Medieval Mystery Plays as Popular Culture

Author: Murphy, Diane
Examines vernacular saint plays in French, Italian, and English from the thirteenth through sixteenth centuries. It focuses on the genre of hagiographic drama as an expression of popular religion and popular culture in the Middle Ages, serving as a test of current theories pertaining to popular culture. Socio-historical methods are employed throughout the work as a basis for determining the role of religious theater in medieval society.


“ ... Dr. Murphy’s revelations illuminate the role of the saint plays within the broader traditions of hagiography, play and spectacle, and how such distinctly medieval fields presage modern secular theatrical tendencies and techniques. There is also much of value to explore here toward present re-discovery of the real priorities of everyday Christian life, from a time when faith, regardless of denomination, truly sustained humankind.” – (From the Foreword) Professor Nadia Margolis, Mount Holyoke College

“ ... This book will be useful to undergraduates studying medieval theater, as well as to a general audience interested in medieval culture. The author offers ample background information on topics such as hagiography, the mendicant orders, staging conventions, thus making her study accessible to the non-initiated ... the book also presents interesting insights on the issue of popular culture and the relevance of the concept for medieval scholarship.” – Professor Véronique Plesch, Colby College

Table of Contents

Foreword by Nadia Margolis
1. Saint Plays and Popular Culture
2. Cultic Traditions
3. Social Change and Religious Drama
4. Aesthetic Conventions in the Saint Plays
5. Issues of Reception