Mystery plays are nothing like what they sound like. What would you guess they were from the name? (probably something like mystery novels). However, they are actually plays that tell the stories of the bible. And these were dang cool – the Noah story had some serious spectacle. They got barrels of water that held a ton of water, carried them up above the wagon, and rigged them so that when the flood came they actually had water that poured down for like 15 minutes and went into a special trough that flooded around Noah’s ark, but not inside of Noah’s ark.
These are still being performed and now they are done even more spectacularly: show youtube trailer “York Mystery Plays 2012 – Cinematic Trailer”
Would you go watch these? Why or why not? Why do you think the common folk of the Medieval era went to see these?
Why were they necessary? Well, at this time Catholic mass was all in Latin, the common folk couldn’t read Latin, or couldn’t read at all. They didn’t have Bibles in their houses and they didn’t understand mass on Sunday, so they didn’t know the stories of the Bible or really anything about their church or what they should be doing to be good Catholics. They needed plays in the vernacular to understand.
Miracle plays depicted the stories and lives of the saints. Who are saints in the Catholic religion? (someone who did a lot of good deeds in their life, then they usually died for their beliefs, and you can pray to them to help you). These are my favorite because most saints met a really gruesome, violent death, and so they used a lot of special effects to show one get burned at the stake or crucified or stoned to death, even though they just banned theatre because of all of the gruesome and violent deaths that were depicted onstage…
Morality plays are the easiest to guess – what do you think a morality play might be about? They are plays that teach you how to be a good Catholic with good morals. They are incredibly didactic (hit-you-over-the-head preachy). The play we will be reading is one of these and is called Everyman.
Come prepared next time with a way to read – with a British accent, dropping every t, with a lisp, etc.