Bewnans Ke‘The life of Ke’
verse beg. Gorthyans thum arluth anef

  • Middle Cornish
  • verse
  • Cornish texts
Bewnans Ke is the most recently discovered text of the Middle Cornish corpus. The play consists of two parts which are divided by five missing folios. The first part relates the tale of St Kea and the heathen king Teudar trying to convert each other respectively to Christianity and paganism. Before the story can be concluded, the text breaks off and we find ourselves in a play about King Arhtur’s conflict with the emperor of Rome, Lucius Hiberius, and Mordred’s adultery with Guinevere.
First words (verse)
  • Gorthyans thum arluth anef
“Worship to my Lord of heaven”
  • Middle Cornish
  • Secondary language(s): Latin
  • Latin is used for stage instructions. Middle English is often used for cursing. Middle French also occurs a few times.
verse (primary)


Cornish textsCornish texts


Entry reserved for but not yet available from the subject index.

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Primary sources Text editions and/or modern translations – in whole or in part – along with publications containing additions and corrections, if known. Diplomatic editions, facsimiles and digital image reproductions of the manuscripts are not always listed here but may be found in entries for the relevant manuscripts. For historical purposes, early editions, transcriptions and translations are not excluded, even if their reliability does not meet modern standards.

[ed.] George, Ken [ed.], Bywnans Ke, Callington: Kesva an Taves Kernewek, 2006.  
provisional edition of the Cornish play Bewnans Ke, with a transliteration into Common Cornish (KK) and a translation into modern English.
[ed.] [tr.] Thomas, Graham, and Nicholas Williams [eds.], Bewnans Ke: the Life of St Kea. A critical edition with translation, Exeter Medieval Texts and Studies, Exeter: University of Exeter Press, National Library of Wales, 2007. lxxxviii + 488 pp.

Secondary sources (select)

Bock, Albert, “Der polyglotte Artus – zum Code-Switching im mittelkornischen Drama ‘Beunans Ke’”, in: Helmut Birkhan (ed.), Kelten-Einfälle an der Donau. Akten des Vierten Symposiums deutschsprachiger Keltologinnen und Keltologen ... Linz/Donau, 17.-21. Juli 2005, Denkschriften, Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2007. 39–50.  
The sometimes massive occurence of code-switching between Cornish, English, French, and Latin in Cornish miracle plays has often been the focus of lamenting by purists rather than that of academic research. Especially the relatively recent discovery of a Cornish play about St. Kea and King Arthur („Beunans Ke“) in which code-switching is widely and systematically used offers us a glimpse on the sociolinguistic situation in Cornwall in the early 16th century. The four languages were used by the Cornish scribes on different levels, most of all to underline social stratification of the dramatis personae and to add nuances to various statements. A comparison between the instances of code-switching in Middle Cornish and Middle English miracle plays reveals similarities and differences in the socio-cultural situations of Cornwall and England at the time.
(source: preprint (PDF))
Keltologie.org – preprint: <link>

External links

Dennis Groenewegen, Linus Band-Dijkstra
Page created
June 2013, last updated: February 2023