Reference > Cambridge History > The Drama to 1642, Part One > The Early Religious Drama > Evidence of the popularity of the Religious Drama
  Miracles of Mary The Harrowing of Hell  

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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume V. The Drama to 1642, Part One.

III. The Early Religious Drama.

§ 7. Evidence of the popularity of the Religious Drama.


A remarkable proof of the widespread popularity of religious plays at this period is furnished by the Manuel des Pechiez by William of Wadington, composed, probably, about the end of the thirteenth century, and translated into English out of the author’s clumsy Anglo-Norman as early as 1303. William of Wadington finds no fault with the representation in churches of Christ’s burial and resurrection, for this promotes piety; but he most energetically censures the foolish clergy who, dressed up in masks and provided with borrowed horses and armour, perform in the streets and churchyards plays of the sort generally called miracles. About the beginning of the thirteenth century we meet with an account of such a performance in St. John’s churchyard at Beverley, where the resurrection, “according to traditional custom, was acted in word and gesture by people in disguise.” The performance, perhaps, took place in English; at least, we are told that boys climbed up into the triforium gallery of the church, in order better to see the action and hear the dialogue from the height of the windows; on which occasion, one boy fell down into the church and was saved by a miracle.   9

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  Miracles of Mary The Harrowing of Hell  
 
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