Play 44a, The Funeral of the Virgin ("Fergus")

Play 44a, THE FUNERAL OF THE VIRGIN (“FERGUS”): 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 Funeral of the Virgin is assigned to the Linenweavers in the Ordo paginarum though this guild did not take it up until much later (the name of the guild is entered over an erasure). Other records indicate that it was the responsibility of the Masons until 1431–32, when an entry in the York Memorandum Book A/Y notes the guild’s complaint about its content (non-scriptural, with the beating of “Fergus,” the Jew who attempted to overturn Mary’s bier in the funeral procession and whose hand became attached to it) and audience reception (“more noise and laughter than devotion,” resulting in disorder).1 The Linenweavers were assigned the play in 1476,2 but in fact it may have been seldom performed. The play was never entered in the Register. In general the pageant would have followed the presentation in the Golden Legend3 and other sources derived from Melito’s Transitus Beatae Mariae, and finds a parallel in the N-Town play of Mary’s Death and Assumption (Play 41). It would seem that the Jews in this anti-Semitic play were particularly incensed by singing, which Sullivan believes was the chanting of Psalm 113 (AV 114): "Exiit Israel de Egipto, domus Jacob de populo barbaro."4 In N-Town the incipit of this psalm is sung by Peter, followed by the apostles continuing with "Facta est Judea sanctificacio eius, Israel potestas eius," and angels adding "Alleluia" (Play 41, lines 69–70). This is the chant indicated in the Golden Legend;5 Dutka translates: “Israel departed from Egypt — the house of Jacob from a foreign people. Alleluia. Judea was made his sanctuary, Israel his dominion. Alleluia.”6 Painted glass in the York Minster choir shows the Jew with his hands stuck to the bier and then severed,7 thus providing a suggestion that sleight of hand would have been involved in the production of the play, assuming that the same iconography was maintained. The name Fergus is unique to York.


Play 44a, THE FUNERAL OF THE VIRGIN (“FERGUS”): TEXTUAL NOTES


The base text for this edition is London, British Library, MS. Add. 35290, called the “Register” in the York civic records.

Heading and text missing; not entered in the Register.


Play 44a, THE FUNERAL OF THE VIRGIN (“FERGUS”): EXPLANATORY NOTE FOOTNOTES


Footnote 1 REED: York, 1:47–48, trans. 2:732.

Footnote 2 REED: York, 1:110.

Footnote 3 Jacobus de Voragine, Golden Legend, 2:91–92.

Footnote 4 Sullivan, “Missing York Funeral.”

Footnote 5 Jacobus de Voragine, Golden Legend, 2:81 and 91.

Footnote 6 Dutka, Music, p. 116. See also the commentary on the use of this psalm in N-Town in Rastall, Minstrels Playing, p. 119.

Footnote 7 YA, p. 103; Brown, York Minster, fig. 4.47.

 
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Play 44a, The Funeral of the Virgin ("Fergus")

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