Everything Old is New Again: Medieval Drama for High School

Alan Baragona (Virginia Military Institute)
With Special Thanks to Amanda Biviano, Floyd County High School, Floyd, VA

We are in Sherman’s Lagoon. Filmore, the artsy but naive turtle, finds the bespectacled blue fish Ernest typing away with his pectoral fins at a laptop on a rock.

Filmore: “And what’s young Ernest up to this fine day?”
Ernest: “Writing.”
Filmore: “Isn’t that refreshing? A youngster using his brain for creative purposes. These days, we see way too many kids just playing video games. What are you writing? A short story? A poem? A song?”
Ernest: “Computer virus.”

Filmore’s impression that teen fish are turning their brains to mush with perpetual playing of video games is dated. Teenagers today are no longer merely hypnotized by games on computer screens. Seduced by advanced graphics, they may log hours on Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto or Angry Birds, but they may also be the most literate teens in the past sixty years, that is, in the literal sense that they read and write constantly. In the 60s and 70s, adults complained that teenagers no longer read, because they were too busy watching movies and TV. In the 80s and 90s, it was video games that were supposedly killing literacy. But in the 21st century, teens write and read text messages on their cell phones dozens of times a day, as any parent paying the phone bill will attest. On the computer and cell phone both, they e-mail and Instant Message and Tweet, but most of all they read and update their Facebook pages seemingly all the time. They are literate. What they are not is literary.

The distinction hit home for me recently in a sophomore level British Literature survey course on the day we began to discuss Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. My students complained that the text was too difficult. I pointed out that the text was a modern translation and so should be easy to read, but they insisted it was difficult, because there were “too many details.” They meant both descriptive and narrative details, everything the poet put in the work to help readers form a visual picture in their minds of what his characters are doing and where. Instead of paving a road into the story, these details were an impenetrable wall for my students. Chained between the twin pillars of a visual culture in which a picture is worth a thousand words and a computer culture in which expression in words is limited to 140 characters, students have not learned to appreciate the art of word painting and all the effort and detail it requires. Until they do, they cannot learn to appreciate literature.

The medieval literature (perhaps most of the literature) in the typical high school English textbook is exactly the sort that will seem impenetrable to many students. Prentice Hall’s The British Tradition, for example, has Beowulf, the Old English poems “The Seafarer,” “The Wanderer,” and “The Wife’s Lament,” an excerpt from Le Morte d’Arthur, selections from The Canterbury Tales, and the aforementioned stumbling block, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Creative teachers have always come up with innovative ways to pique their classes’ interest in these works, but they will remain inherently difficult for all but the best students. I would like to suggest that one genre of medieval literature that is missing from the textbooks and usually overlooked in high schools (and often in colleges) can help remedy the problem: medieval drama. In fact, several traits of medieval plays make them ideal as a way to introduce students to the appreciation of literature in general, as well as easing them into reading more canonical medieval literature and Renaissance drama.

First, the stripped down nature of medieval scripts can appeal to current students’ minimalist literary sensibilities. Compare this picture of an English winter, taken from the opening of “The Second Shepherds’ Play,” to Chaucer’s dense and lush description of spring in the General Prologue to The Canterbury Tales.

Lord, but these weathers are cold! And I am ill wrapped.
I’m nearly numb, so long have I napped.
My legs give way, my fingers are chapped.
It is not as I would; I am in sorrow lapped.
In storms and tempest,
Now in the east, now in the west,
Woe is him that never has rest
Midday nor morrow.[1]

No-one would suggest that this passage is worth memorizing like Chaucer’s opening for its verbal music. But students will have no trouble understanding its straightforward, transparent simplicity. At the same time, they can be reminded that mystery plays were performed outdoors in warm weather, usually in high summer, which means that this passage is, indeed, an example of word painting to set a scene, just as surely as Chaucer evokes all the sounds and tactile sensations of springtime for his indoor, reading audience, just as surely as Shakespeare uses language to set a scene of night and cold at the Globe, of sunshine and heat at the Blackfriars, or of the fields of Agincourt on the boards of the Renaissance stage. “Think, when we speak of horses, that you see them, / Printing their proud hoofs i’ the receiving earth.”

The second feature that makes especially the mystery plays natural teaching tools is that the students already know (or will think they know) the plots. Since all mystery plays retell selected Bible stories spanning all human history from Creation to Judgment Day, students bring knowledge to the literature that they cannot bring to Beowulf or Chaucer or even Malory. And since the plays often deviate from the Bible in significant ways, students can usually recognize the discrepancies immediately, and they can become points of discussion. Morality plays are all allegorical renderings of the story of human temptation, fall, and redemption, so students’ knowledge of the broad outline of biblical narrative will be helpful there, too. In both cases, they bring significant cultural baggage with them when they read the texts, which will not seem so alien to them.

The third trait that makes medieval plays such a valuable tool to awaken the literary aptitude of a non-literary generation is that all drama is a visual medium of the sort that they are most comfortable with. In the passage above, as in any Shakespeare play, the shepherd Coll would use not only words but costume, props, and gestures to indicate the bitterness of the cold onstage to an audience most likely sweltering in the hot summer sun. As with any drama, the best way to teach the full range of a medieval play’s qualities is through performance. The advantage of a classroom performance of mystery plays and some morality plays is that most are so short. Students can do a staged reading of an entire play, instead of just a few scenes as with a Shakespeare play, and in a modernized version, the language is easier. In some ways, even the original late Middle English or Early Modern English is easier than Shakespeare’s language.

One benefit of a staged reading is that students can appreciate the medieval plays in their own right. For years, the scholarly approach to medieval theater was to treat it all as merely a prelude to and preparation for Shakespeare, evidenced in the title of Joseph Quincy Adams’s 1924 study, Chief Pre-Shakespearean Dramas; A Selection of Plays Illustrating the History of the English Drama from Its Origin Down to Shakespeare. More recently, medievalists have striven to have students take medieval theater on its own terms instead of seeing it as a lower order in the evolutionary process towards Shakespeare Sapiens.[2]

For some years now, the Reader’s Theater, headed by Warren Edminster of Murray State University, has been staging dramatic readings of mysteries and moralities at medieval conferences, followed by discussion of what can be learned from performance. One prime example in my own experience with the Reader’s Theater is a greater understanding of how dramatists like “the Wakefield Master” and “the York Realist” balance rough and tumble comedy with pathos, especially when characters are being comic while also being callous and cruel. This is a feature of the plays that scholars of both medieval drama and Shakespeare have referred to as “the comedy of evil.”[3] On the page, the shifts back and forth between buffoonery and barbarity in the York Realist’s “Crucifixion” and the Wakefield Master’s “Herod the Great” (the story of the Slaughter of the Innocents) can seem abrupt and jarring. In performance, however, the stagecraft becomes clear. When the crucifiers complain about having to work so hard to get the cross upright or Herod’s “knights” bluster about their courage in attacking helpless women and children, the caricature of low class malcontents or braggart soldiers makes evil ridiculous, a reflection of the medieval notion that sin itself is irrational and therefore absurd. But how to move then to the pitiable suffering of Christ or the heart-rending laments of the mothers of slaughtered infants is a problem, especially when the shift happens several times in a short space. The solution turns out to be in the dramatists’ timing. Especially in “Herod the Great,” the Wakefield Master makes pathetic speeches of the victims just long enough that, by the time we are halfway through a mother’s lament, we are no longer thinking about the absurd blustering of the soldiers but are concentrating on their murderous results. The speeches function like a spotlight that momentarily eclipses the braggart soldiers, and the audience is aware only of the mother’s pain. And when the abrupt shift back to the comedy of evil occurs, the disruption of mood makes the slaughterers seem even more hateful, even if they are ridiculous. If those speeches are performed seriously, they can become as affecting and absorbing as anything in Shakespeare. These playwrights were not masters of verse, but they understood dramatic stagecraft.

At the same time that students can learn to admire medieval playwrights for their own strengths, however, it will already be clear that such an understanding does, in fact, prepare students to appreciate the similar mixture of comedy and tragedy in Shakespeare. In fact, it is highly likely that Shakespeare and his contemporaries would have first been exposed to such popular drama that violated the Aristotelian unities in this way in the performances of mystery plays and moralities that persisted into the 16th century.
Not only such stagecraft but perennial themes can be introduced to students through medieval drama. An obvious one is class warfare. Immediately after complaining of the cold in “The Second Shepherds’ Play,” the peasant Coll complains about his poverty and lays the blame squarely on the aristocracy:

But we silly shepherds that walk on the moor,
In faith, we are nearly turned out of the door;
Our harsh lords oppress us and keep us poor.
Whatever we do, they always want more.
Thus they hold us under,
They bring us in blunder—
It would be a great wonder
If ever we should thrive.[4]

Some fifty years earlier or more, Chaucer had already depicted the peasant class of the Third Estate at odds with the nobles of the Second in his Miller, who will not doff his hood for any man of higher degree, and in his Reeve, who seems to outsmart and steal from his 20-year-old lord. Chaucer’s Estates Satire and his treatment of class are far more complex than in these later plays, but that is exactly why the plays can serve as a way to ease students into considering the issue in a medieval context. Are the country playwrights on the side of the peasants, or are they clerics subtly scolding their audience for complaining about the state God has ordained for them? Is the middle-class Chaucer defending his noble patrons in damning the upstart peasants or subversively identifying with a class that has more in common with him than his employers do?

Domestic issues are also represented in the plays. Any version of “The Fall of Adam” can be a good introduction to discussion of antifeminism, as well as laying the groundwork for teaching Paradise Lost in both the treatment of Eve and the depiction of Satan. The Towneley (a.k.a. the Wakefield) “Noah” is an especially hilarious and, for students, surprisingly irreverent treatment of the biblical figure of Noah and “The Battle of the Sexes.” Since the central action is a comic wrestling match between Noah and his wife (in which she ends up sitting on top of the defeated prophet), the play can prepare students to deal with the themes of sovereignty in marriage and spousal abuse in Chaucer’s “Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale” and “The Miller’s Tale” (as well as in the Shakespeare play commonly in senior English textbooks, Macbeth).

The plays of Adam, of Cain and Abel, and of Noah, as well as any morality play, can also be vehicles to introduce students to that medieval blend of theme and technique usually called “typology.” The most predominant way in which medieval thinkers understood the sometimes contradictory relationship between the teachings of the Old Testament and the doctrines of the New was to see the Old Testament stories and characters as “types” or “prefigurations” of Christ and other New Testament figures.[5] The assumption here is that Jehovah is the true author of both books, dictating to the humans who merely recorded God’s words. Thus, the Jewish writers of the Old Testament embedded Christian messages in a kind of code they themselves could not understand. For example, any sacrificial character can anticipate or “prefigure” Christ. So can any character who saves others. Thus, Abel and Isaac are types of Christ as sacrificial lambs, and Noah is a type of Christ as a savior. Typology can work backwards and by contrast, too. Christ and the Virgin Mary are the perfected forms of man and woman, what Adam and Eve could have been if they had not fallen. Consequently, they are often referred to as the New Adam and the New Eve respectively. And a single figure can look both ways. Samson is a type of Adam in that he fell to the temptation of a woman, but he is a prefiguration of Christ in that he saved his people through self-sacrifice. Similarly, Noah as savior of humankind prefigures Christ, the New Adam, but extra-biblical tradition makes him a hen-pecked husband, a type of the Old Adam. The morality plays give a clear depiction of another aspect of this allegory, the personification of the Seven Deadly Sins and the Seven Virtues which counter them. Together, typology and allegory are keys to the perceptions of history and morality in the medieval world and so can be used as keys to unlocking medieval art.

“Exegesis” is the term for interpreting a story by looking for the typology that the writers supposedly employed. While this type of reading was conceived primarily as a way to reconcile the two books of the Bible, Dante famously wrote in his “Letter to Can Grande” that he shaped his Divine Comedy so that readers could interpret it as they had been taught to interpret Scripture, and many scholars since D.W. Robertson[6] have argued that almost all serious literature of the Middle Ages would have been written and read according to the same method. While the application of this “exegetical” or allegorical mindset to secular works is still controversial, there is no question that such typology is at work in the mystery plays, which retell stories from the Bible, and morality plays, which are straightforward allegories, especially since both types of plays were certainly written by clerics trained to think in this way and inclined to educate their audience to do the same.

As complex as this can seem to students at first, it actually gives them a methodology that can feel tangible and objective in comparison to their usual impression of literary interpretation as fuzzy and subjective. It gives them an analytical tool they can use until they develop the instincts to appreciate complexity more viscerally. Furthermore, introducing students to typology through the plays can allow teachers to raise the question of whether this literary technique is at work in subtler, and sometimes much older, texts, such as those in a standard textbook: Beowulf, The Canterbury Tales, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur.

For example, The Towneley “Killing of Abel” will show students a Cain who suffers not only from envy and wrath towards his brother, as in Genesis, but also greed and gluttony. He wishes to hold back the best of his grain from his sacrifice, and it is this selfishness, and not the grain itself, which is unacceptable to God (a message aimed at local farmers—they are not inferior to shepherds in God’s eyes, but they had better tithe). With this multifaceted Cain in mind, when students come to Beowulf, they can see a deeper connection between Grendel and his ancestor. Grendel’s envy of the Danes’ “joy of the hall” and his violent reaction to it marks him as a descendent of the first kin murderer from the Bible; his cannibalistic gluttony links him to the Cain of the medieval popular tradition. The fact that, before Beowulf fights Grendel, he has a verbal duel with Unferth, who killed his own brother and is now angry, drunk, and envious of Beowulf, reinforces the pattern of the Seven Deadly Sins in the poem. The Beowulf-Poet adds sloth to the sins of the cowardly Unferth, whom Beowulf scorns for not having dealt with Grendel himself. The Dragon in the second half of the poem, spurred to wrath by his greed for a golden cup stolen from his hoard, is also a traditional symbol of the Devil himself, whose chief sin is pride. Thus, all the Seven Deadly Sins but lust are represented, and the main interpretive question for students to consider is whether Beowulf represents a cure for those sins or suffers from them himself. This intricate web of moral allegory is triggered by the connection to the story of Cain as reshaped in the popular imagination and expressed 700 years after Beowulf in the drama.

The connection between medieval drama and Chaucer is even stronger, because the plays are contemporary with him, even though the surviving texts date from the 1400s. When Chaucer says in “The Miller’s Prologue” that the drunken Miller speaks “In Pilate’s voice,”[7] his readers would have pictured the Ranting Heathen of the mysteries rather than the rather cool and detached Pilate of the Bible. Furthermore, the references to Noah’s Flood in “The Miller’s Tale” can invite students who have read the Towneley “Noah” to see the Biblical story as a motif that is important to the various parts of the tale. John the Carpenter, spurred by a false prophecy, makes a degraded Ark in the form of a barn with kneading tubs hanging from a ceiling. The fact that he is an old man with a troublesome wife strengthens the connection to the theatrical Noah, even if the marital problems are quite different. More importantly, John is a false Noah, because he is no savior. Rather, he is looking forward to being king of the world after the Flood, so he is no prefiguration of Christ, the New Adam. However, as a man with wife troubles of his own making, John shares that other facet of the dramatic Noah: he is a type of the Old Adam. In fact, “The Miller’s Tale” combines a degenerate Noah story with a reiteration of the Fall of Man, with the tempter split into Nicholas, the boarder in John’s home, as the Serpent in Eden, and Absolon, named for a beautiful, long-haired son who rebels against his father out of pride, an echo of Lucifer. Students who have read mystery plays about both the Fall and Noah will see these connections more easily, and it can, for example, give greater depth to a discussion of why the Miller’s Alisoun, unlike Eve, is not punished along with the sinful men.[8]

Familiarity with medieval drama can also be helpful with the Arthurian works often included in high school textbooks. Malory, in his Le Morte d’Arthur, follows his sources in playing with the Old Adam/New Adam parallel. Arthur is another character who points in both directions, a savior figure with a bad marriage. That connection becomes stronger with the introduction of Galahad, who begins his career as a knight of the Round Table by pulling a sword from a stone, as Arthur did. Galahad is doubly a New Adam, in fact, because he also replaces his flawed father, Lancelot, another great man brought down by his lust, as the greatest knight in the world. Malory emphasizes that, just as Adam could have been a perfect man like Christ, Lancelot could have been Galahad (his name as a boy was even “Galahad”), could have been the Grail Knight, if he had not fallen as Adam had.

As for the problematical Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, many of these themes and allegorical techniques illustrated in the medieval plays show up again, but that may not be the chief value of the plays to the poem. Learning from the drama that the use of parallels is a medieval habit of mind might be more significant. If students are able to read several short plays, especially those in a cycle like York or Chester, and see the deliberate parallels between them, they will be better able to appreciate the intricate use of parallels in Sir Gawain. Instead of balking at the details of the hunting scenes that don’t seem to advance the plot, they will be able to see their value as deliberate, symbolic parallels to the seduction scenes, perhaps even before the teacher points it out.

Whether a teacher will be able to incorporate medieval drama into a curriculum will depend, of course, on the degree of flexibility allowed by the school system. If a teacher does have the latitude to add some plays to the syllabus, this could be done a number of ways. One could do it out of chronological order, as I’ve suggested here, to give students practice recognizing themes and techniques in relatively simple works before tackling the “monuments.” Or the plays could be inserted chronologically for a transition from medieval drama to Renaissance drama. In a syllabus based on genre, a unit on drama could similarly use medieval theater to connect Classical and Renaissance drama. Alternatively, the themes of the plays are so deeply embedded in Western culture that they could fit almost any thematic structure one could conceive.

All that remains is figuring out how to supplement the standard textbooks with medieval play texts. Again, this assumes that teachers are allowed to choose their own supplementary texts. Since the best of the mystery plays are commonly held to be those by the Wakefield Master, students could use the modernization by Martial Rose, The Wakefield Mystery Plays. Rose made his edition when it was still thought that the plays in the Towneley Manuscript were an actual cycle, all associated with the small town of Wakefield. In recent years, scholars using the research done for the Records of Early English Drama (REED) project have determined that Towneley is not a true cycle of plays performed together at one time but an anthology of disparate local plays collected to imitate the cycles of nearby York and Chester (which explains why there is a second Shepherds play).[9] However, several of the plays are certainly associated with Wakefield, and it is likely that most, if not all, of those, were written by the same person, so “Wakefield Master” is a legitimate term.[10] Since it is likely that a high school class will have time to read only selections, anyway, this book is a good choice for “The Creation” (which includes the Fall), “The Killing of Abel,” “Noah,” “Herod the Great,” and especially “The Second Shepherds’ Play.”

If buying an extra textbook is a problem, many plays are available, usually in modernized form, free online. Karen Saupe of Calvin College has put up a “modernized and modified” version of “The Second Shepherds’ Play.” The Harvard Chaucer web site has two Towneley plays in Middle English but heavily annotated, “The Play of Noah” and “Herod the Great.”
The edition is a public domain text from the 19th century, however, rather than the more standard edition by A.C. Cawley.

If there is the time and inclination to read a real cycle in its entirety, the REED resources page (http://www.reed.utoronto.ca/stage.html) provides texts of The York Plays, modernized by Chester Scoville and Kimberley Yates; The Chester Plays, modernized by David Mills and adapted by Alexandra Johnston and Linda Phillips; and The N-Town Plays, modernized by Alexandra Johnston and Stanley Kahrl.

There are many affordable printed editions of morality plays such as Everyman and the even more representative (and theatrical) Mankind and The Castle of Perseverance. These are usually not translated, but the language tends to be fairly easy. The REED site has a modernized version of Castle by Alexandra Johnston. Everyman can be found several places online, including at Fordham University’s Medieval Sourcebook. Rick McDonald of Utah Valley State College has provided a double column edition of Mankind with an e-text of the Middle English from the University of Maine’s Gerard NeCastro on the left and his translation in the right. (See the Bibliography below for specific URLs of all the web sites in the previous two paragraphs.)

Back in Sherman’s Lagoon, Ernest’s virus has brought down the Internet. Sherman, a not very bright shark, approaches Ernest:

Sherman: Ernest, you’re back at your computer.
Ernest: Yep. I’m eliminating the virus I created. Soon we’ll all be able to use the Internet again.
Sherman: Being without the Net has made me realize how utterly dependent on technology we’ve all become.
Ernest: There’s a ferret tickling a cat on YouTube.
Sherman: Yes! Civilization is back, baby!

Whether literature will ever again be able to compete with a ferret tickling a cat, much less with Facebook and Twitter, for the attention of most teenagers remains an open question. But students can still get excited by literature, even very old literature, and some of the oldest Western drama can help make it seem new again.


Benson, Larry. The Riverside Chaucer, 3rd ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1987.

Bevington, David. Medieval Drama. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin Co., 1975.

Davidson, Clifford, C.J. Gianakaris, and John H. Stroupe, eds. The Drama of the Middle Ages: Comparative and Critical Essays. New York, N.Y.: AMS Press, 1982.

Davidson, Clifford, and John H. Stroupe, eds. Iconographic and Comparative Studies in Medieval Drama. Kalamazoo, Mich.: Medieval Institute Publications, Western Michigan University, 1991.

Edminster, Warren. The Preaching Fox: Festive Subversion in the Plays of the Wakefield Master. Routledge, 2005.

Epp, Garrett P. J. “The Towneley Plays, or, The Hazards of Cycling.” Research Opportunities in Renaissance Drama 32 (1993), 121-150.

—. “Towneley: Recycled Plays.” January 8, 2002. http://www.ualberta.ca/~gepp/towneley/TowneleyRP.html.

Halsall, Paul, ed. “Medieval Sourcebook: Everyman, 15th Century.” August, 1998. http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/everyman.html.

Huppé, Bernard F. and D.W. Robertson, Jr. A Reading of the Canterbury Tales. New York: SUNY Press, 1964.

—. Fruyt and Chaf: Studies in Chaucer’s Allegories. Princeton: Princeton U. Press, 1963.

Johnston, Alexandra F., ed. “The Castle of Perseverance: A Modernization, Based on an Acting Edition Prepared by David M. Parry.” 1999. http://homes.chass.utoronto.ca/~ajohnsto/cascomp.html.

Johnston, Alexandra F., ed., assisted by Linda Phillips. “The Chester Plays: Adapted as an Acting Text from the Modernised Version by David Mills.” 2010. http://www.reed.utoronto.ca/chester/index.html.

Johnston, Alexandra F., and Stanley J. Kahrl, eds. “The N-Town Plays: A Modernization.” 1999. http://homes.chass.utoronto.ca/~ajohnsto/frntmt.html.

Olson, Paul A. “Poetic Justice in the Miller’s Tale.” Modern Language Quarterly, 1963: 227-36.

Palmer, Barbara D. “Recycling ‘The Wakefield Cycle’: The Records.” Research Opportunities in Renaissance Drama 41 (2002), 88-130.

—. “‘Towneley Plays’ or ‘Wakefield Cycle’ Revisited.” Comparative Drama. 21 (4) Winter 1987-1988: 318-48.

Robertson, D.W. A Preface to Chaucer: Studies in Medieval Perspectives. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1962.

Rose, Martial. The Wakefield Mystery Plays. New York: W.W. Norton 1969.

Saupe, Karen. “The Wakefield Second Shepherds’ Play, Modernized and Modified.” November 1998. http://www.calvin.edu/academic/engl/215/ssp.htm

Scoville, Chester N., and Kimberley M. Yates . The York Plays: A Modernization. 2003. http://www.reed.utoronto.ca/yorkplays/york.html.

Spivack, Charlotte. The Comedy of Evil on Shakespeare’s Stage. Rutherford, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1978.

“The Townley [sic] (Wakefield) Mystery Plays: Herod the Great.” May, 12, 2000. http://www.courses.fas.harvard.edu/~chaucer/special/litsubs/drama/noah.html; rptd. From
George England and Alfred W. Pollard, eds. The Towneley Plays. EETS, e.s. 71. London, 1897.

“The Townley [sic] (Wakefield) Mystery Plays: The Play of Noah.” July 3, 2006. http://www.courses.fas.harvard.edu/~chaucer/special/litsubs/drama/noah.html; rptd. From
George England and Alfred W. Pollard, eds. The Towneley Plays. EETS, e.s. 71. London, 1897.


[1] Karen Saupe, “The Wakefield Second Shepherds’ Play, Modernized and Modified,” November 1998. http://www.calvin.edu/academic/engl/215/ssp.htm

[2] For example, Clifford Davidson and John H. Stroupe, eds., Iconographic and Comparative Studies in Medieval Drama (Kalamazoo, Mich.: Medieval Institute Publications, Western Michigan University, 1991), passim.

[3] For example, David Bevington, Medieval Drama (Boston: Houghton-Mifflin Co., 1975), 240-41 and 274-75, and Charlotte Spivack, The Comedy of Evil on Shakespeare’s Stage (Rutherford, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1978), passim.

[4] Karen Saupe, “The Wakefield Second Shepherds’ Play, Modernized and Modified,” November 1998. http://www.calvin.edu/academic/engl/215/ssp.htm

[5] Bernard F. Huppé and D.W. Robertson, Jr., A Reading of the Canterbury Tales. (New York: SUNY Press, 1964), passim; and Bernard F. Huppé and D.W. Robertson, Jr., Fruyt and Chaf: Studies in Chaucer’s Allegories (Princeton: Princeton U. Press, 1963), passim.

[6] D.W. Robertson, A Preface to Chaucer: Studies in Medieval Perspectives. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1962), passim.

[7] Larry Benson, The Riverside Chaucer, 3rd ed. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1987), 67, l. 3124.

[8] Paul A. Olson, “Poetic Justice in the Miller’s Tale,” Modern Language Quarterly (1963): 227-236.

[9] See Barbara D. Palmer, “Recycling ‘The Wakefield Cycle’: The Records,” Research Opportunities in Renaissance Drama 41 (2002), 88-130; Barbara D. Palmer, “‘Towneley Plays’ or ‘Wakefield Cycle’ Revisited,” Comparative Drama. 21 (4) Winter 1987- 1988: 318-48; Garrett P. J. Epp, “The Towneley Plays, or, The Hazards of Cycling,” Research Opportunities in Renaissance Drama 32 (1993), 121-150; and Garrett P. J. Epp, “Towneley: Recycled Plays.” January 8, 2002, http://www.ualberta.ca/~gepp/towneley/TowneleyRP.html.

[10] Warren Edminster, The Preaching Fox: Festive Subversion in the Plays of the Wakefield Master (Routledge, 2005), passim.


Alan Baragona is a professor of English and Fine Arts at the Virginia Military Institute. He specializes in Chaucer, Arthurian Legend, and medieval drama. He is the webmaster of the Arthuriana Pedagogy Page (http://www.arthuriana.org/teaching/index.html), is a charter member of the group that created The Chaucer MetaPage (http://englishcomplit.unc.edu/chaucer/), and maintains a web page for his medieval drama course (http://www.vmi.edu/fswebs.aspx?tid=34099&id=34581). He also teaches History of the English Language, Baseball Literature, and seminars in Hamlet and The Taming of the Shrew. He has written numerous articles, often focusing on pedagogy for medieval literature, including “Chaucer in American Higher Education, Past and Present” for Oxford University Press’s companion web page to Chaucer: An Oxford Guide; the entry for Chaucer in The Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers; “The Emmaus Plays (Peregrini)” for the CD-ROM Pilgrims and Pilgrimage: Journey, Spirituality & Daily Life through the Centuries; and “Liturgical Drama” for the DVD-ROM The English Parish Church through the Centuries: Daily Life & Spirituality, Art & Architecture, Literature & Music.

Original Citation:  The Once and Future Classroom, Volume IX, Issue 1, Spring 2011  http://www.teamsmedieval.org/ofc/SP09/Spring2011Drama.html

NOTE: Links have been corrected and/or deleted.  The original “look and feel”  of the journal has been preserved as much as possible, but the original logos have also been removed.  No editing to the actual texts has been done since their original publication.

TEAMS: Teaching Association for Medieval Studies