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YALE STUDIES IN ENGLISH
ALBERT S. COOK, EDITOR.
ENGLISH NATIVITY PLAYS
EDITED WITH INTRODUCTION, NOTES,
SAMUEL B. HEMINGWAY, PH.D.
A Thesis presented to the Faculty of the Graduate School of Yale
HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY
There has hitherto been but little intensive and minute study of the English mystery plays. The texts of some of them have been well edited, and their general aspects and problems have been described by such men as Chambers and Gayley, in books which combine, in a delightful manner, deep scholarship and true art; but the field is so large that in general studies there is neither time nor space for the discussion of minor problems. It is indisputable that the work of Chambers and Gayley is more important and significant than the minute study of sources, authorship, and the like; yet the latter, particularly in these plays, has an important place.
The work of the present editor in tracing sources has led to several comparatively important conclusions. Almost invariably, writers on the English mysteries, in scant references, assert that the sources of these plays are to be found in the Vulgate and the Apocryphal Gospels. The reader thus forms a false estimate of the breadth of learning and culture which the writers of these plays possessed. Let him but glance through the notes on the sources of the Chester and Coventry plays in this edition, and he will discover how closely they are related to all the contemporary literature of Europe, profane as well as sacred.
Again, there is the problem of the authorship of the Chester plays. Ranulf Higden has long been suspected of being their author; Chambers has done