Vernacular drama of the Middle Ages. It developed from the liturgical drama and usually represented a biblical subject. In the 13th century, craft guilds began producing mystery plays at sites removed from the church, adding apocryphal and satirical elements to the dramas. In England groups of 25–50 plays were later organized into lengthy cycles, such as the Chester plays and the Wakefield plays. In England the plays were often performed on moveable pageant wagons, while in France and Italy they were acted on stages with scenery representing heaven, earth, and hell. Technical flourishes such as flying angels and fire-spouting devils kept the spectators' attention. The genre of the mystery play declined by 1600. See also miracle play; morality play.
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