Why we do theatre/Morality Plays, Mystery Plays, and Miracle Plays

Day 3: Why we do theatre/Morality Plays, Mystery Plays, and Miracle Plays



Students will be able to demonstrate their understanding of the value of theatre by presenting their advocacy projects and their understanding of Morality/Miracle/Mystery plays by participating in discussion.


Materials Needed:

White board and markers, York Mystery Plays trailer



I’m way excited to see what you came up with for why you do theatre. We’ll start on one side of the room and everyone just briefly show us/tell us about what you chose to do and why you do theatre.

  • Discussion: What is the power of theatre and the arts in general? What were the most convincing and helpful stories/explanations? How would we as a class pitch the continuance of the arts in our school to our school board?
  • Make sure to turn in your paper/collage/painting/whatever you have
  • Grade these out of 20 points based solely on effort – did they answer the question? Did they put effort and thought into the project?


Lecture: Medieval Theatre

  • Write Mystery, Miracle, and Morality on the board
  • These are the three Ms of Medieval theatre
  • Mystery plays are nothing like what they sound like. What would you guess they were from the name? (probably something like mystery novels). However, they are actually plays that tell the stories of the bible. And these were dang cool – the Noah story had some serious spectacle. They got barrels of water that held a ton of water, carried them up above the wagon, and rigged them so that when the flood came they actually had water that poured down for like 15 minutes and went into a special trough that flooded around Noah’s ark, but not inside of Noah’s ark.
    • These are still being performed and now they are done even more spectacularly: show youtube trailer “York Mystery Plays 2012 – Cinematic Trailer”
      • Would you go watch these? Why or why not? Why do you think the common folk of the Medieval era went to see these?
      • Why were they necessary? Well, at this time Catholic mass was all in Latin, the common folk couldn’t read Latin, or couldn’t read at all. They didn’t have Bibles in their houses and they didn’t understand mass on Sunday, so they didn’t know the stories of the Bible or really anything about their church or what they should be doing to be good Catholics. They needed plays in the vernacular to understand.
    • Miracle plays depicted the stories and lives of the saints. Who are saints in the Catholic religion? (someone who did a lot of good deeds in their life, then they usually died for their beliefs, and you can pray to them to help you). These are my favorite because most saints met a really gruesome, violent death, and so they used a lot of special effects to show one get burned at the stake or crucified or stoned to death, even though they just banned theatre because of all of the gruesome and violent deaths that were depicted onstage…
    • Morality plays are the easiest to guess – what do you think a morality play might be about? They are plays that teach you how to be a good Catholic with good morals. They are incredibly didactic (hit-you-over-the-head preachy). The play we will be reading is one of these and is called Everyman.
    • Come prepared next time with a way to read – with a British accent, dropping every t, with a lisp, etc.