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Scots Language Centre Centre for the Scots Leid

Cresseid Play Returns

4th November 2019

Robert Henryson is probably not a name that the vast majority of Scots are familiar with, but he certainly deserves to be remembered as one of the outstanding European writers of his day. Born about 1436 Robert Henryson was a highly educated man – a lawyer, notary public, and schoolmaster of Dunfermline. He was also a makar, the term in Scots for a master poet.

It was in this capacity that Henryson composed The Testament of Cresseid around 1490 which takes as its theme the Classical Greek story of Troylus and Cressida of Trojan War fame. The poem describes how Cressida (Cresseid in Scots) insulted the Greek gods and was punished by them. Henryson introduces his audience to the tragedy with this verse:

Ane doolie sessoun to ane cairfull dyte

Suld correspond, and be equivalent.

Richt sa it wes quhen I began to wryte

This Tragedie, the wedder richt fervent,

Quhen Aries, in middis of the Lent,

Schouris of haill can fra the north discend,

That scantlie fra the cauld I micht defend.

Earlier this year Dr Jamie Reid Baxter, together with Ian Low, produced a performance version of the poem through The Joot Theatre Company. Taking the original version Baxter has updated some of the Older Scots language and replaced it with Modern Scots and set the story against the backdrop of World War II with the SLC’s own Dr Michael Dempster now taking the role of the narrator. Dr Baxter previously commented that “this is a wark o warld stature – it suld be as familiar til aa Scots as Shakespeare’s Hamlet.”

The Testament of Cresseid will be playing from 7.30pm on Saturday 9 November 2019 at the the Barron Theatre, 95 North Street, St Andrews. Tickets are £6.00 or £5 concession and may be bought either at the door or reserved beforehand by email by contacting . In addition, there will also be a pre-performance workshop on the Henryson play hosted jointly by Dr Jo George, the JOOT company and Professor Rhiannon Purdie of the School of English with her students from EN3113 Older Scots Literature class. This will take place from 12-2pm in the Barron Theatre. If anyone is interested in joining this free workshop please get in touch with Rhiannon Purdie at