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Two E xem pla: Analogues to the P la y of the S acram ent and D ux M oraud Richard L. Homan The relationship between the vernacular drama of medieval England and its sermons has long been recognized, but has been turned to scant advantage by scholars of the drama. In his book on the mystery plays, V. A. Kolve comments that “the cycles could only have been written by men schooled in theological traditions and trained by the pulpit in the techniques of holding the attention of a large and heterogeneous audience,” and he acknowledges the important scholarship of G. R. Owst who had demonstrated the very close relationship indeed that existed between stage and pulpit,l Owst further lamented the “lack of acquaintance,” on the part of scholars of the drama, “with another and a much despised literature which had already set forth in true and satisfying combination the colloquial, the proverbial, the jovial and the religious.”2 If scholars of the drama have failed to take their cue from Owst, it is because of the forbidding nature of sermon literature. As Owst himself frequently recognizes in both his book-length studies, it is a vast body of writing, at present little-edited, much of it redundant and highly conventional.3 Lacking anthologies of and concordances to sermon literature, scholars cannot trace broad patterns in this literature’s style and content and hence cannot conclusively show influences on the plays. Isolated coin­ cidences can suggest but cannot prove, and such is the case with the two exempla here transcribed. Nonetheless, it is worth considering what these two do suggest. The presence of two exempla, analogous to known dramas, in a single collection of sermons heightens curiosity about the frequency with which the two literatures overlap. Moreover, as comparison of these RICHARD L. HOMAN is Assistant Professor of Dramatic Art at the University of California, Santa Barbara. 241 242 Comparative Drama exempla with their dramatic counterparts will show, sermons can further inform our understanding of the spirit in which the plays were performed and provide a basis for further conjecture about the manner of their performance. These exempla approximate the plots of the Croxton Play of the Sacrament and of the dramatic fragment Dux Moraud, and appear in Lincoln Cathedral Library MSS. 50 and 51. These manuscripts together form a collection of sermons for the entire liturgical calendar (though now defective), and are written in a large, clear hand. There is very little marginalia in either book. Most of the sermons begin with an incipit given in Latin invariably followed by its translation, and proceed to narrate the gospel for the Sunday. Most add a bit of abstract moralizing, although infrequently there are lurid moralistic anecdotes and allegories. Thus the collection would appear to be a preaching manual for a relatively uneducated parish priest. Citing one sermon from this collection, Owst indicates that although the manuscript “is itself a very late fifteenth-century production, the style . . . suggests that we have here re-copied some further examples of John Myrc’s composition, unknown to the published Festiall series.”4 Therefore it is possible these sermons were in fact contem­ porary with the fourteenth-century Dux Moraud, and hence were already old when the Play of the Sacrament appeared, probably in the middle or late fifteenth century. The homilist attributes the tale of the stabbed host to the sermons of Gregory the Great and the tale of the incestuous daughter to Gregory’s Dialogues. In both instances, there are only vaguely similar matter or narratives in Gregory’s works. As will be shown, both exempla, like the plays to which they compare, spring from more immediate colloquial sources. In his well-known chapter on “Sermon and Drama,” Owst remarks: “As for the more serious type of exemplum, the Croxton drama of The Sacrament suffices in its turn to show how a favourite pulpit story setting forth the miraculous virtues of the Host could be dramatized once more direct from the preacher’s note-book,” but nowhere does he cite such an exemplum .5 Similarly, Gerould, in Saints’ Legends, speculates that the play may have been based on an exemplum: “the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 241-251
Launched on MUSE
2018-07-11
Open Access
No
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