The Chester Plays

Adapted as an acting text by
Alexandra Johnston, assisted by Linda Phillips (2010),
from the modernised version by David Mills

Copyright © Alexandra Johnston, Toronto, 2010



The acting text presented here was created for the performance of the Chester Plays in Toronto, May 22-24, 2010. The base text that was used with Professor David Mills' full permission and collaboration was David Mills, ed., The Chester Mystery Cycle: A New Edition with Modernised Spelling (East Lansing, Colleagues Press, (1992)). In its turn, the modernised spelling version was based on Robert Lumiansky and David Mills, eds., The Chester Mystery Cycle Early English Text Society (volume one S.S.3 (1974) and volume two S.S. 9 (1986)). I am particularly grateful to Professor Mills for his carefully researched paraphrases of some of the more obscure passages that appear in the notes to the modernised version. These greatly assisted me as I created the acting text.

In 1572, an Evangelical minister in Chester, Christopher Goodman, tried to stop the production of the Chester Plays planned for that year by the Chester city council. He appealed to the earl of Huntington, the president of the Council of the North and the archbishop of York, the president of the Ecclesiastical Commission of the North to forbid the production. They did write to the authorities in Chester forbidding the production but the city council appealed to the earl of Derby who gave his permission and the plays were performed. After the production, Goodman wrote to the archbishop with a list of what were to him 'absurdities' in the production. Copies of this hitherto unknown correspondence was discovered by Professor Mills and is published in Elizabeth Baldwin, Lawrence M. Clopper and David Mills, eds., Cheshire including Chester, Records of Early English Drama (Toronto, University of Toronto Press (2007)) pp 143-148. The acting text is an attempt to recreate the performance of the Chester Play in 1572 based on the list of 'absurdities'. A detailed description of the process of creating the text is forthcoming in the publication of the proceedings of the colloquium that accompanied the performance in May 2010.


The Plays

  1. The Fall of Lucifer

  2. Adam and Eve

  3. Cain and Abel

  4. Noah's Flood; Abraham and Melchysedeck; the Promise of Isaac

  5. The Sacrifice of Isaac; Moses and the Law

  6. Balaam and Balaack

  7. Prophets and Annunciation

  8. Octavian and the Nativity

  9. The Shepherds

  10. The Kings and Herod; the Adoration of the Magi; the Slaughter of the Innocents

  11. The Purification and Christ and the Doctors

  12. The Temptation; the Woman Taken in Adultery; the Healing of the Blind Man

  13. Lazarus; Simon the Leper; Entry; Judas' Plot

  14. The Last Supper; Betrayal

  15. Trial and Flagellation; Crucifixion

  16. The Harrowing of Hell

  17. The Resurrection

  18. The Road to Emmaus

  19. The Ascension

  20. Pentecost

  21. The Prophets of Antichrist

  22. Antichrist

  23. The Last Judgment