Cornish Drama

The period from 1200 to 1600 is generally referred to as Middle Cornish, and during this time numerous religious plays were written at Glasney College. These plays were intended to educate the Cornish people about the stories of the Bible and the saints’ lives in an accessible and, at times, almost irreverent way. They were performed in open air rounds known as plen-an-gwari, some of which can still be found in locations around Cornwall, the best examples being St Just in Penwith and Perran Round near Perranporth. Of the surviving plays, the largest is a trilogy dating from the mid fourteenth century called the Ordinalia, which comprises Origo Mundi, (the Origin of the World), Passio Christi (the Passion of Christ) and Resurrexio Domini (the Resurrection of Our Lord). Notable also is Bewnans Meriasek, a play about the life of St Meriadoc of Brittany who became the patron saint of Camborne; and more recently Bewnans Ke, the life of St Kea, has been re-discovered and published. Both of these saint’s plays date from the sixteenth century, and include political satire on contemporary events. For example, the Cornish Rising of 1497 against Henry VII is alluded to in Bewnans Meriasek as the tyrant king is named Tewdar – a Cornish variation of Henry VII’s own name, Tudor.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *