In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

Background. Until recently, the balance of interest in European medieval theater has tilted almost exclusively into the welltrodden paths of English texts-a situation highlighted by the Conference on Medieval Drama Research at Harvard in 1986 and addressed in the special issue of Comparative Drama, Vol. 27 (Spring 1993).1 Perhaps in the past it has been the number of extant continental religious plays,2and the size of some of theme. g., the Passion of Jean Michel (1486), written for four days' performance-which has deterred critical interest. Also, the content of Michel's play and of its predecessor by Amoul Gréban3 originally attracted negative attention4 for the scurrilous behavior of some characters in the sacred context. Such crudities were attributed to the mores of a society which sixteenth-century Frenchmen wished to put behind them (a reaction that Hansjürgen Linke has also found behind German neglect of its pre-Reformation theater5), for, in common with English mystery plays, Greban and Michel included scenes of secular levity, even allowing the torturers enjoyment of their cruelty to Christ. Although Louis Petit de Julleville undertook a partial apologia of both in the last century, his bafflement over the interminable scenes of the scourging of Jesus, especially in the Michel, extends over two pages.6 More recently, the strengths of these two plays have begun to be recognized7 through the excellent editions of them by Omer Jodogne, and I would argue that Michel's Mistere de la Passion JesusCrist, in particular, is a masterpiece of dramatic writing, incorporating the many social problems and some of the recreations experienced by his Angevin audience in such a way as to make a Christian life the only sane alternative. But it is a play which needs to be understood in its time: the social and festive context provides a sub-text through which one can discover a coherence in the play's religious purpose.