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Lecture 7

ENGL 200 Lecture 7 - Second Shepard's Tale.docx

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English (Arts)
ENGL 200
Wes Folkerth

Second Shepherd’s Play (SSP)  This book is also called the Second Sheppard’s Pageant, a sort of mystery book.  It was a dramatic work, meant to be performed in front of an audience o You could also think of Beowulf and the Canterbury Tales as dramatic, since they are recited by a poet in front of an audience, but SSP is meant to be acted and experienced in the communal way. o There is a ritual element – something the audience brings to the performance, a sort of atonement. People bring themselves to the performances to talk about life. o These performances are a very complex social activity – a sort of cash grab – a manipulation of the guild system. The performances were an expression of pride that the guild members have. o A guild is an association of people from the same trade, including:  Carpenters  Stone Masons  Shoemakers  Etc. o Firstly, you became an apprentice under a master, and after some training, you became qualified to trade, if you learned enough o Guild’s are social organizations, and when they gather, they talk about stuff o Different members in the play are assigned different roles in Christianity, and these plays advertise for the guild o Again, this is a complex social event – many guilds and interest groups come out to perform these plays  The study of medieval drama focused on Christianity and religious values until recently, when scholars started to look more into the theater  The genre of the SSP is such that it is only 1 part of a larger play  This performance is known by at least 3 names: o “Cycle” Plays  The name refers to the structure of the play itself. It is often called a processional drama  The performances move around a certain area, but the audience stays put at once place  The stories performed are all about the world  This is a way the community can hear about their religion and learning in vernacular  These performances are sort of like a parade, and each guild might offer 6- 7 performances a day o “Mystery” Plays  The “mystery” is actually what you learn from the play about the guild, and its secrets  These tricks of the trade are not known to the public  The trade of the people in the SSP are chandlers, people who make candles and wax, in general  During the annunciation, the thing that guided the shepherds to the place where Christ was born was a star – and so Chandlers, people who made light through candles, were responsible for guiding them o “Corpus Christi” Plays  Stands for body of Christs  When you are in communion, you are supposed to eat bread, which is from the body of Christ  The play is part of a larger festivication  There is a large socioeconomic aspect to each play  The SSP play takes place in Wakefield, a town  To most people, the event, the birth of Christ, that is being performed is the most important event in history  This event is called the enunciation  The fluidity of the drama has some weird elements  The Play contains three parts: o Firstly they start by complaining o The second part is about Mak, and his stealing of the sheep o The third part is when the angel comes down and they go to see the new born Christ  The play refers to the book of Luke  The play starts with them complaining: o There are three shepherds, two older, and one younger one Page 409, line 14-39 [COLL ] “But we sely husbands That walks on the moor, In faith we are nearhands (nearly) Out of the door. (homeless) No wonder, as it stands If we be poor, For the tilth of our lands Lies fallow as the floor As ye ken (know) We are so hammed, Fortaxes, and rammed, We are made hand-tamed With these gentlery-men Thus they reave (rob) us our rest- Our lady them wary (curse)! These men that are lord-fest (attached to lords) They cause the plow tarry (hold up the plow). That, men say, is for the best- We find it contrary. Thus are husbands oppressed In point to miscarry. On live (in life). Thus they hold us under, Thus they bring us in blunder (trouble) It were a great wonder And (if) ever should we thrive.”  There is political content to this complaint  They say the gentry does not give them enough space and do not give them enough food to survive.  This is characteristic of the time of the play.  However, note that this play is taking place in Wakefield, not Bethlehem  He complains about weather, taxation, poverty, and their mistreatment  If you are gentle, it means that you don’t have to work for a living, usually because you own land – and this guy is complaining about these people.  And people realize that this is going on.
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