The mystery plays of medieval England have traditionally been analysed in ways which centre on the texts and their religious significance. Hans-Jurgen Diller's major study, first published in German, seeks to recover their dramatic potential by focusing on the function of language in conventional modes of speech, prayer, address and dialogue. He looks at speech and dramatic form in the plays to reveal new insights concerning spatial and temporal orientation, the expression of emotions, and the relationships between characters on stage, between actor and audience, and between the dramatic world and the ordinary world outside it. His analysis offers new ways of understanding the relationship of vernacular drama to its liturgical antecedents, and new means of distinguishing stylistically between the cycles and between the groups of plays they comprise.
Introduction; Part I. The Foil: Latin Church Drama: 1. Liturgy and drama; 2. Liturgical point of view surrounding the dramatic core dialogue; 3. 'World-containing' situations; 4. The dramatization of narrative sources; Part II. The English Mystery Play: 5. The origins of the Mystery Play and its stage; 6. The representation of time and space in the cycles; 7. Address to the audience; 8. Intra-dramatic speeches; 9. Conclusions; Bibliography.