Digby Play of Mary Magdalene

Bibliographic Information


Medieval Title: 

Mary Magdalene






Late Fifteenth-Century, East Anglia


Textual Information

Brief Summary:

This play, based upon the Biblical story of Mary Magdalene tells the story of Mary’s journey to Jerusalem after her falls from grace.  She repents her sins before meeting Jesus to ask for forgiveness, which she is granted. After her brother Lazarus’s death, Jesus arrives and performs the miracle of resurrecting Lazarus. The play also depicts the journey of the three Marys to the sepulcher after Jesus’s crucifixion. All that remains at the sepulcher is the burial shroud.

Mary travels to Marseilles, where the King and Queen worship Mahond, or Mohammed. During service, a priest references Muslim relics, such as Mohammed’s neckbone and his eyelid, portraying the belief of power in physical remainders of holy people and the belief of Christian authors of the centrality of relic worship to the Saracens. These relics are eventually destroyed by Mary’s prayers and she travels to Marseilles to convert those living there. She is taken to a temple by the king, where she prays to Jesus, and the temple is set on fire. The king leaves, angry that he has been so deceived in his faith. He tells Mary that he will believe in her God if his wife conceives a child. After this occurs, both King and Queen convert to Christianity.

Mary withdraws to the desert in order to perform penance for her past sins and to remove herself from worldly desires. Sustained by the Lord, Mary remains there for thirty years before she is found by a priest who offers her the eucharist before she ascends into Heaven.


Relics Appearing in Text:

Burial shroud

Muslim relics


Manuscripts, Editions, and Translations



Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Digby 133


List of Editions of the Medieval Text: 

Colettie, Theresa. The Digby Mary Magdalene Play. Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute Publications, 2018. Available online: https://d.lib.rochester.edu/teams/publication/coletti-the-digby-mary-magdalene-play

“The Digby Play of Mary Magdalen.” In Late Medieval Religious Plays of Bodleian MSS Digby 133 and E Museo 160. Edited by Donald C. Barker, John L. Murphey, and Louis B. Hall, Jr. 24-95. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982.

“Mary Magdalene.” In Digby Mysteries. Edited by F. J. Furnivall. 53-136. London: N. Trübner & Co for the New Shakespeare Society, 1882. Available online: https://archive.org/details/digbymysteries02furngoog




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