In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

A Reassessment of the Date and Provenance of the Cornish Ordinalia Gloria J. Betcher Though studies have focused on the language and the content of the Cornish Ordinalia, no one has been able to give definitive answers to the questions of where and when the text ofthat cycle originated, aside from observing that the Cornish language indicates a provenance somewhere in Cornwall. What emerges from a composite of previous attempts to date the text and discern its provenance is an unsubstantiated critical tradition of the Ordinalia 's origins. According to that tradition, the Ordinalia, a religious trilogy comprised of a Creation play, a Passion play, and a Resurrection play, was written at Glasney Collegiate Church, Penryn, sometime between 1350 and 1375 and performed for a local Cornishspeaking audience.1 Though this speculation stands virtually without support from external historical sources, scholars allow these assumptions to govern discussions of the text. A reassessment of this established tradition, however, reveals that evidence within the cycle and external evidence from poll tax returns, bishops' registers, and other official records argue for a revised account of the cycle's origins. Although a Penryn provenance still lies within the realm of possibility, it is unlikely, as is a date for the cycle before 1370. The Ordinalia was more likely written between 1395 and 1419 by an ecclesiastic living in or near Bodmin in central Cornwall. I Since Edwin Norris published the first English edition of the plays in 1859, place names throughout the cycle have provided the primary support for arguments concerning the date and provenance of the Ordinalia.2 E. Hoblyn Pedler was the first scholar to investigate the twenty-four place names found in the Ordinalia in 436 Gloria J. Betcher437 depth.3 According to Pedler, the geographical distribution of the names suggests that the author ofthe cycle was an ecclesiastic familiar with the area around Penryn in western Cornwall.4 Grounding his logic in phenomenology, he reasoned that a playwright from the Penryn area must have included place names from the vicinity of that town with the intention that his audience would recognize them. If the audience could recognize even the most obscure references, Pedler reasoned, they must be a local Penryn audience. In addition, Pedler believed that only an ecclesiastic with scholarly ability could have achieved the complex compilation of religious texts and the blend of Latin and French among the Cornish language of the plays. Therefore, he believed the most likely site of authorship for the Ordinalia was Glasney Collegiate Church, Penryn, a college ofwell-educated secular canons. Knowing that Glasney was founded in the thirteenth century, Pedler educed enough from his identification of place names to assert : "If then we are to ascribe to an inhabitant of Penryn and to an ecclesiastic, the authorship of these plays, in as much as we find them written apparently shortly after the college of Glazeney [sic] was founded . . . , we may conclude, with something like certainty, that thay were the productions ofthat house."5 Pedler's scholarly successors possessed little of the certainty exhibited by their precursor, however; and his theory that the plays were written in the thirteenth century did not withstand their subsequent scrutiny. On the other hand, his suggestion that the plays originated at Glasney would live on much longer. A century after Pedler, David Fowler, producing a detailed analysis of the Ordinalia place names, illustrated his theory that the spelling of the names could provide invaluable clues to the date of the plays.6 Fowler's study, however, relied only on a limited number of examples to date the plays between 1350 and 1375.7 Moreover, he drew sweeping and tentative conclusions touching not only on the date of the Cornish cycle but also on the decline ofthe Cornish language; on the pronunciation ofthe final -e in Middle English; and on the relationship between the Ordinalia and the Cornish Passion poem. Although the scope of this study was much more ambitious than the scope of Pedler's, most ofFowler's conclusions were based primarily on conjecture rather than on firmly grounded evidence. Despite the lack of conclusive evidence to support Fowler's theories, his student Phyllis P. Harris incorporated...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 436-453
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.