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The Second Birth of Theatre

Performances of Anglo-Saxon Monks

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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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1. Bede, Historia ecclesiastica (VIII Century), one of two earliest copies of the Latin text. Old English recension of Cædmon’s Hymn has been copied in the bottom margin of the page. St. Petersburg, National Library of Russia, MS lat.Qv.1.18, fol. 107r

2. The Prologue to St. Benedict’s Rule (late X Century). Oxford, Corpus Christi College, MS 197, fol. 1r. © Corpus Christi College, Oxford, UK / The Bridgeman Art Library

3. The Presentation of Christ to Simeon. Benedictional of Æthelwold. MS Additional 49598, fol. 34v © British Library board. All Rights Reserved 2016

4. The Entry into Jerusalem. Benedictional of Æthelwold. MS Additional 49598, fol. 34v © British Library board. All Rights Reserved 2016

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