


We may depict the Following of Christ that heads toward Heaven under his lead as an army of salvation. Such depiction accounts for the element of coercion present in the process of civilization which, as we have seen, also appeared in the Church. Like every army, it has its own banners, commanding corps, elite and ordinary divisions, various weapons, strategies for different occasions, training programs, a history of collective achievements and deeds of heroic individuals, and finally plans for future campaigns.

As we have seen, the following of Christ itself is not cheerful but has a cheerful tail. Like every army, this one also has its own musicians, cynics, marauders, clumsy crocks, cowards, and deserters. These unheroic heroes populate and color the different varieties of farces. But the function of farce was not to portray them but to discipline, which partly meant self-discipline. Discipline is indispensable at every step of training, practice, and combat, because the commander of this army seems more like a coach of a sports team: he partakes in no skirmish and was removed further away than the king that stands on a hill during a battle (transcendentalization).

Only in mystery plays do order and chaos, reason and stupidity, good and evil collide with each other in cosmic struggle until the victory of the forces of good at the end of time.1088 Still, one should not underestimate the minor skirmishes fought every day by the privates of this war. Sometimes, they...

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