Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies Amsterdam

Law and Drama

How Theatrical Practices are defined by, with, and against the Law in France & French-speaking regions (13th-16th centuries).

Legal sources on late medieval drama in France have not yet been explored. They are all the more interesting, as drama and theatre have had, all along, a complex relationship. Different authorities tried, in different ways, to control dramatic activities and performances, sometimes funding them, sometimes prohibiting them or submitting their texts to severe censorship. Acting companies received privileges (like the Confrères de la Passion), and (professional) actors signed notarial contracts in order to officially register their mutual engagements. Of course, canon law and civil law inherited notions of theatre from the Antiquity,but their theoretical knowledge did not enable them to cope with actual theatrical practice. Within this research programme, archival records are not used to document the history of theatre, but they are analysed for what they are: their provenance, institutional setting, and conservation history reveal information on the conceptualisation of theatrical performances and the legal status of drama, of actors and of dramatic texts. The first clear manifestations of drama in the vernacular (13th century, mainly around Arras) and the Wars of Religion in France set the time limits for this research programme.

Published by  CMSA

15 August 2011