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The Middle Cornish Interlude: Genre and Tradition Evelyn S. Newlyn Historical records for Cornwall, the southwesternmost county in England, detail the presentation after 1500 of a number of plays called "interludes."1 Churchwardens' accounts, borough records, and mayors' accounts, particularly between 1550 and 1583, make specific reference to such performances. While the St. Ives borough accounts for 1572-73 note income received "for ye enterlude," historical records more commonly denote payments for performance. For example, the churchwardens' accounts of St. Breock, in 1566-67, record payment to "enterlwd players" who travelled from St. Dennis to perform; the Launceston borough accounts in 1574-75 paid for "Enterlude players i September"; the mayors' accounts of Liskeard in 1575-76 record payment on two occasions during that year for performances by "Enterlyde players"; and the churchwardens' accounts of Camborne for 1577-78 cite payment "for expences payed to the interlude players." Additionally, some of the payments recorded for undesignated "plays" in Camborne, Bodmin, West Looe, Liskeard, and St. Columb Major may have also been for interludes, as may have been some of the payments to unspecified "players" in Bodmin, Launceston, Stratton, Antony, Camborne, St. Ives, and Liskeard. Earlier than 1500, however, documentary evidence of the performance of specifically named "interludes" has not been found since few parish and borough accounts, the kinds of records that would be expected to attest dramatic performance in that rural part of England, have survived. In consequence, within the extant records prior to 1500, only a few references are known that seem to pertain to drama: the Launceston borough accounts of 1404-05 cite payment for a "ludis"; the Lanherne household accounts of 1466-67 list payment for various materials connected with the performance of "disgysynges"; and the Bodmin church building accounts include among the receipts a sum from a company of 266 Evelyn S. Newlyn267 "players." However, Cornwall does possess from the Middle Ages evidence of an interlude's performance—a text that, while it has been variously perceived over time, should be categorized as drama and called an interlude. This text, consisting of thirty-six lines of Middle Cornish verse, was discovered by Henry Jenner in 1877 on the verso of a manuscript housed among the charters in the British Museum.2 Because of its location, this Cornish work has traditionally been known by various titles that had "charter" as the first word—for example, The Charter Fragment or The Charter Endorsement? The title proposed in this essay, The Middle Cornish Interlude, more readily and accurately identifies the work; eliminating the word "charter," which is inaccurate, the proposed title instead attests the work's language and, more importantly, resolves the lingering question of the work's genre. The analysis that follows provides the evidence, drawn from content, form, and the document itself, for thus situating the Cornish verse in drama. This piece of Cornish verse was written on the back of one counterpart of a final concord transferring property in Cornwall. The final concord, written in Latin, is dated 1340, while the Cornish verse was written on the manuscript perhaps close to 1350.4 A final concord, also called a "Fine," was an agreement made by means of a lawsuit that ensured an indisputable record of the agreement or matter transacted between the parties concerned. The Cornish verse is not unique in having been written on such a document, which might typically be found among estate or family muniments; among other examples, part of an Anglo-Norman play was written on the back of a roll of fourteenth-century manorial accounts, and a carol was entered on the margins of a fifteenth-century rent roll.5 Jenner's discovery of these few verses was significant, given the relatively small body of Middle Cornish literature, which consists mainly of three principal works.6 The Ordinalia, probably composed in the fourteenth century or perhaps not later than c.1420,7 is Cornwall's three-day version of a cycle drama; the manuscript as it is extant focuses on Christ's Passion and the legend of the oil of mercy.8 Beunans Meriasek, a saint play intended for performance over two days, dates from the fifteenth century and concerns...

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