Passion Play

A re-telling of the story of the Passion of the Christ. Can be done in public (complete with Audience Participation on the "Crucify Him!" bit) or as a historical recreation on screen. In Medieval England, they were also known as "Mystery Plays".

These date back at least to the Middle Ages, when they were often used to incite anti-Jew riots—though, just to be clear, this only happened after the plays were established, and tended to occur when the plays were orchestrated by rabble rousers. The original purpose of the plays was simply to re-enact the Passion in drama as an extension of a Passion mass. Since most people couldn't read, Passion plays and Nativity plays were used to transmit the stories of Jesus' crucifixion and His birth to the general population.

A side note on etymology: the word passion in this case means "suffering" (from Latin pati: to suffer)

Not to be confused with the art film Passion Play or with the album by Jethro Tull.


Anime and Manga
  • My Last Day focuses on Jesus' death, in the point of view of the "good" thief.

  • The early Grant Morrison graphic novel of the same name features some scenes of the actual passion play, but is mostly about the murder of one cast member by another.

  • The Empath: The Luckiest Smurf time-traveling story "Smurfed Behind: The Passion Of The Smurfs", with Judas Iscariot resembling Gargamel and having a cat similar to Azrael. Rather than hanging himself, Judas gets chased off a cliff and is pierced through by a tree.


  • The novel Christ Recrucified (1948) by Greek author Nikos Kazantzakis: a poor, remote village in Greece is preparing a passion play, and due to tragic circumstances, everyone ends up with the same fate as the part he or she is assigned. The novel was adapted by Bohuslav Martinů into the opera The Greek Passion. First performed in 1961.
  • The novel Passion Play follows a troupe of actors that put these on as they become wrapped up in an adultery scandal, punning on the title.
  • Bones and Silence by Reginald Hill takes place against a background of a modern production of a Passion Play.

Live-Action TV
  • The Passion, a 2008 version by The BBC. Notable for trying to go more historically accurate, but still filling nearly the entire cast with white people (there's only one Jewish guy who gets a speaking part), a rather unconvincing Jesus and the Jesus actor changing twice for post-resurrection scenes (The Road to Emmaus is supposed to have two of the Apostles not recognising Jesus, but still...)
    • Knowing the Beeb, he must have regenerated.
      • Not quite. The passage here - Luke 24:13-35 - states that the two blokes on the Emmaus road didn't recognize Jesus _until bread was broken_. The Beeb used a different actor until the reveal.
  • The BBC also did The Manchester Passion, which took place on the streets of central Manchester and included songs by famous local bands.

  • Jethro Tull's album "A Passion Play" plays with this trope.
  • The "St. Matthew Passion" by Johann Sebastian Bach is a setting of one of the biblical accounts of the Passion interspersed with reflective hymns and chorales. It's generally regarded as some of the ultimate Crowning Music of Awesome.
    • As is his St. John Passion.
    • Carl Phillip Emmanuel Bach wrote twenty-one settings of the Passions. Thus saith The Other Wiki.
  • Modern composer Osvaldo Golijov composed "La Pasiˇn Seg˙n San Marcos," based on Mark's gospel and incorporating traditional Afro-Cuban music and dance.
  • There were a number of Passions set to music; many haven't survived to modern day, but Victorian composer John Stainer's Crucifixion still gets performed on occasion.
  • !HERO: The Rock Opera goes through the Passion play moment near the end of the story with Hero being taken into custody before he is crucified on a street sign.

  • theatre/Jesus Christ Superstar. This one ends at the Crucifixion, for some reason.
  • Godspell also counts, though in a much...fluffier?...way. It also ends at the Crucifixion.
  • AD/BC: A Rock Opera would count as well, being a parody of the above two. Just from the POV of the Innkeeper.

Public Performances
  • The most famous example is the Oberammergau Passion Play, done as a five-month season every ten years (the latest in 2010, the next in 2020). This one lasts for seven hours and a meal is provided during the intermission.
  • In the Catholic Church, every Palm Sunday Mass, and the Good Friday Vigil (technically not a Mass - the period between Holy Thursday and the Vigil of the Resurrection of the Lord [Saturday night] is the only time of year where no priest will celebrate Mass), does this as the Gospel reading. Including Audience Participation.
  • It was traditional for these to be performed every Easter in Europe during medieval times, mostly as a tool of education as most people could not read, and the masses were performed in Latin. Few examples survive to the modern day, but some, like the English 'Chester Cycle', are still performed every other year or so with great pageantry.
  • Most of the main Medieval English cities had a local script (written in the local dialect) which was enacted every year. Typically, the play was subdivided into a number of scenes, each acted by a different city guild.
    • York's Mystery Plays are enacted every four years by local amateur actors, though the modern tradition only dates back to the 1950s when the plays were revived. Unusually, the plays are still performed by separate groups (even some by city guilds), on wagons that are moved through the city between performance spots.
  • The religious Theme Park "The Holy Land Experience" in Orlando has one of these as a daily attraction.
  • Hornchurch, a suburb of London, has one planned for Easter 2015, its fifth.

Tabletop Games
  • Warhammer 40,000 has its own take: mystery plays are performed concerning the life of the Emperor, along with some less savory interludes for the amusement of the great unwashed masses. As noted by Inquisitor Vail, the Ecclesiarchs probably believe a few fart jokes are a reasonable price for actually getting people in the church.
    • Similarly, many Forge Worlds need a few days of essential maintenance done on the production lines, so plays are put on to prevent the populace from getting too rowdy while the machines are off.

Video Games

Western Animation
  • In the South Park episode "The Passion of the Jew", Eric Cartman dresses like Hitler and uses a group of Christians' love of The Passion of the Christ to get them to help him to exterminate the Jews, making them think that the German for "It is time for revenge. We must exterminate the Jews" is Aramaic. Hilarity Ensues. The episode is extremely critical of the movie, but it ends with An Aesop about Christianity.
    Stan: Your movie sucks!
    Mel Gibson: You can't say that! That's like saying Christianity sucks!
    Stan: No, it doesn't. Christians should focus on what Jesus said, instead of how he died. Lots of people were crucified in those days. Passion Plays are what people did in the Middle Ages, and it ends with really bad results.
    (Mel Gibson craps on Cartman)
  • In the Moral Orel episode "School Pageant", Orel's school puts on one of these written by the oft-forgotten member of a band in an attempt to resurrect his career. For the most part, the play was forgettable. The Villain Song, however...