Bibliography of Cornish Medieval Drama

March 18, 2008 by: admin

Manuscripts of three full-length Cornish medieval plays have survived. They are:

  • a cycle performed on three consecutive days known as the Ordinale (or ‘authorative text’), probably written in the fourteenth century;
  • a saint’s play, Beunans Meriasek (‘The Life of St. Meriasek’), dated in the surviving manuscript 1504 but certainly originally written earlier; and
  • the first part of an apparently incomplete cycle called The Creacion of the World (for which the first translator invented the Cornish title Gwreans an Bys) that, in the manuscript, is dated 1611 but that may well have been a copy or adaptation of an earlier play.

This bibliography lists the major printed sources of published material dealing with Cornish medieval drama. The references are divided into sections. You may go to the section of your choice by clicking on the appropriate title below.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: It was possible to compile this bibliography only because of the important bibliographical work on Cornish medieval drama already undertaken by Evelyn S. Newlyn and Brian Murdoch.



HARRIS, Markham, The Cornish Ordinalia. A Medieval Dramatic Trilogy (Washington: Catholic University of America Press, 1969). [Translation only]

NANCE, R. Morton & SMITH, A.S.D., The Cornish Ordinalia,ed. SANDERCOCK, Graham (3 vols. n.p.: Kesva an Tavas Kernewek/Cornish Language Board, 1982-1989).

NORRIS, Edwin, The Ancient Cornish Drama (2 vols. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1859; repr. London & New York: Blom, 1968).

The Ordinalia – A Synoptic Website
This important site, compiled by Jim Hall of the Falmouth College of Arts, offers the complete Norris translation of the Ordinalia, plus much other useful information:
Day 1 – Ordinale de Origo Mundi
Day 2 –Passio Domini Nostri Jhesu Christi
Day 3 – Orinale de Resurrexione Domini Nostri Jhesu Christi

There is also:

Information about Edwin Norris
Some photos of the 1969 production


HARRIS, Markham, The Life of Meriasek. A Medieval Cornish Miracle Play (Washington: Catholic University of America Press, 1977). [Translation only]

STOKES, Whitley, The Life of Saint Meriasek, Bishop and Confessor. A Cornish Drama (London: Trubner, 1872)


GILBERT, Davies, The Creation of the World with Noah’s Flood, written in Cornish in the Year 1611 by Wm. Jordan, with an English translation (London: J.B.Nichols, 1827).

NANCE, R. Morton & SMITH A.S.D., Gwryans an bys(2nd ed. revised by HOOPER, E.G.R., Padstow: Lodenek Press, 1979).

NEUSS, Paula, The Creacion of the World. A Critical Edition and Translation (New York and London: Garland, 1983).

RAWE, Donald R., The Creation of the World (Gwryans an Bys) (Padstow: Lodenek Press, 1978. [Performance translation only]

STOKES, Whitley, Gwreans an bys. The Creation of the World (London & Edinburgh: Williams and Norgate, 1864).



BAKERE, Jane A., The Cornish Ordinalia. A Critical Study (Cardiff, University of Wales Press, 1980).

BETCHER, G.J., ‘A Reassessment of the Date and Provenance of the Cornish Ordinalia. Comparative Drama, 29 (1995-96), pp.436-453.

CRAWFORD, T.D., ‘The Composition of the Cornish Ordinalia‘, Old Cornwall, 9 (1979-85), pp.145-153; 166-67.

CROSS, Sally Joyce, ‘Torturers and Tricksters in the Cornish Ordinalia‘, Neuphilogische Mitteilungen, 84 (1983), pp.448-53.

DENNY, Neville, ‘Arena Staging and Dramatic Quality in the Cornish Passion Play’. In his Medieval Drama: Stratford-upon- Avon Studies 16, pp.125-53.

FOWLER, David C., ‘The Date of the Cornish Ordinalia‘, Medieval Studies, 23 (1961), pp.9-125.

FUDGE, Crysten, ‘Aspects of Form in the Cornish Ordinalia with Special Reference to Origo Mundi‘, Old Cornwall, 8 (1973-79), pp.457-64; 491-98.

HALL, Jim, ‘Maximilla, the Cornish Montanist: The final scenes of Origo Mundi’, Cornish Studies, 7 (July, 1999). An online text is HERE.

HAWKE, Andrew, ‘A Lost Manuscript of the Cornish Ordinalia?’, Cornish Studies, 7 (1979), pp.45-60.

LONGSWORTH, Robert, The Cornish Ordinalia: Religion and Dramaturgy (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1967).

PERRY, Margaret, ‘The Cornish Ordinalia’
A short introduction plus information about the production in 2000.

RODDY, Kevin, ‘Revival of the Cornish Mystery Plays in St. Piran’s “round” & of the York Cycle, 1969’, New Theatre Magazine, 1969. No. 3, pp.6-19. An online text is HERE.

MEYER, Robert T., ‘The Liturgical Background of Mediaeval Cornish Drama’, Trivium, 3 (1968), pp.45-58.

MARX, C.W., ‘The Problems of the Doctrine of the Redemption in the ME Mystery Plays and the Cornish Ordinalia‘, Medium Aevum, 64 (1985), pp.20-32.

MURDOCH, Brian, ‘The Place-Names in the Cornish Passio Christi‘, Bulletin of the Board of Celtic Studies, 37 (1990), pp.116-8.


CRAWFORD, T.D., ‘Stanza Forms and Social Status in Beunans Meriasek‘, Old Cornwall, 9 (1979-85), pp.431-9; 485-92.

GRANTLEY, Darryll, ‘Producing Miracles’. In NEUSS, Paula (ed.), Aspects of Early English Drama (Cambridge: Brewer, 1983), pp.78-91.

HIGGINS, Sydney, Medieval Theatre in the Round: The Multiple Staging of Religious Drama in England (Camerino: Centro Linguistico, 1995).

MEYER, Robert T., ‘The Middle-Cornish Play Beunans Meriasek‘, Comparative Drama, 3 (1969), pp.54-64.

MURDOCH, Brian, ‘The Holy Hostage: de filio mulieris in the Middle Cornish Play Beunans Meriasek‘, Medium Aevum, 58 (1989), pp.258-73.

NANCE, R. Morton, ‘Notes on the Beunans Meriasek Manuscript’, Old Cornwall, 9 (1979-85), pp.34-36.

THOMAS, Charles, Christian Antiquities of Camborne (St. Austell: Warne, 1966) – ch.11.

TURK, Frank A. & COMBELLACK, Myrna M., ‘Doctoring and Disease in Medieval Cornwall: Exegetical Notes on Some Passages in Beunans Meriasek‘, Cornish Studies, 4/5 (1976-77), pp.56-76.

WICKHAM, Glynne, ‘The Staging of Saint Plays in England’. In STICCA, Sandro (ed., The Medieval Drama (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1972), pp.115-18.


HIGGINS, Sydney, ‘Creating the Creation: the staging of the Cornish medieval play The Creation of the World‘. In European Medieval Drama 1996 (Camerino: Centro Linguistico, 1996), pp.67-95.

MURDOCH, Brian, ‘Creation, Fall and After in the Cornish Gwreans an Bys‘, Studi Medievali, 29 (1981), pp.822-36.

NEUSS, Paula, ‘Memorial Reconstruction in a Cornish Miracle Play’, Comparative Drama, 5.2 (1971), pp.129-37.NEUSS, Paula, ‘The Staging of the Creacion of the World‘, Theatre Notebook, 33 (1979), pp.116-25.


BAKERE, Jane A., ‘Glasney and Cornish Drama’, Paper 1, Friends of Glasney (1989).

BANNISTER, Rev. Dr., ‘The Mystery of the Passion at Ammergau and in Cornwall’, Annual Report of the Plymouth Institution, IV, pp.373-84.

ELLIS, P. Beresford, The Cornish Language and its Literature (London & Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1974).

HALLIDAY, F.E. The Legend of the Rood (London: Duckworth, 1955).

JENNER, Henry, ‘The Cornish Drama’, The Celtic Review, 3 (1906-7), pp.360-75; 4 (1907-8), pp.41-68.

LACH-SZYRMA, W.S. ‘Miracle Plays in Cornwall’, The Antiquary, 1 (1880), pp.241-44.

LONG, P.R., ‘New Light on the Mystery Plays of Cornwall’, Old Cornwall, VII.10 (1972), p.458-9.

MURDOCH, Brian, Cornish Literature (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 1993).

MURDOCH, Brian, ‘The Cornish Drama’. In BEADLE, Richard, The Cambridge Companion to Medieval English Theatre (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), pp.211-239.

NANCE, R. Morton, ‘Painted Windows and Miracle Plays’, Old Cornwall, 5 (1951-61), pp.244-48.

NEWLYN, Evelyn S., ‘Between the Pit and the Pedestal: Images of Eve and Mary in Medieval Cornish Drama’. In DuBRUCK, Edelgard, New Images of Medieval Women (Lampeter: Mellen, 1989), pp.121-64.

NEWLYN, Evelyn S., Cornish Drama of the Middle Ages: A Bibliography (Redruth: Institute of Cornish Studies, 1987).

NEWLYN, Evelyn S., ‘The Middle Cornish Interlude: Genre and Tradition’, Comparative Drama, 30, No.2 (1996), pp,266-281.

NEWLYN, Evelyn S., ‘The stained and painted glass of St. Neot’s church and the staging of the Middle Cornish drama’, Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 24 (Winter 1994. Dunke University Publications, N.C.

PETER, Thurstan C., The Old Cornish Drama (London: Elliot Stock, 1906). An online text is HERE.

SANDYS, William, ‘On the Cornish Drama’, Journal of the Royal Institution of Cornwall, 1.3 (1865), pp.1-18. An online text of the article is HERE.

WALLWARTH, George F., ‘Methods of Production in the Medieval Cornish Drama’, Speech Monographs, 24 (1957), pp.212-28.


In the manuscript of the ‘Ordinalia’ there are three circular plans (one for each of the three days of the play) showing where the permanent stations (or stages) were situated.
There are two similar plans in ‘Beunans Meriasek’. These, together with other documentary evidence, show that at least the major Cornish medieval plays were presented in open-air, circular theatres.

BORLASE, William, Observations on the Antiquties, Historical and Monumental of the County of Cornwall (2nd ed. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1798), pp.195-7, 208.

BORLASE, William, The Natural History of Cornwall (Oxford: Clarendon, 1758), pp.295-8.

DAVIDSON, Clifford, Illustrations of the Stage and Acting in England to 1580 (Kalamazoo, Michigan: 1991), pp.41-47.

GUTHRIE, A., ‘The Plain-an-Gwary, St. Just in Penwith. Report on an Exploratory Excavation’, Proceedings of the West Cornwall Field Club, n.s. 2.1 (1956-7), pp.3-8.

HIGGINS, Sydney, Medieval Theatre in the Round: The Multiple Staging of Religious Drama in England (Camerino: Centro Linguistico, 1995).

HOLMAN, Treve, ‘Cornish Plays and Playing Places’, Theatre Notebook, 4 (1950), pp.52-54.

JENNER, Henry, ‘Perran Round and the Cornish Drama’, 79th Annual Report of the Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society (Falmouth, 1912), pp.38-44.

NANCE, R. Morton, ‘The Plen an gwary or Cornish Playing Place’, Journal of the Royal Institution of Cornwall, 24 (1933-36), pp.190-212.

PROSSER, Eleanor, Drama and Religion in the English Mystery Plays – A Re-evaluation (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1961), pp.46-51.

SCHMITT, Natalie C., ‘Was There a Medieval Theatre in the Round? A Re-examination of the Evidence’. In

TAYLOR, JEROME & NELSON, Alan H., Medieval English Drama: Essays Critical and Contextual (Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press, 1972), pp.292-315.

SOUTHERN, Richard, The Medieval Theatre in the Round (2nd ed. London: Faber, 1975), pp.60-69, 223-38, 237-60.

TYDEMAN, William, The Theatre in the Middle Ages: Western European Stage Conventions c.800-1576 (Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press, 1978), pp.134-65.

WHITLEY, H. Michell, ‘Cornish Rounds or Playing Places’, Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries, 7 (1912-13), pp.172-4.


ELLIS, P. Berresford, The Story of the Cornish Language (2nd ed. Penryn: Tor Mark, 1990).

EVANS, D. Simon, ‘The Story of Cornish’, University of Liverpool Studies, 58 (1969), pp.293-308.

JENNER, Henry, A History of the Cornish Language (London: Nutt, 1904).

SMITH, A.S.D., The Story of the Cornish Language (2nd ed. Camborne: An Kef Kernewek, 1969).

WAKELIN, Martyn F., Language and History in Cornwall (Leicester: Leicester University Press, 1975).

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