The York Corpus Christi Play: Selected Pageants
  • Publication Date: August 22, 2018
  • ISBN: 9781554814299 / 1554814294
  • 360 pages; 5½" x 8½"
Exam Copy

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The York Corpus Christi Play: Selected Pageants

  • Publication Date: August 22, 2018
  • ISBN: 9781554814299 / 1554814294
  • 360 pages; 5½" x 8½"

The York Corpus Christi Play as we know it consists of 47 surviving individual plays or “pageants,” 27 of which are included in this volume. (The whole is always referred to in the singular, following the usage of medieval York itself.) This cycle of plays was produced by the York civic government and its occupational guilds—called “crafts”—and performed annually for nearly 200 years on Corpus Christi day, a mid-summer feast with a movable date that could fall between May 23 and June 24. The York Corpus Christi play is the only extant and complete cycle of plays performed on Corpus Christi day in England throughout the play’s life. The earliest record we have of the York play is from 1376; the last performance until the 20th century was in 1569. Together these 27 plays represent the cycle’s core narrative of creation, fall, and salvation.

In addition to 27 of the pageants, this new edition includes extensive annotation (both marginal glosses and explanatory footnotes), a wide-ranging introduction, and a helpful selection of background contextual materials.


“Fitzgerald has made the York Corpus Christi Play accessible to students in a way that it has never been before. She provides an instructive and incisive overview of the play’s complex performance history, spanning from the fourteenth century to the present day. The pageants’ straightforward introductions and modernized spellings open them up to a broader audience of students who will undoubtedly enjoy analyzing and performing these foundational works of English drama.” — Kimberly Fonzo, The University of Texas at San Antonio

“Christina M. Fitzgerald’s new edition of the York Plays will be a very valuable resource for teachers, students, and performers of early English drama. The volume features a well-chosen, expansive selection of pageants, including several important episodes anthologized for the first time. Combining well-edited texts and judicious annotations with key contemporary documents and images, Fitzgerald’s edition offers a richly explanatory introduction to one of England’s longest-lasting, most culturally significant performance traditions.” — Nicole R. Rice, St. John’s University

“This useful textbook for the undergraduate classroom (or non-specialist) offers essential contextual material, ample footnotes, and adept glossing to assist students in discovering the complexity of the York Cycle. The play selection is intelligent and responsive to current critical trends. In addition, the lucid, up-to-date introduction and pageant notes set the Cycle in the context of urban lay devotion, facilitating deeper understanding of one of the most significant literary and cultural phenomena of the later Middle Ages. No doubt this will become the standard classroom edition.” — Margaret Aziza Pappano, Queen’s University

The York Corpus Christi Play offers students and scholars an outstanding overview of York’s social, economic, and literary past. Lucidly written, it situates the cultural complexity of York’s dramatic productions as both medieval and early modern phenomena. Fitzgerald’s judicious selection of plays maintains the feel for the original cycle, as she routinely edits them with an eye towards detail. She also glosses unfamiliar words and concepts, while providing content-rich headnotes to each play. An invaluable resource, the headnotes provide readers with comprehensive, relevant background information on theme, structure, and context, yet they don’t spoil the plays! This edition makes the York Corpus Christi plays accessible to a wide range of students in both literary studies and theater programs.” — Ann Hubert, St. Lawrence University

“The Broadview Lucifer boasts, ‘I feel me featous and fair’ — here, and throughout this eminently teachable edition, Fitzgerald maintains York’s distinctive rhythm and diction, updating the spelling just enough so that undergraduates at all levels will quickly understand the words’ meaning (with the help of thoughtful glosses) while still feeling the poetry’s rap-battle bombast (and, later, its rich working-class pathos). Throughout, introductory material lays down key fundamentals (form, content, context, performance) for each pageant, providing built-in lecture notes and provocations for close reading. Traditional literary, religious, and archivally-based readings are well-represented here, but sharpened and updated toward use in woke twenty-first-century classrooms (Fitzgerald’s impressive prior scholarship on gender leaves many visible marks). Culminating in an enjoyable multimedia array of contextual materials, this edition is truly featous (elegant, neat, handsome, and cleverly fashioned), and certainly fair (not only pleasing to the eye, but also even-handed in its scholarship and implicit pedagogy).” — Matthew Sergi, University of Toronto, St. George Campus


The York Corpus Christi Play: Selected Pageants

    The Barkers

      Pageant 1: The Creation of the Angels and the Fall of Lucifer

    The Plasterers

      Pageant 2: The Creation

    The Coopers

      Pageant 5: The Fall of Adam and Eve

    The Shipwrights

      Pageant 8: The Building of the Ark

    The Fishers and Mariners

      Pageant 9: The Flood

    The Parchmentmakers and Bookbinders

      Pageant 10: Abraham and Isaac

    The Hosiers

      Pageant 11: Moses and Pharaoh

    The Spicers

      Pageant 12: The Annunciation and Visitation

    The Pewterers and Founders

      Pageant 13: Joseph’s Trouble About Mary

    The Tilethatchers

      Pageant 14: The Nativity

    The Chandlers

      Pageant 15: The Shepherds

    The Masons; The Goldsmiths

      Pageant 16: Herod and the Magi; The Offering of the Magi

    The Girdlers and Nailers

      Pageant 19: The Slaughter of the Innocents

    The Capmakers

      Pageant 24: The Woman Taken in Adultery and the Raising of Lazarus

    The Skinners

      Pageant 25: The Entry into Jerusalem

    The Bowers and Fletchers

      Pageant 29: Christ Before Annas and Caiaphas

    The Tapiters and Couchers

      Pageant 30: The First Trial Before Pilate: The Dream of Pilate’s Wife

    The Litsters

      Pageant 31: The Trial Before Herod

    The Tilemakers

      Pageant 33: The Second Trial Before Pilate: The Judgment

    The Pinners

      Pageant 35: The Crucifixion

    The Butchers

      Pageant 36: The Death of Christ

    The Saddlers

      Pageant 37: The Harrowing of Hell

    The Carpenters

      Pageant 38: The Resurrection

    The Winedrawers

      Pageant 39: Christ’s Appearance to Mary Magdalene

    The Drapers

      Pageant 44: The Death of Mary

    The Weavers

      Pageant 45: The Assumption of Mary

    The Mercers

      Pageant 47: The Last Judgment

In Context

    Four Middle English Crucifixion Poems (c. 1340-1400)

    • “Ye that passen by the way”
    • “Men rent me on rood”
    • “Stand well, Mother, under rood”
    • “I sike when I sing”

    Select Civic and Guild Records

    • From the Mercers’ Pageant Accounts (1462)
    • From the City Chamberlains’ Rolls: Account of Receipts for Station Placement (1462)
    • An Ordinance of the Tanners (1476)
    • From the City Council Minutes: Two Judgments Concerning Pageant Costs (1517)

    Manuscript Images

    • Page from the Tile Thatchers’ Nativity
    • Page from the Girdlers’ and Nailers’ Slaughter of the Innocents
    • Page from the Pinners’ Crucifixion

    Other Images

    • Holkham Bible: Adam and Eve
    • Bedford Hours: Noah Building the Ark
    • Canterbury Psalter: Scenes from Christ’s infancy
    • Holkham Bible: Crucifixion
    • Gough Psalter: The Harrowing of Hell

Christina M. Fitzgerald is a Professor in the English Department at the University of Toledo.