Chester Mystery Plays  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The Chester Mystery Plays is a cycle of mystery plays dating back to at least the early part of the 15th century.

A record of 1422 shows that the plays took place at the feast of Corpus Christi and this appears to have continued until 1521. Plays on Corpus Christi Day in 1475 included 'The trial and flagellation of Christ' and 'The Crucifixion'. The plays were then expanded into a three day cycle on Whit Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. In the years between the plays there was the Chester Midsummer Watch Parade instead.

The plays are based on biblical texts, from creation to the Last Judgement. They were enacted by common guildsmen and craftsmen on mounted stages that were moved around the city streets, with each company or guild performing one play.

Prior to the event the Crier read out these banns: "The Aldermen and stewards of evrie societie and Companie draw youselves to your said severall companies according to Ancient Customme and soe to appear with your said severall Companies everie man as you are Called upon paine that shall fall thereon". Such early banns exhorted each company to perform well.

Under Queen Elizabeth I the plays were seen as 'Popery' and banned by the English Church. Despite this a play cycle was performed in 1568 and the cathedral paid for the stage and beer as in 1562. They were performed again, over four days, in 1575. This resulted in the mayor, when he retired from his office, being taken to the Star Chamber in London to answer allegations against him, but with the support of the council (or assembly) he was freed.


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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Chester Mystery Plays" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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