GCSE Drama Coursework

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GCSE Drama Coursework

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GCSE Drama Coursework Sample (Excerpts)

The whole attempt to reconstruct the staging of the cycle plays is attended with much difficulty. Chester has fairly extensive directions, Towneley and the two Coventry plays a few, York almost none. We can infer a good bit from the dialogue. Much more comes from a study of the costumes and properties recorded in the guild accounts. The plastic and graphic arts can contribute much, for there is in all ages a considerable kinship between the drama and all the arts, auditory as well as visual. Dr. Hildburgh has successfully argued that many English alabaster carvings of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries reproduced scenes which the artists actually saw in cycle plays. Illuminations, wall paintings, and sculpture could be used in similar fashion, and doubtless the influence flows in both directions: artists reproduce what they have seen in plays, but pageant masters also reproduce what they have seen in stained glass windows, bosses, screen carvings, and all the other forms of medieval ecclesiastical art.

Recently, Professor Wickham has produced a mass of information about tournaments, royal entries, court entertainments, disguisings, and mummings--a whole range of quasi-dramatic representations which doubtless made valuable contributions to the staging of scriptural drama. For one thing, his material proves that the skill to produce elaborate spectacles existed in the late fourteenth and all through the fifteenth century.

One of the first conclusions that follows even a cursory examination of the stagecraft of the cycles is that such terms as naturalistic, realistic, abstract, symbolic, stylized, and the others currently used to categorize staging have little meaning when applied to the earlier drama, whether Elizabethan or medieval. For instance, you can say that the Elizabethan stage was not naturalistic, because it lacked scenery, lighting, or a curtain. When Shakespeare wishes to indicate that it is dawn, all he can do is write some such description as

The grey-ey'd morn smiles on the frowning night,

Chequ'ring the eastern clouds with streaks of light.

In the modern theater, even more in the cinema, lighting would convey this information. We would see the red glow of the rising sun. That is naturalistic staging But what of the handling of scenes of violence? Even in the most gruesome gangster film, I have never seen blood visibly spout from a wound. Yet we know that an Elizabethan actor playing a scene in which he is thrust through with a rapier provided himself with a bag of blood, got fresh from the shambles. It is likely that medieval actors did likewise.

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