The Fool and the Fairground
Abstract: I apologise for the wide spread of time which this subject requires to outline the thread of connection between the Medieval Folk Fool and that of the published Mumming texts.
Firstly, the existence of Fools in seasonal customs in England has to be established. Theological disapproval provides oblique proof through its condemnation and illustrations in Psalters show that Fools did enjoy the position of ringleader for games, tricks and plays; particularly at Shrovetide.
Shrovetide is one season when puddings were eaten and by the sixteenth century a large crop of pudding epigrams – frequently satirical though obscure today – had developed. This paper shows how the folk Fool became known as Jack Pudding and that this name superceded that of Fool itself. As is known, in the sixteenth century, the Fool rose briefly to a respectable position as a theatrical entertainer. The evidence shows that he did not disappear at the onset of the Civil War, but still survived, in the Fool's coat, in fairgrounds and with travelling entertainers.
The crucial point I hope to make is one which requires more detail than there may be time for. In the fairgrounds a mutually beneficial relationship between mountebanks and their Jack Puddings grew up. So much so that sometimes the Fool had the leading part and sometimes the doctor, whose main source of income was not through the sale of the medicines or 'pacquets', but through the entertainment value they gave. The one collection of mountebank speeches, printed twice, shows that political and religious satire was a large part of their attraction. I have found one example (19th century) of dialogue between mountebank and Fool, which shows the Fool undermining the doctor's pretensions. This dialogue is similar to the Mumming dialogue between the Doctor and his servant Jack and I hope it may be possible to show that the mountebank and his servant, who was originally a seasonal folk Fool, were reabsorbed into the mumming play.
The Edwards and Bryning Chapbook
Abstract: During the last 200 years, chapbooks containing the texts of traditional plays have been published in several towns and cities in Great Britain. These have included the Alexander plays published in Newcastle and Whitehaven, the Christmas Rhyme books of Belfast, the Peace Egg plays mainly from Lancashire and Yorkshire, and numerous others. In An Interim Checklist of Chapbooks containing Traditional Play Texts (1976), Preston et al. list over 100 chapbooks still in existence and more than thirty printers are known to have published editions. With so many chapbooks having been published, the question has often been raised of the influence they have had on play traditions. The chapbooks are generally supposed to have had most effect in the North of England where many teams of pace eggers appear to use texts similar to those found in the chapbooks.
This paper presents an examination of the effect chapbooks have had in one area, namely Greater Manchester where eight printers are known to have published editions. One of these, The Peace Egg, or St. George: An Easter Play, was first published early this century by the Rochdale printing firm of Edwards and Bryning. The publication of the chapbook coincided with the presence on the streets of Rochdale of an extraordinary number of teams of children performing pace egg plays. Many of these teams used the text in the chapbook, and some teams from local schools are still using it in the 1980s. This provides an excellent opportunity to study the effect that the publication of the chapbook has had on a single tradition.
As a booklet by Traditional Drama Research Group. (1982) A5. 6pp.]
Barry Callaghan (Presenter)
Traditional Drama - Some Underlying Premises
Abstract: Our understanding of the dramatic forms that can or should be included under the heading of Traditional Drama is somewhat limited – being implicit rather than explicit. This paper is consequently concerned with our statements as to the nature of Traditional Drama.
[Ron Shuttleworth Collection holds typescript.]
Damn St George: Some Neglected Home Truths in the History of British Folk Drama, or Bring Out the Dead
Damn St.George! Some Neglected Home Truths in the History of British Folk Drama, or Bring Out the Dead
Traditional Drama Studies,
1994, Vol.3, pp.1-14]
The Work of the Traditional Drama Research Group
Abstract: The Traditional Drama Research Group was formed in 1980 as a logical extension of the informal co-operative activity and ad hoc communication between particular individuals active in the field.
Since 1980, with a view to furthering study of the subject by means of co-operative projects and the active dissemination of material and information, meetings have been held in various parts of the county. Many aspects of Traditional Drama research have been discussed and the Group is currently involved in developing a suitable indexing scheme for Traditional Drama material and exploring the possibility of publishing a series of monographs.
The Traditional Drama Research Group's activities can be seen as attempting to aid and stimulate research into the subject by initiating and co-ordinating co-operative schemes and by encouraging communication and the active sharing of information and material between individual workers. We fully understand that most Traditional Drama research is carried out by non-professional individuals working informally in their own area and in their own way. We hope therefore that, by offering a channel for the exchange of ideas and information and by providing back up services of indexing and publishing, we can be of service to the subject and the people involved.