The Chester Cycle in Context breaks new ground in relation to the Chester plays
and will reinvigorate research on the cycle.
In the Chester plays
, for instance, after the initial pledge to contribute towards its construction when she offers to bring some timber:
40) Research has shown the surviving texts to have been the result of extensive revision and addition in the first half of the sixteenth century, and, since the cycle continued to be performed until 1575, one author was prompted to describe the extant Chester plays
as a Tudor cycle.
Most obviously, it is the first comprehensive classroom anthology finally to do away with the artificial play cycle, in which individual episodes from the York, Towneley, N-Town, and Chester plays
are spliced together to create the illusion of a lost ur-text: a practice that was standard in such anthologies at least since Adams's Chief Pre-Shakespearean Dramas (1924).
In this paper I explore the material circumstances surrounding this last performance of the Chester plays
to suggest that during the course of the sixteenth century the town's civic identity changed in more drastic ways than have been indicated before.
Rather than focusing on the Chester plays
as significant phenomena in themselves, Mills places them within the physical city and its political and ceremonial concerns.
In 1572 Christopher Goodman complained that the purpose of the Chester plays
was 'to retain that place in assured ignorance & superstition according to the Popish policy'.
Apart from the chance to compete in internal club tournaments, Chester plays
in the North West Federation League against some of the 13 other clubs in the region.
The miracles this Antichrist performed never seemed more than stage tricks as they were carried out with theatrical aplomb, yet they managed to echo in parodic ways those Jesus undertook in other Chester plays
29) In general, then, Messengers in the Chester plays
function in roles related to presentation, introducing a new scene, focusing the audience's attention, and transitioning between scenes, while Expositors fulfill an interpretative role, explaining the content of the play and the lesson that the audience is supposed to understand from it; both speak directly to the audience, with notable politeness, and both pray for 'us', meaning, presumably, humankind, the larger group to which both actors and audience belong, although the prayers of the Expositors tend to be more extensive.
Although these activities brought them closer to men's engagement in Chester's civic affairs, Wack also shows us how two sixteenth-century interpolated scenes in the Chester plays
of Noah and the Harrowing of Hell, which earlier critics believed were no more than clumsy comic intrusions, were instead caused by or at least reflected new civic laws designed to restrict women's work in the trades of alewives and tapsters that were formerly theirs by tradition.
Other stage directions in the Chester Plays
(11) and The Conversion of Saint Paul (12) make similar requirements but do not determine from whose perspective the disappearance occurs.
The Chester Plays
at Chester: Some Stray Thoughts on Chester 1983', English Medieval Theatre 5 (1983), 42-4.
Hill-Vasquez uses a recursive approach by starting at the end of the period of Middle English religious drama with the Chester play
cycle, and then moving through earlier medieval plays such as the Digby Conversion of Saint Paul, the fifteenth-century Croxton Play of the Sacrament, the York mystery cycle, and the Digby plays Candlemas Day and The Killing of the Children.
The angelA scene from one of the Mystery Plays showing the has a sprig of laurel in her right hand and the Book of Knowledge in her left' The Last Supper in a Chester play
from the mid-60s' The devil tempts Eve with an apple in the Garden of Eden