It’s always a bit of a mess trying to place plays in specific time slots, especially at a time when plays had either a very short life expectancy (no chance of a print run yet) or a ridiculously long one (literally hundreds of years for any Biblical drama). As with any of our lists, the dates are markers of the earliest probable date, massively provisional and debatable, except when we’ve made a mistake in which case it’s just wrong. Please forward suggestions/evidence/passive aggressive abuse to the usual place. Go back to Super Early Stuff.
Coventry Mystery Plays – this date represents the first time we hear of their existence in Coventry. Like all Biblical dramas, their life in various forms cover hundreds of years. We have two complete surviving plays from this cycle, and a few other odds and ends – though the texts we have probably represent a later version of the play. First Look Exploring Sessions for the Pageant of the Shearman and the Taylors and the Pageant of the Weavers are available on YouTube.
The Castle of Perseverance – an early, mostly extant, morality play on a grand scale. First Look Exploring Session available.
Shrewsbury Fragments – These are tricksy little fragments of plays, cue scripts for just one part per play. We’re looking at doing these in more detail, specifically to get the music right. They have been placed variously in the timeline by different sources, so they could go much earlier. They featuring in the below general exploring session.
Dux Moraud – Only surviving as one actors part from a cue script. We produced a whole show around the text, as well as two additional features looking at them a little more seriously.
The Durham Prologue (fragment) – a super short prologue that lays out the plot for a lost play.
1424 – 30’s
John Lydgate Things – Monk of Bury St Edmunds John Lydgate wrote a load of theatrical, and semi theatrical material. From civic events, to mummings. Some pieces are by him, some are lumped with him. All these pieces can be found in the First Look playlist.
1445 (and beyond)
Royal Entry of Margaret of Anjou into London – plus later Coventry pageants. The below exploring session covers various royal entries and celebrations from this point onwards, going to the end of the century.
Occupation and Idleness – one of the Winchester Dialogues. This was a revelation to us. If you’re looking for the earliest example of the kind of interlude/debate play that is everywhere in a hundred years time, start here. Exploring session available on YouTube below, and a tidier audio version can be heard on the podcast HERE.
Lucidus and Dubius (fragment) – from the same set of Winchester dialogues as above. Exploring session available now.
Reynes Fragments – Speech of Delight (fragment). Another random survival from a play, this is a fabulous speech about delight.
Reynes Fragments – Epilogue (Fragment) – No guarantee that this from the same play as the speech of Delight, this is a brilliant closing epilogue that can be used for almost any occasion. It is our official company epilogue and we will use it to close any of our events. We’ve two versions – one studio based and another from a live show – we will keep making more!
Newcastle Noah Pageant – the text that has come to us has been interfered with in the transcription, but it still works as a play. We looked at it with another unattached mystery play in this exploring session.
Wisdom or Mind, Will, and Understanding – Exploring session of this morality play is available.
The Croxton Play of the Sacrament – the earliest this play could exist is after 1461, but it might have a stage life anywhere up to the 1530’s. Exploring session available.
Though we haven’t produced this play fully, there is a pretty good recording of an outside production directed by Elisabeth Dutton in 2014 – links for more information on the project seem to have disappeared, as internet things tend to do… for more information, please use your favourite search engine and a Ouija board.
The Northampton Abraham and Isaac – There are a lot of plays with Abraham, this is one of them. Exploring session is available – this link is to a double session, but should play at the point where we look at the play.
The York Mystery Cycle – see all notes dotted around this website with dates for mystery cycles to confuse and depress you. In the case of York the text we have from this cycle comes with the date stamp of around 1463/77. Whilst we can assume the text/s changed over time, we have a snapshot of the plays during this window of time. Exploring sessions are available.
We’ve also had a chat with Dr Christina M. Fitzgerald about the plays on the podcast…
However, just because we haven’t done them doesn’t mean there aren’t lots of versions of these plays available online. Here is one from 2018 – just search YouTube to find more.
Mankind – Exploring session available now. We did find there were a few issues with the text we were using, so there’s the odd garbled line, but the thrust of the play hopefully comes across well.
And Mankind gets about a bit – here’s a recording on YouTube of a PLS production.
The N-Town Plays – again, this is a nominal date for the collection of plays that make N-Town. One day there will be a whole page for our work on N-Town. There’s just too much to fit in here – here’s the general N-Town playlist.
The Towneley Play – again, this is a nominal date for the text we have. Like N-Town, this is something of a composite text, and probably wasn’t performed as a complete cycle a la York, which it shares some material.
Brome Abraham and Isaac – Another Abraham play, but this is interesting because it’s super similar to the Chester play. Exploring sessions (x2) available on Podcast & YouTube, plus !Spoilers! and a Full Cast Audio Adaptation available below.
Robin Hood and the Sheriff/Knight (fragment). This is a fascinating fragment from a play, which we’re not done with yet, even though you can listen to a full cast audio adaptation and our exploring workshop now. It features Robin Hood. And the Knight. And the Sheriff. There’s just an argument over the billing. You know what stars are like.
Norwich Grocers’ Play/s – variations on Adam and Eve. Exploring session available.
The Killing of the Children – Exploring session of this solo mystery play available.
We haven’t yet done a full production – but till then, here’s a version from the nice people of http://medievalconventdrama.org/
Digby Play of Mary Magdalene – this play, like the Killing of the Children, might more sensibly be placed later, but why be sensible. Exploring session available.
Mary Magdalene acts as a nice bookend to this snap shot of what we call late medieval drama. Remember, a lot of this material may bleed into the early stuff list before and the early Tudor list after. But what can you do. If you have substantive issues with the placement plays within this list, feel free to email us. It won’t do any good, but it might make you feel better. Go to 1485 to 1509.