Lecture: Introduction to Medieval Drama: The Chester Mystery Plays (Intro)

Enseignant(s): Dutton Elisabeth
Cursus: Master
Type d'enseignement: Cours
Langue(s) du cours: Anglais
Semestre(s): SA-2020

The study of ‘medieval drama’ is dominated by the scriptural mystery cycles.  While these plays sought to teach about scripture and salvation, they were not drily didactic teaching tools but were full of humour, humanity, and spectacle.  Medieval literary theories connected enjoyment and learning, so it is possible that the comedy was the sugar to help the educational medicine go down: however, modern revivals of medieval plays have repeatedly demonstrated that their human power is far more than a sweetener, and in the twentieth century scholars applied theories of carnival to demonstrate medieval theatre’s potential to be politically and socially subversive.  Theatrically they are highly innovative, particularly in their self-conscious exploration of the nature of performance and the relationship between actors and audiences.  This course will comprise in-depth study of the plays of the Chester Cycle.  The plays will be considered as scripts for performance, as vehicles for political polemic, and as part of a verbal and visual culture by which the medieval world explored its relationship with the divine.

15.09   Intro to staging cycle drama

22.09   Fall of Lucifer

29.09   Adam and Eve

06.10   Noah’s Flood

13.10   Abraham and Isaac

20.10   The Ten Commandments, Balaam and Balak, and the Prophets

27.10   Annunciation and Nativity

03.11   Shepherds

10.11   Three Kings

17.11   Slaughter of the Innocents

24.11   The Woman Taken in Adultery

01.12   The Passion

08.12   No class

15.12   The Resurrection


  • Increased familiarity with late Middle English language
  • Knowledge of the style and content of the mystery play
  • Understanding of the importance of performance location
  • Appreciation of the relationships among religions, politics and performance in medieval drama
  • Understanding of the relationship between drama and late medieval art and iconography
  • Appreciation of the place of the mystery play in the development of English theatre