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A comparison of medieval and r

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A comparison of medieval and r

It is amazing how aspects of society can and will change so significantly over the course of a few hundred years. Between the time periods of the Medieval era and the Renaissance, one can note numerous significant changes, mainly those pertaining to religion and art, and specifically, drama. In Medieval times, people seemed to rely mainly on the church and God for their entertainment purposes; whereas during the Renaissance, the focus was more secular: humans and life on earth. In general, ideals and subjects evolved from unquestionable Church dogma (and therefore very safe subject matter) to ideas that focused on the questions of humanity (and therefore creating an unstable and unsettling universe.) The evolution from the Medieval dogma to the humanistic focus of the Renaissance is apparent through the dramatic texts of the time. Although these two eras differ in many other ways, the most illustrated differences deal with the realm of drama, starting with the Medieval Cycle dramas and culminating in Shakespeare's King Lear.

Drama noticeably shifted from religious awe to classical reason between the Medieval era and the Renaissance. During the Middle Ages, drama was aimed mainly at making advancements in the church. Thus, the Cycle Dramas or English Passion Plays were performed with the permission and "help" of the church. It is thought that church clergy probably wrote the playlets and then gave it over to the Guilds to be performed. Although the appearance of the Cycle Dramas seems unimaginative and commonplace at a first glance, there are some striking innovations in terms of furthering a dramatic structure. This is the first time we see the use of a double plot in which the honored and revered story is compared to a similar situation but of a base (and most times, immoral) story. A perfect example of this is in The Second Shepard's Play where Mak and Mak's wife, Gill, imitate the glorious scene of Christ's birth in the manger by putting the stolen lamb in a basket and pretending it is a baby. Almost every Cycle Drama has a similar structure, and the dramas that came after the Cycle Dramas continue to use this structure. We can see the double plot/sub plot structure becoming more and more significant and taking on more importance in plays such as Gorboduc, The Spanish Tragedy, most of Shakespeare's works, and ultimately in King Lear.

As the Medieval era ends and the Renaissance emerges we also see a shift in the attitude towards "evil." Through the texts of the English Passion Plays we can see that the attitude is playful and comic when the subject matter is the Devil or something equally as wicked. The possibility of questioning religion, faith, and humanity has not yet entered the picture. As soon as the possibility emerges, the safe and secure world of absolutes is violently thrashed. We see the possibilities emerge in Everyman when Death comes before Everyman has a chance to redeem himself. We see it again with more force in Gorboduc when the King cannot restore his kingdom from his sons. Another great example is in Marlowe's The Tragedy of Doctor Faustus where Faustus has the opportunity to redeem himself, but does not, and "evil" conquers all. We see the culmination of the destroyed safety of the Medieval world in Shakespeare's plays including Hamlet, Macbeth, Richard III, and King Lear. Shakespeare especially dominates this subject matter because of historic events in his lifetime. Because of political strife between the Catholics and Protestants, and to avoid conflict, Queen Elizabeth forbid the subject matter of religion to enter into any play, and thus Shakespeare very craftily described worlds in his plays that related to religion, but had none as specific as Christianity. With these circumstances he was able to open the door to a type of thought not used since the Greek age. In his play, King Lear, Shakespeare describes a world in which "the gods are just, and of our pleasant vice make instruments to plague us." In other words, the gods are just but cruel. And thus, dramatic focus had changed from the security of religious dogma in the Medieval era to a more humanistic, questioning and circumstantial view of the world in the Renaissance.

The steadfast, secure world of the Medieval age was at an end.

"Then it all crashes down and you break your crown.."

In King Lear, we see the evolution of thought from the Medieval to the Renaissance played out for us onstage. The safe, secure world of Britain we glimpse at the beginning (not unlike the Medieval world) is a hoax and King Lear is the largest proponent of it. Lear must go through the process of learning to "see" ...

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Keywords: the similarities of medieval renaissance and baroque music, comparison of medieval and renaissance music, comparison of medieval and renaissance art, comparison of medieval and renaissance period

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