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date: 20 January 2020

York playslocked

  • Richard Rastall
  •  and David Klausner


One of the four principal sequences of medieval English biblical plays. The York cycle survives in the city’s official copy (GB-Lbl Add.35290). The manuscript was copied some time in the period 1463–77, and additions and annotations were made up to the mid-16th century; it apparently represents a mid-15th-century revision of the cycle’s 47 plays (a further three were never entered). The plays were enacted on wagons in the city streets up until the final performance some time in the period 1569–75.

Vocal music is required by 30 or more cues spread rather unevenly through the plays. Its main purpose is to represent heaven and, by extension, God’s heavenly messengers and earthly agents. A second function of the music is structural, marking entrances, exits and the transition from one scene to another. Where text incipits occur, they can usually be identified as liturgical items, presumably intended to be sung to chant....

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London, British Library
Music Analysis
Proceedings of the Royal Musical Association
The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians