Chapter I: An In-depth Look at The Ordinalia and Its Analysis

The Ordinalia, a Middle Cornish trilogy likely crafted in the late 14th century, delineates the Christian narrative of salvation from Creation to Ascension. Unlike the English Corpus Christi cycles, it aligns more closely with the French Passions, omitting sections such as the Nativity, ministry and Last Judgement. The first play, Origo Mundi, serves as an elaborate Old Testament prologue, the second, Passio Domini, provides a potent portrayal of the Passion, intended for performance on the subsequent day, and the third, Resurrexio Domini, explores Christ’s Resurrection and Ascension. Throughout the trilogy, adept incorporation of apocryphal and legendary elements is evident.

The lone original manuscript of the Ordinalia resides in the Bodleian Library, catalogued as Bodley MS. 791, with two known 18th-century copies by Keigwyn in the Bodleian and another in the National Library of Wales. The manuscript, comprising 83 folios on parchment scripted in a clear 15th-century bastard hand with original Latin stage directions in formal set bastard script, is the craftsmanship of two contemporary scribes. The first scribe contributed to Origo Mundi up to line 2824, while the other penned the remaining text in a slightly more angular hand. Although minor amendments by at least two hands exist, no major literary inaccuracies are present, indicating that the extant manuscript isn’t the original.

The stage directions, a focal point of interest, fall into two distinct categories. The primary directions, scripted in formal set bastard script by the original scribes, span across the page resembling verse lines and present no challenges. Conversely, the secondary directions, inserted in the margin by a different hand and occasionally duplicating the primary directions, aren’t original. These secondary directions, which seem to correspond to an actual performance, denote when properties should be readied and the precise timing of character entrances and exits. Though undated, they likely originate from the late 15th century.

Norris’s 19th-century rendition of the Ordinalia is largely accurate in its manuscript reading, albeit with a tendency, noted by Nance, to misinterpret some letters. Accompanying the manuscript of each play is a character list along with the stanza count for each character, and a crucial stage plan illustrating the positioning of the main characters' tents on a circular stage.

The minimal textual issues in studying the Ordinalia are overshadowed by linguistic challenges. Given that the Ordinalia is scripted in classical Middle Cornish from the late 14th century, and due to the paucity of Cornish remains, much of the Middle Cornish knowledge is derived from the Ordinalia itself, thereby embodying the principal challenges.

Chapter II: The Historical and Cultural Landscape of The Ordinalia

In analysing The Ordinalia, one must traverse the rich historical and cultural landscape from whence it sprung. The 14th century marked a vibrant era of Cornish culture, despite the burgeoning English influence. The Cornish language flourished, and the tradition of miracle plays saw a zenith, acting as a conduit for religious edification and a testament to the Cornish identity. The Ordinalia, emanating from this milieu, is imbued with a blend of Cornish vernacular and Christian doctrine, portraying biblical narratives through a Cornish lens.

The plays within The Ordinalia reflect an intrinsic tie to the ecclesiastical and lay communities of Cornwall. The ecclesiastical influence is underscored by the doctrine-laden narrative, while the lay community’s involvement is epitomised by the communal endeavour of staging these elaborate plays. The performances were likely a communal affair, with diverse societal segments participating, fostering a sense of unity and shared cultural heritage.

The geographical setting too, played a pivotal role. Cornwall, with its unique topographical and maritime character, fostered a distinct cultural identity. The Ordinalia’s narrative, while universal in its Christian theme, is coloured by local idiosyncrasies, and the staging, influenced by the natural amphitheatres in Cornwall, highlights the interplay between the local landscape and the thematic content.

Moreover, the influence of the broader medieval European theatrical tradition is palpable. The Ordinalia exhibits an affinity with the continental Passion Plays, diverging from the English tradition. This European influence likely percolated through the ecclesiastical channels, reflecting a broader cultural exchange amidst a period of relative insularity in Cornwall.

The textual and linguistic analysis of The Ordinalia not only unveils its intrinsic merit but also offers a glimpse into the socio-cultural tapestry of medieval Cornwall. The trilogy, hence, serves as both a literary treasure and a historical document, encapsulating the dialectic between the local and the universal, the secular and the sacred, amidst a defining epoch in Cornish history.

Chapter III: The Linguistic Peculiarities and Lexical Choices of The Ordinalia

The linguistic fabric of The Ordinalia is emblematic of the lexical and syntactic choices characteristic of Middle Cornish. The lexicon is enriched with ecclesiastical and liturgical terms, alongside vernacular expressions that resonate with the daily lives of the Cornish populace. The interplay between the sacral and the mundane is encapsulated in the language, rendering a narrative that is at once divine and earthly.

The syntax and morphology of Middle Cornish are preserved in The Ordinalia, offering a veritable glimpse into the grammatical norms of the period. The verb conjugations, noun declensions, and adjective agreements adhere to the conventions of Middle Cornish, thereby serving as a linguistic repository for scholars and enthusiasts alike.

The dialectal variations within the text hint at a broader socio-linguistic context. The subtle differences in phonetic and morphological features across different portions of the text could potentially allude to the dialectal diversity within Cornwall during the 14th century. Moreover, the infusion of Latin, especially in the stage directions and liturgical references, underscores the ecclesiastical influence and the bilingual milieu from which The Ordinalia emerged.

The choice of vocabulary reflects not merely the thematic essence but also the cultural and social milieu. The terms related to social hierarchy, religious practices, and community interactions are emblematic of the societal norms and religious orthodoxy prevalent in medieval Cornwall.

Moreover, the stylistic elements, such as alliteration, assonance, and rhythm, enhance the auditory appeal and mnemonic capacity of the text, facilitating its performance and memorisation. The prosodic features contribute to the overall aesthetic and emotive impact of The Ordinalia, enriching the audience’s engagement and comprehension.

The linguistic analysis of The Ordinalia thus unveils a rich tapestry of lexical, syntactic, and stylistic choices that not only serve the narrative but also provide a window into the linguistic and cultural landscape of medieval Cornwall. The text, in its linguistic intricacy, encapsulates the confluence of the sacred and the secular, the local and the ecclesiastical, rendering The Ordinalia a quintessential exemplar of Middle Cornish literary heritage.

Chapter IV: The Theological Underpinnings of The Ordinalia

The theological narrative within The Ordinalia is intricately woven with the biblical canon, yet it also ventures beyond, into apocryphal and legendary realms. It portrays the Christian doctrine of salvation and redemption through the lens of Cornish piety, embodying the theological discourses prevalent during the medieval period in Cornwall.

The narrative trajectory from Creation to Ascension encapsulates the Christian eschatological narrative. It embodies the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity, alongside the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance. The personification of these virtues and vices, typical of medieval allegory, is vividly portrayed within the plays, offering a moral tableau to the audience.

The incorporation of apocryphal elements, such as the Harrowing of Hell in Resurrexio Domini, enriches the theological narrative, offering a broader spectrum of Christian thought. These elements, although not strictly canonical, were pivotal in shaping the medieval Christian imaginative landscape.

The Ordinalia also reflects the Marian devotion characteristic of the period. The portrayal of Virgin Mary resonates with the ecclesiastical veneration of Mary as the Mother of God and embodies the theological debates surrounding Mariology during the medieval period.

Furthermore, the liturgical practices and ecclesiastical hierarchy are intricately depicted within the narrative, echoing the ritualistic and hierarchical structure of the medieval Church. The depiction of sacraments, liturgical feasts, and ecclesiastical offices underscores the symbiotic relationship between the theatrical and the ecclesiastical.

The theological discourse within The Ordinalia also mirrors the broader theological debates within medieval Christendom, such as the discourse on penance, redemption, and the nature of divine justice. The dialogues within the plays often delve into theological exegesis, embodying the scholastic tradition of theological enquiry.

In essence, The Ordinalia is not merely a theatrical endeavour but a theological exposition, rendered accessible through the vernacular and the performative. It encapsulates the medieval Cornish theological imagination, embodying the symbiosis between the religious and the theatrical, the canonical and the apocryphal, within the broader Christian narrative of salvation.

Chapter V: The Performance and Staging of The Ordinalia

The performance and staging of The Ordinalia are as pivotal as its narrative and linguistic elements. These plays were conceived for a communal performance, likely during significant liturgical feasts, and the extant stage directions provide a glimpse into the elaborate staging and choreography entailed.

The circular performance arena, as suggested by the manuscript’s stage plan, resonates with the cyclical narrative of Christian salvation depicted in the trilogy. The circular stage, with its central hub and three concentric circles, is emblematic of the medieval cosmic model, with the hub representing Jerusalem or the divine axis.

The stage directions, both primary and secondary, elaborate on the spatial arrangement, the movement of actors, and the usage of props and machinery. The detailed instructions for entrances, exits, and the positioning of characters underscore the meticulous planning involved in orchestrating these performances.

The use of pageant wagons, portable stages, and elaborate machinery for depicting heavenly ascents, descents, and other supernatural phenomena, highlights the innovative staging techniques employed. These techniques, while constrained by the technological and material resources of the time, exhibit a high degree of ingenuity and theatrical craft.

The costumes and props, although not extensively detailed in the manuscript, likely adhered to the ecclesiastical and royal attire of the period, enhancing the visual appeal and the narrative realism. The use of masks, banners, and other symbolic paraphernalia would have accentuated the allegorical and symbolic aspects of the narrative.

Moreover, the communal involvement in staging The Ordinalia reflects the collective endeavour of the ecclesiastical and lay communities. The casting, likely involving local clergy, nobility, and common folk, underscores the inclusive and communal nature of these performances. The collective effort in staging, alongside the audience’s engagement, fostered a communal religious and cultural experience, reinforcing the social cohesion and the shared Cornish identity.

The performance and staging of The Ordinalia, thus, embody the theatrical, liturgical, and communal ethos of medieval Cornwall. They reflect the confluence of the sacred and the secular, the aesthetic and the theological, in rendering a performative exposition of the Christian narrative.

Chapter VI: The Legacy and Significance of The Ordinalia

The legacy of The Ordinalia transcends its medieval origins, illuminating not only the historical and cultural ethos of Cornwall but also the broader spectrum of medieval Christian theatrical tradition. Its survival in manuscript form, coupled with the scholarly and theatrical revivals, underscores its enduring significance.

The scholarly pursuits in analysing The Ordinalia have unveiled a rich linguistic, theological, and theatrical heritage. The text serves as a vital corpus for the study of Middle Cornish, providing insights into the lexical, syntactic, and phonological features of the language. Moreover, the theological and liturgical discourses within the text offer a glimpse into the medieval Cornish religious imagination.

The theatrical revivals of The Ordinalia in contemporary times testify to its enduring appeal. The modern performances, although adapted to contemporary theatrical norms, strive to retain the essence of the original staging and narrative. These revivals foster a reconnection with the Cornish linguistic and cultural heritage, invigorating the communal and regional identity.

Furthermore, The Ordinalia serves as a conduit for exploring the broader medieval Christian theatrical tradition. Its affinity with the continental Passion Plays and divergence from the English Corpus Christi cycles provide a comparative lens for studying the medieval European theatrical landscape.

The pedagogical use of The Ordinalia in teaching Middle Cornish, medieval theology, and theatrical history amplifies its educational value. Its multi-dimensional nature, encompassing linguistic, theological, theatrical, and historical facets, renders it a versatile educational resource.

Moreover, the manuscript of The Ordinalia, housed in the Bodleian Library, serves as a tangible link to the medieval Cornish past. Its preservation and digitisation efforts ensure its accessibility to scholars, educators, performers, and the general public, thereby ensuring its continued relevance and exploration.

In essence, The Ordinalia is not merely a medieval Cornish treasure but a living legacy, embodying the historical, cultural, and theological heritage of Cornwall and offering a rich resource for scholarly, theatrical, and educational endeavours.