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The Erlau Playbook: Five Medieval German Dramas for Christmas and Easter

The five German plays now known as the Erlau Plays (Erlauer Spiele) were originally written and performed in or near the Austrian town of Gmünd in the early fifteenth century. An anonymous redactor later compiled the extant collection that consists of The Play at the Cradle of Christ, The Three Magi, The Visit to the Sepulcher, Mary Magdalene in Joy, and The Jews at the Lord’s Sepulcher. In addition to being noteworthy artistic achievements in their own right, these pieces provide a vivid glimpse at the wide range of poetic, musical, and theatrical techniques available to their creators.  

In these remarkable examples of medieval urban theater, the central events of Christian salvation history play out against the noisy, violent, venal, and often obscene backdrop of everyday life in a fifteenth-century marketplace. The plays demonstrate that the unlikely synthesis of devout piety, absurd humor, grotesque violence, scathing satire, profane sexuality, visual splendor, and musical sophistication — all of which are so characteristic of early German religious drama — is still capable of moving contemporary readers to laughter, empathy, and moral introspection.

A substantial introduction and extensive notes contextualize all five plays and elucidate their dramatic analogues, production values, and textual, musical, liturgical, and iconographic sources.

 

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction
Provenance and Preservation
The Plays in Performance
Texts and Translations
The Play at the Cradle of Christ 
The Play of the Three Magi
The Visit to the Sepulcher on the Night of the Resurrection
The Play of Mary Magdalene in Joy
The Play of the Jews at the Lord’s Sepulcher

Appendices
Bibliography of Works Cited

 

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