Skip to main content
Select Source:

mystery plays

mystery plays. Best preserved of the vernacular religious drama which flourished in England, as on the continent, in the high Middle Ages, the mystery plays were known as ‘the play of Corpus Christi’, since originally performed at that festival. They versify and dramatize the biblical and apocryphal narrative of man's fall and salvation from Creation to Doomsday, with emphasis on Christ's trial, death, resurrection, and harrowing of hell. The plays offered religious instruction, entertainment, and a boost to civic pride and commercial interests. Their dramatic impact was enhanced by music, special effects, and moments of comedy, and their contemporary relevance by the presentation, for instance, of high priests as bishops, and shepherds as medieval Yorkshiremen.

Major cycles survive from York (51 short plays) and Chester (25), together with documentation about their performance by trade guilds or ‘mysteries’ on wagons in the streets. The 32 ‘Towneley’ plays are plausibly associated with Wakefield, and the 42 N-Town plays (formerly ‘Hegge’ plays or, misleadingly, Ludus Coventriae) tentatively with Lincoln or Norwich. One or two plays each survive from Coventry, Newcastle, Norwich, and Northampton, and records, but no texts, from several towns from Aberdeen to Canterbury. Suppressed by the protestant hierarchy around the 1570s, performance of the plays has enjoyed a revival since 1951.

D. C. Whaley

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"mystery plays." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Encyclopedia.com. 16 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"mystery plays." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 16, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/mystery-plays

"mystery plays." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Retrieved September 16, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/mystery-plays

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

mystery play

mystery play (miracle play) Medieval English drama based on a religious theme. Mystery plays were originally used by the clergy to teach their illiterate congregation the principal stories of the Bible. By the 14th century, they had become a popular entertainment. Each year, the plays were performed by the various craft guilds in a town. In England, mystery plays from four towns have survived: Chester, York, Wakefield, and Coventry.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"mystery play." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 16 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"mystery play." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 16, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/mystery-play

"mystery play." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved September 16, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/mystery-play

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Mystery plays

Mystery plays (Christian): see THEATRE AND DRAMA.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Mystery plays." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. 16 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Mystery plays." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 16, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/mystery-plays

"Mystery plays." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Retrieved September 16, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/mystery-plays

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

mystery play

mystery play: see miracle play.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"mystery play." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 16 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"mystery play." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 16, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/mystery-play

"mystery play." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved September 16, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/mystery-play

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.