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362 Study Questions: Wakefield Master's Second Shepherds' Play

Vocabulary: dialogue, drama, mystery play, mystery cycle, dramatis personae, speech prefix, morality play, guild, thirteener, s. p.

Character Identification: Mak (Mac), Gill (Jill), Coll (Cole) and Gib (Jeb), the stolen lamb.

Object Identification: The Three Gifts--(The Ball, the Bird, and the Bob of Cherries)

Introduction: Who or what is the Wakefield Master?

Lecture: What is a mystery play? Who would perform a mystery play? What is the difference between a morality play and a miracle play? Is The Second Shepherds' Play a morality play or a miracle play? How does The Second Shepherds' Play fit in with (or not fit in with) The First Shepherds' Play?

Reading Questions:

  • What is Coll complaining about in the opening lines of the play?
  • What is Gib complaining about when he first enters the stage?
  • What does Gib's commentary about roosters and hens suggest about his marital life?
  • What con-job does Mak try to pull to steel the sheep initially?
  • What is Coll's reaction to Mak's potential acting career? (I.e., where does he tell him to stick his fake southern accent?)
  • If Mak has to work to create a southern accent, he must be a northerner. Where does his name (Mak or Mac) suggest he must originate?
  • How frequently does Mak's wife Gill give birth according to lines 347 and following?
  • What does Mak mean when he says he hopes to offer his wife "Her head-mass penny"?
  • Why does Mak draw a circle on the ground around the sleeping shepherds? What is he trying to do?
  • What does Mak steal from the Shepherds as they sleep? How does this symbolically connect to the Christmas story?
  • What excuse does Mak give to leave the shepherds and return to his wife? (i.e., what does he say he saw in a dream as he slept?
  • Where do Gill and Mak hide their future dinner? How does that symbolically connect to the Christmas story?
  • When the shepherds "inform" Mak that one of their sheep has been stolen, Mak claims, "Had I been thore, / Some should have bought it full sore." How is this funny or ironic?
  • Gill vows to the shepherds, "If ever I you beguiled, / That I eat this child / That lies in this cradill." Why is this funny or ironic?
  • Explain how all these jokes about eating the child connect with the Christian ritual of eucharist or communion.
  • Coll, Gib, and Daw leave Mak's house completely tricked. What do they realize as they leave that gives them the desire to go back? (What have they overlooked doing earlier that they now want to do out of generosity?)
  • When Daw bends down to kiss Mak's child, what about the "child" gives away its real identity?
  • How does Mak try to talk his way out of the problem in lines 867-68 and 882-84?
  • How does Gill try to talk her way out of the situation after that?
  • After talking about burning Gill alive or cutting off Mak's head, what punishment does the group settle on for Mak? Lecture Question: What was this activity associated with in the medieval period?
  • Who or what appears with good news after the shepherds lie down?
  • After receiving this message, Gib, Daw and Coll discuss the way the messenger sang, and they try to "croon" and imitate it? How is this symbolic?
  • Gib turns out to be something of a bible scholar. What does he connect with the angelic message in terms of prophecy?
  • What three gifts do the three shepherds bring? Why is each one symbolically appropriate?
  • As the shepherds head off stage, the stage directions reveal what about them?

Passage Identifications:

A: "Now take out that Southern tooth, / And set in a turd!"

B: Speaker #1: "Yea, our sheep that we get / Are stolen as they yode: / Our loss is great."

Speaker #2: "Sirs, drinks! Had I been thore, / Some should have bought it full sore.

C: "Ah, my middill! / I pray to God so mild, / If ever I you beguiled, / That I eat this child / That lies in this cradill."

D: "Give me leave him to kiss, / And lift up the clout. [lifts up the cover] / What the devil is this? / He has a long snout!

E: "Say, what was his song? / Heard ye not how he cracked it? /. Three breves to a long?"


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