Volume Forty-Two (2020): Summaries

George Gandy

Fragments of Four Fourteenth-Century Miracle Plays from Mont Saint-Michel
METh 42 (2020) 10 – 49.


This essay describes a series of fragments of plays from Mont Saint-Michel which tell founding myths of the religious community there – founding myths often full of spectacle. Gandy describes what may have happened in the portions of script now lost, and speculatively reconstructs the plays’ performance in the abbey church. The fragments are presented edited anew and with facing-page translation into modern English.

Aurélie Blanc

Performing Female Authority: Convent Plays and Lay Spectatorship in the Barking Abbey Elevatio and Visitatio Sepulchri Dramatic Ceremonies
METh 42 (2020) 50 – 89.


This essay discusses plays performed by the nuns of Barking, and considers the role of drama in mediating relationships between this religious community and the wider community. Barking was situated at the heart of a town: as Blanc shows, there were often tensions between the convent and the society beyond it, and theatre was one way in which the nuns sought to shape community responses to the convent and the religion it practised.


James Stokes

Women in Religious Guilds: Performance and Community in Medieval and Tudor England
METh 42 (2020) 90 – 114.


In this essay, Stokes presents newly-discovered archival evidence of female involvement in medieval performance. His focus is the place of women within lay communities: women sang to welcome a king into their town, or danced as part of a guild’s celebrations; particularly after the Black Death, women were increasingly involved in the communities of the guilds, which were important sponsors and producers of various kinds of performance. The essay explores a broad range of performance activities beyond what might now be defined as ‘theatre’.


Camille Marshall

When in Doubt: Thomas Indie and the Mid-Sixteenth-Century Reception of the Towneley Collection
METh 42 (2020) 115 – 141.


In this essay, Marshall focuses on the Towneley Plays as an example of religious drama within the lay community. Recent research has overturned ideas that the Towneley family commissioned the manuscript and that it contains scripts that were performed as cycle plays like those of York. Thus, while the manuscript history of these plays invites consideration of the religious allegiance of their audiences, the plays cannot be conclusively situated within any one particular community. Focusing on Thomas Indie and the functions of doubt within it, Marshall therefore begins with Malcolm Parkes’ dating of the manuscript, considering the play along other mid-sixteenth-century religious and theatrical texts, and envisaging the extent to which this community was one affected by the religious turmoil of the Marian period.


E. Lucy Deacon

Ta’ziyeh-khani in Iranian Communities: Muharram AH 1439 (AD 2017)
METh 42 (2020) 142 – 180.


This essay explores Ta’ziyeh-khani, a form of traditional Iranian theatre telling of the martyrdoms of Shi’ism’s sacred figures. Although this religious theatre has been in and out of official favour over the centuries, performances have continued regardless, seemingly playing a vital role in the popular devotional life of Iranian communities. Deacon discusses Ta’ziyeh-khani from an ethnographic perspective, documenting its very particular effects on the contemporary communities who perform and attend it in the twenty-first century. She explores the similarities and differences between performances of traditional scripts in several different locations in Iran. She engages particularly with the affective responses of these audiences, showing how emotion, personal experience and religious faith coincide at the Ta’ziyeh.


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© Meg Twycross 2021