The representations of the midwife Salome and the Apostle Thomas in the N-Town and Chester plays complicate the relationship between two modes of knowledge: “clergie” or male clerical learning, on the one hand, and knowledge derived from sensory experience on the other. The plays expose clerical learning's dependence on and proximity to lay experiential knowledge. In doing so, they resist the dichotomies that structure other accounts of these figures and demonstrate how theological knowledge does not rest exclusively in any one set of hands. Knowledge, instead, is made manifest at the point of contact between clerical learning and physical experience. The drama empowers its nonclerical audience to test and “assay” in the form of dramatic “experiments” the theological knowledge that structures their religious lives, and thus invigorates the audience's investment in that knowledge.
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Helen Cushman; Handling Knowledge: Holy Bodies in the Middle English Mystery Plays. Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 1 May 2017; 47 (2): 279–304. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10829636-3846335
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