Mary Magdalen BL Stowe 12, f.276v

The Marys of Medieval Drama

“The Marys of Medieval Drama” contains modern translations of plays performed during the late Middle Ages in England about the lives of the Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene

The Middle English Digby and N-town in Translation
By Colleen E. Donnelly
Sidestone Press 2016
ISBN: 9789088903670


Marys of Medieval drama CoverMary Magdalene and the Virgin Mary continue to intrigue and fascinate us to this day. Their appearances in the Bible are brief, piquing our curiosity and compelling speculation about the unknown years of their lives. This volume contains modern translations of plays performed during the late Middle Ages in England about the lives of the Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene. These plays provide a link between canonical Scripture, apocryphal and gnostic materials from the first centuries of Christianity that survived secreted or in oral tradition, legendary materials that developed over the ensuing centuries, and contemporary medieval religious belief and practices.

Materials from the N-Town Mary and other plays contain episodes about the childhood of the Virgin, her betrothal and marriage to Joseph, and her time after the death of Christ. The Digby Mary Magdalene begins with an account of the death of Mary Magdalene’s father’s death, her subsequent fall into promiscuity, her redemption, her journey to convert Marseille and thus christianize France, her later years as a hermit and her death. These plays illustrate one way in which Biblical materials were available to lay people before the printing of the Bible. Reading these plays of the Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene from the late Middle Ages increases our understanding of the history of the Marian and Magdalene traditions practiced in earlier centuries, as well as our understanding of what these women have come to represent today, shedding light on how their images have shaped the roles for women in the Church.


Colleen Donnelly is an associate professor at the University of Colorado at Denver. She received her Ph.D. From the University of Washington. She previously published Linguistics for Writers (SUNY UP) and has published articles primarily on medieval literature and medieval women, Biblical and gnostic influences on later literature, as well as Faulkner, Barthes, and Milton.

She teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in medieval literature and modernism and engages in research on women writers and female representations in medieval literature and mental disorders and trauma in the Irish novel, modern literature, and media.

The book is available in print or as a free download


Mary Magdalen from: Breviary, Use of Sarum with Norwich variants (‘The Stowe Breviary’), British Library Stowe 12, f.276v



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