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A medieval folk custom, of ritual origin, probably symbolizing the death and resurrection of the year. The stock characters were the fool, dressed in the skin of an animal, and the ‘Bessy’, a man dressed in woman's clothes. In many of the extant dances one of the characters is surrounded with the swords of the other dancers or slain. The characters were introduced in rhymed speeches. The sword‐dance is one of the origins of the mummers' play and so of English drama. See also revesby play.

Subjects: Dance — Literature.

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