An analysis of dramatic effectiveness in the Passion sequence of the York Corpus Christi cycle



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Critical commentary on medieval drama has largely ignored both the inherent dramatic value of the English Corpus Christi plays as a product of their time and the influence of ritual upon these cyclic dramas. The idea that it is possible to evaluate the cycle plays on the basis of their intrinsic dramatic worth and to work creatively with dramatic structure and still to remain aware of the religious overtones within this structure, has led to the present study. In this study, I propose to analyze the twelve plays of the Passion sequence in the York Corpus Christi cycle as important examples of medieval religious cyclical drama which owe much of their effectiveness to emotional and structural parallels with religious ritual, specifically, with the medieval Mass and Holy Week ceremonies. At the same time, I will analyze the dramatic effectiveness of the York Passion sequence, not only in terms of dramatic technique as it relates to the development of action, conflict, and character, but also in terms of position in a cyclic structure which is both representational and ritualistic, historical and universal. [...]