The twelve days of Christmas was an important holiday for ordinary people in the middle ages, a time full of merriment, feasting and entertainment. Alongside eating, drinking, singing and dancing, watching a play was a popular Christmas pastime and this one-off session will explore what these plays were like. We will focus on three very different plays and will discuss what the plays were about, how and where they were staged, and who would have been watching them. Warning- you may encounter stage devils, references to bare bottoms, and maybe even a very rude song in Latin!
The twelve days of Christmas was important to ordinary people in the middle ages- a compulsory holiday period dedicated to celebration and enjoyment. Surviving records inform us that all members of society could expect to enjoy some good food and drink at Christmas accompanied by an entertainment. Music, singing and dancing were popular as was watching a Christmas play. This one-off session will explore what these plays were about, how and where they were staged and who would have been watching them. We will discuss three very different plays: 'A Disguising at Eltham'- a fifteenth-century Mumming written by a Suffolk monk written to be performed in front of a boy king and the dowager queen, which encourages its audience to debate who wears the trousers in a marriage; 'The Killing of the Children'- a black comedy set in biblical times which sees an army of women take on an army of soldiers; and 'Mankind'- an earthy comedy which considers how not to give into temptation, starring football-playing vices and the show-stealing devil, Titivillus. No previous knowledge of the fifteenth century or the history of the theatre is necessary- everyone is welcome to join this session and discover something new about Christmas in the medieval period.
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