1981: Medieval Theater and Indo-European Context (contents pages)


Los Angeles, California




Craig T. Fees

A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the
requirements for the degree Master of Arts in Theater

June, 1981

(c) Craig Fees 1981


Precis of the argument and structure of


Medieval European theater is placed, in this study, in a common architectual
and ideological context with Indian, Roman, Greek, and Romano-Celtic theaters.
The inference is that all reflect a common Indo-European ideology, and the
suggestion is made that Medieval theater is part of a continuous tradition
pre-dating the Roman era. This argument is based in part on the Romano-Celtic
theaters of Northern France and Southern England – Roman era theaters with a
non-Roman design analogous to Medieval stages.

The thesis begins with a survey of histories of Medieval theater in English
from the beginning of the 18th century to the present, emphasising the
development of ideas prior to and leading up to E.K. Chambers’ The Medieval
(1903), and emphasizing the variety of definitions of theater that
have been used since. It is pointed out that all the elements of Chambers’
theory were essentially in place by the end of the 18th century. The lack of
consensus and rigour in definitions is noted as crippling any attemp tto
compare historical studies written by different scholars.

To counter the Chambers-Young hypothesis of Medieval theater the following
arguments are made: Roman civilization never fell, European culture is
consequently continuous into and through the Middle Ages, Western Europe and
her culture were influenced by outside theatro-genic cultures, plays were
produced before the full development of liturgical drama was achieved, and
histories of theater which identify theater with literature are misconceived,
and inappropriate to the Medieval era. Specifically, it is shown that Byzantine
culture had a major impact on Western Medieval culture; and it is shown that
Hrotswitha, writing in Medieval Germany, created plays to be produced, that
were produced, long before the liturgical origins theory can account for them.

A short final essay lays the groundwork for a new definition of theater, and
argues the rise of a New Theater History, grounded in production as well as the


The thesis of Craig T. Fees is approved by:

Basil Busacca

Thomas Bloom

Omar M. Paxson

Occidental College

Los Angeles, California

Date: 6/4/81



This is dedicated to all the

strict princes and princesses,

the Sibis and MacDermots, who give

with one hand and bring the world to bloom.

Particularly to my mother,

who has been a veritable patron.


Precis of the argument and structure of the


List of Illustrations, Maps,

Sources of Illustrations



Essay One: English Histories of Medieval Theater

Introduction: E.K. Chambers

I. Before Chambers: Birth in Conflict

II. The Eighteenth Century

III. The Door of the Nineteenth Century

IV. Stepping into the Nineteenth Century

V. Chambers’ Immediate Predecessors

VI. Pause for Definitions

VII. Beyond Chambers: Mainly More Definitions


Essay Two: Questions on Some Basic Assumptions of the
Liturgical-Origins Theory

I. Did Roman Civilization “Fall”?

II. Hrotswitha

III. External Influences on Medieval Western Theater

The Islamic World


The Jews


IV. What is the Meaning of the Absence of Records?


Essay Three: Theater in Indo-European Tradition

I. Archeology

The Romano-Celtic Theater






“Indo-European” and the Question of a Pre-Indo-European Drama

The Indo-European Architectural Context of the Romano-Celtic Theaters

II. Ideology

The Category “Theater”

Order, Game and Victory

Conforming to Order, and Truth

Victory and Creation

The Sacred, the Relations of Gods and Men



Patronage and Power


III. Theater

1. Vox populi

2. Patronage

3. Theater as Devotion





Western Medieval

4. Theater as Scripture

5. Blessing


Essay Four: Defining Theater

Concluding Remarks



Folkdrama Bibliography


Sources of Illustrations

Figs. 1,2,3,4: Richard Ettinghausen, “The Dance With Zoomorphic Masks
and Other Forms of Entertainment Seen in Islamic Art,” in Arabic and
Islamic Studies in Honor of Hamilton A.R. Gibb
, ed. George Makdisi,
Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1965, following p. 224.

Fig. 5: S.S. Frere, “Excavations at Verulamium 1959,”
Antiquaries’ Journal 40 (1960), p. 7.

Figs. 6,7,8,16,17,18,19,20,21,22,23,24,25: Kathleen Kenyon, “The Roman
Theatre at Verulamium, St. Albans,” Archaeologia 84 (1934), plates
and p. 249.

Figs. 9, 10: Rosalind Dunnett, “The Excavation of the Roman Theatre at
Gosbeck’s,” Britannia 2 (1971), pp. 28, 42.

Fig. 11: J-L. Massy and J-L. Cadoux, “Etudes,” Revue du
52 (1970), p. 470.

Fig. 12: Gallia 33 (1973), p. 316.

Fig. 13: M-A. Dollfus, “Le theatre ‘rustique’ gallo-romain de
Lyons-la-foret,” Bulletin de la societe national des antiquaires de
, 1970, p. 110.

Fig. 14: Gallia 26 (1968), p. 327.

Fig. 15: S.S. Frere, “The Roman Theatre at Canterbury,”
Britannia 1 (1970), p. 88.

Figs. 26, 27: James H. Butler, The Theatre and Drama of Greece and
, San Francisco: Chandler, 1972, pp. 33, 102.

Fig. 28: M. Baudot, “Le probleme des ruines du Vieil-Evreux,”
Gallia 1 (1943), p. 193.

Figs. 29, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39: J.B. Ward-Perkins, Roman Architecture,
New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1974, pp. 38, 44, 134, 287.

Fig. 30: Edith M. Wightman, Roman Trier and the Treveri, London:
Hart-Davis, 1970, p. 216.

Figs. 31, 34: From Alois M. Nagler, The Medieval Religious Stage,
trans. George C. Schoolfield, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1976, p. 50 and

Fig. 32: John R. Elliott, Jr., “Medieval Rounds and Wooden O’s,”
Stratford-upon-Avon Studies 16 (1973), p. 235.

Fig. 33: In Kenneth M. Dodd, “Another Elizabethan Theater in the
Round,” Shakespeare Quarterly 21 (1970), p. 142.

Fig. 40: Lawrence Richardson, Jr., “Cosa and Rome: Comitium and
Curia,” Archaeology 10 (1957), p. 50.

Fig. 41: Marija Gimbutas, The Balts, New York: Praeger, 1963, p. 181.

Figs. 42, 43, 44, 45, 46: A.H. Allcroft, “The Circle and the
Cross,” Archaeological Journal 78 (1921), pp. 371, 363, 361, 362,

Fig. 47: Author’s collection.


List of Illustrations, Maps,


Fig. 1. “The Dance of the Sufis and their Shahids”

Fig. 2. “Entertainers”

Fig. 3. “Entertainers”

Fig. 4. “Entertainers”

Map. Romano-Celtic Theaters

Table. Romano-Celtic Theaters

Fig. 5. Verulamium, 1959

Fig. 6. Verulamium Theater, all phases

Fig. 7. Verulamium Theater, periods I and IA

Fig. 8. Verulamium Theater, period IV

Fig. 9. Gosbeck’s Farm, near Colchester

Fig. 10. Gosbeck’s Theater, 1967

Fig. 11. Ribemont-sur-Ancre

Fig. 12. Ribemont-sur-Ancre, Theater

Fig. 13. Lyons-la-Foret, Theater

Fig. 14. St. Marcel/Argentomagus, Theater

Table. Indo-European Languages

Fig. 15. Canterbury, Theater

Fig. 16. Herbord, France, Theater

Fig. 17, Vieux, France, Theater

Fig. 18. Vieil-Evreux, France, Theater

Fig. 19. Evreux, France, Theater

Fig. 20. Alesia, France, Theater

Fig. 21, Avenches, Switzerland, Theater

Fig. 22. Berthouville, France, Theater

Fig. 23. Drevant, France, Theater

Fig. 24. Lillebonne, France, Theater

Fig. 25. Valognes, France, Theater

Fig. 26. Theater of Dionysus, Greece

Fig. 27. Vitruvian Roman Theater

Fig. 28. Vieil-Evreux, France, Site

Fig. 29: Augst, Switzerland, Site

Fig. 30: Altbachtal, Trier, Germany, sacred precinct

Fig. 31. The Castle of Perseverance, ground plan.

Fig. 32. Elizabethan Playhouse

Fig. 33. “The Place of Execution”, Breugel

Fig. 34. “The Martyrdom of St. Apollonia,” Jean Fouquet

Fig. 35. Tibur (Tivoli) Temple of Hercules Victor

Fig. 36. Gabii, Sanctuary

Fig. 37. Praeneste (Palestrina), Sanctuary of Fortuna Primigenia

Fig. 38. Pantheon, Roma

Fig. 39. Pergamon, east end of the Sanctuary of Aesculapius

Fig. 40. Cosa; Comitium and Curia, second period.

Fig. 41. Baltic Sanctuary, Tushemlja

Fig. 42. Auchquhorthies in Manar

Fig. 43. Hatton of Ardoyne

Fig. 44. Ardlair in Kennethmont

Fig. 45. Auchquhorthies in Banchory-Devenick

Fig. 46. Carol Wood Circle; plan

Fig. 47. Romano-Celtic Theater, Los Angeles.




In all quotes taken from French sources, I have used my English translation
in the text and placed the original French text in the footnotes.

Because I have quoted extensively from outside sources, particularly in the
first essay, I have elected to indent and single space only longer quotes from
literature, but not opinions and statements of other shcolars. I believe this
helps to maintain the flow in what could otherwise be a visual scramble.

In the Romano-Celtic theater bibliography, I have used a different style for
listing books and articles dealing with specific archeological sites. Because
date of publication is particularly significant where the exploration of sites
is concerned, I have emphasized the date by putting it first in the listing.