THe Shepherd's Play

Study Questions on The Shepherds' Play:

 1.  What is a "Mystery play"?

2.  What is the image of "the lamb"?  What does the gift-giving suggest in the end of the play?

3.  The Second Shepherds' Play has two parts: the first climaxes in the discovery of the stolen sheep in the cradle; the second, in the adoration of the Christ child in the manger.  Discuss the relationship between these two scenes. 

4.  Which of the following interpretations of Mak's character are best supported by the play? Why?

a.       Mak is the devil, an agent of evil who appears in disguise and uses the arts of magic to deceive the good shepherds.

b.       Mak is Falstaff, a merry rogue who plays tricks on his unsuspecting fellows.

c.       Mak represents unredeemed man, a sinner, who promises to reform and, by the grace of the shepherds, escapes serious punishments.

d.       Mak represents Joseph, husband of Mary and foster parent of a miraculous child.

e.       Mak is a criminal who represents a threat to society and must be expelled.

5.  How does the playwright use humor in The Second Shepherds' Play?

6.  The Second Shepherds' Play contains many anachronistic references to events that had not occurred by the historical time of Christ's nativity. Among these anachronisms are the numerous oaths using the names of Christ and Mary, the allusions to England (which did not exist as a nation at the time of Christ), and the references to the feudal system, which did not come into being until the Middle Ages. Discuss the effect of these anachronisms in the play.

7.  The Second Shepherds' Play opens with a series of three complaints delivered by the shepherds and close with the shepherds singing together in celebration of Christ's birth. Contrast these two scenes.

 

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