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Towneley Cycle of Mystery Plays


'Towneley Cycle of Mystery Plays' can also refer to...

 

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AT: The Wakefield Cycle A: Anon (‘The Wakefield Master’) Pf: Late 15th–16th c., probably West Yorkshire Pb: 1897 G: Cycle of 32 mystery plays; Middle English (Yorkshire dialect) verse S: Heaven and earth, from the Creation to the Last Judgement C: approx. 50m, 5f, many extrasThe one incomplete manuscript comprises 32 scenes. Closely following the sequence of scenes in The York Cycle of Mystery Plays, The Towneley Cycle however omits scenes devoted to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and their banishment, crossing the Red Sea, the trials before Herod and Pilate, and the beatification of the Virgin Mary. The main addition is The Second Shepherds' Play (Alia Eorundem or Secunda Pastorum).

AT: The Wakefield Cycle A: Anon (‘The Wakefield Master’) Pf: Late 15th–16th c., probably West Yorkshire Pb: 1897 G: Cycle of 32 mystery plays; Middle English (Yorkshire dialect) verse S: Heaven and earth, from the Creation to the Last Judgement C: approx. 50m, 5f, many extras

Towneley refers to the family which owned the manuscript and is now preferred to the Wakefield title, since links to that city are somewhat tenuous. In some scenes like Herod the Great, which deals with the massacre of the Innocents, and in The Shepherds' Plays, the second of which introduces a character from folklore, Mak the Sheep-stealer from the South, the hand of a skilful dramatist can be detected. The so-called Wakefield Master was arguably the greatest English playwright before Shakespeare. He wrote vigorously, creating recognizable contemporary characters: the raging tyrant, like the contemporary Earl of Suffolk, and simple and humorously drawn shepherds, like many of those in the audience; for it was money from West Yorkshire wool that probably financed the staging of this cycle. Unlike the Chester and York Cycles, it is possible that this cycle, like The N-Town Plays, was staged on fixed platforms rather than on pageant wagons. The cycle was successfully revived in Wakefield in 1980.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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