The Liturgical Drama in the Middle Ages as the Music Drama

The Liturgical Drama in the Middle Ages as the Music Drama

By Andrzej Wolański 

Paper given at the Societe Internationale pour l’etude du Theatre Medieval, 12th Colloquim (2007)

Abstract: Because of the attempt to present two mutually dependent processes – the dramatic-and-theatrical development of liturgical dramas and the changes in their approach to liturgy – the issues related to the genesis of liturgical dramas and their evolution towards mystery plays have acquired appropriate significance.  The thesis that the dramatic-and-theatrical development at the same time marked the separation of drama from the liturgy has been advanded in this form for the first time.  The most characteristic aspect of the related evidence is that the looser the connection between drama and the liturgy became, the more features of the new genre – mystery – drama acquired.

An important part in this process was played by troping, which gradually increased its influence on the liturgical drama form.  It was reflected, for instance, in a systematic development of dialogue structures and the emergence of a recitative-like monologue.  Because of the syncretism of the liturgical drama, which consisted in a simultaneous formation of its three principal components – word, sound and the visible –, the liturgical drama shows a charateristic similarity both to ancient Greek drama (especially tragedy) and to the modern musical drama (the Florentine dramma per musica, or theGesamtkunstwerk concept of Richard Wagner) and opera.  This similarity also concerns the development of the very category of dramaticism.

Click here to read/download this article (PDF file)

Sign up to get a Weekly Email from

* indicates required

Sign up for our weekly email newsletter!