Medieval Beginnings: The Digby Mary Magdalene Play

Irina Dumitrescu and Mary Wellesley

For sheer scale and spectacle, surely few plays of any period can match The Digby Play of Mary Magdalene. Boasting at least fifty speaking parts, with multiple locations, scaffolds and pyrotechnics, including an ascent into heaven, this wildly ambitious piece of late Medieval theatre mixes traditional hagiographic drama with magical adventure, romance and broad comedy. For audiences of the time this was not just entertainment, but a profound social and religious experience which, despite its fantastical elements and radical departure from the gospel stories, reflected important moments in their daily lives. Irina and Mary try to make sense of the outlandish plot, how it might have been staged, and the complex, composite figure of Mary Magdalene.

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