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admirable work in arranging and interpreting all of the relevant external evidence, but this evidence will not stand alone. It is a strange thing that no one has cared to take the trouble to compare the Chester plays with the undoubted work of Higden. A few hours spent in such comparison have resulted in the discovery of evidence which leaves little doubt of the authorship. The importance of this proof, together with that of the work on sources, is emphasized in the relation they bear to the larger and more important problem of foreign influence on the Chester plays (see Introduction, pp. xxiv-xxvii).
This arrangement of plays is, I believe, new, and I trust will prove convenient. It tends to emphasize the resemblances and differences between the productions of the four dramatists, and also gives opportunity for comparisons of many kinds. The Introduction contains conclusions drawn from materials to be found in the Notes. I have endeavored to make the Notes as brief and condensed as possible, leaving much to the presupposed knowledge of such a student as would be apt to use the book. The Glossary contains only such words as have not survived in modern English in the same or similar form. I have not included a Bibliography, as the one published by Stoddard in 1888, and the additions to it in Litbl. 1888 (3). 117–128, and Anglia 11.325 f., are complete up to their respective dates. All subsequent books · which have any bearing on these plays are referred to in the Notes.
My thanks are due, and are here gladly expressed, to the following persons : Professor Albert S. Cook, of Yale University, for his constant interest, suggestions, and advice, as well as for much valuable bibliographical assistance; the late Duke of Devonshire, for permission to transcribe his manuscript of the Chester Plays; Mrs. J. Arthur Strong, librarian to the Duke of Devonshire, for her courtesy and attention; Rev. H. N. Cunningham, of Watertown, Conn., for letters of introduction, by means of which I procured access to the Devonshire manuscript; Professor John M. Manly, of the University of Chicago, for advice and encouragement; Professor William H. Schofield, of Harvard University, for a reference to Higden; Mr. Clarence W. Mendell, of Yale University, for his interest in my work, and for various suggestions; the officers and staff of the Yale University Library, for their courteous attention to my requests.
1. THE PLAYS
The plays of this edition are those dealing with the story of the Nativity of Christ—from the Annunciation to the Adoration of the Shepherds -in the four great English mystery cycles, the Chester, the Coventry or Hegge, the York, and the Towneley or Wakefield. I have not included the Coventry Pageant of the Shearmen and Taylors, the real Coventry mystery, as its text is accessible in the publications of the EETS., and there is little in it that demands annotation or comment. The plays included are: Nos. 6 and 7 of the Chester cycle (designated in this edition as Ch. I and II); Nos, 11, 12, 13, 15, 16 of the Coventry cycle (C. I, II, III, IV, V); Nos. 12, 13, 14, 15 of the York cycle (Y. I, II, III, IV); and Nos. 10, 11, 12, 13 of the Towneley cycle (T. I, II, III, IV). The 14th play of the Coventry cycle, The Trial of Joseph and Mary, I have omitted, as it has no parallel in the other cycles, and is more closely related to C. 8, 9, and 10 than to our group, being taken from the apocryphal account of the life of Mary.
This selection of plays is, I think, a rational one, for, as we shall see later, this group forms an independent, organic whole. In its history and developement it is quite distinct from the plays which precede and follow it, even the Magi plays having an entirely separate origin and growth.
2. THE MANUSCRIPTS The Chester plays have survived in five manuscripts, The oldest of these, the Devonshire manuscript (referred to as D), bears the date 1591, and the signature of Edward Gregorie, scholar of Bunbury (fol. 150b). This manuscript is in the possession of the Duke of Devonshire, and is in his library at Chatsworth in Derbyshire (not at Devonshire House, London, as Dr. Furnivall asserts in the EETS. edition of the Chester plays). It was overlooked by Dr. Deimling, the editor of the EETS. edition, and the part including our plays has never before been published. Through the courtesy of the late Duke and of his librarian, Mrs. J. Arthur Strong, I obtained access to the Devonshire manuscript, and have used it as the basis of my text in the present edition.
Three manuscripts of the Chester plays are in the British Museum: Additional 10,305 (W, 1592 A.D.), the basis of Wright's edition, Harleian 2013 (h, 1600 A.D.), and Harleian 2124 (H, 1607 A.D.), the latter the basis of Deimling's text. One manuscript is in the Bodleian Library, Oxford-Bodley 175 (B, 1604 A.D.), written by William Bedford.
The plays of the other cycles exist in unique manuscripts. The manuscript of the Coventry plays is in the British Museum, Cotton Vespasian D.VIII, dated 1468. My text is constructed from photographs of this manuscript.
The manuscript of the York plays, dating from 1430 -1440, was until recently in the possession of the Earl of Ashburnham ; it is now in the British Museum, Additional MS. 35,290. It has had a most interesting history, and is fully described in Lucy Toulmin Smith's edition of the York plays. My text is based on the reprint of the manuscript in Miss Smith's edition.