Cosmography in Medieval Drama

"Through the spatial organization and the cyclic motion of the plays as they progress through the city of York and across the audiences’ fields of vision, the logistical and practical nature of the plays themselves dramatically represent a historical “atlas” and cosmology of the medieval world that explores and reinforces this central searching theme of quem quaeritis, the historical trope at the heart of medieval drama."

This paper investigates the role of cognitive science and Medieval cosmography in the York Corpus Christi pllay cycle. Here, I argue that the message of the plays is, in part, an attempt to negotiate and articulate the place of the material within the greater scheme of that which is eternal. This procedure of portrayal, articulation, and negotiation is a complex task which involves the utilization of the city as ludic space, citizens as actor/ characters, and cyclic movement of the pageant wagons as metaphor. Taken together as a unified logic of the plays, these factors comprise a network of metaphors which work upon the audience member at a basic level to situate the act of engaging cognitively with the plays as a mirror action to seeking salvation embodied in Jesus’s dramatized and spiritual sacrifice.

2019 by Elizabeth D. Brissey

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