Kingship and tyranny in Beunans Ke and Beunans Meriasek

  • Truan Evans

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Philosophy (MPhil)


This study concerns the depiction of kingship and tyranny in the Cornish hagiographic miracle plays of the cycles Beunans Ke and Beunans Meriasek, exploring how characters of legendary kings such Arthur in the cycle Beunans Ke and the tyrant Teudar- who appears in both Beunans Meriasek and Beunans Ke- provide paradigms of idealised kingship and its antithesis, and how these characterisations may have resonated with a Cornish audience. I examine how the portrayal of saints and lay lords in the cycles exemplifies a tacit, passive yet provocative resistance to tyranny, most especially when a tyrant encroaches upon the liberties, customs and privileges of the Church.
I consider how the cycles portray the issues at the core of worldly lay authority in their portrayal of rulers and tyrants, and I explore how aspects of dissent and resistance against tyranny can intersect with the plays’ established Cornish identity, promulgation of religious orthodoxy and veneration for the Church. By using available archival evidence of the plays’ production and performance, and by employing a historicist reading of the plays alongside historical and historiographical accounts and sources, I will demonstrate that the anti-Tudor, anti-Anglo-centrism and unrest which was prevalent in Cornwall throughout this turbulent period is reflected within the action, allegory and subtexts of the plays and is therefore a valuable consideration in their thorough reading. With the relatively recent discovery of Beunans Ke (in 2000)- a play cycle whose heroes demonstrate dissent, both passively and violently, against tyrannical authority- it can be argued that there is presently scope for further assessment of the portrayal the subject-church-ruler dynamics within these works.
Date of Award25 Jun 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorAd Putter (Supervisor) & Helen Fulton (Supervisor)

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