December 24, 2014

St. George & the Dragon

Immaculate Heart Homeschoolers presents
George & the Dragon

Mummers Plays are seasonal folk plays performed by troupes of actors known as mummers, around Christmastime or other calendar festivals. The plays are sometimes performed in the street, but more usually as house-to-house visits, and in public houses or inns (or in this case... Church basement). They were often enacted by farm laborers who needed a little extra money before Christmas; it is said that three nights of mumming often raised as much as a whole month's wages for the agricultural laborers. The groups were normally based in a village and each village had a slightly different version of the play. 

 The text of the play is written in short traditional verse sketches written in rhyme. Plays might include songs, or even dances. The whole affair often finishes with a carol or seasonal song.

Our priest directed the play while our choir director provided medieval music which accompanied the acting or the children sang.  Scenery was made by one of the mothers in our homeschooling group.

 Hero/Combat plays were the most common form of English folk play. Although usually broadly comic performances, the plays are based on underlying themes of duality and resurrection, and generally involve a battle between two or more characters, representing good against evil. In mummers’ plays, the central incident is the killing and restoring to life of one of the characters. The plays normally start with an introductory prologue, which is followed by challenges and a sword fight between the hero and an antagonist. The common theme is that one of them is "slain" (not always the villain), and a comical quack Doctor with a magic potion is brought in to perform a cure and revive the loser of the sword fight between the hero and his adversary.

 The principal characters, presented in a wide variety of manner and style, are a Hero, his chief opponent, the Fool, and a quack Doctor; the defining feature of mumming plays is the Doctor, and the main purpose of the fight is to provide him with a patient to cure. The hero sometimes kills and sometimes is killed by his opponent; in either case, the Doctor comes to restore the dead man to life. The plays varied from region to region, but the principal characters were usually St. George, the Doctor, Slasher, a Turkish Knight, and Father Christmas. In the instances where the dragon appears and speaks, its words can be traced back to a Cornish script published by William Sandys in 1833. Saint George, the valiant knight, is the most frequent hero of the play.

 His main opponents vary, but there is a tendency for them to be the soldier Slasher, and the Turkish Knight, but sometimes the Royal Prussian King appears. The characters may be introduced in a series of short speeches (usually in rhyming couplets) in which each personage has his own introductory announcement, or they may introduce themselves in the course of the play's action.

 Mummers plays such as "St. George and the Dragon," are considered to have reference to the time of the crusades, and to have been introduced on the return of the adventurers from the Holy-Land, as typifying their battles.

 Bravo! Bravo! Bravissimo!

Following the play we had a potluck supper and this beautiful cake decorated by one of our homeschooling moms.

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