The role of Noah’s wife in the Chester play of Noah’s
This chapter focuses on the role of Noah’s wife as a radical, impious
questioning of both patriarchal and divine authority in the Chester play of
Noah’s Flood. Lawrence Besserman argues that in the performative
foregrounding of this character, through her refusal to board the Ark, can
be seen as coinciding with the emergence of outspoken female critics (e.g.
Margery Kempe, Joan White, anonymous female Lollard ‘preachers’) of a
male-dominated Church hierarchy.
Early modern Westminster is familiar as the location of the Royal Court at Whitehall, parliament, the law courts and the emerging West End, yet it has never been studied in its own right. This book reveals the often problematic relations between the diverse groups of people who constituted local society - the Court, the aristocracy, the Abbey, the middling sort and the poor - and the competing visions of Westminster's identity which their presence engendered. There were four parishes in Westminster at the turn of the sixteenth century. The parishes of St Martin's and St Margaret's have been identified as two of only eighteen English parishes for which continuous and detailed parish records survive for the turbulent period 1535-1570. Differences in social organization, administrative structure and corporate life in the two parishes also provide a study in contrasts. These crucial differences partly shaped forms of lay piety in each parish as well as their very different responses to the religious reformations of Henry VIII and his children. The death of Henry VIII heralded important changes in Westminster. Most strikingly, however, this was a period of major religious change, in stark contrast to the piecemeal changes of Henry's reign. The dissolution of Westminster's abbey gave rise to special problems. The book examines individuals who wielded the most influence at the local government; as well as the social identity of these parish elites. Finally, it explores the interaction of religion with the social and political developments observed in the post-Reformation town.
This collection of essays offers new perspectives that foster our understanding
of the crucial role the Bible played in medieval culture as well as in the wake
of the Reformation across Europe. The thirteen essays open up new horizons for
the study of biblical drama by putting special emphasis on periodisation, the
intersections of biblical narrative and performance, and the strategies employed
by playwrights to rework and adapt the biblical source material. Special
emphasis is placed on multitemporality, transnationality, and the modalities of
performance and form in relation to the uses of the Bible in medieval and early
modern drama. The three aspects are intertwined: particular modalities of
performance evolve, adapt and are re-created as they intersect with different
historical times and circumstances. These intersections pertain to aspects such
as dramatic traditions, confessional and religious rites, dogmas and debates,
conceptualisations of performance and form, and audience response – whenever the
Bible is evoked for performative purposes. The collection thus stresses the
co-presence of biblical and contemporary concerns in the periods under
discussion, conceiving of biblical drama as a central participant in the dynamic
struggle to both interpret and translate the Bible.
The church as sacred space places the reader at the heart of medieval
religious life, standing inside the church with the medieval laity in order to
ask what the church meant to them and why. It examines the church as a building,
idea, and community, and explores the ways in which the sanctity of the church
was crucial to its place at the centre of lay devotion and parish life. At a
time when the parish church was facing competition for lay attention, and
dissenting movements such as Lollardy were challenging the relevance of the
material church, the book examines what was at stake in discussions of sanctity
and its manifestations. Exploring a range of Middle English literature alongside
liturgy, architecture, and material culture, the book explores the ways in which
the sanctity of the church was constructed and maintained for the edification of
the laity. Drawing on a wide range of contemporary theoretical approaches, the
book offers a reading of the church as continually produced and negotiated by
the rituals, performances, and practices of its lay communities, who were
constantly being asked to attend to its material form, visual decorations, and
significance. The meaning of the church was a dominant question in late-medieval
religious culture and this book provides an invaluable context for students and
academics working on lay religious experience and canonical Middle English
If this chapter had been written a
mere quarter-century ago, it would have contained an almost entirely
different account both of gentry religion and of the Church which
ministered to the late medieval English laity. For in the mid-1970s the
reaction against the longstanding ‘Protestant’ account of
the Church and laypiety was only just beginning. The late medieval
lives across western Europe
in this period (with a particular focus on enclosed anchorites) is
provided by the essays collected in Anchoritic Traditions of Medieval
Europe edited by Liz Herbert McAvoy (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press,
On these phenomena, see P.H. Cullum,
‘Vowesses and Female LayPiety in the Province of York
celibacy and misogamy.
For Colin Fewer, the ‘rise of the Lollards after 1382 was only the most visible manifestation of a popular discontent with ecclesiastical corruption that intensified steadily after the 1350s’.
Consequently, he argues that whether or not their authors saw themselves as Wyclif's followers, the N-Town plays employ typology in order to equate the Old Law with the Church authorities and the New Law with private laypiety.
relationship between cleric and lay pupil
in favour of horizontal, collaborative sharing of knowledge. See LayPiety and Religious Discipline, p. 52.
33 Rice, LayPiety and Religious Discipline, p. 75.
34 Rice, LayPiety and Religious Discipline, pp. 68–75. See especially
pages 72–3 where Rice compares the dialogic form of Þe Lyfe of Soule
with the dialogic character of the Piers Plowman Samaritan episode.
35 The names of the two figures differ among the three manuscripts. The
titles ‘Frend’ and ‘Sire’ appear in Laud Misc. 210. In MS HM 502, the
two figures are ‘Fader’ and
ensure that the Magdalen Chapel and
Hospital remain a strong centre of civic religion and good works. To do
so, she entrusted her foundation to several overlapping groups, all
connected to her through kinship.
The later medieval trend of increased individualization in
laypiety is evident in Scottish towns, but it did not beget a weakening
of the bonds of communal laypiety. In fact, several religious
Ireland and many more established communities also allied themselves to the cause of Observant
reform.4 Henry Jefferies surmises that this burgeoning increase in mendicant clergy, who were certainly better educated and trained than their
secular counterparts and were highly esteemed for their preaching skills,
‘did not simply reflect an increase in laypiety in late medieval Ireland,
but contributed to that increase’.5 Yet, allowance must be made for
both; for, as we shall see from the evidence of surviving manuscripts,
the concerns of the lay members of wealthy Irish