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Play 1, The Creation of the Angels and the Fall of Lucifer


1 I am alpha and omega, life, the way, / Truth first and last

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


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.


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.


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.

The Barkers





[DEUS]   Ego sum Alpha et O[mega], vita, via,
Veritas primus et novissimus.1

I am gracyus and grete, God withoutyn begynnyng,
I am maker unmade, all mighte es in me.
I am lyfe and way unto welth wynnyng;
I am formaste and fyrste, als I byd sall it be.
My blyssyng o ble sall be blendyng
And heldand, fro harme to be hydande,
My body in blys ay abydande
Unendande, withoutyn any endyng.

Sen I am maker unmade, and most es of mighte,
And ay sall be endeles, and noghte es but I,
Unto my dygnyté dere sall diewly be dyghte
A place full of plenté to my plesyng at ply;
And therewith als wyll I have wroght
Many dyvers doynges bedene
Whilke warke sall mekely contene,
And all sall be made even of noghte.

But onely the worthely warke of my wyll
In my sprete sall enspyre the mighte of me,
And in the fyrste, faythely, my thoghte to fullfyll,
Baynely in my blyssyng I byd at here be
A blys al beledande abowte me;
In the whilke blys I byde at be here
Nyen ordres of aungels full clere,
In lovyng aylastande at lowte me.

(see note)

foremost; shall
of [my] countenance; dazzling
pouring out; protecting; (t-note)
always abiding

dignity; be made
to design


worthy work
Now; command to be here
all supporting

Nine; (see note)
praise everlasting; worship
  Tunc cantant angeli, Te Deum laudamus, te Dominum confitemur.2; (see note); (t-note)



Here undernethe me nowe a nexile I neven,
Whilke ile sall be erthe, now all be at ones
Erthe haly and helle, this hegheste be heven;
And that welth sall welde sall won in this wones.
This graunte I yowe, mynysters myne,
To whils yhe ar stabill in thoghte,
And also to thaime that ar noghte
Be put to my presone at pyne.

Of all the mightes I have made, moste nexte after me
I make thee als master and merour of my mighte.
I beelde thee here baynely in blys for to be,
I name thee for Lucifer, als berar of lyghte.
Nothyng here sall thee be derand;
In this blis sall be yhour beeldyng
And have all welth in youre weledyng,
Ay whils yhe ar buxumly berande.
wing (as of building) I name; (see note)
wield; dwell in these places; (t-note)

As long as you

in suffering

powerful ones
reflector; (t-note)
set; obediently
(see note)
dwelling place
will (power); (t-note)
humbly behaving
  Tunc cantant angeli, Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus, Dominus Deus Sabaoth.3; (see note); (t-note)
























I ANGELUS SERAPHYN   A, mercyfull maker, full mekill es thi mighte
That all this warke at a worde worthely has wroghte.
Ay loved be that lufly lorde of his lighte
That us thus mighty has made, that nowe was righte noghte,
In blys for to byde in hys blyssyng.
Aylastande, in luf lat us lowte hym,
At beelde us thus baynely abowete hym,
Of myrthe nevermore to have myssyng.

I ANGELUS DEFICIENS, LUCIFERE   All the myrth that es made es markide in me.
The bemes of my brighthode ar byrnande so bryghte,
And I so semely in syghte myselfe now I se,
For lyke a lorde am I lefte to lende in this lighte.
More fayrear be far than my feres,
In me is no poynte that may payre.
I fele me fetys and fayre,
My powar es passande my peres.

ANGELUS CHERABYN   Lord, wyth a lastande luf we love thee allone,
Thou mightefull maker that markid us and made us,
And wroghte us thus worthely to wone in this wones,
Ther never felyng of fylth may full us nor fade us.
All blys es here beeldande aboute us,
To whyls we are stabyll in thoughte
In the worschipp of hym that us wroght,
Of dere never thar us more dowte us.

II ANGELUS DEFICIENS   O, what I am fetys and fayre and fygured full fytt!4
The forme of all fayrehede apon me es feste.
All welth in my weelde es, I wote be my wytte:
The bemes of my bryghthede are bygged with the beste.
My schewyng es schemerande and schynande,
So bygly to blys am I broghte.
Me nedes for to noy me righte noghte:
Here sall never payne me be pynande.

ANGELUS SERAPHYN   With all the wytt at we welde we woyrschip thi wyll,
Thou gloryus God that es grunde of all grace.
Ay with stedefaste steven lat us stande styll,
Lorde, to be fede with the fode of thi fayre face.
In lyfe that es lely aylastande,
Thi dale, Lorde, es ay daynetethly delande,
And whoso that fode may be felande,
To se thi fayre face es noght fastande.

Owe, certes, what I am worthely wroghte with wyrschip, iwys,
For in a glorius gle my gleteryng it glemes,
I am so mightyly made my mirth may noghte mys.
Ay sall I byde in this blys thorowe brightnes of bemes.
Me nedes noghte of noy for to neven.
All welth in my welde have I weledande,
Abowne yhit sall I be beeldand,
On heghte in the hyeste of hewven.

Ther sall I set myselfe, full semely to seyghte,
To ressayve my reverence thorowe righte o renowne.
I sall be lyke unto hym that es hyeste on heghte —
Owe, what I am derworth and defte.
                            Owe, Dewes, all goes downe!
My mighte and my mayne es all marrande.
Helpe, felawes, in faythe I am fallande.

II ANGELUS SERAPHYN   Fra heven are we heledande on all hande.
To wo are we weendande, I warande.

LUCIFER, DEIABOLUS IN INFERNO   Owte, owte! harrowe!
                 Helples, slyke hote at es here!
This es a dongon of dole that I am to dyghte!
Whare es my kynde become, so cumly and clere?
Nowe am I laytheste, allas, that are was lighte.
My bryghtnes es blakkeste and blo nowe;
My bale es ay betande and brynande:
That gares ane go gowlande and gyrnande.
Owte, ay walaway! I well enew in wo nowe!

II DIABILUS   Owte, owte! I go wode for wo! My wytte es all wente nowe.
All oure fode es but filth we fynde us beforn.
We that ware beelded in blys in bale are we brent nowe.
Owte on thee, Lucifer, lurdan, oure lyghte has thou lorne!
Thi dedes to this dole nowe has dyghte us.
To spill us thou was oure spedar,
For thow was oure lyghte and oure ledar,
The hegheste of heven hade thou hyght us.

LUCIFER IN INFERNO   Walaway, wa es me now, nowe es it war thane it was!
Unthryvandely threpe yhe, I sayde but a thoghte.

II DIABOLUS   We, lurdane, thou lost us!

LUCIFER IN INFERNO                         Yhe ly, owte, allas!
I wyste noghte this wo sculde be wroghte.
Owte on yhow, lurdans, yhe smore me in smoke.

II DIABOLUS   This wo has thou wroghte us.

LUCIFER IN INFERNO                              Yhe ly, yhe ly!

II DIABOLUS   Thou lyes, and that sall thou by:
We, lurdane, have at yowe, lat loke!

ANGELUS CHERUBYN   A, Lorde, lovid be thi name that us this lyghte lente
Sen Lucifer oure ledar es lighted so lawe,
For hys unbuxumnes in bale to be brente,
Thi rightewysnes to rewarde on rowe
Ilke warke eftyr is wroghte.
Thorowe grace of thi mercyfull myghte,
The cause I se itt in syghte,
Wharefore to bale he es broghte.

DEUS   Those foles for thaire fayrehede in fantasyes fell
And hade mayne of mi mighte that marked tham and made tham,
Forthi efter thaire warkes were, in wo sall thai well,
For sum ar fallen into fylthe that evermore sall fade tham
And never sall have grace for to gyrth tham.
So passande of power tham thoght tham,
Thai wolde noght me worschip that wroghte tham;
Forthi sall my wreth ever go with tham.

Ande all that me wyrschippe sall wone here, iwys;
Forthi more forthe of my warke wyrke nowe I will.
Syn than ther mighte es for-marryde that mente all omys,5
Even to myne awne fygure this blys to fulfyll,
Mankynde of moulde will I make.
But fyrste wille I fourme hym before
All thyng that sall hym restore,
To whilke that his talente will take.

Ande in my fyrste makyng, to mustyr my mighte,
Sen erthe es vayne and voyde, and myrknes emel,
I byd in my blyssyng yhe aungels gyf lyghte
To the erthe, for it faded when the fendes fell.
In hell sall never myrknes be myssande,
The myrknes thus name I for nighte,
The day that call I this lyghte.
My after warkes sall thai be wyssande.

Ande nowe in my blyssyng I twyne tham in two,
The nighte even fro the day, so that thai mete never,
But ather in a kynde courese thaire gates for to go;
Bothe the nighte and the day, does dewly yhour deyver,
To all I sall wirke be yhe wysshyng.
This day warke es done ilke a dele,
And all this warke lykes me ryght wele,
And baynely I gyf it my blyssyng.
praised be

Everlasting; praise let us worship
That we flourish; now
be lacking

radiance; burning

fairer; companions
become less

to dwell in this place
befoul; darken; (see note)
As long as; constant; (see note)

harm; worry

beauty; fast (fixed)
power; understand by; intelligence; (t-note)
as large as
to trouble

that we

(see note)
gift; bountifully giving
experiencing (tasting)


Always shall
harm to mention

Above; dwelling

sight; (see note)

Oh; worthy; noble
resolve; weakening

woe; wending; warrant

[I’m] helpless, such heat
suffering; condemned
most loathsome; before
dark (discolored)
misery; beating and burning
makes one; wailing; grimacing
boil (suffer); enough


rascal; lost
hurt; facilitator

woe; worse
Unthrivingly chide

Alas, rascal; destroyed

You lie
smother; (see note)


Since; fallen so low
lack of humility in sorrow; burned
in the proper order of things

fools; beauty; (t-note)
moan (complaint); (t-note)
Therefore; suffer
darken them


dwell; I know
even more

in my image
earth; (see note)
before I form him I will
support him
ability will take [him]

Since; empty; entire darkness



meet; (see note)
each; natural; ways
duly your duty
pleases me very much

Go To Play 2, The Creation through the Fifth Day