Reference > Cambridge History > The Drama to 1642, Part One > Secular Influences on the Early English Drama > Plough Monday performances
  Sword-dance Development of the Mummers’ Play  


The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume V. The Drama to 1642, Part One.

II. Secular Influences on the Early English Drama.

§ 10. Plough Monday performances.

Analysis of the many varieties known would extend this chapter unduly, 18  and it must be our task rather to point out what is common to all. A transition stage between the sword-dance and the play may be noticed in the performance of the “plow boys or morris dancers” at Revesby in Lincolnshire, probably on Plough Monday (the Monday after Twelfth Night) in the last quarter of the eighteenth century, 19  and several Plough Monday performances in the eastern midlands. These have retained their original season—that of the resumption of agricultural work after winter, and they are entirely unaffected by heroic influences. In both, the characters are the traditional grotesques of village festivals—the fool and the Hobby-horse, who represent worshippers disguised in skins of beasts, and the “Bessy,” the woman or man dressed in woman’s clothes. The latter custom is recorded as obtaining among the Germans by Tacitus. Some of the eastern midlands performances introduce farm-labourers. In both there is much dancing; at Revesby, the fool, and, in the eastern midlands the old woman, Dame Jane, are killed and brought to life again.   16

Note 18. The reader is referred to Chambers, vol. II, pp. 208 ff. and to Ordish. [ back ]
Note 19. Printed by Manly, Specimens of the Pre-Shakespearean Drama, vol. I, p. 296. [ back ]

  Sword-dance Development of the Mummers’ Play  

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