Saints on Stage: An Analytical Survey of Dramatic Records in the West of England

Saints on Stage: An Analytical Survey of Dramatic Records in the West of England

Sally-Beth Maclean (University of Toronto)

Early Theatre, 2.1 (1999): 45-62 (paper). Article 4


In the past couple of decades there has been fresh attention given to study of the saint play, a hitherto neglected genre of English medieval drama. Although there continues to be a dearth of known surviving texts, rediscovery and re-editing of historical records of the period have inspired essays by Lawrence Clopper, Clifford Davidson, and John Wasson, among others. There is no easy agreement in their reassessments of the evidence, however. Wasson and Davidson are in harmony, suggesting that’ [d]ramatic records from English sources which have survived do indeed indicate that the miracle of saint play may even have been the most important genre in the repertoire of the English medieval stage…there was a great flourishing of this genre up to the time of the Reformation’ and ‘that of the early religious drama far more were saint plays , ‘than were Corpus Christi, morality, Christmas, Easter or other mystery plays’

Clopper takes the opposite viewpoint, challenging almost all of the records previously interpreted as evidence for saint plays, ‘sceptical there were ever many saint plays in England in the later medieval period up through the Reformation or during the reign of Mary…we have lumped together a variety of lay and clerical activities held on saints’ feast days as saint plays when the records cannot support the contention that they are enactments of the vita of a saint’.

Click here to read this article from Early Theatre

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