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Sic iteranda modo Venus affert lucra registro
Dum patitur bursa sunt residiva mala!

Dum loculus praegnat satis, impraegnare licebit ... [v. 223:) Non tamen est lacryma (wie bei Christus und der ehe

brecherin modo quae delere valebit,
Crimen si bursa nesciat inde forum:
Bursa valet culpam, valet expugnareque poenam
Bursa valet quantum curia nostra valet.

[Zu den hierzu bereits bei Sk. angeführten Wycliffestellen (besonders 35. 496. 517), vgl. Wycl. How Satan &c 213: lecherie . . . longep to iurdiccion of prelatis; nepeles gif þei han money of þes lecherous peues pei schullen lie in here cursed synne fro zeer to zeer, ze be al here lif gif pei paien moche & redily; derselbe Works ed. Arnold 3, 166: sith be streyt covenaunt þei sellen tyme of synnyng, þat þus longe schal he not be lettid for so myche money: ib. 320: somenors

sumtyme suffren hem to meyntene hem in wrongis for money. Vgl. ferner Ploughm. Tale v. 669:

A simple fornicacioun
Twenty shillings he shall pay;
And than have an absolucioun

And al the yere usen it forth he may ! [und ib. 351: all the whyle his purse woll blede).

Zu v. 639 ff. vgl. Wycliffe Office of Curates 156: he pat can cracken a litil latyn in constories of hepene mennus lawe & worldly prestis lawe & can helpe to anoie a pore man bi knackis or chapitris, is holden a noble clerk & redy & wyse.]


§ 42. v. 817. we wol reuled been at his deuys || In heigh and lough; vgl. die erklärung aus Tyrwhitt bei Sk.; de halt en bas ist bei Gower Mirour 69 (: Pecché fuist source de les mals, || Tornant les joyes en travals, || De halt en bas changeant les lieux &c) wohl in anderem sinne zu nehmen; vgl. Du Cange s. v. alte et basse = supremo jure, souverainement (Hugo de Lezignan 1242: nos et terram



nostram alte et basse ipsius Domini Regis supposuimus voluntati; Carpentier erklärt es: omnino, prorsus, entièrement, quoi que ce soit); vgl. ferner beispiele dieses rechtsausdruckes bei Rymer 3, 4, 158 (1399): in alto et basso vos submiseritis &c. Aehnlich wohl auch Ploughm. Tale 1375: In hy ne in low, ne in no degre.




The place of representation. Although much has been written in recent years upon the subject of the English Mysteries, and especially upon the four great collections known as the Coventry, Chester, York and Towneley (or Widkirk) Mysteries, little or nothing has been done to elucidate the question as to where the last named plays were represented. The object of this paper will be to show that there are important reasons for believing that they were performed in Wakefield, and should therefore be called “The Wakefield Mysteries'. This conclusion is 'prima facie' a reasonable one, considering the fact that all the other great English Cycles are connected with important towns, and it may also be supported by a variety of evidence, partly external and partly derived from the text of the plays itself. Yet since the first publication of the plays under the auspices of the Surtees Society in the year 1836,') no attention has been paid to this question, and in the recent edition of the Early English Text Society 2) nothing has been added to the remarks made by the previous editor of the text.

The only manuscript of these mysteries which is known to exist was discovered in the possession of the Towneley family early in the 19th century, and after passing through the hands of various gentlemen by sale under auction and otherwise, it was acquired by Mr. Bernard Quaritch in 1883,

1) The Towneley Mysteries, London 1836, Nichols and Son.

2) The Towneley Plays, George England and A. W. Pollard, London 1897, Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co.

and now remains in the possession of his executors. It is unfortunately in an incomplete condition: and it must have contained originally more than the 32 plays which are now to be found in it: for twelve leaves are apparently lost between the first and second plays, two more are missing at the end of the fourth, two more at the end of the seventeenth, and twelve more at the end of the twenty-ninth. These missing leaves would provide room for four or five additional plays of the average length, as well as for the lost portions of the incomplete ones.

The dialect used in the plays is that of the North of England, with some forms belonging to the East Midlands interspersed here and there; and in the thirteenth play a

Southern tooth' is adopted for a definite purpose for a few lines only.

When we turn to the special subject which is to be discussed in this paper, it will at once be seen from the following quotations what uncertainty has prevailed, and is still prevailing, in the minds of writers upon the question of the place of representation.

Professor Ten Brink ') says "The country fair, held once a year at Woodkirk, in the neighbourhood of Wakefield, may have been still more important than these towns': (he refers to York, Leeds & Beverley) 'according to a happy hypothesis, Woodkirk fair was the place where the Guilds of Wakefield and other neighbouring districts enacted those Corpus Christi Plays which have become so famous under the name of the Towneley Mysteries '.

Mr. J. A. Symonds 2) likewise adopts the view that the Towneley Plays belong to Woodkirk, which he identifies with Widkirk 'the Widkirk, Chester and Coventry plays abound in local references, and illustrate the dialects of their several districts'.

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1) English Literature II, 256. 7, translation by W. C. Robinson 1893. It will be shown later that there were two annual fairs at Woodkirk.

2) Shakspere's Predecessors in the English Drama p. 108.

Professor A. W. Ward 1) tells us – ‘in general, there is no reason to doubt that the composition of the Towneley Plays is due to the friars of Woodkirk or Nostel'. This however seems to be a somewhat bold assumption.

Mr. J. P. Collier 2) speaks throughout his work of the 'Widkirk Miracle Plays', and supposes that they belonged to * Widkirk Abbey'.

Professor Alexander Hohlfeld, in his masterly essay 3) entitled “Die altenglischen Kollektivmisterien” considers that the Towneley mysteries were acted in “Wakefield oder seine nächste Umgebung (Woodkirk)”.

Dr. Charles Davidson 4) favours the view that the plays belonged to Woodkirk.

Jusserand, in his “Literary History of the English People” (p. 466) says that the Towneley Mysteries are a “collection of plays performed at Woodkirk, formerly Widkirk, near Wakefield".

It will therefore be our purpose to discuss the merits of the rival claims of Woodkirk (or Widkirk) and Wakefield for the honour of having given birth to and fostered the growth of what is probably the most original and characteristic of all the cycles of English Mysteries: but before proceeding to this discussion, a few remarks may be made upon the appropriateness of the title, “ Towneley Plays” or “Towneley Mysteries”.

It has already been stated that the Surtees Society first published the plays in question under the title of “The Towneley Mysteries", in the year 1836; and the recent edition of the Early English Text Society has been brought out under the name of “The Towneley Plays”. The justification for these titles is not far to seek, as it lies in the fact that the unique manuscript volume, from which these works were printed, is supposed to have been for some centuries in the possession of the Towneley family of Towneley Hall in Lancashire, to whom it belonged in the year 1814, when it

1) English Dramatic Literature I


2) History of English Dramatic Poetry, London 1831.
3) Anglia Vol. XI, 219–310.
) Studies in the English Mystery Plays, Yale 1892.

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