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The Second Shepherd's Play

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Bridget Lindsay

on 10 October 2014

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Transcript of The Second Shepherd's Play

The Second Shepherd's Play

Performance Style
Set Design
Acting Style
Setting: In the name it was Palestine, but the locale was depicted to be the moors of Wakefield, England.
The World Of The Play:

Acting Style for Different Characters
Year: It was known to the audience that the Second Shepherd's Play took place at the time of Christ's birth which was the start of the Western year count but costumes, set and language would make the play appear to be set in the fourteenth century around the time the play was written (About 1375)
The Shepherds
Time of Year and climate: The Bible gives no month nor date of Christ's actual birth, but according to some scholars there are clues that could give us some leads to him being possibly born in the winter months. Winters were very mild in the mediterranean, when lambing season occurred so it is very possible that The Second Shepherd's Play takes place in or around December, making it extremely cold and harsh for the Shepherd's which would justify their complaining of weather and greatly impact costuming.
Mak & Gill
The Angel
Changes in Performance Style Throughout the Play
Works Cited
Characters: All of the characters are based off of a “modern medieval” English society. Mak lives off thieving and cheating assisted by his wife, Gill. The shepherds are partly a reflection of how shepherds looked and talked when the play was produced originally.

Stasis: All three shepherds gave the audience a lens in which to view the world at this moment in time. They complained of weather, hunger, marriage, thirst, taxation and tiredness. This world's troubles in addition to Mak's horrible nature acted as the plays driving force, the things in which the play needed resolve by the end, also giving the play and immediate intrusion.

"Thus live we in pain, anger and woe. By night and day." (194)
The Second Shepherd's Play:
The Second Shepherd's Play had two intertwining plots that came together to create a unified theme, Christ's birth and redemption, one plot was not outwardly acted, but it was expected that the audience knew the story of Mary riding to Bethlehem and that it was occurring at the same time that The Second Shepherd's Play plot was unfolding creating fantastic parallels and continuous forwards to the resolution.
1st Shep.: Gave ye the child anything?
2nd Shep: No, not a farthing.
3rd Shep: Fast back I will fling: await ye me here.

The first plot's central conflict begins when Mak, the thief, stumbles upon the three shepherd's and although they all recognize one another, Mak feigns ignorance, claiming he is the yeoman of the king and would not recognize three shepherds. Mak realizes the shepherd's will not be fooled and suddenly “remembers” their faces.
As the three shepherd's lie down to sleep they fear Mak will conduct a crime upon their flock so they urge him to lie down between them. As they sleep Mak gets up and steals a sheep in the night and brings it to his wife, Gill, who plots that, if the shepherd's should come questioning, she will hide the sheep in the crib and cry as if she had just given birth.
Mak runs to the shepherds and lies to sleep. The shepherd's get up and are wary of Mak but see that he is in the same spot they left him. Mak rises and claims he dreamt of his wife's birth, he must run to her.
In his absence the shepherds notice their stole ewe and consider Mak the thief. They go to his house where they here Gill caterwauling and enter to find Mak's dream supposedly come true.
As they exit they realize they did not give the baby a gift, so they return and find their sheep in the cradle. They punish Mak by tossing him in a blanket and leave for the moors.
Archangel Gabriel comes to tell the shepherds that Christ has been born, as in the New Testament. This is where the two plots collide into one resoluion. Jesus the savior has come.
They visit the Christ child and bear him gifts.
comedic, energetic
physical comedy
likeable, audience should be able to relate to them
similar acting style to the Shepherds
not as likeable
Western Europe was all basically ruled my the Roman Catholic Church
Mass was spoken in Latin so the average churchgoer had no idea what was going on ever.

The Catholic church had a great idea to produce plays about church teachings in the vernacular.

They even took it a step further by setting these biblical tales in a time period and locale that the commoners knew.

The Basics:

Written approximately 1375
Author unknown

These productions turned
into an annual event when they
performed during corpus christi.

Corpus christi (1311) was made to celebrate the uniting of humans with the holy body and blood of Christ.

In addition to celebrating Christ's presence in the Eucharist.
Eventually, these productions became to expensive for the church to hold, but they were a tradition and the people enjoyed them, not to mention it was great publicity for the guilds. They were then performed outside.
The Audience's Relationship with the Play
The original audiences of this production would have found the play to humorous because they would have related to the Shepherds
Current audiences should be able to relate to this play and find it amusing just as the Medieval audiences did
big, exaggerated
physical comedy
The shepherds complain about tax, marriage, tiredness etc.
Not only are these relatable complaints but they also explain the need for Christ's redemption from suffering, sin and error, thus setting the play with a central driving force towards two plots' end resolution.
Energy builds during the play
As more characters arrive and the plot begins to unfold, the energy will rise and the acting style will become more comedic and exaggerated
Point of highest energy during the scene where Mak & Gill are trying to hide the sheep from the Shepherds
At the arrival of the Angel, the mood of the performance becomes less exaggerated and more sincere
Contrast to other characters
Calm, serene, not big or exaggerated
The shepherds represent the good citizens and churchgoers.
They connect with the audience, they are supposed to be on the same level.
sending the message as long as you are merciful, protect others (sheep), listen for the word of the lord you will be rewarded, as the good gracious shepherds were rewarded with Gabriel's message.
Represents the unholy in the world.
He is sin which tries to lure and steal the good "christian flock" into his influence.
He is the opposing force to the goodness of Christ, the very opposite of good Joseph, as well, just as his wife, is the opposite of the Virgin Mary.
"Each year that comes to man she brings forth a brat- an' some years two."(197)
"Heard I never none crack so clear out of tune"(200)
Mak's singing compared to the angelic chorus.

The Sheep int he cradle is the "Lamb of God" in the manger

"I pray to god so mild, If I ever you beguiled that I eat this child."(201)
consuming the body and blood of Christ, a direct reference to Corpus Christi

Mak's child and Christ both referred to as "day-star"
Shepherd's gifts to Mak's "Son"

Instead of hanging, Shepherd's mercifully toss Mak in a blanket, representing Christ's mercy on us
Why the Play is The Way It is:

Not realistic- Dealing with frequent and illogical time and place changes. Medieval audiences were not concerned with a realistic rendition, instead they watched with unyielding faith to the story, and admired spectacle, just as today's audience does.

Straight forward:

No metaphors, images or even descriptions.

They were not needed for the messages of the stories were straight forward themselves and simple. The main plot was merely a tool for entertainment and clarification.
Metaphors and images tend to help the audience relate to the story and connect.

Lititurgical dramas related to their audiences by changing the locale, costumes and language of a biblical tale in order to help "uncultured" Wakefield townfolk comprehend the story and identify with it.
Farce as well as other types of comedy (e.g. Latin verse) was also very common in The Second Shepherd's Play, it kept the audience engaged and they enjoyed learning the biblical stories and morals.
Comedy and relatablility to an audience are very common in today's entertainment...
"Now in dry, now in wet, Now in snow , now in sleet. When my shoes freeze to my feet, it is not at all easy."(195)

Gassner, John, and Burns Mantle. A treasury of the

theatre. Rev. ed. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1951.


"The Second Shepherds' Play." Courses in Drama with

Brian Johnston ::. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Oct. 2014. <http://




Thompson, Francis J. “Unity in the Second Shepherds'

Tale” .N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Oct. 2014. Modern Language

Notes, Vol. 64, No. 5 (May, 1949), pp. 302-306

Wilson, Edwin, and Alvin Goldfarb. Living theater: an

introduction to theater history. New York: McGraw-

Hill, 1983. Print.
From the Shepherd's Side: Medieval Play Brightened with Modern Adaptions
. Digital Image.
The Facts
. Np., n.d. Web. 07 Oct. 2014.

Improv Comedy 101: Learning the Rope. Digital image. - The Denver Post.
N. p., n.d. Web. 07 Oct. 2014.

Jacksonville's Home for Improv Comedy. Digital image. Mad Cowford.
N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Oct. 2014.

New York City's. Digital image. Chicago City Limits.
N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Oct. 2014.

Second Shepherd's Play Pus. Digital image. Kat Patterson.
N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Oct. 2014.
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