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News Archive - March 2008

Subscribe to the St Mary's, Eaton Bray feedExploring mystery plays from Chaucer's England

Worshippers from the North Chilterns Group of Parishes, comprising the churches of Totternhoe, Stanbridge, Tilsworth, Kensworth, Studham, Whipsnade, Eaton Bray with Edlesborough and Dagnall, are trying something completely different for this Lenten season (the period leading up to Easter Sunday).

The exciting course for 2008 is comprised of a series of Medieval Mystery Plays, with a different play being explored each week. Chaucer's English has been updated to make things easier to follow.

The plays mostly originated in York in 1376, at a time when few people could read or write and when religious matters had an influence on every aspect of everyday life.

The pageants told the Bible story from creation through to the coming of doomsday and were presented on pageant-wagon stages, which were drawn through the streets of York, Chester and other northern towns from one 'playing station' to another. They would start with the creation story at dawn and finish at dusk. Sometimes the wealthy would pay to have plays performed in their own homes.

The plays were originally presented by the different guilds of craftsmen. They were originally liturgical pieces known as 'mysteries', which is why the plays are called mystery plays.

Over the years the plays changed, especially during the turbulent times of the Tudors, and by the late 16th century they had ceased altogether. But they were rediscovered and performed again after the Festival of Britain in the mid-20th century.

There will be a reading of extracts from all of the plays at St Giles Hall, Totternhoe, next Tuesday (March 18) at 7.45pm and everybody is welcome.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 11 March 2008

March 12, 2008 | Permalink | Comment

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