Theatre History: Medieval Era

The history of theatre starting from 6th Century BCE towards the end of the Italian Renaissance; includes names, dates, events, and other significant items.



0500 AD - 1300 AD

a small, non-moving platform stage representing a specific location in the Bible plays
stage structures used in medieval theatre to represent specific locations, such as Heaven or Hell
actors would move between these mansions as the play demanded

Social Stratification

800 AD - 1500 AD

classification of people into groups based on socio-economical condition

consisted of nobility, clergy, and peasants

Folk Plays

900 AD - 1500 AD

plays of the Medieval period that were performed for pure entertainment
popular during 10th-15th century


0925 AD - 2014 AD

a festival and holiday celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead
occurred three days after his crucifixion by Romans at Calvary
the feast day that marked the introduction of drama into church rituals

Saint or Miracle Plays

1000 AD

one of the three principle kinds of vernacular drama of the European Middle Ages
presents a real or fictitious account of the life, miracles, or martyrdom of a saint
evolved from liturgical offices developed during the 10th/11th century to enhance calendar festivals
surviving plays include the Virgin Mary & St. Nicholas


1066 AD

presented Bible dramas in England
professional association, trade union, cartel, and a secret society
arrived after Norman Conquest

13th-15th Centuries

1200 - 1400

the centuries of the great Bible series in Europe at the height of their popularity


1300 AD - 1500 AD

form of procession traditionally associated with both secular and religious rituals and had a narrative structure
celebration of Corpus Christi

York Mystery Plays

1376 AD

48 mystery plays
sacred history from the creation to the Last Judgement
first celebrating during Corpus Christi 1376
made from York Craft Guilds

Wakefield Mystery Plays

1377 AD

32 mystery plays based on the Bible, most likely performed around the Feast of Corpus Christi during late Middle Ages
approximate first date is around 1377 AD
multiple roles were played by the same people during the show and it is possible the show was put on by the same cast every year

Coventry Mystery Plays

1392 AD

Coventry, West Midlands, England
best known source of the "Coventry Carol"
two plays from original cycle are extant having been copied from the now lost original
continued for nearly two centuries

Morality Plays

1400 AD - 1600 AD

a principle of verisimilitude
a type of allegory in which the protagonist is met by personifications of various moral attributes who try to prompt him to choose a Godly life over one of evil
more secular theater
popular during 15th-16th centuries in Europe after mystery plays

Chester Mystery Plays

1422 AD

based on creation to the Last Judgement
1475 AD: included trial and flagellation of Christ at the crucifixion

Fall of Constantinople

1453 AD

the date of the Fall of Constantinople that brought the classics back to Europe

Dumb Shows

1562 AD - 1642 AD

traditional term for pantomime in drama
actions presented by actors onstage without spoken dialogue
wordless episode or interlude during Medieval period