Manuscripts of three full-length Cornish medieval plays have survived. It is possible to view these manuscripts online.
  1. A cycle performed on three consecutive days known as the Ordinale (or 'authorative text'), probably written in the fourteenth century:
        Bodleian Library, MS. Bodl. 791
  2. A saint's play, Beunans Meriasek ('The Life of St. Meriasek'), dated in the surviving manuscript 1504 but certainly originally written earlier; and
        Aberystwyth, National Library of Wales, MS Peniarth 105B
  3. The first part of an apparently incomplete cycle called The Creacion of the World (for which the first translator invented the Cornish title Gwreans an Bys) that, in the manuscript, is dated 1611 but that may well have been a copy or adaptation of an earlier play.
        Oxford, Bodleian Library, Bodley 219
This bibliography lists the major printed sources of published material dealing with Cornish medieval drama.
Theatre in the Round: The Staging of Cornish Medieval Drama, a new illustrated analysis by SYDNEY HIGGINS is now published. In the USA, it is available from for $16.93 and in the UK from for £12.50.



CHUBB, Ray; JENKIN, Richard & SANDERCOCK, Graham (eds.) of NANCE, R. Morton & SMITH, A.S.D., The Cornish Ordinalia, first play: Origo Mundi (Redruth, Agan Tavas, 2001)
HARRIS, Markham, The Cornish Ordinalia. A Medieval Dramatic Trilogy (Washington: Catholic University of America Press, 1969). [Translation only]
KENT, Alan M., Ordinalia - The Cornish Mystery Play Cycle - A verse translation (London: Francis Boutle Publishers, 2005) with an informative introduction by Brian Murdoch.
NANCE, R. Morton & SMITH, A.S.D., The Cornish Ordinalia, ed. SANDERCOCK, Graham (3 vols. n.p.: Kesva an Tavas Kernewek/Cornish Language Board, 1982-1989).
NORRIS, Edwin, The Ancient Cornish Drama (2 vols. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1859; repr. London & New York: Blom, 1968). Full text here - Volume 1, Volume 2.


HARRIS, Markham, The Life of Meriasek. A Medieval Cornish Miracle Play (Washington: Catholic University of America Press, 1977). [Translation only]
STOKES, Whitley, The Life of Saint Meriasek, Bishop and Confessor. A Cornish Drama (London: Trubner, 1872) 


GILBERT, Davies, The Creation of the World with Noah's Flood, written in Cornish in the Year 1611 by Wm. Jordan, with an English translation (London: J.B. Nichols, 1827).
NANCE, R. Morton & SMITH A.S.D., Gwryans an bys (2nd ed. revised by HOOPER, E.G.R., Padstow: Lodenek Press, 1979).
NEUSS, Paula, The Creacion of the World. A Critical Edition and Translation (New York and London: Garland, 1983).
RAWE, Donald R., The Creation of the World (Gwryans an Bys) (Padstow: Lodenek Press, 1978. [Performance translation only]
STOKES, Whitley, Gwreans an bys. The Creation of the World (London & Edinburgh: Williams and Norgate, 1864)


The manuscript containing the fragment of this play was discovered among the papers of the late Emeritus Professor J. E. Caerwyn Williams donated to the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth, by his widow, the late Gwen Caerwyn Williams, in 2000. The play was probably composed in the second half of the fifteenth century. The first section deals with the confrontation of Saint Kea with Teudar, a local Cornish tyrant. A second section deals with King Arthur's quarrel with the Roman emperor Lucius Hiberius, concerning the tribute the Britons were forced to pay to Rome and with Queen Guinevere's adultery with Arthur's nephew, Mordred, ending with a scene in which Guinevere regrets her behavior. The rest of the play is missing.
The complete manuscript is here: Aberystwyth, National Library of Wales, MS 23849D
THOMAS, Graham & WILLIAMS, Nicholas, Bewnans Ke/The Life of St Kea: Critical Edition with Translation (Exeter, Exeter Medieval Texts & Studies, 2007)



BAKERE, Jane A., The Cornish Ordinalia. A Critical Study (Cardiff, University of Wales Press, 1980).
BETCHER, G.J., 'A Reassessment of the Date and Provenance of the Cornish Ordinalia. Comparative Drama, 29 (1995-96), pp.436-453.
BETCHER, G.J. 'Translating a Labour Dispute in the Cornish Ordinalia within a Legal Context' in Fourteenth Century England 1, ed. Nigel Saul (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2000), pp. 89-102. 
CRAWFORD, T.D., 'The Composition of the Cornish Ordinalia', Old Cornwall, 9 (1979-85), pp.145-153; 166-67.
CROSS, Sally Joyce, 'Torturers and Tricksters in the Cornish Ordinalia', Neuphilogische Mitteilungen, 84 (1983), pp.448-53.
DENNY, Neville, 'Arena Staging and Dramatic Quality in the Cornish Passion Play'. In his Medieval Drama: Stratford-upon- Avon Studies 16, pp.125-53.
FOWLER, David C., 'The Date of the Cornish Ordinalia', Medieval Studies, 23 (1961), pp.9-125.
FUDGE, Crysten, 'Aspects of Form in the Cornish Ordinalia with Special Reference to Origo Mundi', Old Cornwall, 8 (1973-79), pp.457-64; 491-98.
HALL, Jim, 'Maximilla, the Cornish Montanist: The final scenes of Origo Mundi', Cornish Studies, 7 (July, 1999).
HAWKE, Andrew, 'A Lost Manuscript of the Cornish Ordinalia?', Cornish Studies, 7 (1979), pp.45-60.
LONGSWORTH, Robert, The Cornish Ordinalia: Religion and Dramaturgy (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1967).
MARX, C.W., 'The Problems of the Doctrine of the Redemption in the ME Mystery Plays and the Cornish Ordinalia', Medium Aevum, 64 (1985), pp.20-32.
MEYER, Robert T., 'The Liturgical Background of Mediaeval Cornish Drama', Trivium, 3 (1968), pp.45-58.
MURDOCH, Brian, 'The Mors Pilati' in the Cornish Resurrexio Domini', Celtica 23 (1999), pp. 211-226, 1999.
MURDOCH, Brian, 'The Place-Names in the Cornish Passio Christi', Bulletin of the Board of Celtic Studies, 37 (1990), pp.116-8.
RODDY, Kevin, 'Revival of the Cornish Mystery Plays in St. Piran's "round" & of the York Cycle, 1969', New Theatre Magazine, 1969. No. 3, pp.6-19.


CRAWFORD, T.D., 'Stanza Forms and Social Status in Beunans Meriasek', Old Cornwall, 9 (1979-85), pp.431-9; 485-92.
GRANTLEY, Darryll, 'Producing Miracles'. In NEUSS, Paula (ed.), Aspects of Early English Drama (Cambridge: Brewer, 1983), pp.78-91.
MANNING, H. Paul, 'Staging the State and the Hypostasization of Violence in the Medieval Cornish Drama',  Cornish Studies 13, pp. 126-169, 2005. Text here.
MANNING, H. Paul, 'The Word made land: Incarnationalism and the spatial poetics and pragmatics of largesse in medieval Cornish drama', Semiotica 146 (1/4),pp. 237-266, 2004.


MEYER, Robert T., 'The Middle-Cornish Play Beunans Meriasek', Comparative Drama, 3 (1969), pp.54-64.
MURDOCH, Brian, 'The Holy Hostage: de filio mulieris in the Middle Cornish Play Beunans Meriasek', Medium Aevum, 58 (1989), pp.258-73.
NANCE, R. Morton, 'Notes on the Beunans Meriasek Manuscript', Old Cornwall, 9 (1979-85), pp.34-36.
OLSON, Lynette, 'Tyranny in Beunans Meriasek'. In PAYTON, Philip (ed.), Cornish Studies: Five /Exeter, University of Exeter Press, 1997)
THOMAS, Charles, Christian Antiquities of Camborne (St. Austell: Warne, 1966) - ch.11.
TURK, Frank A. & COMBELLACK, Myrna M., 'Doctoring and Disease in Medieval Cornwall: Exegetical Notes on Some Passages in Beunans Meriasek', Cornish Studies, 4/5 (1976-77), pp.56-76.
WICKHAM, Glynne, 'The Staging of Saint Plays in England'. In STICCA, Sandro (ed.), The Medieval Drama (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1972), pp.115-18. 


HIGGINS, Sydney, 'Creating the Creation: the staging of the Cornish medieval play The Creation of the World'. In European Medieval Drama 1996 (Camerino: Centro Linguistico, 1996), pp.67-95.
MURDOCH, Brian, 'Creation, Fall and After in the Cornish Gwreans an Bys', Studi Medievali, 29 (1981), pp.822-36.
NEUSS, Paula, 'Memorial Reconstruction in a Cornish Miracle Play', Comparative Drama, 5.2 (1971), pp.129-37.
NEUSS, Paula, 'The Staging of the Creacion of the World', Theatre Notebook, 33 (1979), pp.116-25.


BAKERE, Jane A., 'Glasney and Cornish Drama', Paper 1, Friends of Glasney (1989).
BANNISTER, Rev. Dr., 'The Mystery of the Passion at Ammergau and in Cornwall', Annual Report of the Plymouth Institution, IV, pp.373-84.
BRUCH, Benjamin, 'Words and Music in Middle Cornish Drama' - Powerpoint presentation at the Annual Meeting of CSANA at the University of California, Los Angeles, March 17 2006.
ELLIS, P. Beresford, The Cornish Language and its Literature (London & Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1974).
HALLIDAY, F.E. The Legend of the Rood (London: Duckworth, 1955).
JENNER, Henry, 'The Cornish Drama', The Celtic Review, 3 (1906-7), pp.360-75; 4 (1907-8), pp.41-68.
JOYCE, Sally L. & NEWLYN, Evelyn S. (eds.), Dorset Cornwall - Records of Early English Drama (Buffalo: University of Toronto Press, 1999) - the Cornish section starts on p.367.
LACH-SZYRMA, W.S. 'Miracle Plays in Cornwall', The Antiquary, 1 (1880), pp.241-44.
LONG, P.R., 'New Light on the Mystery Plays of Cornwall', Old Cornwall, VII.10 (1972), p.458-9.
MURDOCH, Brian, Cornish Literature (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 1993).
MURDOCH, Brian, 'The Cornish Drama'. In BEADLE, Richard, The Cambridge Companion to Medieval English Theatre (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), pp.211-239.
NANCE, R. Morton, 'Painted Windows and Miracle Plays', Old Cornwall, 5 (1951-61), pp.244-48.
NEWLYN, Evelyn S., 'Between the Pit and the Pedestal: Images of Eve and Mary in Medieval Cornish Drama'. In DuBRUCK, Edelgard, New Images of Medieval Women (Lampeter: Mellen, 1989), pp.121-64.
NEWLYN, Evelyn S., Cornish Drama of the Middle Ages: A Bibliography (Redruth: Institute of Cornish Studies, 1987).
NEWLYN, Evelyn S., 'The Middle Cornish Interlude: Genre and Tradition', Comparative Drama, 30, No.2 (1996), pp,266-281.
NEWLYN, Evelyn S., 'The stained and painted glass of St. Neot's church and the staging of the Middle Cornish drama', Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 24 (Winter 1994. Dunke University Publications, N.C.
PETER, Thurstan C., The Old Cornish Drama (London: Elliot Stock, 1906).
PAINO, Fiorella & HIGGINS, Sydney, ‘Playing the Serpent: Devil, Virgin or Mythical Beast?’. In HIGGINS, Sydney,  European Medieval Drama 2 (Camerino, Centro Linguistico di Universitą di Camerino, 1997), pp. 275-392.
SANDYS, William, 'On the Cornish Drama', Journal of the Royal Institution of Cornwall, 1.3 (1865), pp.1-18.
SCHERB, Victor I., ‘Situating the Holy: Celtic Community in Breton and Cornish Saint Plays’, Comparative Drama, 35 (2001-2) pp.319-343.
WALLWARTH, George F., 'Methods of Production in the Medieval Cornish Drama', Speech Monographs, 24 (1957), pp.212-28. 


In the manuscript of the 'Ordinalia' there are three circular plans (one for each of the three days of the play) showing where the permanent stations (or stages) were situated. There are two similar plans in 'Beunans Meriasek'. These, together with other documentary evidence, show that at least the major Cornish medieval plays were presented in open-air, circular theatres.
BORLASE, William, Observations on the Antiquties, Historical and Monumental of the County of Cornwall (2nd ed. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1798), pp.195-7, 208.
BORLASE, William, The Natural History of Cornwall (Oxford: Clarendon, 1758), pp.295-8.
DAVIDSON, Clifford, Illustrations of the Stage and Acting in England to 1580 (Kalamazoo, Michigan: 1991), pp.41-47.
GUTHRIE, A., 'The Plain-an-Gwary, St. Just in Penwith. Report on an Exploratory Excavation', Proceedings of the West Cornwall Field Club, n.s. 2.1 (1956-7), pp.3-8.
HOLMAN, Treve, 'Cornish Plays and Playing Places', Theatre Notebook, 4 (1950), pp.52-54.
JENNER, Henry, 'Perran Round and the Cornish Drama', 79th Annual Report of the Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society (Falmouth, 1912), pp.38-44.
LYON, Rod T., Cornwall's Playing Places (Cornwall, Tava an Wryn, n.d.)
NANCE, R. Morton, 'The Plen an gwary or Cornish Playing Place', Journal of the Royal Institution of Cornwall, 24 (1933-36), pp.190-212.
PROSSER, Eleanor, Drama and Religion in the English Mystery Plays - A Re-evaluation (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1961), pp.46-51.
SCHMITT, Natalie C., 'Was There a Medieval Theatre in the Round? A Re-examination of the Evidence'. In
TAYLOR, JEROME & NELSON, Alan H., Medieval English Drama: Essays Critical and Contextual (Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press, 1972), pp.292-315.
SOUHERN, Richard, The Medieval Theatre in the Round (2nd ed. London: Faber, 1975), pp.60-69, 223-38, 237-60.
ST JUST PLAIN-AN-GWARRY - an illustrated account from Cornwall's Archeological Heritage site.
TYDEMAN, William, The Theatre in the Middle Ages: Western European Stage Conventions c.800-1576 (Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press, 1978), pp.134-65.
WHITLEY, H. Michell, 'Cornish Rounds or Playing Places', Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries, 7 (1912-13), pp.172-4. 


ELLIS, P. Berresford, The Story of the Cornish Language (2nd ed. Penryn: Tor Mark, 1990).
EVANS, D. Simon, 'The Story of Cornish', University of Liverpool Studies, 58 (1969), pp.293-308.
JENNER, Henry, A History of the Cornish Language (London: Nutt, 1904).
NORRIS, Edwin, Sketch of Cornish Grammar, (Oxford, The University Press, 1859).
SMITH, A.S.D., The Story of the Cornish Language (2nd ed. Camborne: An Kef Kernewek, 1969).
SPRIGGS, Matthew, 'The Cornish Language, Archaeology and the Origins of English Theatre'. In JONES, M. (ed), Traces of Ancestry: studies in honour of Colin Renfrew, Vol. 2 (Cambridge: McDonald Institute Monograph Series, 2004), pp.143-161. 
SPRIGGS. Matthew, 'Where Cornish was Spoken and Written: a Provisional Synthesis', Cornish Studies 11 (2003), pp.230-272.   
WAKELIN, Martyn F., Language and History in Cornwall (Leicester: Leicester University Press, 1975).


Mediaeval Cornwall 1066-1485
A most useful and interesting survey, published by the Cornwall Heritage Trust.
Overview of Cornish History
A short but useful introduction on the Cornish Council site.
Records of Early English Drama - DORSET & CORNWALL
This important document (the Cornish part of which was edited by Sally L. Joyce and Evelyn S. Newlyn) was published by the University of Toronto Press. It contains a considerable amount of information from original documents about Drama, Music, Dance & Popular Customs in medieval Cornwall. The site contains the complete text of the book. The Cornish section starts on p. 371.
The Medieval Cornish Countryside
An interesting account, richly illustrated with aerial photographs.
The Stanneries: A Study of the Medieval Tin Miners of Cornwall and Devon
A fascinating - if slow-loading - copy of the interesting monograph by George Randall Lewis, published in 1908.

Front cover of the
new book by
Sydney Higgins
Front cover of the new book by Sydney Higgins

The 1969 production of
The Cornish Cycle







Staging plan for 'Passio Domini Nostri Jhesu Christi'
Staging Plan

Staging plan for the first day of St Meriasek
Staging Plan

Staging plan for the second day of St Meriasek
Staging Plan

A page from the manuscript of
The Life of Saint Meriasek

Program for
Gwryans an Bys:
The Creation of the World
at Piran Round, 1973

Program for
The Cornish Cycle
at Piran Round, 1969
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