Home  »  Volume V: English THE DRAMA TO 1642 Part One  »  § 7. Festival Plays

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume IV. Prose and Poetry: Sir Thomas North to Michael Drayton.

I. The Origins of English Drama

§ 7. Festival Plays

It is hardly necessary, before reaching the main root of the growth which we are discussing, to point out that, by the side of, or in connection with, the festival plays to which reference has been made, the general favour bestowed in England as well as elsewhere, during the later Middle Ages, upon processional exhibitions and moving shows of various kinds, devoid of either action or dialogue, cannot be left out of account among the elements of popular life which helped to facilitate the growth of the drama. Notice will be taken below of the processional solemnities which accompanied the celebration of the Corpus Christi festival, and which certainly had their effect upon the pageants, as the particular religious plays afterwards collected into cycles were very commonly called. In later times, however, the term “pageant” came to be more generally employed in the sense which, at all events till our own days, has usually attached to it—namely, a show or exhibition in which costume, with its accessories, including, sometimes, the suggestion of scenery, plays the principal part, music lending its frequent aid, words being, at the most, used in the way of illustration or introduction.