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The N-Town Play: Drama and Liturgy in Medieval East Anglia

The N-Town Play: Drama and Liturgy in Medieval East Anglia

Volume: 2
Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 264
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  • Book Info
    The N-Town Play: Drama and Liturgy in Medieval East Anglia
    Book Description:

    The dramatic text known as the N-Town Play, from fifteenth-century East Anglia, is a significant but mysterious compilation of late-medieval vernacular theatre. It differs radically from the better-known Northern medieval mysteryplays in that it offers a

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-749-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-vii)
    Penny Granger
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. viii-viii)
  5. A Note on Texts and Translations
    (pp. ix-ix)
  6. Map
    (pp. x-xi)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 1-3)

    Why write a book about the N-Town Play? In short, because it is fascinating and undervalued. This project began with a desire to explore some of my East Anglian cultural roots. To work on a play that brings together personal interests in drama, liturgy, and music, plus the excuse to look at some of the area’s rich medieval iconography , seemed a golden opportunity. More important to the reader is that the N-Town Play tends to be written off by critics as didactic and conservative, the epitome of fifteenth-century dullness. Within cycle drama, the focus of interest tends to be...

  8. Chapter 1 Setting the Scene
    (pp. 4-35)

    It is a commonplace to say that ritual defines and shapes society. Yet it is a justifiable claim that, despite ritual having in recent years become the focus for cultural analysis in a number of disciplines, the role of ritual in the relationships between religion, society, and culture has not been properly analysed.¹ By way of example, I describe below three events that may be termed community rituals, chosen for particular reasons from a ‘hazy laundry -list’:² these are different types of ritual, each with a different meaning for those who were present at it and thereby became part of...

  9. Chapter 2 Text in Context
    (pp. 36-81)

    In the previous chapter I established a theoretical basis for looking at ritual, drama, and liturgy, upon which to set the discussion of the liturgical content of the N-Town Play and the possible effects of that liturgical material on the reception of the play as a whole. The aim of this chapter is to set theory in context, preparing the way for the detailed examination of the liturgical material in the N-Town Play that is the subject of chapter three.

    The first section of this chapter looks at drama and liturgy not as theoretical concepts but as scholarly disciplines. Then...

  10. Chapter 3 Liturgy in Play
    (pp. 82-135)

    In the previous chapter I discussed some of the contexts for the N-Town Play, and how its text reflects them. The evidence suggests that many commentators have been a little hasty in their assessment of the play as being firmly orthodox and conservative – one might even say boring – in its outlook. However, the epithet ‘liturgical’ seems entirely justified, and it is to this most important and, as I shall argue, innovative aspect of the play that I now turn. This chapter, the heart of the book, focuses on the play’s liturgical content, and its effects on the text as a...

  11. Chapter 4 Other Connections
    (pp. 136-171)

    In the previous chapter I examined the liturgical content of the N-Town Play in detail, and established that liturgy plays a significant role in all parts of its text. This justifies the use of the word ‘liturgical’ in respect of the play. The question still to be answered is whether the deployment of liturgy in N-Town also justifies the view that it is the most liturgical of all the extant late-medieval vernacular drama. So this chapter addresses that question, beginning with a brief survey of the liturgical content of the three extant northern cycle plays.

    A further consideration is whether...

  12. Chapter 5 The Evolution of the N-Town Play and its Audience
    (pp. 172-192)

    I have shown in previous chapters that the N-Town Play is a multifaceted text. It consists of four originally separate pieces of drama, each containing a variety of material taken from or based on liturgy. It is a liturgical anthology within an anthology of drama, each element reacting with and changing the other. In its treatment of liturgy the play reflects the culture of its East Anglian context. The extant N-Town text, arguably more than any other late-medieval English vernacular drama, is complex and difficult to categorise. It may be described as an oeuvre mouvante , not in the sense...

  13. Conclusion
    (pp. 193-195)

    At the beginning of the book I posed a number of questions. What is the nature of drama and of liturgy and how do they relate to each other? What are the cultural contexts for the N-Town Play? It is often described as liturgical, but what exactly does that mean, what is the liturgical content, and what is the effect of that liturgical material on the audience? Do other plays and texts use liturgy in similar ways in their telling of the story of salvation in whole or in part? Finally, how did the play evolve, from separate plays to...

  14. Appendix 1: N-Town Play: composition and comparison
    (pp. 196-197)
  15. Appendix 2: Liturgical items included in the N-Town Play with other references
    (pp. 198-210)
  16. Glossary of liturgical and related terms
    (pp. 211-219)
  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 220-243)
  18. Index
    (pp. 244-257)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 258-258)