Merry Magdalene’s play

Author unknown
Genre Drama
Keywords 14th century, Old Czech, Passion Play
Title (in Czech) Hra veselé Magdaleny
Title (in English translation) Merry Magdalene’s play
Editor Andrea Svobodová – Štěpán Šimek
Translator Walter Schamschula
Edited source Schlägl, Stiftsbibliothek, sine, ff. 1r-1v
Introduction Walter Schamschula – Andrea Svobodová
TEI P5 XML Encoding Matěj Čermák – Michal Mocňák – Ondřej Tichý
Summary of content A fragment of an Old Czech verse Easter Play, which, using a biblical quotation, treats a secular theme with a moralizing tendency.
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Introduction to the Text

Like the liturgical plays on the three Marys, Christ’s Passion and Resurrection form a part of the medieval mystery play which originally had exclusively religious functions. While one of the components of the Easter play, the Mastičkář, has turned into a predominantly entertaining burlesque, another part of it, Hra o hříšné a potom kající Magdaleně (‘The Play of the sinful and then penitent Magdalena’) is a dramatic fragment deeply rooted in the tradition of Latin liturgical drama:  the characterization of a woman as a worldly lover who expresses her affection in the language of the folk song.

Like most other medieval plays, a fragment of the drama Hra veselé Magdaleny (‘Merry Magdalene’s play’) is the result of a tradition based on Latin liturgical dramas. The Latin text of the Gospel story began to be interspersed with parts in the vernacular. Yet even at a later stage, liturgical Latin songs, such as Te deum laudamus, Te eternum patrem, etc., continued to be performed in the context of an otherwise vernacular play.

Introduction to the Sources

A single fragment of the play from the second half of the 14th century containing 106 verses has survived (Schlägl, Stiftsbibliothek, sine, ff. 1r-1v; not available online).

About this Edition

The given transcription was made according to the manuscript, taking into account the edition of Walter Schamschula (cf. Schamschula 1991, see Existing editions below).

The present translation has been taken, with the permission of Walter Schamschula, from the text of his edition. No textual changes have been made to the text, and only obvious typographical errors have been removed (cf. Schamschula 1991, see Existing editions below). The introductory information, based on Schamschula´s edition, has been supplemented from new contributions on the topic.

Existing Editions

Drkolenské zbytky staročeských her dramatických ze XIV století, Adolf Patera (ed.), Časopis Musea Království českého 63, 1889, pp. 122-139 [semi-diplomatic transcription].

Staročeské skladby dramatické původu liturgického, Jan Máchal (ed.), Praha 1908, pp. 64-80 [semi-diplomatic transcription].

Staročeské drama, Josef Hrabák (ed.), Praha 1950, pp. 37-42 [standardized transcription].

Hra veselé Magdaleny, in: Výbor z české literatury od počátků po dobu Husovu, Bohuslav Havránek a kol. (eds.), Praha 1957, pp. 291-295 [standardized transcription].

Hra veselé Magdaleny/Merry Magdalene’s play, in: An Anthology of Czech Literature. 1st Period: from the Beginnings until 1410, Walter Schamschula (ed.), Frankfurt am Main – Bern – New York – Paris 1991, pp. 159-164 [standardized transcription].

Existing translations

Hra veselé Magdaleny/Merry Magdalene’s play, in: An Anthology of Czech Literature. 1st Period: from the Beginnings until 1410, Walter Schamschula (ed.), Frankfurt am Main – Bern – New York – Paris 1991, pp. 159-164.

Further Reading

Jakobson, Roman: Medieval Mock-Mystery, in: Studia philologica et litteraria in honorem L. Spitzer, Bern 1958, pp. 245-265.

Warning, Rainer: Funktion und Struktur. Die Ambivalenzen des geistlichen Spiels, Munich 1974.

Tichá, Zdeňka: Hra veselé Magdaleny, in: Lexikon české literatury H-J, Praha 1993, p. 309 [encyclopedic entry listing editions and literature up to 1993]. Available at:


MECZ [online], Merry Magdalene’s play, ed. unknown, trans. Walter Schamschula. KREAS Faculty of Arts, Charles University, Retrieved 28.05.2024, from Bibtex citation

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