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Medieval Manuscripts

The Macro Plays

The exhibition begins with examples from the Folger's collection of medieval manuscripts, including the famous Macro Manuscript, a fifteenth century manuscript which contains the the full texts of three of the four surviving morality plays written in English before 1500, and a manuscript in the hand of the well-known humanist copyist Peter Meghen, the "one-eyed Flemish scribe."


Without this humble manuscript, we would know little about the once flourishing genre of English morality plays. The last page of The Castle of Perseverance, shown here, provides the earliest known stage diagram for an English play. The bottom right corner of the last page of Wisdom contains the ownership statement of the monk Thomas Hyngham, which in English reads: "O book, if anyone should . . . ask to whom you belong, you shall say, I belong above all to monk Hyngham."

Macro manuscripts of three morality plays. Manuscript, ca. 1440-1475

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