1. The Creation


1 In the name of God, amen. May Holy Mary be present at my beginning. Wakefield

2 I am Alpha and Omega (Apocalypse 1:8)

3 Here God leaves his throne, and Lucifer will sit in the same throne

4 Then the demons will exit, crying out, and the first says

5 And he will touch him

6 Then the cherubin takes Adam by the hand, and the Lord says to him

7 That he should be angry for any reason


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).

All Middle English creation plays are based on the biblical account in Genesis 1, but divide the material differently. Both N-Town and Chester have separate pageants representing the creation of the heavens and the fall of the angels on the one hand, and the creation of the world and the creation and fall of Adam and Eve on the other, while York divides the latter material into a series of five separate pageants. The Towneley version, while now fragmentary due to missing leaves, evidently included all of this material as part of a single play. Yet this play was itself a compilation: the portion of the text dealing with the fall of angels appears to be an interpolation into a monologue by God (written in a fairly regular aabccb stanza form, unlike the varied intervening material); similarly, the switch at the end of God’s (continued) monologue into couplets likely indicates a change in source material. The story of the creation and fall of the angels is not biblical, but is traditionally associated with the first day of creation, as represented in the pageants of York, Chester, and N-Town. Towneley alone places it immediately after the fifth day, further indicating that this episode is an interpolation, and perhaps not an especially well-considered one.

The extant play breaks off shortly after Lucifer’s (re-)entrance and prior to any actual temptation of Adam and Eve; four leaves are apparently missing here, which to judge by the length of what remains of the play (267 lines on two leaves) could have contained well over 500 additional lines. It is difficult now to imagine what all might have been included: the York pageants of the temptation and fall and of the expulsion from Eden together contain only 341 lines (as opposed to 528 lines in the previous four pageants, effectively covering everything in the extant Towneley play, consisting of two leaves). It is possible that the gathering originally consisted of fewer than eight leaves, or that two leaves (that is, the bifolium from the center of the gathering) were removed and discarded for other reasons, such as an error in transcription or duplication of material, which in turn led to the accidental loss of two more leaves.

Before 1 The addition of the name “Wakefeld” to an otherwise common invocation remains curious, especially given its repetition after the title of the third (but no other) pageant, of Noah and the flood. While often assumed to indicate that the plays themselves belonged to the town of Wakefield in the West Riding of Yorkshire, “Wakefeld” could perhaps name the scribe, or the location at the time of transcription. For more, see the Introduction to this volume, pp. 13–15, and Figure 1, p. 20.

1–2 Ego sum alpha . . . the last also. These lines are adapted from Apocalypse (1:8, 21:6, and 22:13); the Latin line similarly opens the Creation plays of York, Chester, and N-Town.

5–6 Fader and Son and Holy Goost / One God in Trinyté. At the outset of the play, prior to the creation of anything else, God asserts the doctrine of the Trinity — God as three distinct 'persons' sharing one essential, divine nature: Father, Son (Jesus), and Holy Spirit.

23–24 Darknes from light . . . serve and be. The division of darkness and light (see Genesis 1:4) to form day and night itself creates time and temporality.

33–34 And parte ather from othere / Water above. That is, divide the water that is to be on the earth, under the newly-created firmament or heavens, from the water above. See Genesis 1:6–7.

50 the planettys seven. The seven planets of pre-Copernican cosmology included both the sun and the moon (already named in the previous line) along with Saturn, Mars, Jupiter, Venus, and Mercury.

61–76 Oure lord God . . . . make of noght. Cherubin’s speech is in couplets, in contrast to the tail-rhymed stanzas of God’s lines (aside from lines 198–203), and interrupts the creation of the world, likely indicating an interpolation; God’s creative activity continues after the fall of the bad angels, but without explicit reference to the sixth (or the seventh) day. Lucifer speaks primarily in a 5-line tail-rhyme stanza form (aabab), perhaps a deliberate echo or parody of God’s (aabccb) speech, until line 104 when he switches to couplets.

76, s.d. Hic . . . Lucifer sedebit in eodem solio. While this stage direction — unusually written in the right margin, separated from Cherubin’s speech by a vertical red line — implies that Lucifer sits in God’s throne as soon as it is empty, subsequent lines indicate otherwise; he sits only after line 103 (“My sete shall be ther as was his”), at which point he also begins to speak in couplets, as noted.

91 My myght may nothyng kon. That is, no other being can comprehend my strength (rephrasing the previous line).

129 therof a leke what rekys us. To “not care a leek” is to care not at all; see MED lek (n.), sense 1c) and Whiting L183.

131, s.d. Therfor will I . . . et dicit primus. As in the first of the York pageants, God does not explicitly or actively cast the bad angels out of heaven; rather, they fall due to their own actions. When he attempts to fly, Lucifer falls, along with the two bad angels. Two demons then appear and lament what has occurred. While they clearly represent fallen angels (see line 134), these two demons may or may not be played by the same actors who play the two bad angels prior to their fall: the reference to demons (demones) rather than bad angels both in the stage direction and in subsequent speech headings, along with the apparent disappearance of Lucifer after the fall (he does not speak again until he appears in Eden, and Demon 2 refers to him here only in the third person), may indicate that all three of the actors who 'fall' with Lucifer should simply vanish, out of sight of the audience, and be replaced by their demonic doubles; these two actors then presumably exit from an area below the stage, proper, on the level of the audience, whom Demon 2 later addresses as “ye all that standys beside” (line 157).

132 welowo. “Wellaway” (spelled in various ways in the MS), like “alas” in the same line, is a common “exclamation expressive of grief, dismay, or regret” (MED wei-la-wei (interj.), sense 1).

137 And ugly, tatyrd as a foyll. As SC point out, the line alludes to the traditional “jagged or slashed costume of a court jester” (SC p. 440). In Langland’s Piers Plowman (Prol.75 and 16.89), the devil is called a “rageman” or “ragman” (see also the Judgment play, 27.326–27 and note).

142 Thou has maide neyn; there was ten. See note to lines 254–57 below.

151 syn. Isaiah 59:2 specifies that sin divides the sinner from God, a separation here made visible.

159 all unpeasse. The MED cites this line in support of its definition of unpes (n.) as “inquietude of mind or spirit, lack of mental peace, discontent, distress; also, the absence or lack of reconciliation with God” (sense b).

198 Heris thou, Adam and Eve thi wife. This line, which begins a sequence in couplets that ends the extant play, also seems at odds with the preceding instruction to the Cherubin to take the couple to Eden “And leyf them there in peasse” (line 197). The pattern of God’s preceding lines (and those in parallel plays) might lead one to expect reference here to the conclusion of the sixth day, and perhaps conclusion of the play itself.

199 the tre of life. The tree of life is explicitly separate from the tree of knowledge in the biblical account (see Genesis 2:9, 17) but the two are frequently conflated as they are here and in two other Towneley plays — see 3.50 and 7.c.26.

209 man to be oure feere. Humankind is created to replace Lucifer and the fallen tenth order, set apart from the rest of earthly creation as a companion to the heavenly angels. See lines 215 and 254–57 (and note, below).

254–57 Ten orders in heven . . . . with me. Of the traditional nine orders of angels, only “Cherubin” is explicitly represented here, along with Lucifer and the other fallen — the tenth order, whose place in the order of creation is to be taken by humankind, as mentioned in lines 209 (see note, above) and 262–65. In the Chester Creation play, prior to his fall, Lucifer names all nine (Chester 1.52–59), and each is given a speaking role, although not quite in their hierarchical order, which is further divided by tradition into triads or spheres as follows: Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones; Dominions, Virtues, Powers; Principalities, Archangels, Angels.


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).

The edition by Stevens and Cawley for the Early English Text Society, along with the facsimile edition that they likewise co-edited, remains the chief source for analysis of the Towneley manuscript and its various textual annotations, corrections, marginalia, and other particularities. Unlike theirs, the current edition makes no note of most minor corrections, such as an obviously misplaced and crossed-out letter before a correctly written word, except where these might potentially affect understanding of the established text.

Before 1 Cherubin Cherubin. Both in the character list and in speech headings, I have used a modernized spelling of the Middle English singular form, cherubyn, given the connotations of the modern “cherub.” The cherubim (plural) are the second order of angels after the seraphim, and the guardians of Eden after the expulsion of Adam and Eve (see Genesis 3:24), not winged children or putti.

Before 1 Bad Angel Bad Angel / Demon. The MS distinguishes between Primus and Secundus Angelus on the one hand and Primus and Secundus Demones on the other; while ostensibly representing the same characters, before and after their fall from heaven, the roles may or may not be played by the same actors; see the Explanatory Note to line 131, s.d.

7 I am without begynnyng. MS: in the right margin opposite this line a sixteenth century hand has written Barker. Below this is the Towneley pressmark 13½:35, above F:35 (indicating the height and shelf number of the bound manuscript). That pressmark is also written in the top corner of the page, but was cut off when the manuscript was trimmed for rebinding.

36 day this is. MS: a hole in the page, with rust staining and additional rubbing, has partially obscured these words.

48 thryd. MS: thyrd; emended for rhyme, following EP.

58 be. So MS. SC: emend to se (“sea”).

62 be. to thee. MS: to the added in a different hand.

64 has made. MS: these words, run together, have been written over an erasure in the same hand as to the in line 62.

86 May nothyng stand then be. So SC. EP: may nothing stand ne be. MS: may thing stand then be.

97 Therfor. MS: thefor.

98 ye shall. A hole in the MS (see note to line 36) obscures the e and sh.

132 welowo. MS: the first o is indistinct due to a crease that runs the length of the leaf, obscuring many individual letters from here through to the end of the play, although the correct reading is generally clear, particularly in context.

136 waxen. MS: n indistinct.

138 Lucifer. MS: ifer indistinct.

142 neyn . . . ten. So EP. MS: ix, x (x indistinct).

144 that. MS: a indistinct.

148 noght. MS: t indistinct.

150 we. MS: indistinct.

152 pride. MS: p indistinct.

154 and. MS: a indistinct.

156 warrie. MS: e indistinct.

158 hym. MS: m indistinct.

162 that. t2 obscured by crease.

164 t2 missing due to a hole (corresponding to that at lines 36 and 98).

165 man. MS: n indistinct.

166 of. MS: o indistinct.

168 thee. MS: the, with th indistinct.

169 shall. MS: ha indistinct.

171 water or. MS: t, abbreviation for -er, and or indistinct.

172 thi. MS: th indistinct.

175 brede. MS: b indistinct.

177 have. MS: haue, au indistinct.

178 fulfill. MS: ulfi indistinct.

180 wonnyng. MS: won indistinct.

181 of solace. MS: of indistinct.

183 be. MS: e indistinct.

184 this. MS: is indistinct.

186 from. MS: m indistinct.

187 Therof shall be maide thi make. So EP, to restore meter. SC, MS: therof shall be thi make (m indistinct in MS).

189 governe. MS: final e indistinct.

190 in. MS: indistinct.

192 and. MS: abbreviation symbol effaced.

194 withoutten. So EP, SC. MS: without.

209 oure. MS: r indistinct.

213 thoght. MS: second h indistinct.

217 liffen. MS: l indistinct.

221 be. MS: e indistinct.

233 he. MS: indistinct.

237 seen. MS: n indistinct.

239 coloures. MS: e indistinct.

249 wroth. MS: th indistinct.

251 beyn. MS: b indistinct.

254 Ten. So EP. MS: X.

255 Of angels that had offyce sere. This line was accidentally omitted from SC.

257 teynd. So EP. MS: x.

260 felows. MS: e indistinct.

261 ay. MS: y indistinct.

263 end. MS: nd indistinct.

264 neyn. So EP. MS: ix.

After 267 MS: the next four leaves are missing (that is, the center half of the first extant gathering); see the headnote to the play in Explanatory Notes.

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1. The Creation

from: The Towneley Plays  2017

[fol. 1r]

























Bad Angel 1

Good Angel 1

Good Angel 2

Bad Angel 2


Bad Angel 1
Good Angel 1

Demon 1




Demon 2










[fol. 2v]















Good Angel 1
Good Angel 2
Bad Angel 1 / Demon 1
Bad Angel 2 / Demon 2

In dei nomine, Amen. Assit principio sancta Maria meo. Wakefeld.1

Ego sum alpha et o: 2
I am the first the last also,
Oone God in magesté,
Mervelus of myght most,
Fader and Son and Holy Goost,
One God in Trinyté.

I am without begynnyng;
My godhede hath none endyng.
I am God in trone,
Oone God in persons thre
Which may never twynnyd be,
For I am God alone.

All maner thyng is in my thoght;
Withoutten me ther may be noght
For all is in my sight.
Hit shall be done after my will:
That I have thoght I shall fulfill
And manteyn with my myght.

At the begynnyng of oure dede
Make we heven and erth on brede
And lyghtys fayre to se,
For it is good to be so;
Darknes from light we parte on two
In tyme to serve and be.

Darknes we call the nyght
And lith also the bright;
It shall be as I say.
After my will this is furth broght:
Even and morne both ar thay wroght
And thus is maid a day.

In medys the water, bi oure assent,
Be now maide the firmament,
And parte ather from othere
Water above, iwis.
Even and morne maide is this.
A day, this is the tothere.

Waters that so wyde ben spred
Be gedered togeder into one stede
That dry the erth may seym.
That at is dry the erth shall be;
The waters also I call the see.
This warke to me is queme.

Out of the erth, herbys shal spryng:
Trees to florish and frute furth bryng,
Thare kynde that it be kyd.
This is done after my will:
Even and morn maide is thertill;
A day, this is the thryd.

Son and moyne set in the heven
With starnes and the planettys seven
To stand in thare degré,
The son to serve the day lyght,
The moyne also to serve the nyght.
The fourte day shall this be.

The water to norish the fysh swymand,
The erth to norish bestys crepeand
That fly or go may.
Multiplye in erth and be
In my blyssyng; wax now ye.
This is the fyft day.

Oure lord God in Trynyté,
Myrth and lovyng be to thee,
Myrth and lovyng over al thyng.
For thou has made with thi bidyng
Heven and erth and all that is,
And giffen us joy that never shall mys.
Lord, thou art full mych of myght
That has maide Lucifer so bright.
We love thee, Lord; bright ar we,
Bot none of us so bright as he.
He may well hight Lucifere,
For lufly light that he doth bere;
He is so lufly and so bright.
It is grete joy to se that sight.
We lofe thee, Lord, with all oure thoght
That sich thyng can make of noght.

Hic Deus recedit a suo solio et Lucifer sedebit in eodem solio. 3

Certys, it is a semely sight
Syn that we ar all angels bright
And ever in blis to be;
If that ye will behold me right
This mastré longys to me.

I am so fare and bright:
Of me commys all this light,
This gam and all this gle;
Agans my grete myght
May nothyng stand then be.

And ye well me behold:
I am a thowsandfold
Brighter then is the son.
My strengthe may not be told;
My myght may nothyng kon.
In heven therfor wit I wold
Above me who shuld won.

For I am lord of blis
Over all this warld, iwis;
My myrth is most of all.
Therfor my will is this:
Master ye shall me call.

And ye shall se full sone onone
How that me semys to sit in trone
As kyng of blis.
I am so semely, blode and bone;
My sete shall be ther as was his.

Say, felows, how semys now me
To sit in seyte of Trynyté?
I am so bright of ich a lym,
I trow me seme as well as hym.
Thou art so fayre unto my syght;
Thou semys well to sytt on hight,
So thynke me that thou doyse.
I rede ye leyfe that vanys royse
For that seyte may non angell seme
So well as hym that all shall deme.
I reyde ye sese of that ye sayn,
For well I wote ye carpe in vayne;
Hit semyd hym never, ne never shall,
So well as hym that has maide all.
Now and bi oght that I can witt,
He semys full well theron to sytt.
He is so fayre, withoutten les,
He semys full well to sytt on des.
Therfor, felow, hold thi peasse
And umbithynke thee what thou saysse.
He semys as well to sytt there
As God hymself, if he were here.
Leyf felow, thynk thee not so?
Yee, God wote, so dos othere mo
Nay, forsoth, so thynk not us.
Now, therof a leke what rekys us?
Syn I myself am so bright,
Therfor will I take a flyght.

Tunc exibunt demones clamando, et dicit primus, 4

Alas! alas and welowo!
Lucifer, whi fell thou so?
We that were angels so fare
And sat so hie above the ayere,
Now ar we waxen blak as any coyll
And ugly, tatyrd as a foyll.
What alyd thee, Lucifer, to fall?
Was thou not farist of angels all,
Brightist and best and most of luf
With God hymself that syttys aboyf?
Thou has maide neyn; there was ten.
Thou art foull comyn from thi kyn.
Thou art fallen that was the teynd,
From an angell to a feynd;
Thou has us doyn a vyle dispyte
And broght thiself to sorow and sitt.
Alas, ther is noght els to say,
Bot we ar tynt for now and ay.
Alas, the joy that we were in
Have we lost for oure syn.
Alas, that ever cam pride in thoght,
For it has broght us all to noght.
We were in myrth and joy enoghe
When Lucifer to pride drogh.
Alas, we may warrie wikkyd pride,
So may ye all that standys beside.
We held with hym ther he saide leasse
And therfor have we all unpeasse.
Alas, alas, oure joye is tynt.
We mon have payne that never shall stynt.

Erthly bestys that may crepe and go,
Bryng ye furth and wax ye mo.
I se that it is good.
Now make we man to oure liknes,
That shall be keper of more and les,
Of fowles and fysh in flood.

Et tanget eum.5

Spreyte of life I in thee blaw;
Good and ill, both shall thou knaw.
Rise up and stand bi me.
All that is in water or land
It shall bow unto thi hand
And sufferan shall thou be.

I gif thee witt, I gif thee strenght;
Of all thou sees of brede and lengthe
Thou shall be wonder wise,
Myrth and joy to have at will,
All thi likyng to fulfill
And dwell in paradise.

This I make thi wonnyng playce,
Full of myrth and of solace,
And I seasse thee therin.
It is not good to be alone,
To walk here in this worthely wone
In all this welthly wyn.

Therfor a rib I from thee take;
Therof shall be maide thi make
And be to thi helpyng,
Ye, both to governe that here is
And evermore to be in blis,
Ye wax in my blissyng.

Ye shall have joye and blis therin
Whils ye will kepe you out of syn,
I say withoutten lese.
Ryse up, myn angell cherubyn.
Take and leyd theym both in,
And leyf them there in peasse.

Tunc capit cherubyn Adam per manum and dicit eis dominus, 6

Heris thou, Adam and Eve thi wife:
I forbede you the tre of life,
And I commaund that it be gat.
Take which ye will, bot negh not that.
Adam, if thou breke my rede,
Thou shall dye a dulfull dede.
Oure Lord, oure God, thi will be done.
I shall go with theym full sone.
Forsoth, my Lord, I shall not sted
Till I have theym theder led.
We thank thee, Lord, with full good chere
That has maide man to be oure feere.
Com furth, Adam, I shall thee leyd;
Take tent to me, I shall thee reyd.
I rede thee thynk how thou art wroght,
And luf my Lord in all thi thoght
That has maide thee thrugh his will,
Angels ordir to fulfill,
Many thyngys he has thee giffen
And maide thee master of all that liffen;
He has forbed thee bot a tre.
Look that thou let it be,
For if thou breke his commaundment
Thou skapys not bot thou be shent.
Weynd here into paradise,
And luke now that ye be wyse
And kepe you well, for I must go
Unto my Lord ther I cam fro.
Almyghty Lord, I thank it thee,
That is and was and shall be,
Of thi luf and of thi grace,
For now is here a mery place.
Eve, my felow, how thynk thee this?
A stede, me thynk, of joye and blis
That God has giffen to thee and me,
Withoutten ende, blissyd be he.
Eve, felow, abide me thore,
For I will go to viset more
To se what trees that here been.
Here ar well moo then we have seen:
Gresys, and othere small floures
That smell full swete, of seyr coloures.
Gladly, syr, I will full fayne;
When ye have sene theym, com agane.
Bot luke well, Eve my wife,
That thou negh not the tree of life,
For if thou do, he bese ill-paide;
Then be we tynt as he has saide.
Go furth, and play thee all aboute;
I shall not negh it whils thou art oute,
For be thou sekyr, I were full loth
For any thyng that he were wroth. 7
Who wend ever this tyme have seyn?
We that in sich myrth have beyn,
That we shuld suffre so mych wo,
Who wold ever trow it shuld be so?
Ten orders in heven were
Of angels that had offyce sere
Of ich order in thare degré;
The teynd parte fell downe with me,
For thay held with me that tyde
And mantenyd me in my pride.
Bot herkyns, felows, what I say:
The joy that we have lost for ay,
God has maide man with his hend
To have that blis withoutten end,
The neyn ordre to fulfill
That after us left; sich is his will.
And now ar thay in paradise,
Bot thens thay shall if we be wise.




(see note)

(see note)

Father; Spirit; (see note)

has no


manner of

All that

far and wide

in; (see note)


evening and morning; made

the middle of

either; (see note)

second; (t-note)

are spread
gathered; place
that which

made known

in addition

Sun and moon
stars; planets; (see note)


nourish; swimming

blessing; grow

[fol. 1v]; (see note)
praise; (t-note)


given; fail

be named


(see note)

certainly; fair


pleasure; delight

nor be; (t-note)


know; (see note)
think; would



you; immediately
I seem

beautiful; blood

the seat
in every limb

advise; leave that vain boasting
seat; suit
know; chatter
it suited; nor

anything; know



knows; do; more; [fol. 2r]
leek; troubles; (see note)

(see note)

(see note); (t-note)

grown; coal; (t-note)
tattered; fool; (see note)
ailed; (t-note)

sits above
nine; (see note); (t-note)
descended; kind
tenth; (t-note)
done a vile thing
lost; always
(see note)

enough; (t-note)
curse; (t-note)

supported; lies; (t-note)
(see note)
must; cease


spirit; blow; (t-note)
know; (t-note)


far and wide; (t-note)

pleasure; (t-note)

dwelling; (t-note)
worthy place; (t-note)
rich delight

mate; (t-note)





hear; (see note)
forbid; (see note)
break; command
die a dreadful death

Truly; tarry

companion; (see note); (t-note)
forth; lead
Pay attention; tell
love; (t-note)

lives; (t-note)
forbidden; only

escape; punished; (t-note)

came from



more than; (t-note)
several; (t-note)

certain; loath
thought; to have seen

(see note); (t-note)
diverse duties; (t-note)
tenth; (t-note)
supported; time
listen; (t-note)
ever; (t-note)
nine orders to complete; (t-note)

from there; (t-note)


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