The Plays

Forty-eight scripts make up the existing York Mystery Plays. For 2018, we have selected eleven to tell the story from Creation to Last Judgement. In a new approach to the plays, each is presented as a partnership- one from the Old Testament, and one from the New Testament. In the same way that the modern and medieval plays comment on each other, so do these paired stories.



“Beginning, middle and end I with my word have wrought.”

The Plasterer’s Play: The Creation of the World to the Fifth Day
(To be performed by the York Guild of Building)

The Spicers’ Play: The Annunciation and Visitation
(To be performed by the Guild of Media Arts)

The Mysteries begin with acts of creation- with York’s Builders creating the world from nothing in a mere five days. Partnered with this is the New Testament’s story of creation- the visit of the Angel Gabriel to Mary, telling her of the new life to come.



“Thou shall not tempt in vain…”

The Coopers’ Play: The Fall of Man
(To be performed by Vale of York Academy on behalf of the Guild of Freemen)

The Smiths’ Play: The Temptation of Christ
(To be performed by the Company of Cordwainers)

Two tales of temptation see two responses. Adam and Eve are promised knowledge and power. Jesus is offered the world. One leads to the Fall of Man- the other to Mankind’s salvation.



“He trusted me, no man more, and I betrayed him tenderly…”

The Glovers’ Play: Cain and Abel
(To be performed by the Lords of Misrule on behalf of the Company of Merchant Taylors)

The Cooks’ and Waterleaders’ Play: The Remorse of Judas
(To be performed by York St. John’s)

Betrayal follows temptation as two Universities show two different approaches. Cain betrays his brother Abel over a sacrifice gone wrong. In the Remorse of Judas, we see the aftermath of betrayal as Judas tries to take back what he’s done.



“Here to death I oblige me, so this sin will save mankind…”

The Parchment-makers’ and Bookbinders’ Play: Abraham and Isaac
(To be performed by the Guild of Scriveners)

The Pinners’ and Butchers’ Plays (Combined): The Death and Crucifixion of Christ
(To be performed by St Chad’s Church on behalf of the York Butcher’s Gild)

Two fathers sacrifice their only son. In the Old Testament, God demands a hideous sacrifice from Abraham. In the New Testament, God makes his own sacrifice. Each has a twist in the tale, as the threat of death gives way to a new lease of life.



“Ah, Lord, loved be thy will, that makes thy folk so free…”

The Hosiers’ Play: Moses and Pharoah
(To be performed by St Luke the Evangelist Church)

The Saddlers’ Play: The Harrowing of Hell
(To be performed by the York Mystery Plays Supporters Trust)

Two tales of liberation – one from an earthly dictatorship, the other from a hellish prison. Moses leads his people out of slavery in Egypt, whilst Christ overcomes Satan to set his people free.



“Now is fulfilled all my fore-thought, for ended is all earthly things…”

The Mercers’ Play: The Last Judgement
(To be performed by Raven’s Morris on behalf of the Company of Merchant Adventurers)

As the day ends, so does our story. Standing alone, outside of time and space, the gathered souls discover the consequences of their cruelty or kindness…