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Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 4, 1893.djvu/167

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English Folk-Drama.

Easter play. It ends in the cure by the doctor, who does not reappear to cure the subsequent combatants. In fact, so clearly is the episode marked off from the rest of the play, that, having noted the distinction from the internal evidence, I was not a little surprised to find afterwards that in the versions which I exhibit it had been clearly differentiated by making it a separate and distinct act, the remainder of the play being called Act II.

The element of the doctor and his cure of the wounded or slain combatant is common to the sword-dance play, the Plough-Monday play, and the first portion of the Easter play. Whatever the vagaries of nomenclature may be — I am stating as briefly as possible the result of a very wide and extended collation of versions — we have here the trunk of this body of tradition. Around it all kinds of mutations and changes occur, but itself persists, because it is archaic. And it has nothing to do with the St. George and Dragon pageant, nothing to do with the Crusades. Take the rest of the Easter play— the second part — and you will find it quite distinct and separate, a thing made up of the pageant of St. George and the Crusades, with Beelzebub and the little Devil from some mediaeval miracle-play. In the Easter play we have the elements of Pagan and Christian, as the egg, typical of the regeneration of life, became the symbol of the resurrection after death.

Before recurring to the Christmas mumming-play, into which the Easter play was imported, let us finish the analysis. We have to account for the doctor who cures the wounded Slasher, and, on our theory of continuity, we have to account for the second portion of the play.

According to the traditions of the contest between the Winter and Summer champions, there were other combatants, armed with staves, who also contended, how, or in what order, is not known. This traditional contest was performed at some date very near St. George's Day, the 23rd April, when the pageant was performed, to be followed a few days later by the May-Day games, which celebrated