5.a. Isaac

Play 5A, ISAAC: FOOTNOTES


1 Jacob leaves

2 If Jacob were to marry into the tribe of Heth (the Hittites)

3 And he kisses [him]

4 Here ends Isaac


Play 5A, ISAAC: EXPLANATORY NOTES


ABBREVIATIONS: Chester: The Chester Mystery Cycle, ed. Lumiansky and Mills (1974); CT: The Canterbury Tales, ed. Benson (1987); DSL: Dictionary of the Scots Language; Elliott: The Apocryphal New Testament, ed. Elliott; EP: The Towneley plays, ed. England and Pollard (1897); MED: Middle English Dictionary; MS: Huntington MS HM 1 (“the Towneley manuscript”); N-Town: The N-Town Plays, ed. Sugano (2007); OED: Oxford English Dictionary; REED: Records of Early English Drama; SC: The Towneley Plays, eds. Stevens and Cawley (1994); s.d.: stage direction; Whiting: Whiting, Proverbs, Sentences, and Proverbial Phrases; York: The York Corpus Christi Plays, ed. Davidson (2011).

While presented as separate works in the manuscript, the incomplete play of Isaac and the Jacob play that follows effectively form a single unit, with a continuous narrative involving the same characters written entirely in couplets; the subject — the feud between Isaac’s twin sons, Jacob and Esau, based on Genesis 25–33 — is unique in early English biblical drama. This edition therefore treats them as a single play, but respects the original manuscript division into two parts or pageants, giving separate lineation and retaining the original manuscript titles. It is impossible to know what exactly is missing from the Isaac pageant, but the action could well have begun with the episode in Genesis 25 in which a hungry Esau, the firstborn and Isaac’s favorite, sells his birthright to Jacob, favored by their mother, Rebecca, for a bowl of lentil stew. The extant pageant begins with Jacob’s gaining his father’s blessing by deceit. Just prior to this in the biblical account, blind Isaac asks Esau to go hunting and to prepare a meal for him; Rebecca cooks meat and has Jacob bring it to his father, wearing Esau’s clothing in order to smell like him, and with the skin of young goats wrapped around his arms and neck so that he better resembles his hairier brother (Genesis 27:1–17). The pageant continues with the encounter between Isaac and Esau, who realize the deception. Jacob is then sent away into Mesopotamia (line 58) for his protection; he is still on his way there at the beginning of the Jacob pageant, when he encounters God in a dream. A more significant break in the action occurs after this, when he returns to the land of his birth, suddenly accompanied by his wives and children and “two ostes of men” (line 5.b.68). The existing division between plays is likely an error: a copyist (whether the Towneley scribe or someone responsible for transcribing an earlier original) was perhaps confronted by a leaf beginning with a speech heading for Jacob, following a leaf that (like many medieval biblical plays) ends with a blessing, and thus mistook these for the ending of one play and the beginning of another. The title “Jacob” may have been supplied from this initial speech heading or from an explicit or colophon, the most common placement for a title; the now-separate first part of the play could then have been entitled “Isaac” in order to differentiate it from what followed.


36–40 Now alas . . . . I shall hym slo. Esau’s lines here are addressed to the audience, and immediately precede his (unmarked) exit; he returns only at the end of the Jacob pageant.

42 in kynd of Heth. The Hittites were neighboring Canaanites, into which Esau has already married (Genesis 26:34).

43–44 I will send hym to Aran . . . Laban. See Genesis 27:43.

60 besyde Jordan streme. The Jordan river is far from Laban’s home in Haran, in what is now Turkey; it is likely named here due to Genesis 32:10, in which Jacob refers to having crossed the Jordan when he initially left home to seek refuge with Laban.


Play 5A, ISAAC: TEXTUAL NOTES


ABBREVIATIONS: EP: The Towneley Plays, ed. England and Pollard (EETS, 1897); Facs: The Towneley Cycle: A Facsimile of Huntington MS HM 1, ed. Cawley and Stevens; MED: Middle English Dictionary; MS: Huntington MS HM 1 (base text); SC: The Towneley Plays, ed. Stevens and Cawley (EETS, 1994); s.d.: stage direction; Surtees: The Towneley Mysteries, ed. Raine; York: The York Corpus Christi Plays, ed. Davidson (2011).

66, s.d. Et osculatur. MS: stage direction is written beside line 64.

 
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5.a. Isaac

from: The Towneley Plays  2017








ISAAC



5
JACOB
ISAAC


10




15


JACOB



ESAU
20
ISAAC
ESAU

ISAAC

25

ESAU
ISAAC

ESAU
31
ISAAC


35
ESAU



40
REBECCA



45



ISAAC
50


REBECCA

55

JACOB
REBECCA
[fol. 16v]
60



JACOB
ISAAC
66



JACOB
ISAAC
REBECCA
70

Isaac
Jacob
Esau
Rebecca

[…]

Com nere, son, and kys me,
That I may feyle the smell of thee.
The smell of my son is lyke
To a feld with flouris or hony bike.
Where art thou, Esaw, my son?
Here, fader, and askys youre benyson,
The blyssyng my fader gaf to me,
God of heven and I gif thee.
God gif thee plenté grete
Of wyne, of oyll, and of whete,
And graunt thi childre all
To worship thee, both grete and small.
Whoso thee blyssys, blyssed be he;
Whoso thee waris, wared be he.
Now has thou my grete blyssyng;
Love thee shall all thyne ofspryng.
Go now wheder thou has to go.
Graunt mercy, syr, I will do so.

Recedet Iacob. 1

Have ete, fader, of myn huntyng,
And gif me sythen youre blyssyng.
Who is that?
                     I, youre son;
Esaw bryngys you venyson.
Who was that was right now here
And broght me bruet of a dere?
I ete well and blyssyd hym,
And he is blyssyd ich a lym.
Alas, I may grete and sob.
Thou art begylyd thrugh Jacob
That is thyne awne german brother.
Have ye kepyd me none other
Blyssyng then ye set hym one?
Sich another have I none,
Bot God gif thee to thyn handband
The dew of heven and frute of land;
Other then this can I not say.
Now alas and waloway!
May I with that tratoure mete,
My faders dayes shall com with grete,
And my moders also;
May I hym mete I shall hym slo.
Isaac, it were my deth
If Jacob weddeth in kynd of Heth. 2
I will send hym to Aran;
There my brothere dwellys, Laban,
And there may he serve in peasse
Till his brothers wrath will seasse.
Why shuld I apon a day
Loyse both my sonnes? Better nay.
Thou says soth, wife; call hym heder
And let us tell hym where and wheder
That he may fle Esaw,
That us both hetys bale to brew.
Jacob, son, thi fader and I
Wold speke with thee; com stand us by.
Out of contry must thou fle
That Esaw slo not thee.
Whederward shuld I go, dame?
To Mesopotameam,
To my brothere and thyn eme
That dwellys besyde Jordan streme,
And ther may thou with hym won.
To Esaw myne other son
Forget, and all his wrath be dede.
I will go, fader, at youre rede.
Yei, son, do as thi moder says;
Com, kys us both and weynd thi ways.

Et osculatur. 3

Have good day, syr and dame.
God sheld thee, son, from syn and shame.
And gif thee grace good man to be,
And send me glad tythyngys to thee.

Explicit Isaac. 4







near; [fol. 16r]
feel

field; honeycomb

benediction
gave

great quantity

children

blesses, blessed
curses, cursed


wherever




eat
afterwards




broth

in every limb
weep
deceived by
of the same parents
reserved


covenant
fruit

(see note)
meet
weeping

slay
death
(see note)
(see note)


cease

Lose
[the] truth; here
why and where to go

promises to do us both injury


country
slay


uncle
river; (see note)
live
Until





(t-note)




news of



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