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The Second Birth of Theatre

Performances of Anglo-Saxon Monks


Mirosław Kocur

This book presents a new approach to early English theatre by exposing a genuine relationship between monastic performances and theatricality. It argues that modern theatre was reinvented in Anglo-Saxon monasteries by monks who were required to transform themselves by disciplining their bodies and performing complex religious acts. After extensively surveying the monastic and liturgical sources of theatre the author reconstructs the XII-century staging of the Anglo-Norman «Ordo representacionis Ade» and demonstrates the fundamental incongruity between the ancient and Christian performativity. On a more personal note he concludes with comments on references to the monastic rule in «Performer», a programmatic text by Jerzy Grotowski.

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Part three: Church and Theatre


Liturgical performances in monasteries required the presence of ordained priests and clerics. Monks could not conduct services themselves. Moreover, the clergy played a key role in the religious life of lay people. Cathedrals and churches needed professional support, while pastoral work in parishes posed an even greater challenge. Just like monks living in monasteries, the clergy from cities and villages faced many difficult tasks, which were often far removed from the ideals of monastic life and demanded different performances. Priests and parishioners were also performers, but they donned different costumes than the monks, and moved in the real world, which was much more dangerous and less predictable than the enclosed, self-sufficient and unchanging cosmos of the abbey. Performances delivered by the clergy, however, did not lose their ties to the liturgy despite being increasingly often performed in the local language. Although the celebration of Ordo representacionis Ade could be considered a non-liturgical performance, its main goal was nevertheless to promote the Church.←147 | 148→

The Clergy

1. Christian clergy was strictly hierarchized since its early days. Each office required ordaining. Greater vows were taken by:

• bishop (episcopus in Latin, epískopos in Greek: “overseer,” “guardian,” “protector”), who led the local church;

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