Mystery Plays. Mystery Plays. Mystery Plays developed at the same time and from the same Liturgical Dramas as Miracle Plays They told the stories from the Bible in a manner that the common man could understand Many were performed on “Pageants” (mobile stages)
Mystery Plays developed at the same time and from the same Liturgical Dramas as Miracle Plays
They told the stories from the Bible in a manner that the common man could understand
Many were performed on “Pageants” (mobile stages)
The N-town Plays were performed by traveling players putting the (N)ame of the current performance place into the introductions
These plays were found all over Europe, but especially France, Spain, and England
Most told the stories from the Old Testament
In many English towns, each craft guild took on the job of portraying one of the Bible stories
Frequently the craftsmen were the performers, with some professional actors in a few roles or plays
In many English towns they developed into “cycles” of plays that moved through the Bible from the Creation to Day of Judgment
The plays were performed during Christian festival days-especially during the Festival of Corpus Christi
These groups of plays could take up to 20 hours to complete and would take place over several days
By the mid-1300’s they were such a part of the culture as to be considered to be “from antiquity”
Three are named from their performance places.
The Towneley mysteries were performed, at Woodkirk, near Wakefield & named for the family who owned the manuscripts for many years.
In their present form the number of plays in the cycles:
Towneley 30 (or 31)
N-town 42 (Coventry)
Four Additional Plays are preserved at Oxford
The Craft Guilds were organized groups of wholesale traders, merchants and craftsmen
Most guilds also had a charitable and social side that included:
2. Religious services
3. Helping retired and sick members
4. Putting on one of the Corpus Christi plays
1. The York Guild of Building
2. The Company of Merchant Taylors
3. The Company of Cordwainers
4. The Gild of Freemen
5. The Company of Butchers
6. The Guild of Scriveners
7. The Company of Merchant Adventurers
The city council registered freemen as early as 1272
Most craft guilds are not recorded until the 1300s
The plays were not written down until the 1370s.
The plays and the guilds may well have evolved together:
1. In the 1360s and 1370s England's economy was booming
2. The cult of Corpus Christi was developing
3. The craft guilds became more prominent
It may even be that some guilds and fraternities first organized
to put on a play rather than to regulate their business affairs.
The division of the Bible story into separate plays may well reflect the number of craft groupings willing to put on a play.
Dozens of short plays, mounted on pageant wagons,
began with a performance at the Trinity Priory (red dot, lower left)
and moved through the city streets, stopping at pre-arranged
performance locations known as stations (white dots).
1376 - the year in which the existence of pageant
wagons is first recorded in York
1568 - the year in which the plays were banned
1951 - the plays are once again staged, as part of the Festival of Britain
The only surviving manuscript of the York plays,
dating from around 1463-77, is kept at the British Library
The word "mystery" means a "trade" or "craft" in medieval English.
"Mystery" is also a religious truth or rite.