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Word Count: 2,289
As The Norton Anthology of English Literature says By far the larger proportion of surviving literature in Middle as in Old English is religious 7 This shouldnt be surprising since we know education had a religious affiliation men were educated went to universities to become clerics The church offered a path for gifted commoners to make a career 7 but left the majority of commoners illiterate The fact that Latin was the language of education and books were time consuming to produce and expensive only compounded the problem The situation was alleviated somewhat with William Caxtons introduction to type-setting in 1474 when he printed the first book in English This new method of printing was the key to increasing the availability of texts and lowering the cost But the church had overwhelming influence and plenty of funds to produce literature and wasnt terribly interested in a literate following it only meant more people would be reading and developing their own interpretations of the scripture The church knew that the stories and ideas of the Bible could effectively be passed on through sermons and mystery and morality plays Although they both have the primary mission of conveying biblical messages mystery and morality plays have considerable differences The mystery in mystery plays refers to the spiritual mystery of Christs redemption of humankind 308 Mystery plays were typically written in cycles a series that would begin with the Creation chronicle the major events of the Old Testament through the New Testament and the Last Judgment The mystery plays endeavored to make the Christian religion more real to the unlearned by dramatizing significant events in biblical history and by showing what these events meant in terms of human experience 363 They are thought to have evolved from the liturgies and plays that were conducted in Latin Mystery plays produced in the vernacular in the streets of towns were a way of reaching a wide audience that included educated laypeople
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