Play 12, The Annunciation to Mary and the Visitation
Play 12, THE ANNUNCIATION TO MARY AND THE VISITATION: FOOTNOTES
2 Because in thy seed shall all the nations be blessed, etc.
3 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign, etc.
4 Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, etc.
5 I will be as the dew, Israel shall spring as the lily
6 Lines 119–20: The scepter shall not be taken away from Judah / till he come that is to be sent.
7 Lines 134–35: Behold I send my angel before thy face, / who shall prepare the way before thee.
8 Lines 140–41: I indeed baptize you in water, but you will be / baptized in the Holy Spirit.
Play 12, THE ANNUNCIATION TO MARY AND THE VISITATION: 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 long opening monologue in twelve-line stanzas with interpolated Latin quotations by the Doctor serves the purpose of introducing the prophecies of the Incarnation from the Old Testament and is related to the Ordo Prophetarum in the liturgical drama. The quotations from the Vulgate in Latin that are included in the text are brief and are glossed in English. John Clerke’s notation on the first page that “this matter is newly mayde wherof we have no coppy” perhaps refers to revisions in the Doctor’s speech that were never entered in the Register. However, since no reference to the Doctor appeared in the Ordo paginarum, this speech hence would appear to have been added after 1415. The body of the play treats the Annunciation and the visit to Elizabeth in two scenes, written in eight-line stanzas, with a variant form chosen for the conclusion of the Visitation. These events form the Gospel readings for Wednesday and Friday of the third week in Advent. The pageant was sponsored by the Spicers, a mercantile guild, at one time joined by the metal-working craft of Founders.
15 prophet Amos. The quotation at line 17 has not been identified.
25 foule fende begyled. The Incarnation was designed to beguile the beguiler Satan and hence to trick him, thus depriving him of his right to possess all the descendants of Adam. See especially the Temptation pageant and explanatory notes in this edition, and additionally, for background though with qualifications, see Marx, Devil’s Rights, pp. 114–25.
26–27 fedd / Be tyne. Satan’s anger blinds him to the truth, and will continue to do so in the New Testament plays in which he appears.
34 Quoniam in semine . . . etc. Genesis 22:18.
43 Rorate celi desuper. The incipit of an Advent introit, from Isaiah 45:8: “Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the just; let the earth be opened, and bud forth a savior.” See the York Breviary, 1:47, though it is hard to imagine that this Latin extra-metrical quote and those that follow were sung. The dew was held to represent the Holy Spirit (lines 51–52); compare the famous fifteenth-century lyric “I syng of a myden that is makeles”:
He cam also stylle ther his moder was59 Propter hoc . . . etc. Isaias 7:14.
As dew in Aprylle, that fallyt on the gras.
(Brown, ed., Religious Lyrics, p. 119)
64 Ecce virgo concipiett . . . etc. Isaias 7:14; compare Liber usualis, p. 356.
71–72 On David sege. As a descendent of King David, he will sit on his throne as a Great High Priest who delivers judgment and separates truth from falsehood.
73 Zelus domini faciet hoc. Isaias 9:7.
75–77 Jesus is the Prince of Peace, who brings reconciliation.
80–89 Egredietur virga de Jesse . . . bees borne. Isaias 11:1. This prophecy is the inspiration for the Jesse tree, which appears frequently in iconography, including very damaged examples in the York parish churches of St. Denys and St. Michael Spurriergate. An early fourteenth-century example in the Minster has a restored Jesse at the bottom, from whose body a vine grows; this vine is the genealogical tree illustrating Christ’s lineage. In the center at the top are the Virgin and Jesus, the latter conventionally represented as a Child within the flower (YA, p. 33, and Inventory of the Historical Monuments, vol. 5, pls. 52–53 and 62).
94 Ero quasi ros . . . lilium. Osee 14:6. The attribution to Joel in line 90 is incorrect.
97 lelly floure. The lily, separating Gabriel and the Virgin at the Annunciation, is part of the standard iconography, which appears, for example, in York parish churches and in the Bolton Hours (see YA, p. 44, fig. 9). An example in York Minster glass places a crucifix on the lily, which makes the connection between the Incarnation and the sacrifice on the cross, both of which were believed to have taken place on the same day, March 25 (YA, pp. 39–40).
99 hegh Haly Gaste. In iconography the dove of the Holy Spirit often accompanies rays of light extending between heaven and the Virgin Mary, but the rather heterodox representation of Jesus’ soul as a small nude child also with a cross descending appears in the Biblia Pauperum (p. 48) and in the miniature cited above in the Bolton Hours, a work associated with the rich Blackburn and Bolton merchant families at York. See lines 190–93.
104 hir clene liffe. Mary is a perpetual virgin, both before and after the birth of her Son; see, for example, the antiphon Alma redemptoris mater: “You who . . . who gave birth to your own sacred Creator and yet remained a virgin afterward as before” (trans. A. Davidson, Substance and Manner, pp. 21–22; and see also Raby, History of Christian-Latin Poetry, p. 226). Alma redemptoris mater is the little clergeon’s song sung in Chaucer’s Prioress’ Tale (Canterbury Tales VII[B2]518ff). Mary is the porta clausa of Ezekiel 44:2, widely accepted as prophetic by medieval theologians, including St. Thomas Aquinas (see Gibson, “Porta haec clausa erit,” pp. 143–50).
114 Godhed, maydenhed, and manne. Asserting Mary’s role as the Mother of God (Theotokos), as affirmed by the Council of Ephesus in 431 C.E. See especially the discussion of the Virgin Mary by Gibson and her illustration of a devotional image of Mary that, opened, contains a Trinity with Jesus on the cross in her womb (Theater of Devotion, pp. 137–76; esp. p. 145, fig. 6.2).
119–20 Non auferetur . . . est. Genesis 49:10a. An introit or responsory.
125 Et ipse erit expectacio gencium. Genesis 19:10b.
134–35 Ecce mitto angelum . . . ante te. Mark 1:2.
140–41 Ego quidem baptizo . . . spiritu sancto. Matthew 3:11. Responsory verse.
157 s.d. Tunc cantat angelus. Late stage direction by John Clerke, referring to the Ave Maria (Luke 1:28); the English paraphrase beginning in line 158 may not have been sung in earlier years. The Latin chant may have been added at some point, possibly as a replacement for the English text.
158 Hayle. On the gestures involved in this scene, see Palmer, “Gestures of Greeting,” esp. pp. 130–34.
165 s.d. Tunc cantat angelus, Ne timeas, Maria. See Luke 1:30. The English paraphrase follows. If the Latin chant was used, possibly here only a short segment would have been adopted, with the angel then speaking the remainder of the item in English.
172 bodword. The message that Gabriel brings concerns the gift of God’s grace extended to Mary in her pregnancy with the Son of God. The Annunciation will be the first of the Five Joys of the Virgin.
190 The Holy Gast in thee sall lighte. Based on Luke 1:35. The moment of conception, promised above, seems to have followed at the end of this speech. The event is conventionally depicted by means of rays extending down from heaven, where the Father is positioned. In some cases pyrotechnics were used, as in the famous Florentine Annunciation of 1439 in which “a fire comes from God and with a noise of uninterrupted thunder passes down the three ropes towards the middle of the scaffold . . . rising up again in flames and rebounding down once more, so that the whole church was filled with sparks” (Meredith and Tailby, Staging, p. 245). A stage direction in the N-Town collection specifies that “the Holy Gost discendit with three bemys to oure Lady, the Sone of the Godhed nest with three bemys to the Holy Gost, the Fadyr godly with three bemys to the Sone. And so entre all three to here bosom” (ed. Spector, Play 11, line 292 s.d.). The Conception was considered a most significant event for all of history, for this was the time when the Incarnation was effected (see C. Davidson, From Creation to Doom, p. 68).
198–205 Thou aungell, blissid messanger / Of Goddis will I holde me payde . . . saide. In this speech Mary accepts the gift of the Son. The Conception has occurred.
206 The beginning of the Visitation portion of the pageant in which Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth, who is pregnant with John the Baptist. This scene also was popular in the visual arts as a devotional image — e.g., a fine sculpture in the Victoria and Albert Museum (Cheetham, English Medieval Alabasters, p. 176, no. 103) — though there is little extant evidence for York (YA, pp. 43 and 45).
218–21 Blissid be thou anely . . . nere. Derived from the Ave Maria.
253 s.d. Tunc cantat Magnificat. The pageant ended with the singing of the Magnificat, or much more likely a portion of it; see Luke 1:40–55: “My soul doth magnify the Lord,” etc. Technically Mary should be the singer; the actor was most likely a boy soprano.
Play 12, THE ANNUNCIATION TO MARY AND THE VISITATION: 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); 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).
1 DOCTOUR. Speech tag in right margin by JC, who also noted: this matter is / newly mayde wherof / we have no coppy.
Lord. Large capital L sketched in by scribe.
7 sor. So LTS, RB; Reg: for.
17 disposuit. So LTS, RB; Reg: dispsuit.
34 Quoniam. So LTS, RB; Reg: Qnia.
39–40 Line break in Reg after ordande.
40 Isay. So RB; Reg, LTS: I say.
unto. Reg: syllable un interlined by LH.
78 meves me. So RB; Reg: me meves; LTS: me meves he.
88 Jesus. In Reg, abbreviated Jhc, then altered to Jhs.
94 Ero. So LTS, RB; Reg: Ego.
120 donec. So RB; Reg omit.
143 myghtis. So RB; Reg, LTS: myghtist.
154 How. So RB; Reg, TLS: To.
157, s.d. Tunc cantat angelus. Reg: entered in right margin by JC.
166, s.d. Tunc cantat angelus, Ne timeas, Maria. Reg: added by JC, in right margin.
169 Erasure removing all between over and othir in Reg.
181 Reg: line entered at right by LH.
229 unto. So LTS, RB, after interlined emendation by JC; originally alway to (alway deleted).
231 grace. So LTS, RB; Reg: grrace.
253 s.d. Tunc cantat. Reg: added by JC; Magnificat in red, by Scribe B.
Go To Play 13, Joseph’s Troubles about Mary