Scholarly Weekend Activities

Researching English mummers’ plays!

The English folk play dates back to the early eighteenth century. It’s a seasonal visiting custom, which means the same play was performed on or around the same day year after year and the performers went from house to house and from pub to pub in their area. Most plays were performed between Christmas and New Year, but there are also records of Easter plays (Pace-Egg plays) and of Halloween plays (Souling plays). The latter are also characterised by the appearance of a Wild Horse character towards the end of the performance (in the Souling plays two different visiting customs have fused into one: the mummers’ play and the hobby horse).

Mumming used to be a working-class custom and the participants were all men. In towns there were also boy teams, and in addition, larger towns and cities seem to have had more than one team (as you can imagine, each team tried to best the other *g*).

The most wide-spread type of mummers’ play was the so-called Hero-Combat play (’cause there were characters with each other – obviously!) and guess what! St. George appears in most of them. 🙂

Here’s a modern-day example of a Souling play. (Love the Wild Horse!!!)