Passion, Mystery and Performance: The First Two Centuries of the York Play – Dr Jeremy Goldberg (7 June)

Centre for Medieval Studies & York Festival of Ideas Lecture

Passion, Mystery and Performance: The First Two Centuries of the York Play

Jeremy Goldberg (York)

Tuesday 7 June
6:00pm – King’s Manor K/133
Free Admission. Booking Required

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York’s multi-pageant Creation to Domesday cycle for the feast of Corpus Christi – popularly the York mystery plays – is first noticed early in the reign of Richard II. It lasted almost two centuries until its effective suppression by the then Dean of York following its last performance in 1569. The cycle represented a significant devotional and cultural phenomenon, but also a major medieval tourist attraction. Its nature and meaning was not fixed from the time of its first notice and the changing relationship between the crafts that performed the cycle and the city governors who increasingly came to control it is an important part of the story.

This lecture will consider in particular the origins of the cycle, the role of crafts and groups of artisans and traders in relation to individual pageants, and questions to do with the nature of the production. It will ask to what degree spoken text was part of performance before the 1470s and will explore issues relating to performance, in particular how far women were excluded from or included in productions. Finally it will offer some thoughts about the last years of the cycle and its demise before its revival in the modern era.

Jeremy Goldberg is a Reader in the Department of History and a member of the Medieval Urban Household Research Project. A native of Hull, he has been passionate about the Middle Ages since childhood. He joined the department in 1988 having previously been a research fellow at Clare College, Cambridge and before that a temporary lecturer at the University of Keele. His research focuses upon later medieval English social and cultural history; women’s and gender history.

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