The Oxford Mystery Cycle: Year 2


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Would you like to take part in a medieval drama day? Directors, actors, costume and prop makers, and musicians wanted!


By popular demand we’re hoping to stage another mini ‘Oxford cycle’ of medieval mystery plays in the Spring: 25 April 2020 at St Edmund Hall. We are looking to recruit groups from Oxford and elsewhere to take on individual plays. We’re proposing a list of fifteen plays (from a variety of medieval cycles), which give an outline of the whole biblical story. But, like last year, we are open to groups bringing plays from other cycles or in other languages – or, as last year’s Last Judgement, re-writing one to suit the times! Creativity definitely encouraged: last year’s modern dress Annunciation and the manuscript projections for Noah were amongst the highlights!


This is the list of plays we’re suggesting:

1. Creation                                                                  Towneley

2. Fall of Adam and Eve                                             York

3. Killing of Abel                                                        Towneley

4. Noah                                                                       Towneley

5. Abraham                                                                 Brome MS

6. Annunciation                                                          Towneley

7. Visitation (Salutation of Elizabeth)                        Towneley

(the Visitation is very short, and can be added to the Annunciation)

8. 2nd Shepherds’                                                        Towneley

9. Magi                                                                        Towneley

10. Herod the Great                                                    Towneley

11. Pilate’s Wife                                                         York

12. Crucifixion                                                            York

13. Harrowing of Hell (Deliverance of Souls)            Towneley

14. Resurrection                                                          York

15. Judgement                                                             Towneley

These require a very varied number of actors – from 2 to about 10 – and a wide variety of props and ingenuity in setting. We’re using the plays in modern spelling as found in:

The Wakefield Mystery Plays, ed. Martial Rose (London, 1961)

York Mystery Plays: A Selection in Modern Spelling, ed. R. Beadle and P. King, World’s Classics (Oxford, 1984)

Everyman and Medieval Miracle Plays, ed. A. C. Cawley, Everyman’s University Library (London, 1956; repr. 1974)

These editions have textual and production notes.


The play date is the Saturday before 1st week in Trinity term: 25th April. Last year, God began Creation at noon, and we ran through till around 5pm, outdoors (though we can provide indoor space for those who might need it), moving around the various quads and spaces of the college and the former church of St Peter in the East, now the college library (map of college



If you’d like to take on a play, or have a copy of a text, please contact:



Last year we had around 100 performers and 300 audience – even on a day which threatened rain…and the sun came out for the Resurrection. The college bar will be open for tea, coffee, and buns. We’re hoping for more incidental music and medieval ambience this time around. Please join in, and make this year even more memorable than the last.