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Memorial Reconstruction in a Cornish Miracle Play Paula Neuss Whitley Stokes, the editor of the medieval Cornish saint’s play Beunans Meriasek (which has received critical attention by Robert T. Meyer, Comparative Drama, 3 [1969], 54-64), also published an edition of a Cornish miracle play to which he gave the title Gwreans an Bys (The Creation of the World).1 This play (MS. Bodley 219) is, however, actually entitled The Creacion of the World; the first daie of playe. (Although the text itself is in Cornish, the title and stage-directions are English.) The colophon states that the play was wryten by Wil­ liam Jordan the 12th August 1611. For this reason it is often known as “Jordan’s Creation.” The Creacion has usually been thought to be an imitation and expansion of the opening part of the earlier Cornish miracle cycle, the Ordinalia.2 Stokes noted in his edition (p. 4) that “the author imitates and often copies the ordinale called ‘Origo Mundi’ Henry Jenner said that “the author has borrowed whole passages from it [Origo Mundi], and there are many ad­ ditions to the story in it, and much amplification of the ideas and dialogue”;3 E. K. Chambers described the play as an “ex­ pansion of part of the earlier text.”4 However, a careful examination of the texts of the two plays in question shows that these are hardly accurate descriptions of the relationship of the later play to the earlier. The section of the Ordinalia concerned is the first 1237 lines of Origo Mundi, the first play, or day, in the three-day trilogy. This section (less than half the play, which contains 2845 lines altogether) oc­ cupies folios lr-llv in the surviving manuscript, MS. Bodley 791, and deals with Biblical events from the Creation of the 129 130 Comparative Drama World to Noah’s Flood. (It should be pointed out that there is no natural break in Origo Mundi after the Flood scene; while the form of the play is episodic, it nevertheless performs as a continuous piece.) The 2248 lines of the Creadon also cover events up to and including the Flood, so that a whole day is given in the later play to dramatizing events occupying less than half the earlier one. This fact alone could lead to describing the later play as an “expansion.” The Creadon contains much sub­ ject-matter that does not appear at all in Origo Mundi: the Crea­ tion of the Angels; the Fall of Lucifer (although there are stagedirections in Origo Mundi referring to the Fall of Lucifer: et dicit Michael ad Lucipherum [148], deleted by the scribe, and hie ludit Lucifer de celo [49]); the coming of Death after the Fall; Cain’s death at the hands of Lamech; the Translation of Enoch; the making of the pillars of brick and marble by Seth and Jared. However, a comparison of material that does appear in both plays shows that there are some very striking similarities between the two. A number of lines and passages, including two speeches of sixteen lines and one of twenty-four, in the early part of Origo Mundi are repeated almost verbatim in the Creadon, except that they show the spelling changes and the occasional substi­ tuting of an “English” word for a Cornish one that are typical of late medieval Cornish. One example will suffice. The Origo Mundi lines Adam saf yn ban yn clor Ha treyl the gyk ha the woys Preder me theth whul a dor Haval theym an pen then troys Myns us yn tyr hag yn mor Warnethe kemer galloys Yn bysma rak dry ascor Ty a vew bys may fy loys (65-72) [Adam, stand up obediently, and turn to flesh and blood. Think that I made you from earth, like to me from head to foot. Take power over all that is in land and sea. To bring forth offspring here you shall live till you be gray] appear thus in the Creadon: Adam save in ban in cloer Ha trayle za gyke ha tha owg Preda me thath wrill a thoer Havall [z]ym then pen ha tros. Myns es in...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 129-137
Launched on MUSE
2018-07-11
Open Access
No
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