See Rick Bowers, 'Comedy, Carnival and Grace: The Performance of Mak in the Second Shepherds' Play
, English Studies in Canada 28.
Although there is overwhelming evidence that some parts of the them were performed and were constructed with a rich sense of performance possibilities--as the analysis of the Second Shepherds' Play
here makes clear--performances of these cycles as a whole remain problematic, in spite of the existence of the N-Town banns.
Reminding one of the Wakefield Master's use of Mak and Gill in The Second Shepherds' Play
, this apparently extraneous episode is a mock-Resurrection that leads the audience from the solemnity of Lent to joyous 'Easter laughter'.
In the First Shepherds' Play of the Towneley Cycle, the second Pastor addresses Christ with the words 'Hayll, lytyll tyn mop' (line 673), while in the Second Shepherds' Play the second Pastor virtually echoes these same words: 'Hayll, lytyll tyne mop' (line 1046).
It would appear, therefore, that the word mop had a well-established double meaning both as a term of endearment for a baby and as a doll, and it is unlikely that a medieval audience would have been unaware of this; in fact, the ambiguity may have been intended to make an ironic comment on deceptive appearances, especially in the Second Shepherds' Play.
Here the test case, the Second Shepherds' Play
, is assumed to have been written for an audience of "labourers and shepherds," and is explored, not for the first time, as an example of the "easy mingling of divine and human time" (86-89).
Bearing the Latin title Secunda Pastorum, the drama is correctly translated as The Second Shepherds' Play.
Reading The Second Shepherds' Play as The Second Shepherd's Play shifts the focus of the drama from one of sequence (the second play of the shepherds) to one of possession (belonging to the second shepherd).
In the words of David Lampe, 'The Towneley (Wakefield) The Second Shepherds' Play is clearly the single most popular piece of medieval English drama, appearing in every anthology of English literature that devotes space to the medieval period'.
Accordingly, the misspelling of the Second Shepherds' Play as the Second Shepherd's Play forms something more than the bibliographic 'myshappe' or disjunction first believed.
From Text to Context, From Page to Stage: What Seeing The Second Shepherds' Play as The Second Shepherd's Play Can Teach Us about Secunda Pastorum in Performance
26) In keeping with this observation, the significance of the misplaced apostrophe in The Second Shepherds' Play goes beyond simply textual or literary implications.