Background information

Background information on aspects of the plays.

The Plays and the Guilds

In medieval York the Mystery Plays were an expression of civic piety on the Corpus Christi festival. The Creation to Last Judgement narrative was paraded through the streets on waggons as actors presented the great moments of Christian history at twelve playing stations designated by the city banners.

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Staging the Plays – practicalities

Staging a multiple site and processional event is, by any standards, a challenge. Taking several hundred willing volunteers from the community and, with them, converting the centre of a major tourist and commercial city into one large venue for the Mystery Plays, is no small task.

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Literary significance

The York Mystery Cycle is cosmic in scope: it is set in heaven, earth and hell and in time past, present and future. lts blend of realism and the supernatural and its games with chronology anticipate modern cinematic techniques.

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The Christian message

Pilgrimage is an important aspect of all the major world faiths. People
who belong to a faith tradition find it important to journey to the heart
of the faith beginnings. In the medieval age travel was not as easy as it is today and many people
could not get to the root of their faith beginnings.

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The music

From medieval times up to the beginning of the 19th century every British town and city of any note had a band of Waits. Their duties varied from time to time and place to place.

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An inheritance shared by all

2010 saw the fourth quadrennial production of York Mystery Plays ‘brought forth’ by the York Guilds and Companies. Nobody owns The York Mystery Plays, but the York Guilds and Companies have the greatest claim to be their guardians.

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See also: the archived website of the 2002 production.

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