The medieval drama was from religious ceremonies of Catholic Church. One of the reasons is that medieval people have higher abilities to comprehend drama, and because the Church wants to strengthen the effect of preach, the Church believes that drama is a good way to deliver sermons. In order to deliver sermons, the Church performed Bible stories. But the performance was inserted in the formal religious rites. The Church believes that if their followers see the performance, they will know more about the doctrines. Besides, in middle ages people don¡¦t have very proper entertainment, so the performance of drama can also entertain them. Gradually, the followers were more interested in plays, so the Church expanded these plays. But it takes a lot of money to do this, so the Church asked some merchants to support the funds. Thus, the merchants have more power to lead the plays. In religious plays the elements of entertainment were more and more for the sake of those merchants¡¦ favor, even though they are from the Bible, there are some plots including comedies.
During tenth and twelfth centuries, the places of presentation were still being restricted in the churches. But because the plays were expanded and needed more space to perform, some plays were moved outside the churches. Inside the churches, the whole plays were charged by church people, like missionaries and fathers, but outside the churches, the responsibilities were taken by some civil organizations, such as guilds. This is the reason why medieval plays became more secularized.
The medieval plays are divided into three kinds¡XMystery plays, Miracle plays, and Morality plays. The Mystery plays are the most important, actually. Many scholars have different explanations on the word ¡§mystery.¡¨ The word ¡§mystery¡¨ is from the French word ¡§mystere,¡¨ which means any trade or craft in middle ages. So some scholars said that it means the performers of Mystery Plays are people in guilds. But some don¡¦t agree with this explanation. They use English meaning of this word¡Xto mean that every kind of mysteries or miracles of God in the Bible. This explanation is closer to the content of Mystery plays. In thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, there were some mystery plays in many cities in England. But till now, there are just four cycles left¡Xthe York Cycle, the Wakefield Cycle, the Chester Cycle and N-Town Cycle. The York Cycle, the Wakefield Cycle and the Chester Cycle were named by cities¡¦ names, but we don¡¦t know where N-Town Cycle came from. The York Cycle has forty-nine plays, and has complete Bible stories. It was finished in fourteenth centuries. The Wakefield Cycle(or the Towneley Cycle) has thirty-two plays, and it was finished in fifteenth centuries. The Chester Cycle has twenty-five plays, and it was finished in 1375. The N-Town Cycle has forty-two plays, and it was finished in 1468. These plays were performed in Corpus Christi Day, so they were also called Corpus Christi Plays.