Mystery plays (from the Latin “misterium” meaning “occupation”) and miracle plays (sometimes distinguished as two different forms, although the terms are often used interchangeably) are among the earliest formally developed plays in medieval Europe. Medieval mystery plays focused on the representation of Bible stories in churches as tableaux with accompanying antiphonal song. They developed from the 10th to the 16th century, reaching the height of their popularity in the 15th century before being rendered obsolete by the rise of professional theatre. The name derives from mystery used in its sense of miracle, but an occasionally quoted derivation is from ministerium, meaning craft, and so the ‘mysteries’ or plays performed by the craft guilds.
See Medieval Drama.
Last updated by