Medieval and Early Modern Texts in Historically-Based Performance
These performances were created in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, in 2015 and 2016. We present these texts in as close to the original language as we could manage, as they might have been first performed at a particular time and place, in a specific historical context.
|The General Prologue of the Canterbury Tales (Geoffrey Chaucer)||Sheen Palace, London
Saturday 6 June 1389
|The Miller's Tale, from the Canterbury Tales (Geoffrey Chaucer)||The Tabard Inn, Southwark
Sunday 7 December 1388
|The Nun's Priest's Tale, from the Canterbury Tales (Geoffrey Chaucer)||The Tabard Inn, Southwark
Sunday 26 April 1394
|The Death of Arthur, from the Morte Darthur (Thomas Malory)||Newbould Revel Manor, Warwickshire
|The Second Prebend Sermon (John Donne)||St Paul's Cathedral, London
29 January, 1626
Who made these performances
The performances were initiated and directed by Peter Robinson (Chaucer), Brent Nelson (Donne) and Michael Cichon (Malory). Colin Gibbings was, in turn, Geoffrey Chaucer, Thomas Malory and John Donne. We are very grateful to these groups within the University of Saskatchewan for their support: the Department of English (which provided the intellectual motive, performers and material); the Media Production Unit (which made the videos); the Gwenna Moss Centre for Teaching Effectiveness (which provided a grant to pay for the filming through their Curriculum Innovation Fund.
All performances are made available for unlimited open access under a Creative Commons Free Cultural Work licence: formally "CC BY". We would appreciate you acknowledging the source of these videos in any use you make of them. Otherwise, you are free to republish them, excerpt them, recombine or edit them, in any way you wish.
Using these videos in teaching
The "About" link above against each video will take you to a page of background information about the historical context supposed for each performance. The same page also contains a series of questions and hints for teachers and students for each video.
Some hints for teachers who want to have students make their own performances
- For good performance, it is critical that the students MEMORIZE the piece they are going to present. Memorization is a skill that has gone out of fashion in an age of omnipresent memory substitutes. It is not enough just to be able to recite the piece. Complete memorialization means one can start at any point, stop, and restart somewhere else without pause; recite the lines backwards, etc. Performance cannot begin till memorization is complete! There are no short cuts.
- Ideally, at least one class should be taught by a specialist performance teacher (e.g. a member of the drama department). For typical english students who have never attended a drama class, this alone will be a revelation.
- One cannot explore the historical context too much. Who might have composed the piece, when, why, where? Where might it have been plausibly first presented? to whom, where, when, why?
- This exercise lends itself well to group work. Students may collaborate on a series of linked performances. Two (or more) students might present different parts of the one work, or perform dialogues, etc.
Here are performances made by members of Peter Robinson's 400 class on "Medieval texts in performance" in 2016, using the videos on this site as guidance.
|Kyla, Jessica, Mitchell and Peter performing the opening of William Langland's Peirs Plowman, the hunt from Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the pursuit of the fox from the Nun's Priest's Tale and the opening of Beowulf.|