Play 1, The Creation of the Angels and the Fall of Lucifer
Play 1, THE CREATION OF THE ANGELS AND THE FALL OF LUCIFER: FOOTNOTES
2 Then the angels sing, “We praise thee, O God, we acknowledge thee to be the Lord”
3 Then the angels sing, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Hosts”
4 I am handsome and fair and in figure (form) entirely fitting
5 Since their might is entirely destroyed that meant all amiss
Play 1, THE CREATION OF THE ANGELS AND THE FALL OF LUCIFER: EXPLANATORY NOTES
ABBREVIATIONS: AV: Authorized (“King James”) Version; Meditations: Meditations on the Life of Christ, trans. Ragusa and Green; MED: Middle English Dictionary; OED: Oxford English Dictionary; RB: Richard Beadle, ed., York Plays; REED: Records of Early English Drama; YA: Davidson and O’Connor, York Art; York Breviary: Breviarium ad usum insignis ecclesie Eboracensis; York Missal: Missale ad usum insignis ecclesiae Eboracensis.
References to the Ordo paginarum are to REED: York, 1:16–27.
The initial pageant in the cycle was produced by the Barkers — that is, the Tanners, thus identified in the Ordo paginarum of 1415 where the action of the drama is briefly summarized and its conclusion indicated as the involuntary ejection of the rebellious angels from heaven and their fall into hell. A heaven stage, on the pageant wagon, accommodated the action up to line 92, when Lucifer, illegitimately seating himself above on a throne, tumbles with his cohorts into a hellmouth on a lower level. Heaven is associated with harmony and light, and hell with cacophony, dirt, darkness, and smoke as well as, most likely, an evil odor, which the Tanners were equipped to supply.1 The play is written in eight-line stanzas and introduces alliteration typical of the alliterative revival of the late Middle Ages (see Introduction). It has a symmetrical pattern involving a four-part structure of scenes in heaven before and after the creation of the angels, then noisy and disordered hell, and finally heaven again. Richard Rastall notes also a division of its 160 lines according to exact principles of proportion.2 The narrative upon which the pageant depends is traditional and appeared in English literature as early as the Anglo-Saxon Genesis and its accompanying illustration in Bodleian Library, MS. Junius 11.3 A panel contemporary with the earlier years of playing the Corpus Christi plays appears in the Great East Window (1405–08) in York Minster where God is shown as the Creator while Lucifer and one of his fellow angels fall across the cosmos toward their future abode in hell.4 Biblical sources include Isaias 14:12 (“How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, who didst rise in the morning? how art thou fallen to the earth, that didst wound the nations”) and Luke 10:18 (“I saw Satan like lightning falling from heaven”). For Church Fathers such as Gregory of Nyssa, Lucifer’s fall and transformation occurred before the creation of the world or any of its creatures.5 The sponsoring craft of Barkers (Tanners) was prosperous, though not high in prestige on account of the odoriferous leather tanning process in which they were engaged. They were called Barkers because the tanning process utilized tannin derived from the bark of trees.
The opening Latin words in the playtext may not have been spoken, and are not numbered here. See Apocalypse 1:8, 21:6, 22:13.
1–8 It was a commonplace and orthodox doctrine that God is eternal, without beginning or end, uncreated and all-powerful. The Creation, on the other hand, is temporally finite in Christian tradition. As in medieval iconography, God was given a body in his role as the Father-Creator, for he would make man in his image and likeness (see Genesis 1:26–27).
23 Nyen ordres of aungels. In tradition, there initially were ten orders, with the tenth comprising those who became followers of Lucifer. The nine orders, among whom the seraphim and cherubim have speaking roles in the pageant, were popularly represented in such media as stained glass, extant examples of which appear in churches along and near the pageant route, including St. Michael Spurriergate, St. Martin Coney Street, and All Saints North Street, the latter in proximity to Barker Row (later Tanner Row), the neighborhood inhabited by members of the guild that produced this play.
24 s.d. Te Deum. A portion of the Te Deum is sung by the angels. Since this ancient and well-known monophonic chant as included in York service books does not require great musical ability, Rastall suggests that amateurs could have been used rather than more skilled musicians from the Minster or singers from one of the more affluent parish churches (Heaven Singing, p. 331). Text and translations are available in Dutka, Music, p. 42. There is useful discussion in Sheingorn, “Te Deum Altarpiece and the Iconography of Praise.”
25 nexile. Imagining the tripartite cosmos — heaven, earth, and hell — as wings of a building draws attention to God as a master craftsman; in a set of window panels of c.1430 now in York Minster but formerly in the church of St. Martin Coney Street, directly along the pageant route, God appears accompanied by angels who sing the Te Deum in his praise (Brown, York Minster, p. 287).
36 Lucifer, als berar of lyghte. Lucifer’s name was conventionally glossed as the “Light bearer.” His appearance demanded a splendid costume (shimmering and shining at line 69), which appeared to be changed utterly into one that is dirty and tattered after his fall. If, as in glass in St. Michael Spurriergate, he had a feather costume (YA, p. 20, fig. 3), it could only have then appeared nastily filthy or else already transformed into a disgusting hair coat — an effect easily performed in the play by the exchange of one actor playing the role for another who had been waiting to emerge from within hellmouth. Such was the punishment for Lucifer’s pride, as the pageant makes clear, and, quite consistent with Patristic arguments, his pride is characterized by the will to power as well as sheer envy of his Creator.
40 s.d. Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus. A continuation of the Te Deum, though these words also appear in the Sanctus of the Mass that was sung immediately prior to the canon.
60 felyng of fylth. The unfallen angels are undefiled. They maintain their pure state, in contrast to Lucifer and his companions who are consigned to a habitat that is dirty and dark, both indicative of their separation from the source of purity and light that is God. Also, it is taken for granted that they establish a kingdom that is violent, disordered, and a source of subversion to be reckoned with throughout history.
62 stabyll in thoughte. The good angels have willed obedience to the deity in opposition to the bending of will that is characteristic of Lucifer in his pursuit of his perceived interests. The concept of stability affects the gestures of the angels, with those who are fallen engaging in rapid and indecorous movements, as will also be typical of evil characters throughout the pageants in the York cycle.
76 fede with the fode of thi fayre face. There may be a subtle echo of the Eucharist here, since seeing the Host was considered a kind of visual communing. See Nichols, “Bread of Heaven.”
89 Ther sall I set myselfe. The Cursor Mundi reports that Lucifer took his seat “In the north syde” (line 459, 1:34–35) where he expected to be reverenced by all the angels.
117 smoke. The Coventry dramatic records identify a fire at hellmouth in the Drapers’ Doomsday play (REED: Coventry, p. 478), while the Anglo-Norman Adam directs the devils in hell to “make a great smoke [fumum magnum] to arise” (Medieval French Plays, p. 36; Butterworth, Theatre of Fire, p. 12). Suggestions for the design and use of hellmouth in plays such as the Barkers’ pageant may be found in Meredith, “The Iconography of Hell in the English Cycles: A Practical Perspective,” and see also Sheingorn, “‘Who can open the doors of his face’: The Iconography of Hell Mouth.” The hellmouth will also be present in the Harrowing (Play 37) and the Mercers’ Doomsday (Play 47).
141 Mankynde of moulde. See Genesis 2:7, which describes the creation of Adam from the “slime of the earth.” This will not happen, as God explains in lines 142–44, until he has completed forming the earth itself and all else that is in it as a support system for humankind.
154 The nighte even fro the day. Separating light and darkness, the work of the first day. See Genesis 1:4.
Play 1, THE CREATION OF THE ANGELS AND THE FALL OF LUCIFER: TEXTUAL NOTES
ABBREVIATIONS: Bevington: David Bevington, ed., Medieval Drama (1975); Köbling: E. Köbling, “Beiträge zur Erklärung und Textkritik der York Plays”; LTS: Lucy Toulmin Smith, ed., The York Plays (1885); MED: Middle English Dictionary; RB: Richard Beadle, ed., The York Plays (1972) (incorporating numerous emendations from other sources); RB2: Richard Beadle, “Corrections to The York Plays,” in Gerald Byron Kinneavy, A Concordance to the York Plays (1986), pp. xxxi–xxxii; s.d.: stage direction; Sykes: A. C. Cawley, ed., “The Sykes MS of the York Scriveners’ Play”; Towneley: Martin Stevens and A. C. Cawley, eds., The Towneley Plays.
The base text for this edition is London, British Library, MS. Add. 35290, called the “Register” in the York civic records and here identified by the abbreviation Reg. Some variations in lineation from the manuscript are not noted here; see RB and Beadle and Meredith’s The York Play: A Facsimile. In most cases the line numbering in the present text is consistent with RB. Lineation of alliterative verse throughout is based on Reg, with line numbering adjusted accordingly to account for half lines. Scribes are identified as follows: Scribe A; Scribe B: main scribe; JC: John Clerke; LH: later scribal hand (unidentified).
This pageant was copied by Scribe A, who also entered the second pageant and the A-text of the third. He omitted the speech attribution to DEUS for God’s first monologue, here supplied at line 1 (following LTS).
6 hydande. So LTS, RB; Reg: hyndande.
8 Unendande. So LTS, RB; Reg: une dande.
24 s.d. Reg: stage direction, in red; faded, with the following portions unreadable: . . . eli, . . . laudamus te domin. . . .
28 welth. So LTS, RB; Reg: wethth.
34 merour. So LTS, RB; Reg: morour.
39 welth. Letter l interlined in Reg.
40 s.d. Reg: stage direction, in red ink.
42 A. Interlined in Reg.
67 es, I. So LTS, RB; Reg: es w I.
129 DEUS. By LH, preceded by Ihc, also by LH. After line 144, Reg repeats Deus.
130 of mi mighte. So RB; Reg: of migh mighte; LTS: of mighte.
Play 1, THE CREATION OF THE ANGELS AND THE FALL OF LUCIFER: EXPLANATORY NOTE FOOTNOTES
Footnote 1 See Seiler, “Filth and Stench,” and Rastall, Heaven Singing, pp. 199–215.
Footnote 2 Rastall, Heaven Singing, pp. 245–46.
Footnote 3 Caedmon Manuscript, ed. Gollancz, p. 16.
Footnote 4 French, York Minster: The Great East Window, pl. 1.
Footnote 5 See Russell, Satan, p. 187.
Tunc cantant angeli, Te Deum laudamus, te Dominum confitemur.2; (see note); (t-note)
Tunc cantant angeli, Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus, Dominus Deus Sabaoth.3; (see note); (t-note)
Go To Play 2, The Creation through the Fifth Day