Los Angeles, California
MEDIEVAL THEATER AND INDO-EUROPEAN CONTEXT
Craig T. Fees
A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the
requirements for the degree Master of Arts in Theater
(c) Craig Fees 1981
MEDIEVAL THEATER AND INDO-EUROPEAN CONTEXT
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
Stage (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:
Omar M. Paxson
Los Angeles, California
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.
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
I. Did Roman Civilization “Fall”?
III. External Influences on Medieval Western Theater
The Islamic World
IV. What is the Meaning of the Absence of Records?
Essay Three: Theater in Indo-European Tradition
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
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
1. Vox populi
3. Theater as Devotion
4. Theater as Scripture
Essay Four: Defining Theater
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
Nord 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
France, 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
Rome, 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.
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.