Wakefield Master Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

A few scholars have perceived a relationship between the style of verse used in the plays of the Wakefield Master and the fifteenth century poems The Northern Passion and The Turnament of Totenhamm. The relationship is tenuous, however, and most scholars believe it to be specious.

Wakefield Master Achievements

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

The mystery pageants of medieval Europe did not follow classical dramatic form. They were indigenous Western European plays that evolved out of religious ritual. The plays of the Wakefield Master are the finest surviving examples of this genre. His work is notable for its humor, its structural sophistication, its unusually fine use of dialect, and its finely developed character. In the mystery pageants of the Wakefield Master, one can find the elements of a uniquely English drama that blossomed in the works of the great Elizabethan and Jacobean playwrights. The dramatic force of his plays, the exuberance of his language, and the insight of his characterizations make the Wakefield Master a significant contributor to the development of Western drama.

Wakefield Master Bibliography

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Beadle, Richard, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Medieval English Theatre. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994. This reference guide covers English theater from around 500 to 1500, including discussion of the Wakefield pageants and mystery plays. Bibliography and index.

Helterman, Jeffrey. Symbolic Action in the Plays of the Wakefield Master. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1981. In this full-length study of the playwright, Helterman states his belief that the Wakefield Master rewrote existing plays in the final third (the “passion group”) of the cycle and that the success led to the composition of six new plays (including Mactacio Abel), each of which is discussed in a substantial chapter. Bibliography.

Robinson, J. W. Studies in Fifteenth Century Stagecraft. Early Art, Drama, and Music Monograph series. Kalamazoo: Western Michigan University, 1991. Among the topics covered in this volume are the Wakefield Master, the Towneley plays, the York plays, and the Wakefield pageants. Bibliography and index.

Stevens, Martin. Four Middle English Mystery Cycles. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1987. Stevens considers the Wakefield Cycle to have been constructed as a unit and asserts that the Wakefield Master was the guiding mind in the creation of this unit. Evidence for this interpretation is found in the “Wakefield Stanza.” Illustrations.