The cast of "Hamlet" conclude the final performance of the 2000 season
at London's reconstructed Globe Theatre with a traditional Dance of Death,
each dancer bearing a death's head. Note the "minstrel band" in the
gallery above the stage.
Although best known from the drawings of Holbein,
the Dance of Death appeared in the fourteenth century as poetic dialogues
apparently intended for dramatic performance akin to a morality play;
arising out of a society devastated by plague, the aim was to remind
the audience of their mortality. Lydgate's version in the first half of
the fifteenth century indicates that this kind of drama had arrived in
England by that time, if not earlier. Only at a later period was music
introduced and did the characters come to move in a dance-like fashion.
Photos © S. Alsford
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