Passion Plays Produced By English Class

A medieval drama class staged three original student translations of the Passion Plays in a Cambridge church last night, including a re-enactment of the crucifixion of Christ.

The Passion Plays, which consist of The Buffeting, The Crucifixion and The Ressurection, were written in the 14th century and have never been translated from Middle English into "actable English" before, Crucifixion translator and director Christopher R. Agee '79 said yesterday.

English 125a, "Medieval and Tudor Drama," is the only graded Harvard course to include dramatic work. It may also give students a chance to get their translations published, David M. Staines, assistant professor of English, said last night.

Staines said he hopes to compile an anthology of 24 plays, including translations by himself, students, and William Alfred, Kenan Professor of English.

According to Staines, a translation of the Buffeting by Andrew Cadiff '77 and Anne Montgomery '74 will be used in a new series on Medieval drama to be televised on the Public Broadcasting System next month.


Production of the plays was made possible by a $900 grant from the Office of the Arts. Costuming for the production is lavish, and St. John's Episcopal Church on Brattle Street is used as an appropriate backdrop for the plays' subject matter.

Surprisingly, the plays are very funny in parts. Montgomery called the plays "black comedy." They were originally written for peasants to watch at all-day folk festivals, and were generally acted by amateurs.

Montgomery said that the purpose of the class was to see what it was really like to produce such plays in Medieval England. The students' translations maintained the same rhyme scheme and meter of the original language.

The pace of the performance is slower than most students are used to since they were meant to be performed in front of crowds who talked, ate and watched simultaneously.

Performances will run tonight through Sunday