Home Education Mystery, Miracle and Morality Plays

Mystery, Miracle and Morality Plays

by Ragini Salampure
Mystery, Miracle and Morality Plays

The Middle Ages in England was an era when the Church dominated the social, cultural, political and economic arena. The forms of art that were prevalent in these times were also there to serve the religious purpose. 

After that we had the Elizabethan era that was a complete breakaway from the Middle Ages. The Elizabethan era was the golden era in literature wherein all the art forms were at their best. 

The Renaissance brought with itself the light of an intellectual being. The people started questioning the ideologies of the Church before following them blindly. That is how the Renaissance brought the people out from the darkness of the Middle Ages into the Elizabethan light. 

The research paper writings have stated that since church was the central authority in the Middle Ages, the plays written and performed also served the purpose of educating the masses about religion. 

The church took it in their hand to prevent the people from doing any immoral act that was against virtues and the ideas of religion. They also told stories so that the people learn from examples given in these stories. 

So were performed the mystery, miracle and morality plays. These plays seem interlinked yet have their differences that are important to be remembered by the students for effective assignment help usa.

These three- mystery, miracle and morality plays were written in a variety of verse forms. The miracle plays had its subject derived from the stories of the Bible or else from the life and martyrdom of a saint. 

In the usage of some historians, miracle plays denote only the dramas based on the saints’ lives. On the other hand, these historians say that mystery play is the term applied to dramas based on stories from the Bible. The term mystery was then used to refer to the trade conducted by the medieval guilds who sponsored these plays. 

The plays representing these biblical narratives originated within the church in about the tenth century wherein dramatizations of brief parts of the Latin liturgical service, which was called tropes, was done. 

One of them, the Quem quaeritis trope, portrayed the visit of the three Marys to the tomb of Jesus Christ. In the course of time, these plays evolved into complete plays which were now written in English rather than in Latin and were produced under the auspices of the various trade guilds, as mentioned earlier. 

They were acted on stages set outside the church. The miracle plays written in England were written anonymously. In the fourteenth century, a practice was developed in the cities of York and Chester, 

on the feast of Corpus Christi, of putting on great cycles of such plays, that represented the crucial events in the biblical history of mankind from his Creation to this Fall from heaven, through the Nativity, Crucifixion and the Resurrection of Christ until the day of the Last Judgement. 

There have been various research paper writings deliberating on the topic of the presentation of these plays but how they were staged is still a matter of scholarly debate. 

What is clear is that each scene was played on a separate pageant wagon, which was drawn one after the other, in sequence, in order to maintain the continuation of the play. 

These wagons were drawn in such a manner that the parts or scenes of the plays were enacted in one city or the other, following the movement of the wagon. Since the authors were unknown, they kept on adding their own inventions to the scenes, whether serious or comic, and thus expanded the Biblical texts. 

The morality plays were the allegorical representations done in a dramatized manner. 

These representations were based on Christian life in the plot form of quest for salvation in which the crucial events are like quest for salvation, sinning and the climactic confrontation of death.  

The protagonists did not particularly represent any fictitious or Biblical Character, rather they represented virtues and vices in order to save the purpose of the play. In fact, death, angels, demons who contested for the soul of Mankind were also represented in the forms of characters. The character known as Vice always tempted mankind. 

This Vice played both sinister and comic roles and was regarded as the precursor of the figures in Elizabethan drama that were either cynical, comic or ironically villainous. Everyman was the best-known morality play in the Middle Ages, which is still performed occasionally.

Interludes was a term applied to a variety of short, staged entertainments. These may refer to witty dialogues from a religious or political viewpoint or to the secular farces. 

In the latter part of the 15th century and the earlier part of the 16th century, these short plays were performed by a variety of professional actors. It has been found out that these pieces of entertainment were usually put between the courses of feast or between the plays that were of a comparatively longer length. 

The most popular among these are John Heywood’s farces of the first fifty years of the 16th century, especially The Four PP (that is, the Palmer, the Pardoner, the Peddler and the Pothecary). All these PPs engage in a lying contest.

With time, these medieval dramas were losing their importance because they were solely based on the religious aspect of human life and did not serve any other purpose of entertainment or recreation. 

Until the 20th century, the concern with these medieval dramas were scholarly rather than critical. Since this time, a number of studies have dealt with the relationships of the texts to the religious and secular culture of medieval Europe. 

These scholars have themselves stressed upon the artistic excellence and power of the plays themselves. Therefore, it has been thus proved that they indeed were an important part in the literary world. 

The points of difference between the mystery, miracle and morality plays mentioned above are sufficient enough to offer assignment help to students of literature who can further supplement it with the help of examples.

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