miracle play

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Related to Miracle Plays: Morality plays, Mystery plays

miracle play


mystery play,

form of medieval drama that came from dramatization of the liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church. It developed from the 10th to the 16th cent., reaching its height in the 15th cent. The simple lyric character of the early texts, as shown in the Quem Quœritis, was enlarged by the addition of dialogue and dramatic action. Eventually the performance was moved to the churchyard and the marketplace. Rendered in Latin, the play was preceded by a prologue or by a herald who gave a synopsis and was closed by a herald's salute. When a papal edict in 1210 forbade the clergy to act on a public stage, supervision and control of presenting the plays passed into the hands of the town guilds, and various changes ensued. The vernacular language replaced Latin, and scenes were inserted that were not from the Bible. The acting became more dramatic as characterization and detail became more important. Based on the Scriptures from the creation to the Second Coming and on the lives of the saints, the plays were arranged into cycles and were given on church festival days, particularly the feast of Corpus Christi, lasting from sunrise to sunset. Each guild was responsible for the production of a different episode. With simple costumes and props, guild members, who were paid actors, performed on stages equipped with wheels (see pageantpageant,
modern dramatic spectacle or procession celebrating a special occasion or an event in the history of a locality. In medieval times the word pageant had meant the wagon or the movable stage on which one scene of a mystery or miracle play was performed.
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); each scene was given at one public square and drawn on to its next performance at another, while a different stage succeeded it. Named after the towns in which they were performed, the principal English cycles are the York Plays (1430–40), the longest, containing 48 plays; the Towneley or Wakefield Plays (c.1450, in Yorkshire); the Coventry Plays (1468); and the Chester Plays (1475–1500). The Passion playPassion play,
genre of the miracle play that has survived from the Middle Ages into modern times. Its subject is the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Passion plays were first given in Latin. By the 13th cent.
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 is the chief modern example of the miracle play. The French mystère distinguished those plays containing biblical stories from those about the lives of the saints. The auto, the medieval religious drama in Spain, was acted concurrently with the secular drama throughout the Golden Age and into the 18th cent. CalderónCalderón de la Barca, Pedro
, 1600–1681, Spanish dramatist, last important figure of the Spanish Golden Age, b. Madrid. Educated at a Jesuit school and the Univ. of Salamanca, he turned from theology to poetry and became a court poet in 1622.
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 was the greatest composer of the auto sacramental, which dealt with the mystery of the Mass in allegory. In Italy the laudi were basically choral in form and so distinguished from the later sacre rappresentazioni, which became lavish artistic productions comparable to the French mystère.


See K. Young, The Drama of the Medieval Church (2 vol., 1933); and anthologies ed. by A. W. Pollard (8th ed. 1927) and V. F. Hopper and G. B. Lahey (1962).

Miracle Play


a genre of medieval didactic religious drama in verse, the plot of which was based on a “miracle” performed by a saint or the Virgin Mary. Miracle plays first appeared in France in the 13th century and became widespread in all the countries of Western Europe in the 14th century. The miracle play depicted the intervention of “heavenly forces” in human fate, leading to the triumph of virtue and the punishment of vice.

In France the best-known miracle plays were Jean Bodel’s Jeu de Saint Nicolas (1200) and Rustebeufs Miracle de Théophile (c. 1261). In England the term “miracle play” was also used to designate a mystery play. In Spain the miracle play was close to the medieval auto and was especially popular in the 15th to 17th centuries. The revival of the medieval miracle play in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was the result of a fascination with religious themes in symbolist theater and dramaturgy.


Istoriia zapadnoevropeiskogo teatra, vol. 1. Edited by S. S. Mokul’skii. Moscow, 1956.
Cohen, G. “Le Théatre réligieux.” In his book Le Theatre en France au Moyen-âge [new ed.], part 1. Paris, 1948.

miracle play

a medieval play based on a biblical story or the life of a saint
References in periodicals archive ?
This lively, and sometimes exciting, book makes an important and sensible contribution to the ongoing discussion of the nature of medieval miracle plays. The volume, handsomely produced as one would expect, with ample pictorial materials, does not offer a general bibliography; such references are to be found in the relevant footnotes within the individual contributions.
1890 (1954): English Miracle Plays, Moralities and Interludes.
With the obvious exceptions of Herod and Judas, miracle plays make no condemnation on religious grounds of their many Jewish characters.
In earlier centuries, when the church was alive and relevant, people's faith expressed itself in mystery and miracle plays, in songs and festivals, jests and jousting, often irreverent and bawdy but always immediate and bubbling with the ferment of the times.
The medieval religious drama persisted, as parishes continued to stage miracle plays, and civic craft guilds sponsored the enactment of biblical stories; amateur folk drama, portraying the adventures of legendary national heroes, flourished on a seasonal but regular basis; and the production of morality plays, dependent on neither scriptural nor historical models, was increasingly assumed by the growing number of professional actors forming travelling companies.
It was one of the first of the miracle plays to be written in vernacular verse.
In welcoming this edition of one of England's major cycles of Miracle Plays, I have chosen to highlight a number of areas through comparison with the earlier (1922) text produced for the same Society by K.
The interlude is considered a transitional form between the miracle plays and morality plays of the Middle Ages and fully developed Elizabethan drama.
Medieval French miracle plays; seven falsely accused women.
O'Driscoll added: "It is about hopefully balancing our game and again with 10 changes there is an element of playing our way into the game and don't try miracle plays early on.
Differing from Miracle Plays, which were based on the lives of saints, Mystery Plays were simple re-enactments of major events in the Christian calendar, from the Creation to the Day of Judgment, and were performed in cycles on festival days.
Medieval traders from Poland will mingle in with the Traders Row, re-enactors from Belgium will be taking part in the siege and a theatre group from Sweden will be performing their miracle plays.