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Sacred Players

The Politics of Response in the Middle English Religious Drama

Heather Hill-Vásquez

Publication Year: 2011

Offering a unique historical perspective to the study of medieval English drama, Heather Hill-Vásquez in Sacred Players argues that different treatments of audience and performance in the early drama indicate that the performance life of the drama may have continued well beyond its traditional placement in medieval history and into the Reformation and Renaissance eras.

Published by: The Catholic University of America Press


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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii-x

THE COMPLETION OF THIS BOOK is due, in large part, to two Mellon Grants awarded to me by the University of Detroit Mercy. In addition, I owe a special debt of gratitude to John Staudenmaier...

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pp. 1-16

CHRIST IN HIS ADDRESS from the cross near the end of the York cycle’s Crucifixion pageant calls out to “Al men that walkis by waye or strete ......,” thereby making contemporary the events of salvation history enacted throughout the pageant...

Part I. Reforming Response: Protestant Adaptations

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1. Modeling Response in the Chester Cycle

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pp. 17-50

SINCE THE 1950s, scholars and critics of the medieval drama have considered the unique position of the Chester cycle in the history of Middle English religious...

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2. Correcting Response in the Digby Conversion of Saint Paul

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pp. 51-74

IN RECASTING THE CHESTER CYCLE as a proto-Protestant text, the writers of the post-Reformation Banns attempted to ensure the survival of the cycle, given the change in England’s religious...

Part II. Sanctifying Response: The Church and the “Real Presence”

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3. Accessing the Divine in the Croxton Play of the Sacrament

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pp. 77-101

THE CHESTER CYCLE and the Digby Conversion of Saint Paul reveal attempts to remake the religious drama of the earlier faith in order to suit emerging Protestant beliefs regarding audience roles and responsibilities, and the connection...

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4. Devotional Response and Responsibility in the York Cycle

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pp. 102-122

LATE MEDIEVAL AUDIENCE attached to the religious drama a transformative power founded upon their own devotion to the Eucharist and belief in transubstantiation. The late medieval Church had willingly encouraged this devotion...

Part III. Gendering Response: Christ’s Body and God’s Word

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5. Incarnational Belief and Gender in the Digby Killing of the Children

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pp. 125-167

FOR THE SACRED PLAYERS OF THE YORK CYCLE-both the actors and the audience who watched them perform—the space of Christ’s body infused the streets of their city with a salvific potential that was engaged through an aesthetic of audience participation...

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6. Reforming Religious Performance: “Feminine” Response and “Catholic” Behavior

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pp. 168-198

IN THE COMBINED EPISODES of the Digby Candlemas Day and the Killing of the Children of Israel, behaviors and emotions associated with domesticity, maternity, and womanhood become ways for actors and audience to participate...

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pp. 199-208

At the end of The Killing of the Children of Israel, the first of the two plays that comprise the Digby Candlemas Day and the Killing of the Children of Israel, Herod meets his end while describing to the audience his physical deterioration...


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pp. 209-224


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pp. 225-229

Publication Information

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pp. 230-230

E-ISBN-13: 9780813216119
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813214979

Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2011

OCLC Number: 707925946
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Sacred Players

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Mysteries and miracle-plays, English -- History and criticism.
  • English drama -- To 1500 -- History and criticism.
  • Christianity and literature -- England -- History -- To 1500.
  • Christian drama, English (Middle) -- History and criticism.
  • Theater -- England -- History -- Medieval, 500-1500.
  • Civilization, Medieval, in literature.
  • Cycles (Literature).
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