Come not between the Dragon and his wrath…..
The history of England in the 1520s and 1530s was somewhat turbulent to say the least.
The conception and the development of the performance of Lydd’s unprecedented four day play of ‘The Lyfe of Saynt George’ was undoubtedly the product of these times of crisis.
The reason we know it was a four-day play is that 3s 4d was paid ‘for 3 barelles of syngyll bere the first 3 playe daies and afyrkyn the last pley day’!
Besides the records of players coming to Lydd, there were minstrels who covered a wide range of entertainment and other performers such as bear wards and ape handlers, jugglers, puppet players, footballers and Morris dancers.
Lydd would no doubt have been particularly pleased with its patronage of St. George as a diplomatic and civic identity because it was in `Lydd’ that St. George was buried, albeit a place of the same name in the Classical East in the early fourth century. Lydd’s vulnerability to attack from the sea, especially from the French, also made St. George appropriate for its identity
The play itself grew out of certain themes running through the accounts that increasingly appeared to fuse together prior to and along with the play’s development in the 1520s. These themes were the experience in Lydd of poverty and war.
The traditional, conservative themes of Holy Poverty and Holy Chivalry are exalted, in particular, faithfulness, meekness and patience against extreme and unimaginable suffering. Very importantly, bearing these themes and concepts in mind, is the stress on unity between all ranks of society and the nationalist implications of George being the patron Saint of England implying a common purpose and identity for all subjects. This unity is shown in particular in the scenes where when faced with the dragon, and the ruin of the city, all classes are equally responsible for drawing lots and providing, from their own class, the dragon with sacrifices in order to divert the evil influence it has over the city. The accountability of government and royalty to the people is also promulgated and thrown into relief when the king has second thoughts when his own daughter is chosen, he eventually bowing to the `grutching and murmering’ of the ‘whole comonte’; the ‘whole comonte’ describing all rich and poor below the king.
Perhaps, given the present economic situation, it is time to resurrect this four day extravaganza in Lydd !
After all, we are all in this together !
If you want to read more of “Class and the Social Transformation of a Late Medieval Small Town: Lydd c. 1450-1550” by Spencer Dimmock, you can download it for free by registering here:
As always there is a connection to a Doctor Who story.
In Dragonfire, the TARDIS materialises in Iceworld, a space trading colony on the dark side of the planet Svartos. The Doctor and Mel encounter Glitz and learn that he has come here to search for a supposed treasure guarded by a dragon.