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Folk Play Distribution Map: The Naming of George in his Introductory speech

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Folk Play Distribution Map: The Naming of George in his Introductory speech
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Key Title
red Saint George
lime Prince George
blue King George
View the key in more detail.

Commentary

This map is an improved version of one that appeared in my PhD thesis (Millington, 2002, pp.272-273, Map 15). In this version, generated by the Scripts Explorer, the markers coloured, whereas the original map was in monochrome. The scripts database has also grown slightly since 2002 (Millington, 1994-2006).

...I wish to make some observations on the characters Saint George and King George - and if it comes to that, Prince George. In the past, it has always been assumed that these names are interchangeable. Saint George is usually regarded as the original name, but presumably in deference to the Hanoverian monarchy, it had been changed to King George or Prince George. Cass and Roud give the clearest statement of this view:
"...Saint George or King George ... is by far the most common combatant character name across the country... His boasts usually include references to the famous St. George legend - the dragon, winning a princess, and so on - so it is pretty safe to assume that as a mummers' character he was a Saint before he was a King. It also seems that the other occasional English kings and princes, such as King William or Prince George, are a further and later development." (E.Cass and S.Roud, 2002, pp.36)
On the face of it, these assumptions seem reasonable and intuitive, but they need testing. Map 15 shows the distribution of the George's title as it appears in his introductory speech, with statistics that include the plays that cannot be plotted. Here, he is a Saint in about 50% of cases, a King in 35% of cases, and a Prince 15% of the time. Roughly similar proportions apply regardless of whatever introductory speeches he uses - with one exception that is considered shortly [1]. In additon, there are some plays where other characters' speeches, line tags and/or stage directions refer to George by a different title to the one used in his own speech. In general therefore, the various George names are indeed interchangeable. On the other hand, there seem to be regional trends in the distribution of the names. King George is prominent in the centre of England, while Prince George is important in Ireland and north Britain. Saint George, on the other hand is more dispersed, with perhaps two separate bands in northern and southern England.

Peter Millington

Notes

  1. "'The man of courage bold' sub-variant [of George's introductory line] primarily occurs in southern England with a few outliers in the north. He is a King in 63% of cases, so it is possible that this is the original status associated with this line." (Millington, 2002, p.274)

References

E.Cass & S.Roud (2002) Room, Room, Ladies and Gentlemen...: An Introduction to the English Mummers' Play
London: English Folk Dance and Song Society, 2002, ISBN 0 85418 185

Peter Millington (1994-2006) Historical Database of Folk Play Scripts
Internet URL: http://www.folkplay.info/Texts.htm, 1999-2006, accessed 27th Jun.2009

Peter Millington (2002) The Origins and Development of English Folk Plays
PhD Thesis, University of Sheffield, May 2002     [Full Text PDF - 2.7MB]

This map was generated from the Folk Play Scripts Explorer.
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© 2002, Peter Millington. (Webmaster: peter.millington@mastermummers.org). Last updated: 17-Nov-2009