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The Wakefield Master

-First English writer of realistic comedy-

Professor coordinator:Bejan Remus Student Facultatea de Litere Specializare Engleza-Italiana Anul I

The cycle is the work of multiple authors over the course of approximately two centuries. Some plays are connected with the York Cycle. However, the most notable plays, including "The Second Shepherd's Play" were written by an anonymous author named the "Wakefield Master", who also wrote "Noah", "The First Shepherds' Play". The term "Wakefield Master" come into sight from a need to distinguish some material in the Towneley manuscript from a mass of unexceptional material, and was first make up by Charles Mills Gayley. In 1903, Gayley and Alwin Thaler published an anthology of criticism and dramatic selections entitled Representative English Comedies. It had long been believed that the Towneley Play was a mediocre work that showed extensive borrowing from other sources but containing vibrant and exciting material, apparently by one author, who was responsible for four or five complete pageants and extensive revisions. Gayley refers to this person as the "master" (with a lowercase m) in the book. Then in a 1907 article, Gayley emended this to "The Wakefield Master," the name which is still frequently used. Literary critics found several features in the Towneley manuscript worthy of interest. These features suggested an author of original poetic gifts, and came to be regarded as the marks of the Wakefield Master's hand. The most obvious of these characteristics is that several of the pageants use a distinctive stanza, sometimes called the Wakefield Stanza. The pageants that manifest the Wakefield Stanza are noted for comedy, social satire, and intense psychological realism. The Wakefield cycle contains thirty-two plays. This deal with the usual themes, though there are some gaps. The literary merit of the Wakefield plays is higher than that of any of the other cycles which have survived. The stanzas are handled with some assurance, there is an occasional note of real poetry, and in five of the plays there is a lively ironic humor and realistic characterization that show a sense of comedy and of satire to a degree

unparalleled in any other existing miracle plays. The story of Noah is treated as broad realistic comedy, with Noahs wife portrayed as a talkative shrew who refuses to enter the ark. In the shepherd plays there is realistic painting of the lives of the poor. Toward the end of the fifteenth century there developed a type of morality play which dealt in the same way with general moral problems, though with more realistic and comic elements. The Secunda Pastorum includes a lively comic episode which is an irreverent anticipation of the actual Nativity.Several plays, including The Second Shepherds Play, are so superior to the others that they are believed to have been authored by one playwright, today known simply as the Wakefield Master. Other plays in the cycle presumed to be by the Master include Noah, The First Shepherds Play, Herod the Great, and The Buffeting of Christ. The common authorship of these specific plays is assumed based on their comedy, social satire, and sympathetic and realistic portrayal of humanity. The Second Shepherds Play is the Cycles Nativity play, but the anonymous Wakefield Master tells this familiar tale with a comic twist that has made this one of the most famous medieval cycle plays still in existence. Coll, Gib and Daw, three very English herdsmen, are watching their sheep one December night on the moors near Horbury, in the West Riding of Yorkshire, when there comes to them the midnight-stalking Mak, complaining of the stomach-ache and of the fact that his wife is in labor. To the shepherds he is already known as a thief, yet because of his misery, they permit him to lie down with them an rest. After the others have fallen asleep, Mak pronounces a spell to keep them in slumber till noon, then, taking a sheep, he goes home. Of course, when the shepherds awake, they discover their loss and immediately suspect Mak. But a visit to his home mystifies them, for Mak has concealed the sheeps carcass in a crib wherein the new-born babe is supposed to be lying. Mak and his wife, Gill, exult too soon, however, in their supposed triumph, for after the simple Yorkshire men have left his house, they suddenly

recollect that they have given nothing to the child and decide to return. The last two scenes of the play show these same shepherds informed by an angel of the bird of Christ, and later, adoring the Child as he lies in the manger.

In conclusion, The Wakefield Master, as the anonymous author of the five outstanding Wakefield plays has been called, is the first English writer of realistic comedy. His main inspiration was the realistic fabliau and his own observation rather than the Bible or the liturgy. The literary interest of the plays is confined to some short passages of lyrical or dramatic vitality.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wakefield_Mystery_Plays http://web.usal.es/~anlosan/history-of-drama.htm http://www.cambridge.org/gb/knowledge/isbn/item1175192/The %20Cambridge%20History%20of%20Medieval%20English %20Literature/?site_locale=en_GB google preview