The Mary Play is a beautiful and engaging piece of late medieval stagecraft. It is rich in music and spectacle and is the only English play which deals with Mary's parents and her early life; the only play which centres on a prayer, the Ave Maria; the only play which in its devotional intensity reflects the central concerns of late fifteenth century lay piety. Two recent productions have demonstrated its effectiveness as drama. The Mary Play comes from Norfolk and matches theatrically the elaborate painting, stained glass and carving of that area. The Marian shrine of Walsingham is part of its local context. This edition, a new volume in the series Exeter Medieval Texts and Studies, presents the play as a single entity rather than as a number of pageants in a cycle play. The introduction describes the manuscript, its language, place and staging. There is an extensive commentary which places the play in its intellectual and theatrical contexts, and a complete glossary.
Peter Meredith is Professor of Medieval Drama in the School of English at the University of Leeds. He is currently President of the Société Internationale pour l'Etude du Théâtre Médiévale, a co-editor of Medieval English Theatre and a member of the Executive Board of the Toronto-based research project Records of Early English Drama.
Peter Meredith argues for the existence of a separate Mary Play within the N-town cycle and presents it here together with extensive and valuable commentary.
Medium Ævum, vol. LXVII