The Mystery Plays of Medieval England

Ref: C3528523

This course will look at the cycles of outdoor pageant dramas, often known as ‘mystery plays’, presented during each summer’s feast of Corpus Christi by local trade guilds and the church in towns and cities throughout late medieval England during each summer’s feast of Corpus Christi. Whilst the cycles are religious in character and truly cosmic in their narrative and philosophical scope - representing a Biblical understanding of history from the Creation to Judgement Day - they also reflect abiding and deep human concerns. The plays are truly dramatic. Besides the narrative action and visual spectacle of the plays, powerful poetic language rooted in the speech of ordinary medieval people contributes to the presentation of scenes that range from the tender and intimate to the tragic to the plainly comic and obscene.

Additional information about this course

Non SFA course. No fee remittance

Course aim

To introduce students to the cycles of religious plays performed annually in cities and towns in late medieval England through a study of the surving texts and the context of the medieval world.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • No skills or experience needed
  • This course is suitable for beginners and improvers

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • Understand the narrative and purpose of the medieval English mystery cycles.
  • Understand the relationship of the drama to the cultural context of the medieval world; religious, artistic, political, social and economic.
  • Understand the conventions of the drama: its language and its staging
  • Understand the means by which the drama has been transmitted and re-interpreted by subsequent generations of historians, readers and theatre-goers.

How will I be taught?

  • The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you and the group to be actively involved in your learning

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • A range of informal activities will be used by the tutor to see what you are learning which may include quizzes, question and answer, small projects and discussion

What else do I need to know?

  • Students may wish to bring note-taking materials to sessions. Students may also wish to obtain the Penguin anthology 'English Mystery Plays' edited by Peter Happe. This book is in print. It can be obtained easily and cheaply second-hand.

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • Optional reading and an outline of the six sessions will be sent to students prior to course start. Each session will have a focus upon a particular group of plays which students may wish to read (from book referred to above) prior to each session.

What can I do next?

  • Progress to another WEA course
  • Progress to a course with another provider
  • You could progress to Higher Education courses. Follow link to the PEARL website for information

Download full Course information sheet

The Mystery Plays of Medieval England


You can if you meet all of the following requirements:

  • are paying the standard fee or are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • are paying with a credit/debit card or are not paying a fee because of a qualifying benefit
  • have a valid email address
  • have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2017
  • have read and accept the standard terms and conditions
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