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Medieval Drama & Mystery Cycle Plays

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by

Leslie Stellwagen

on 24 April 2014

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Transcript of Medieval Drama & Mystery Cycle Plays

Medieval Drama & Mystery Cycle Plays
Begins with the fall of Rome in 476
Lasts until the 1500s
Medieval Period
3 M's
Conventions
c.610 Islam is founded (time of Muhammad)
c. 636 Anglo-Saxons are introduced to Christianity
c. 695 Jews persecuted in Spain
c. 710 Council of Nicaea rejects iconoclasm
c. 792 Viking Era begins
c. 1096 Crusades begin
A Few Religious Happenings
Medieval Drama
Church banned drama: godless activity
Rebirth in the monasteries
Normal worked ceased when plays were performed
Entire town responsible for for presentation of plays
Miracle Plays
Mystery Cycle
Morality Plays
Plays about the lives of Saints
Banned in 1500s: King Henry VIII
Plays with the purpose of teaching the audience about Catholic morals and values
About people facing worldly temptations and the salvation of man
Serious yet entertaining
Never part of play cycles
of
Medieval Mystery Cycle
Plays about the major events in the bible
10th Century, Catholic Church initiated mystery cycles to make Christian teachings more accessible to an illiterate population
Associated with the late spring festivals of Corpus Christi
Dramatizing Christian history: Biblical events, creation of the world, crucifixion of Jesus, last judgment
Episodes ranged from 40 to 100
European Medieval Society
Organized largely around the Catholic Church
The Roman Catholic Church held most of the political and social power
The Church spoke Latin but the people spoke English
The Church found it difficult to communicate with the people
The Church started putting on biblical plays to communicate with people
Production Development
Guilds
Workers unions called guilds
Higher social status could be achieved through membership
Different guilds responsible for various productions, similar to cooperate sponsorship
Sometimes the production was related to the guild's work
Bakers- The Last Supper
Boat Builders- Noah's Ark
Pageant Wagon
Carts/wagons drawn by horses like a traveling stage
This staging is most closely related with the English cycle plays, but it was also common in Spain, Belgium, and the Netherlands.
Viewing
Carts were pulled through town, moved from one audience to the next
Each play in the cycle was mounted on an individual pageant wagon
The plays were performed at different locations in the vicinity
Each play performed at 12 sites throughout town
Festive, holiday atmosphere
Performance
Purpose
Allow audience to identify with Christ's suffering, feel the power of miracles, and fear devils.
Central subject- salvation
Reenforce people's faith and social hierarchy

Special Effects
exuberant performances
holiday atmosphere
Music, food, large crowds
Style
Lots of spectacle: fire, water, flying angels, flowing water, etc.
Hell Mouth!
Decline
Protestant Reformation and King Henry VIII broke with the pope. Church of England developed and Catholicism no longer served in the interest of the state. The government did not want Catholicism to have power. During Elizabeth I's rule, English government set to eliminate mystery cycles.
Changes in England's Religion
How
Scripts and manuscripts of the splays were destroyed. Regulations against religious plays were enforced. Catholic plays were not given licenses.
Full transcript