"my spowse most specyally": late medieval mystical unions and the morality play wisdom
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AbstractThe East Anglian morality play Wisdom resides in two important manuscripts of fifteenth-century medieval drama—the Folger MS.V.a.354 (Macro plays) and Digby 133 (Digby plays). These manuscripts have been connected with Bury St. Edmunds, a town governed by a large Benedictine monastery, and Wisdom itself seems to have originated there since it reflects the unique governing structure of the borough that accommodated the intersection of lay and religious interests. The drama is an emblematic, sophisticated and liturgically-influenced masque depicting the contest between Wisdom (Christ) and Lucifer over the human soul, Anima. Because the iconography associated with the soul draws on the mystical writing of late fourteenth-century England, a period which witnessed at once the flourishing of vernacular religious writing and its subsequent interdiction with Archbishop Arundel's 1409 Constitutions, this thesis examines Wisdom's position in relation to that period's cultural debates concerning vernacular theology and religious practice. By investigating how this text is a derivative of that tradition, this study aims to explore some of the ramifications of the Constitutions, to illuminate the socio-political climate in which Wisdom was produced, and to highlight the role this vernacular drama played in shaping the religious beliefs and practices of lay and religious men and women.
Bibliography: p. 135-140