Samples of folk play scripts

Samples of original folk play scripts
Samples of folk play scripts
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Key to descriptions below:
While it is true that many if not most mumming and guising plays were passed on by word of mouth, it is also the case that the words might be written down and transmitted that way, or they might even be learned from printed scripts. This was particularly the case in the cities and towns of northern England and around Belfast, where a long tradition of performing groups using commercially printed chapbooks is well attested. Less obviously, mummers and guisers sometimes got their texts from scripts published in normal books, periodicals and newspapers, even in the southern half of England. These published versions usually reproduced local traditional texts, although authors such as Thomas Hardy and Charlotte Mary Yonge might weave a play text into one of their stories.

Of course, most of the folk play texts we have were collected by folklorists, local historians and the like. Many of these have been published either in books or specialist journals, but the majority remain as manuscripts in academic or public archives, or in private collections. These are increasingly being made available online.

Key:

  1. The 33 mumming plays collected by the academic R.J.E.Tiddy, and published posthumously in book form in 1923.
  2. A script compiled from several versions by Victorian children's author Juliana Horatia Ewing to go with her short story The Peace-Egg. First published in 1884; the play was subsequently republished in multiple editions of her works. The illustration shows the 1895 edition.
  3. Text published in the Penny Magazine (1859). There is evidence that this was used by several groups of mummers.
  4. Page from a script written our by Agnes Smith, a former performer from Tillicoulty, Clackmannanshire, for collector Peter Millington, and held in his own collection.
  5. Script from a selection of six plays collected and published in a booklet by Alex Helm and Christopher Cawte.
  6. Typed transcript of a Plough Monday play from Laxton, Notts., collected by E.L.Guilford. This transcript is in the A.S.Buxton Collection, Mansfield public library.
  7. An original chapbook text - Alexander and the King of Egypt. This edition was published in Whitehaven in towards the end of the 19th century. However, the earliest known edition was published in Newcastle upon Tyne in the mid 18th century, and is the earliest uncontested full mumming play script.
  8. Another original chapbook text - The Peace Egg - was published numerous times in northern England from the 1840s to the 1950s. This edition from Rochdale was published about 1959, when it was still being used by local Pace-Eggers at Easter.

References

[Anon.] (1860-91)
Alexander and the King of Egypt: A Mock Play as it is Acted by the Mummers Every Christmas.
Whitehaven: Callander and Dixon, [c.1860-91]

[Anon.] (1837)
Mumming
Penny Magazine, 2nd Dec.1837, No.364, pp.470-471

[Anon.] (1959)
The Peace Egg or St. George: An Easter Play
Rochdale: Edwards and Bryning Ltd, [c.1959]

Ewing, Juliana Horatia (1895)
The Peace Egg and Other Tales
London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, [1895fs]

Helm, Alex and Cawte, E.C. (1967)
Six Mummers' Acts
Ibstock: Guizer Press, 1967

Smith, Mrs. Agnes (1972)
The Sketch for three [Tillicoultry - Clackmannanshire (Scotland) - Guysers Play]
P.T.Millington Collection, 19th Jan.1972 & 7th Feb.1972

Tiddy, R.J.E. (1923)
The Mummers' Play
Oxford, University Press, 1923, pp.161-162
Facsimile reprint: Chicheley: Paul B.P.Minet, 1972

Willis, F. (1922)
Plough Monday. Laxton Version.
E.L.Guilford Collection, 22nd Jul.1922, Ref.M/9910/1-7, 10
Typed transcript in the A.S.Buxton Collection