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English Mystery Plays: A Selection (English Library) Paperback – 27 Nov 1975


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English Mystery Plays: A Selection (English Library) + York Mystery Plays: A Selection in Modern Spelling (Oxford World's Classics)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 720 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reprint edition (27 Nov. 1975)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140430938
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140430936
  • Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 2.5 x 12.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 68,693 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
These Banns, intended to be read aloud at the beginning of performances of the Chester cycle, have survived in a copy originating c.1540 (Harl. MS 2150). Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Steven Davies on 12 Feb. 2009
Format: Paperback
Penguin's selection of mystery plays should carry a broad appeal to both scholars and casual readers. The text benefits from a straightforward, authorative introduction by editor Peter Happe that gives background to the cycles, differentiates between them and contextualises them. Covering some twenty-six pages, it gives you plenty of depth without too much academic-speak.

The book demonstrates the diversity and individuality of the cycles from Chester, York and Towneley. In one case, readers will be able to compare and contrast what are differing presentations of the same story: both the Towneley and Chester version of 'Noah' are presented back-to-back.

Although essentially a conglomerate cycle, this edition does have an organic feel with its common sense approach to the sequencing (OT first, then NT, etc). As such, it's easy to read the book from cover to cover and appreciate the variety of plays on offer at a typical cycle. Typifying the attention to detail, the text proper begins with a 'Bann', basically the formal introduction given at all mystery plays giving an account of what's in store to the audience.

The plays themselves are fascinating, funny and nuanced. Even though they are all familiar religious narratives, the plays are revitalised by the playwrights. They are shot through with the the writers' contemporary concerns that give you a good idea of medieval culture and attitudes to the body, culture and class in a forgotten society. It's difficult to stress just how removed from religion in a traditional sense these plays are, how devoid of stuffiness. Like in Chaucer's work, the general feeling is of carnival and good humour.

The texts are presented in middle english in a clear and contemporary typeface, with no translated pane.
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This is a great volume, which supplies a good selection of English Mystery plays from various play cycles. The plays are put in order from the tales of the creation to the end of the world and judgement day. Where possible the editor has provided two or three contrasting versions of the same plays to show variations in English usage, themes etc. Each play is prefaced by a brief introduction outlining which cycle the play comes from, date, and relevant details of performances etc. There is a good general introduction about mystery plays as a whole. The whole volume is easy to read, accessible and well thought out.
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For a serious student of historical theatre, this is probably the best possible place to start; it's genuinely scholarly and authoritative. It's also much easier to read than it might appear to be, and it is very very interesting indeed.
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Format: Paperback
This is a good collection, and a great complement to Cawley's Everyman Medieval Miracle Plays, but if you don't know a little about medieval English, understanding the language can be a struggle.
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1 of 11 people found the following review helpful By "thomasandlaurachild" on 20 Jan. 2004
Format: Paperback
I purchased a used copy from mark.beecher@ntlworld.com via Amazon, and I must say what a pleasure it was. The same day I received an email to inform me that the book would be posted 1st class by the next working day. True to his word, I received my book on the Tuesday (the Monday being the first working day). I needed this book for an assignment, but did not want to pay £12.99 for a copy. The used book is in excellent condition and cost me half the price. I am sure too, that it arrived in half the time!
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