Article Title

Two Medieval Cornish Versions of the Creation of the World


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

The survival of a small but impressive corpus of drama written in the Middle Ages by and for native speakers of the Cornish language1 is especially remarkable in light of the paucity of.other literary remains in that hapless Celtic tongue.2 Indeed, even that peculiarity may have contributed to the obscurity in which the Cornish drama has languished: critics or historians occasionally remark with amazement the sheer survival of the ancient drama in Cornish, but they rarely pause to scrutinize it. Moreover, some of the scrutiny applied to the Cornish drama has resulted in misunderstanding. A particularly unfortunate example of such misunderstanding concerns the relationship between two of the Cornish plays in which may be found not only similarity of subject matter but also some identical text. The older of the two is commonly known as the Origo Mundi, the first part of the fourteenth-century Ordinalia;3 the later is the Creation of the World (often referred to by the Cornish title, Gwryans an Bys), which is the first and only surviving part of what appears to have been a longer sixteenth-century work.4 More than one commentator has slighted the later play by treating it merely as an expanded version of its predecessor.5 Its most recent editor properly refutes this view of the Creation of the World, but remains puzzled about the relationship between the two texts.6

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