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Ethelwold and Medieval Music-Drama at Winchester

The Easter Play, Its Author, and Its Milieu


George B. Bryan

Medieval drama has been the subject of more intensive scholarly examination within the past decade than at any other time since its origin. In this book, the original medieval drama, the «Visitatio Sepulchri» of the «Regularis Concordia» and the «Winchester Troper» is delineated in terms of the environment in which it was created: the Monastic Revival of tenth-century England.
The Easter music-drama is seen in the context of medieval English society, continental monastic reformation, liturgical practices, the fine arts, and learning. The writer concludes that the author of the «Visitatio Sepulchri» was Ethelwold, Bishop of Winchester, who at some time between 950 and 970 formulated the music-drama, drawing from secular theatrical conditions and adapting them to contemporary liturgical and devotional requirements. He presented his creation to the English monastic community as an act of worship, not as a separate dramatic entity but as a vital part of the extended ritual of Holy Week. Hence the music-drama must be studied in terms of music and liturgy as well as its literary text; failure to do so diminishes its dramatic magnitude and its powers of exciting worshipful awe of the transcendental reality of the Resurrection.
Contents: Tenth-Century Winchester - The Monastic Revival - Benedictinism and the «Monastic Agreement» (the «Regularis Concordia») - The Fruits of the Monastic Revival - Liturgical Music-Drama - The Production of the «Visitation to the Sepulchre» - The Historiography of Music-Drama - Selected Bibliography.