Devils and Disguises:The Medieval Drama of East Anglia
with Dr Kate Jewell, (Independent Scholar)
at Sutton Hoo, Saturday, 7th November, 2015.


This day school explores the vibrant drama of the medieval period.  Starting with the Mystery Cycles of the northern cities, we will then focus on the drama of East Anglia- both of which are fascinating and spectacular. We will examine scripts of some surviving plays as well as considering their practical side- costuming, finance, staging and special effects. We will also discuss how drama was an important community event.

Provisional Programme

09.50 – 10.15:                Coffee on arrival

10.15 – 11.15:                Introduction- Early Drama and the Mysteries –

The opening session examines the early religious drama of the middle ages before going on to explore the most famous plays of the time- the Mystery Cycles. We will consider the practicalities and performance of these plays as well as discussing their religious and commercial impact.

11.15 – 11.40:                Coffee break

11.40 – 12.40:                East Anglian Entertainers- Minstrels, Mummers and Disguisings – Drama in the middle ages took many forms and the second session explores types of popular entertainment which took an element of performance. We will also discuss how ordinary folk used these entertainments to protest against injustice and to make sophisticated social commentary.

12.40 – 14.00:                Lunch break

14.00 – 14.50:                 East Anglian Plays – More than half of surviving English medieval playtexts have East Anglian provenance. These plays are very different to the Mystery Cycles but, in many ways, are more spectacular and exciting. The third session considers three of these plays- the scripts, performance, stage effects and costumes as well as what makes them particularly East Anglian.

14.50 – 15.10:               Tea break

15.10 – 16.00:                Drama and Suffolk Communities – Our final session explores the role drama had to play within the medieval communities of Suffolk. Using original records, we shall discuss the times of year when drama was performed, how a community staged a play, the performance venues and who the actors may have been.

c.16.00:                            Thanks and Close

About Dr Kate Jewell

Kate Jewell was recently awarded a PhD in the festive culture of medieval Suffolk. Her MA thesis was focused on the performance of medieval plays in the area around Bury St Edmunds. An experienced teacher, Kate works currently as a tutor for the Suffolk Records Office and WEA.

Some Suggestions for Optional Background Reading

Beadle, Richard and Alan J. Fletcher eds. The Cambridge Companion to Medieval English Theatre, (Cambridge: CUP, 2008)

Beadle, Richard and Pamela M. King eds. York Mystery Plays: A Selection in Modern Spelling, (Oxford: OUP, 1995)

Bruster, Douglas and Eric Rasmussen eds. Everyman and Mankind, Arden Early Modern Drama, (London: Methuen, 2009)

Davidson, Clifford, Festivals and Plays in Late Medieval England, (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2008)

Gibson, Gail McMurray, The Theater of Devotion: East Anglian Drama and Society in the Late Middle Ages, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989)

Humphrey, Chris, The Politics of Carnival: Festive Misrule in Medieval England, (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2001)

Hutton, Ronald, The Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain, (Oxford: OUP, 1996)

Northeast, Peter ed. Boxford Churchwardens’ Accounts: 1530-1561, Suffolk Records Society 23, (Woodbridge: Boydell, 1982)

Rigold, S.E., “The St Nicholas or Boy Bishop Tokens”, Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and History, 34 (1978), pp.87-101

Southworth, John, The English Medieval Minstrel, (Woodbridge: Boydell, 1989)

Whale, Kathleen, “The Wenhaston Doom: A Biography of a Sixteenth-Century Panel Painting”, Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and History 39:3 (1999), pp. 299-316

REED: Centre for Research into Early English Drama