Date of Award

Spring 1943

Degree Type

Thesis - Restricted

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Material on the early religious and mystery plays of England is abundant, rarely do playwrights, however, discuss the producer of the first English plays. Since the Liturgical plays resulted from the mass, naturally, the first actors were priests, aided by the choir. When the religious plays grew too large for the church and its adjoining property to hold the medieval audience, the play was taken over by another class of actors, the craft guilds. In the hands of the laity, levity in characterization crept in, humor was added, minor characters, those umbilical, became as attractive as those biblical, until finally the church passed legislation forbidding churchmen to participate. This paper concerns itself mainly with the craft plays, a factor which students of dramaturgy pass over lightly. Since the craft guilds were not organized for social advantages obtained through the mystery plays, and the work of the guilds together with their social life is another field of science, that of history or sociology, and not in the field of the dramatist, the producers of the earliest type of English drama were overlooked. My purpose is to bring the two together, to connect and associate the guilds with the only literature existing in English before Chaucer began to write, that of the mystery plays, plays written by the people and produced by them.