Back in 2006, I wrote a paper for a graduate-level course in medieval drama analyzing the financial burden of mystery cycle plays in medieval England, in an attempt to disprove the feasibility of the N-town cycle’s seventh play, Jesse Root, being actually staged by a guild. And if you’re entirely lost, you’re not alone.
See, the paper (6 pages, single-spaced, not including a bibliography) was intended only for the eyes of my professor and fellow graduate students, who had been immersed in medieval drama for an entire semester. They were familiar enough with the mystery plays in general, and the N-town set in particular, that I didn’t need to give context or backstory before jumping into my argument.
When writing, you have to know both your intended audience and your likely audience. For Pentathlon, a judge could just as easily be a layman with passing familiarity with your field as a PhD with a specialty in your particular subject. A judge for fiber arts might be an expert in tablet weaving but know nothing about nalbinding or felting. Moreover, the rules state that “Documentation should be written in English understandable to the general populace,” which discourages the use of overly technical language without an explanation.
My paper from 2006 has a lot of information that might be useful or at least interesting for an SCA audience, but it’s not at all ready for general reading. I intend to rework it into an article, with a background on mystery cycle plays and a brief history of the N-town manuscript, before launching into my research. There’s a lot that will need to be culled from the existing document, however, if I’m going to be able to fit the background and argument into the 15 maximum pages of double-spaced 12-point standard font required for a Pentathlon entry.
I’m also going to have to return to my source material, Records of Early English Drama (REED), to report the original sources of each of these references. REED is a huge set of books of collected documents from the Middle Ages, organized by city. For purposes of the paper, just citing the volume and page was sufficient, but for an SCA readership, the specific document’s name, date and contents will be necessary.