The Chosen and the Chastised: Naming Jews in the York Mystery Plays

  • William A. Quinn
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


Achieving an honest assessment of the explicit anti-Semitism enunciated sporadically throughout the York Mystery Plays poses a significant pedagogical challenge. The papacy of Innocent III (1198–1216) initiated the Feast of Corpus Christi; it also introduced new restrictions on the public behavior of medieval Jews. Produced primarily to continue this promulgation of Catholic orthodoxy, the York Mystery Plays both celebrate the role of the “true Jew” and denigrate the stubborn disbelief of contemporary Jews. To do so, the York pageants intermittently invite three distinct perceptions of Jews that are both mutually contradictory and inextricably connected. Professedly positive, historical memories as well as allegorical portrayals of the Jew in these plays can also (still) dangerously justify a contemptuous stereotyping of real Jews

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© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • William A. Quinn
    • 1
  1. 1.Medieval and Renaissance StudiesUniversity of ArkansasFayettevilleUSA

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