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A modern medieval mystery play: taking the “mystery” out of the Middle Ages

A modern medieval mystery play: taking the “mystery” out of the Middle Ages

By Robyn Lee Bernadette Gram

Master’s Thesis: California State University, Sacramento, 2010

Abstract: The Middle Ages in Europe is commonly referred to (at least as a popular culture stereotype) as the “Dark Ages.” The popular conception of this time is one where culture, depth of ideas and creativity were at a standstill. Through studying works of the Middle Ages (specifically medieval mystery plays), I have concluded that the above statements are false. The example of medieval mystery plays truly shows the dynamic, richly creative and deeply complex world of medieval theater and theology. Through producing a medieval mystery play, I plan to enrich the observer with an appreciation of medieval culture in its many aspects.

I used a wide variety of sources in this project. I researched books, online articles and scholarly journals to compile data and information about the cycle plays. Also, I employed artwork and film to facilitate my understanding of the visual and theatrical elements of a medieval mystery play.

Through my research and the production of my play, I came to numerous conclusions about the culture of the Middle Ages. Mainly, in Europe, the Middle Ages were a time when people of all classes enjoyed a fulfilling cultural experience. Specifically, through the development of theater outside of the liturgical setting, European citizens experienced a uniquely creative and deeply complex spiritual experience. The performance of a medieval mystery play brought to the audience an entire history of human sin and salvation through innovative dramatic and comedic devices. This experience was fulfilling to the citizens of the Middle Ages and, I believe, continues to be relevant and fulfilling to a modern audience.

Click here to read this thesis from California State University

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