mystery play

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Related to mystery play: miracle play, morality play

mystery play:

see miracle playmiracle play
or 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.
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Mystery Play


a genre of Western European religious theater of the late Middle Ages (14th to 16th centuries). Mystery plays were most highly developed in France. They were based on biblical stories and written by priests, learned theologians, physicians, and jurists. Religious scenes alternated with comic everyday episodes. Presentations, which generally took place in the public square, were organized by town authorities and artisans’ guilds to coincide with town celebrations, usually days when fairs were held. Although they were supervised by aristocratic and church circles, mystery plays were a form of popular art in which piety constantly clashed with blasphemy, and religious mysticism with the realities of everyday life, which were introduced into the plays by the performers, most of whom were local amateurs.

Among the most vivid examples of the genre are Arnoul Greban’s Mystery of the Passion (mid-15th century) and the Mystery of the Siege of Orleans (presented after 1429). As the realistic and comic elements in the plays became stronger, clerical and secular authorities attacked the mystery plays, and in the 16th century the presentation of the plays was prohibited.

In the 19th century and the first half of the 20th, mystery plays were periodically presented in Oberammergau, Germany, and in Paris in front of the Cathedral of Notre Dame. The play Story of the Glorious Resurrection by Mikolaj of Wilkowieck (1962, People’s Theater, Warsaw) is distinguished by its ironic interpretation of medieval mystery plays.

Mystery plays developed in Iran in the tenth century, where they became part of the religious shahsey-vahsey procession. The taziyeh, a form of Persian tragedy, is derived from the mystery play.


Istoriia zapadnoevropeiskogo teatra, vol. 1. Moscow, 1956.

Mystery Play (Elche)

August 14-15
El Misterio d'Elx, or the Mystery Play of Elche, is a medieval drama about the death and assumption of the Virgin Mary that takes place in August on the Feast of the Assumption in Elche, a town in Valencia, Spain. The first part of the play is performed on August 14, the day before the feast, and it deals with the death of the Virgin and the ascension of her soul to heaven on a throne, or araceli, carried by five angels. In the second part, performed on August 15, the Virgin is buried and the Gate of Heaven opens. The araceli descends a second time and takes the Virgin away. She is crowned at the heavenly portal while organ music plays, bells ring, and firecrackers explode.
The mystery play is performed from a raised platform in the sanctuary of the Church of La Merced. It is considered by many to be one of Spain's greatest religious dramatic survivals, and it is believed to date back to the early 13th century.
Valencia Tourist Office
Communitat Valenciana, Aptdo. de Correos 48
Burjassot, 46100 Spain
34-902-123-212; fax: 34-902-220-211
FestEur-1961, p. 141
FestWestEur-1958, p. 203
SpanFiestas-1968, p. 164

Mystery Play (Tibet)
January-February; last day of Tibetan year
Originally performed by a devil-dancing cult to drive out the old year along with its demons and human enemies, this annual dramatic presentation was known to Tibetans as the Dance of the Red-Tiger Devil and to Europeans as the Pageant of the Lamas or the Mystery Play of Tibet. Under Buddhist influence, it was seen as symbolizing the triumph of the Indian missionary monks, led by Padmasambhava ( see also Hemis Festival and Paro Tshechu), over pagan devils, and more recently, it has been changed to represent the assassination of Lang-darma, the king who tried to rid Tibet of Lamaism. Despite its many transformations over the years, however, the play continues to retain the devil-dancing features of its earliest form.
It is performed on the last day of the year in the courtyards of Buddhist temples or monasteries and continues for two days. A group of priests in black miters is confronted by one group of demons after another, which they manage to exorcize. On the second day, a dough effigy representing the enemies of Tibet and Lamaism is dismembered and disemboweled. Pieces of the effigy are thrown to the audience, who eat them or keep them to use as talismans. The play is followed by a burnt offering and a procession.
See also Losar
Office of Tibet
Tibet House, 1 Culworth St.
London, NW8 7AF United Kingdom
44-20-7722-5378; fax: 44-20-7722-0362
DictFolkMyth-1984, p. 777 (c)

mystery play

(in the Middle Ages) a type of drama based on the life of Christ
References in periodicals archive ?
The Chester Mystery Plays are Bible-based stories written by monks in medieval times.
By thinking about painted verses, tapestries, and edible confections as dramatic entertainment, by suggesting points of comparison and contrast between English and Dutch Vice characters, and by examining how material artifacts from the mystery plays are transformed on the post-Reformation stage, these studies widen the canon of early drama at the same time that they open familiar texts to new scrutiny.
Thus, even though it is impossible to argue that Marlowe ever saw any one mystery play in particular, it is important to realize that the mysteries remained an important agent in late sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century English drama.
FEW theatrical events can lay claim to the history and scope of Chester's enthralling Mystery Plays.
That said, whether there really is a mystery play or not at work in Madame Bovary as an underlying narrative is not very important in itself, and that will be for the readers to decide.
The venue will be transformed into an outdoor theatre for the UK's only traditional outdoor mystery play.
has organized the first ambitious installment of what he hopes will be an annual showcase of new mystery plays and screenplays.
One of the first mystery plays was the Easter play, in which four priests represented an angel and the three Marys who came to Christ's tomb on Easter morning.
They chose a modern adaptation of a medieval mystery play in a challenging production.
In order to register for Events and Education, some of which require payment (Gala, Mystery Play, Non-ADAA educational offerings carrying a charge), fill out the Events and Education Form along with a check made payable to ADAA and mail it to the above address with your Advance Registration prior to May 31.
The three unlike kinds of texts--Chaucerian tale, late medieval mystery play, and early modern urban dramatic text--each have different reasons for coming into being, different attitudes towards their composition by both author and audience, different relationships with their audiences, different attitudes towards issues of class, etc.
This is a story about a mystery play, one of a whole cycle of mystery plays originally put on at England's York Cathedral around the year 1400.