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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume IV. Prose and Poetry: Sir Thomas North to Michael Drayton.

II. Secular Influences on the Early English Drama

§ 10. Plough Monday performances

Analysis of the many varieties known would extend this chapter unduly, and it must be our task rather to point out what is common to all. A transition stage between the sword-dance and the play may be noticed in the performance of the “plow boys or morris dancers” at Revesby in Lincolnshire, probably on Plough Monday (the Monday after Twelfth Night) in the last quarter of the eighteenth century, and several Plough Monday performances in the eastern midlands. These have retained their original season—that of the resumption of agricultural work after winter, and they are entirely unaffected by heroic influences. In both, the characters are the traditional grotesques of village festivals—the fool and the Hobby-horse, who represent worshippers disguised in skins of beasts, and the “Bessy,” the woman or man dressed in woman’s clothes. The latter custom is recorded as obtaining among the Germans by Tacitus. Some of the eastern midlands performances introduce farm-labourers. In both there is much dancing; at Revesby, the fool, and, in the eastern midlands the old woman, Dame Jane, are killed and brought to life again.