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The major cities of England had a ceremonial procession of the stories of the Bible, performed near the late Spring Christian holy day called the Feast of Corpus Christi (Body of Christ); ostensibly a religious celebration, it became a civil and commercial celebration as well, because each guild (tanners, water carriers, goldsmiths, etc.) took one story and staged it on a “pagond” (flat wagon); the plays were then performed in order at several convenient spots in the city (church steps, city hall, parks, etc.)—a modern parallel may be when in July 4th parades, etc., clowns, firetrucks, etc. do their special routines at busy intersections-- the guilds often chose a story that coincided with the guild’s specialty (The Flood, or Noah’s story, was acted out by the Water Carriers’ Guild, the visit of the Magi by the Goldsmiths, etc.); the guilds competed with each other, both with money spent and with entertainment value, thus providing rich revenues to the city; the scripts were written and preserved by local monks, who, unlike most of the populus, were literate; thus, like the stained glass windows of the cathedrals and the illustrations of the Bible, the plays served as a way to teach the Bible to the illiterate. Because the monks kept the scripts from year to year, several sequences have been preserved (notably York, Coventry, Lincoln) and are a great source of linguistic and cultural history today. They are available in the Early Text Society editions. So, all social, religious, civil, and commercial groups were involved in the Corpus Christi procession of plays, although the Church and the guilds were the major forces.
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