Properties of the English Miracle Plays, 1906

The following comes from a 1906 master’s thesis by Allie V. Parks titled, “Stage Properties, Costumes, Scenery and Music of the English Miracle Plays.” These were religious pageants performed in England from the 10th to the 16th centuries. I’ve reformatted the text a bit to make it a little more readable, since it is already challenging trying to decipher the Middle English text:

We find in the stage direction mention of the stage properties as follows.

  • In the Coventry Mysteries page 249 — and ther xal be a lytil oratory with stolys and cusshonys clenly be- seyn plyche as it were a counsel-hous.
  • page 259- Here Petyr and John gon forth metyng with Symon leprows beryng a kan with watyr.
  • page 261- Here Cryst enteryth into the hous with his dispiclis, and ete the Paschas lomb.
  • page 277-  Here he takyth the basyn and the towaly-
  • p. 283 — and some dyagyaed in odyr garments with swerdys, gleynys, and other straunge wepons, with feyr and lanternys and torchis lyth.
  • p 296- Here thei xal bete Jhesus about the hed and the body— and settyn hym on a stol, and castyn a cloth ovyr his face-
  • p. 316 And qwhem he is skorgyd, thei put upon him a cloth of sylk, and settyn hym on a stol, and puttyn a kroune of thornys on hese hed with forkys; and the Jewys knelyng to Cryst, taking hym a septer and skorning him, and than thei xal pullyn of the purpyl clothe, and don on ageyn his owyn clothis; and leyn the crosse in hese necke to berynt, and drawyn hym forth with ropys.
  • p. 335– a ladder to take Cryst from the cross.
  • p. 337–  and leve the Maryes at the Sephulchere.
  • p. 336 Here thei shall leyn Cryst in his grave.

The last named reference would seem to indicate that some sort of grave or tomb was one of the stage properties of this play.

  • p. 332–Pylat, Annas and Cayphas go to ther skaffaldys.
  • p. 25- Then God douthe make the woman of the ribbe of Adam.

It would seem that a rib-bone was actually used in the creation scene. On p 388 of Chambers ‘Medieval Stage’ in the inventory of the Company of Grocers, Whitsun Plays, this item also relating to the rib occurs, A Rybbe colleyrd Red.

Another reference to the use of swords on the stage, occurs in the stage directions of the ‘Chester Plays,’ Early English Text Society edition, page 81.  “Here Abraham takes and binds his sonne Isaake upon the alter, and makes a signe as though he would cut of his head with the sword; then the angell comes and takes the ends and stayeth it saying”

In the Chester Plays by the Shakespeare Society p. 65, Heare Abraham taketh a sword and fier. In this play also Abraham is directed to take a “sorde” and make as though he would cut of his son’s head.

Chambers in The Mediaeval Stage, p. 377, from “The Hall book of the Corporation of at Leicester” gives, 1546-7 Pd. for makynge of a sworde & payntinge of the same for Harroode. This sword was probably made of wood, as it required painting, and on page 345- For the hyre of a sworde. On page 345 are also items of expense, For two bagges of leder, and For gunpowder.

Parks, Allie V. “Stage Properties, Costumes, Scenery and Music of the English Miracle Plays.” Thesis. University of Illinois, 1906. Internet Archive, 29 Oct. 2013. Web. 18 Oct. 2016. <https://archive.org/details/stagepropertiesc00park>.

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