Domestic disturbance in the medieval dramatic cycles of Chester and York

  • Author / Creator
    Anderson, Judith R.
  • The English medieval cycle drama of Chester and York has attracted much scholarship that is critical of the anachronism, anglicization, and inconsistency found in these plays’ stagings of the Creation-to-Doom biblical narrative. By introducing the concept of domestic disturbance, this project demonstrates that these controversial features of medieval drama instead belong to a style of representation with which medieval audiences were familiar. The introductory chapter provides a definition of domestic disturbance, and explains this concept’s relationship to the relevant critical heritage. I propose that extraneous or inconsistent scenes should not be revised or excised; instead, we should consider that modern expectations of linearity, and of dramatic unity of time and place, may not accord with the medieval “horizon of expectations.” Domestic disturbance allows for a better appreciation of the cycles’ common strategies for subversion, as well as their differing attitudes towards conflict. Chapters Two and Three are case studies demonstrating the efficacy of this theory. Chapter Two focuses on the Chester cycle’s troublesome women: Mrs. Noah, and the Mothers of the Innocents, all of whom interrupt the spiritual narrative of the play in order to assert challenges to the patriarchal authority to which they find themselves subject. Chapter Three focuses on the less controversial figures of Mary, Elizabeth, and Eve, to demonstrate that domestic disturbance is not simply the work of a few troublesome women working against the spiritual goals of the play, but part of a larger strategy for introducing domestic conflict into the biblical narrative, without necessarily undermining it. Chapter Four extends the scope of domestic disturbance from the narrative of the plays to include their performance. Domestic disturbance is often a means of playing out gendered conflict, but any potential subversion is contingent on its presentation. This chapter compares features of medieval cycle drama against twentieth-century medieval dramatic scholarship relying on theories of the carnivalesque, in order to highlight the features of performance that contribute to medieval cycle drama’s unique performance style; cross-dressed actors, performance in and on the streets, and an episodic-processional mode, all work to support the respective narratives of Chester and York.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
    • Department of English and Film Studies
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
    • Epp, Garrett (English and Film Studies)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Muneroni, Stefano (Drama)
    • Ashley, Kathleen (English, University of Southern Maine)
    • Bowers, Rick (English and Film Studies)
    • Reimer, Stephen (English and Film Studies)
    • Demers, Patricia (English and Film Studies)