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There’s Something about Mary

There’s Something about Mary

Staging the Divine in “Kyndely” Language, Time, and the Social World

(p.109) Chapter Four There’s Something about Mary
Staging Contemplation
Eleanor Johnson
University of Chicago Press

This chapter studies the participatory contemplation that is staged in the N-Town cycle’s Mary plays to show how these plays both resonate with and complicate the theological environment of East Anglia, where they are most likely written. Through a combination of poetic, sonic, and linguistic effects--ranging from acrostics and alliteration to code-switching and vernacular puns--the Mary sequence builds on the incarnational theology of the likes of Nicholas Love and invites its audiences to experience their own likeness to and kinship with Virgin Mary. They do so in a manner that is not simply affective--not simply about the creation of empathy with Mary herself--but also and in fact primarily cognitive, originally in a deeply intellectual understanding of how Mary, a time-bound human being, could possibly contain the eternal Jesus within her body, and bring him into the world of time, history, and death. In the Mary plays, as in the other contemplative works in this book, the Middle English vernacular is crucial to the participatory enactment of contemplation, and to its enactment of how contemplation intersects with the social world.

Keywords:   N-Town Plays, Mary, Nicholas Love, drama, incarnational theology, poetics, temporality, comedy

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