‘The Precious Body of Christ That They Tretyn in Ther Hondis’: ‘Miraclis Pleyinge’ and the Croxton Play of the Sacrament

  • Heather Hill-Vasquez University of Washington


In the Tretise of Miraclis Pleyinge, Christ's Passion, despite its fortunate result for humanity, emerges as the ultimate, condemning result of humans assuming an irreverent access to the divine--an irreverent access (resulting, in this case, in the torture of divine flesh at human hands) that both writers of the text describe as a chief characteristic of 'miraclis pleyinge.' Similarly, in the Croxton Play of the Sacrament, cursory treatment of Christian doctrines, disregard for Church leaders, and assumed access to the divine--embodied in the sacred object of the host--result in a bloody version of Christ's Passion, marked by human mishandling of sacred objects and topics. Offered in this paper as a point of comparison to the issues raised in the Tretise of Miraclis Pleyinge, the Croxton Play of the Sacrament stages and illuminates a number of the chief points of the Tretise writers. Carefully shepherded and controlled by Church representatives who invoke the very doctrines and embody the very structure that the writers of the Tretise see as threatened or undermined by 'miraclis pleyinge,' what seems an irreverent reenactment of the Passion becomes in the Croxton Play an opportunity for redemption. What the writers of the Tretise see as the dangerous precedent of 'miraclis pleyinge'—inappropriate human engagement of sacred objects and topics--the Croxton Play embraces as potential site for indulging spiritual desires and exploring religious belief, while reassuringly asserting the fundamental stability and authority of Christianity.