The Latin-German synonyms “ludus” and “game” formed the conceptual grid for the entirety of theatrical manifestations in the Middle Ages. The path to salvation of the church year and the markings of the seasonal cycle gave them the framework for the occasion, whereby spiritual and worldly references often crossed one another. Center of the spiritual game was the Easter cycle of themes, liturgical nucleus of the church-related celebration of the “Visitatio Sepulchri” (“Visit of the grave” of Jesus Christ) in the 10th century, performed as an alternating song between the angel and the three women at the empty grave. With the motor-driven apostle race and the statuesque Magdalenenklage, further biblically attested action cores were lined up, from which the scenic variety of the Easter Games grew in layers through upstream and downstream switching. Their tendency towards comical forms, towards “Easter laughter”, owed to the joyful occasion of the resurrection message, marks the fundamental difference compared to the Passion Play with their increasingly intensified appeal for suffering. The structural principle of modular variability shared by both types, which allowed earlier stages of development to be handed down, makes it difficult to assign the texts, which are often only fragmentary, to the chronological order. In addition to the almost entirely German-language »Muri Easter Game« (circa 1240–60), there are mixed forms from the 14th and 15th centuries. None of the late, mostly multi-day urban Passion Plays did without the formal element of the solemnity of Latin chants. Their number is z. B. in the “Frankfurter Dirigierrolle” (around 1350), a director’s book of the “Regens Ludi” (director), significantly less than in the more recent, great “Frankfurter Passion” (1493).
The increase in sources from municipal administrative institutions since the end of the 14th century testifies to a broad spectrum of contemporary subjects, playing styles and non-texted forms of presentation. Among the spiritual games, the festive rhythm from Advent to Epiphany (January 6th) proves to be most strongly integrated into pagan customs. The main burden of the pre-Christmas recoding and channeling of natural mythical Mummenschanz (Wilder Mann, Bercht) fell on St. Nicholas Day. Widespread were Heischegänge (the soliciting of gifts) of the pupils at the Knabenbischofsfest (December 28th) with cradles and shepherd games, masked parades at the Fools’ Festival (January 1st) as well as processional magic games or the dragons of the Epiphany liturgy. The shows, show dances, show parades and show tournaments of the carnival street theater (carnival game) followed seamlessly.
On Palm Sunday, Whitsun and Corpus Christi, processional plays had their place in the thematic area of the Passion performances, which could be enriched with living images and scenic episodes or produced special forms, such as the »Freiberg Whitsun Game« (1509–23), a multi-day eschatological station drama, held every seven years. The foul Swabian »St. Pauler Neidhartspiel ”and the series lecture“ Septem mulieres ”on the struggle of seven women for a man are the oldest text memorials in the secular repertoire (around 1370/80) and are part of the basic type of rotten retreat in the setting of the carnival, which abolishes the rules of everyday life. Such unsteady appearances with greetings and mostly danced sweepstakes, contested in Nuremberg by the city bourgeois youth, made H. Rosenplut literary there.
In the “Vastelavend” stronghold of Lübeck, members of the merchant companies who staged plays on wagon stages from 1430–1523 were obliged to “dichten edder dichten laten” (“poetry or let poetry”). This street theater with an educated material breadth was of a moral didactic nature and underlines the occasion-related nature of the carnival game as part of a secular festival culture that thrived on the competition and conversion of theatrical practices. At the great carnival market games of the early 16th century on the Upper Rhine and in Switzerland, the principle of directing spiritual open-air performances was sometimes even applied: the simultaneous stage with players’ stands.
Early modern age
The theater was an important part of the humanist movement. Their goal of renewing classical (secular) studies in the spirit of Cicero elevated the canonical genres of ancient rhetoric – including drama as a moral-didactic genre – to an important aspect of the educational program. To write a »Comoedia« therefore promised poetic fame. He has been known to new Latin writers such as J. Reuchlin and K. Celtis granted. According to the ideals of ancient rhetoric, the interpretations of ancient theater also failed, the stage (scena) of which was understood as an optically shut-down, not lavishly furnished, neutral space. The view through curtains and others. Enclosed podium in a closed interior (courtyard, hall, classroom) corresponded to the social segregation of the Latin and German “comoedia” in separate performance communities. Rhetoric justified the Protestant school theater, which flourished rapidly after the storms of the Reformation (P. Rebhun, S. Birck), as a learning goal and as a means of transporting educational content. For the Meistersinger stage of H. Sachs and other Upper German craftsmen’s guilds, based on guilds, the reference was to Cicero a protective authority.
Victims of the spiritually related and misguided apologists of humanism and the Reformation were the coarse popular forms of play that did not meet the proclaimed canon of morals (in contrast to the “theatrum” they were called “ludus” and “play”). Johannes Boemus (“Omnium gentium mores leges et ritus”, 1517) still admired the imagination and tradition of the unlearned customary wearers. S. Franck (Weltbuch, 1533) blamed the whole spectacle of blindness and superstition on the symbolic-allegorical edifice of the Roman Church. Both authors provided for the Protestant controversial literature (T. Naogeorgus, “Regnum Papisticum”, 1553) after the suppression of the spiritual games and all actions branded as papist are sufficient material for the polemical defense of the approaching Counter-Reformation.
Luther’s translation of the Bible was a guide for the Protestant Christians’ understanding of theater. In the final part (1534) he interpreted the apocryphal books Judith and Tobias as “godly comedies” of the Jews and thus the ancient, i. H. The pagan, profane basis of legitimation of the humanistic theater renaissance was transformed by an original theory based on the Old Testament. It helped to reorganize the educational system to enforce Reformation biblicism “also in play gestalt” (G. Rollehagen, “Tobias”, 1576) and in the course of denominational disputes it fulfilled important protective cover functions, not least it legitimized professional acting in the Lutheran territories.