The European Sun: Proceedings of the Seventh International Conference on Medieval and Renaissance Scottish Language and Literature, University of Strathclyde, 1993

By Graham Caie; Roderick J. Lyall et al. | Go to book overview

EVELYN S. NEWLYN


32. Traditions of Myth and Fabliau in ‘The
Cupar Banns’

The ‘Cupar Banns,’1 a ‘Proclamation’ announcing the future performance of Lindsay’s Satyre of the Thrie Estaitis, functioned like the ‘coming attractions’ in today’s movie theatres, where clippings from future films, usually containing sex and violence, are shown to tempt prospective audiences.2 The ‘coming attractions’ for today’s movies are actual segments of films that will appear, making them closer in nature to the Middle English banns for the cycle dramas of Chester and N-Town, each of which summarises in a stanza the plays to come in the cycle.3 In contrast, ‘The Cupar Banns’ offers autonomous material that is not directly connected to the play that it is announcing, but material that is nonetheless designed to draw an audience both to itself and to Lindsay’s later play.4 In this sense, Lindsay’s Proclamation differs markedly from the banns for the cycle drama, since it not only announces the upcoming play, but actually advances its own themes.

The structure of the ‘Cupar Banns’ is composed of three separate dramatic entities which form a tightly-knit unit thematically as they interweave in the course of the performance. They are the vignette of Cotter and his wife, the interlude of Bessy and the Auld Man, and the linking strand focusing on Fyndlaw

1 The Bannatyne Manuscript is the only witness to the ‘Cupar Banns’; see W. Tod Ritchie’s diplomatic transcription, The Bannatyne Manuscript Writtin in Tyme of Pest, 1568, STS, 4 vols. (London, 1928–34); and the Scolar Press Facsimile Edition, The Bannatyne Manuscript, National Library of Scotland Advocates’ MS. 1.1.6 (London, 1980), with an introduction by Denton Fox and William A. Ringler. Bannatyne in his headnote refers to this work as a ‘Proclamatioun,’ while Douglas Hamer observes that ‘In England down to 1609 such proclamations were called Banns’; see Hamer’s edition of The Works of Sir David Lindsay of the Mount, STS, 4 vols. (Edinburgh and London, 1931–6), vol. 4, p. 163. A more recent edition is Roderick Lyall’s Ane Satyre of the Thrie Estaitis (Edinburgh, 1989), which offers ‘The Cupar Banns’ in an appendix, but with little commentary. I assume that Lindsay wrote the Proclamadon; Anna J. Mill observed that ‘no really cogent arguments against his authorship’ have been raised, in her ‘Representations of Lindsay’s Satyre of the Thrie Estaitis,’ PMLA 47 (1933), p. 642. Moreover, both Proclamation and Satyre have themes and attitudes in common. Quotations here are from Hamer’s edition of Lindsay’s works.

2 Hamer notes the performance intends ‘to attract an audience to listen to the proclamation’ and ‘to arouse a sense of anticipation for the more important play later’ (vol. 4, p. 163). Making a thematic connection between the Proclamation and the Satyre, Joan Hughes and W.S. Ramson describe ‘The Cupar Banns’ as ‘a foretaste of folly’ that is demonstrated in part by ‘the cuckolding of the old man’; see their partial edition of the Bannatyne Manuscript, Poetry of the Stewart Court (Canberra, 1982), p. 106.

3 See The Chester Plays, ed. Hermann Deimling, EETS., E.S. LXII, vol. 1 (1892; rpr. London, New York, Toronto, 1968); and for N-Town, see Ludus Coventriae or The Plaie catted Corpus Christi, ed. K.S. Block, EETS., E.S. CXX (1922; rpr. Oxford, 1960).

4 For a discussion of Lindsay’s tact and tactics in bringing ideas before King James, see Claude Grafs ‘Theatre and Politics: Lindsay’s Satyre of the Thrie Estaitis’ in Bards and Makars, eds. Adam J. Aitken, et at. (Glasgow, 1977), pp. 143–55.

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