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Date of Award

1-1999

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

Supervisor

Professor R. W. Vince

Abstract

This work examines the antecedents of the Vicious Tyrants of the Mystery Cycles as they appear in earlier dramatic works. The first chapter describes the bragging soldier of Roman comedy, defining him in his formative dramatic environment. Perception and reality are at odds in important elements of his character: he appears as a menacing and powerful rival to the young lover and as a threat to the courtesan. In reality he is never successful in carrying out his threats. The ways in which Plautus and Terence create and use the bragging soldier are explored. The bragging soldier, his character and behaviour having been defined, is then followed into Christian drama, specifically into the spoken or acted works of Hrotsvitha of Gandersheim. Because Hrotsvitha says she is using Terence as her pattern, she provides a clear instance of what effects Christian sources and theology, whether or not they are shaped by the traditions of five hundred years of folk practise, have on the bragging soldier and his dramatic interactions. The figure is then followed into the Mystery Cycles to see how consistent the changes observed in Hrotsvitha's works are with the behaviour of bragging soldiers in a body of work which hovers in the wings behind later English drama. Hrotsvitha's dramatic work have not been used in this way before. While Hrotsvitha's work has been extensively studied as an artifact, as a tenth century manuscript, it has not been seen as evidence of what happened when one tradition met another. The resulting exploration reveals the Vice Figures and Vicious Tyrants of Medieval Drama in embryo. The study, thus, contributes to an understanding of how Christian attitudes shaped the characters of Roman Drama and provided the basis for dramatic stereotypes which still exist.

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