Play 2, The Creation through the Fifth Day
Play 2, THE CREATION THROUGH THE FIFTH DAY: 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.
A monologue, presented by the Plasterers, also known as Daubers. The pageant presents the Creation narrative according to Genesis 1, the first account presented in the Bible (the second follows in Genesis 2). Here the earth and all that is in it except for humans are brought into existence in five days. There is overlap with the previous play since in it the work of the first day had already been introduced. The verse form is a twelve-line stanza.
1–4 The Latin lines are immediately glossed by English translations. They are indicative of the placement of God on a higher level, with such effects of his creation as the animals, fish, and plants appearing below.
10 Up for to trine my trone. A reference to Lucifer’s attempt to seat himself in God’s throne in the previous pageant.
17 Thare mys may never be amendid. A theological puzzle is introduced since it would appear that God created some of the angels with a flaw in their design, but the usual explanation is that they were given a free will, which they abused of their own accord. God is utterly unforgiving, and the devils fall into their role as the opposition party and proponents of disobedience and evil throughout history as depicted by the play cycle. They are the ultimate source of conflict in the pageants and represent the absence of good.
31 Noght by my strenkyth but by my stevyn. The cosmos exists within God’s forethought, but it is his Word that brings it into existence, not an exercise of raw power such as Lucifer wished to display — and which only led to the establishment of a kingdom of darkness in the void that is entered through hellmouth. See John 1:1: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
41–42 The firmament sal nought move, / But be a mene. The cosmos has as its purpose the enclosing of the world, which will be, according to the pre-Copernican cosmology of the time, at its center. Heaven is a fixed place, unchanging and stable. See below, where the sun and moon are fixed in the pageant heavens, which are decorated with stars.
90 Mesurid and made. Here again God appears as a craftsman, and very possibly he actually appeared thus in this pageant, where he could have held a set of large masons’ compasses, as sometimes occurs in the visual arts of the period; see above and also, for example, the fourteenth-century Holkham Bible Picture Book, fol. 2.
120 sertayne signes. Implying the signs of the zodiac, commonly appearing in association with the depictions of the seasons of the year, as on the early sculpture reset over the south porch doorway of the church of St. Margaret in York (see Halfpenny, Fragmenta Vetusta, pl. 24).
129 fysch. A panel in the Great East Window of the Minster shows the creation of fish and birds, and other panels also show other events in the creation story. In the Te Deum window formerly in St. Martin Coney Street, the parish church closest to the Common Hall, the Creator appears with birds, animals, and flowers, the products of his work following the creation of fish. Whales are specifically mentioned in Genesis 1:21.
154–56 Serpentis. The serpent is apparently flawed from its creation and thus apparently would not seem to fit the “and God saw that it was good” formula applied to all creatures in Genesis 1.
167 wax furth. See Genesis 1:22: “Increase, and multiply.” The stanza, and the pageant, will conclude with God’s blessing.
Play 2, THE CREATION THROUGH THE FIFTH DAY: 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 DEUS. Reg: inserted following line 4.
In. Reg: large capital letter I, in red.
altissimis. Letter i following <>m in Reg is interlined.
11 lengger. So LTS, RB; Reg: legger.
21 And. Written over erasure by Scribe A in Reg.
41 nought. So LTS; Reg, RB: nough.
69 tharon. So LTS, RB; Reg: tharon also.
71 hyng. Corrected, letter y overwritten, in Reg.
77 materis. Reg: originally wateris, canceled and materis substituted by scribe.
95 Two. So LTS, RB; Reg: Towo.
101 furth er. So RB; Reg, LTS: further.
109 thei. So RB; Reg, LTS: ye I
117 ye sall set. So LTS, RB; Reg: ye sall ye set.
140 dwelland. So LTS; Reg, RB: dewlland.
156 won. So RB; Reg, LTS: wo.
166 erthe. In Reg, letter h extends upward, with a face looking to left drawn in.
171 ye. Interlined in Reg.
Go To Play 3, The Creation of Adam and Eve