Play 20, Christ And The Doctors
Play 20, CHRIST AND THE DOCTORS: 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 play of the twelve-year-old Jesus in the Temple, a dramatization of the events recounted in Luke 2:41–51 and noted in the York Missal as a lesson in the Epiphany season,1 is unusual in the York cycle for having a text that not only was borrowed for the Towneley collection but also shared structure and language with the Chester Blacksmiths’ and Coventry Weavers’ plays.2 The York pageant, in twelve-line stanzas, was produced by the Spurriers, makers and sellers of spurs, and Lorimers, who were manufacturers of harnesses, bits for horses, and, at times, also spurs. This pageant stands at the end of the Infancy series. It commemorates an event in which Jesus was separated from his parents and, as Love comments concerning the young Christ’s discussion in the Temple, found “sittyng among the doctours of lawe heryng hem entently, and askyng hem questiones wisyly.”3 The description in the Ordo paginarum likewise describes the scene as that of a scholastic discussion or debate on a subject of great sensitivity. But the incorporation of the Ten Commandments seems related to the campaign of religious education, encouraged by Archbishop Thoresby, that was the force behind the assembling and dissemination of the Lay Folks’ Catechism and the specifying of the basic demands of laypersons’ knowledge.4
3 solempne sightis. Jesus has been taken by his parents to Jerusalem for the celebration of Passover (Luke 2:41).
15–20 Beginning Mary’s lament upon discovering that her child is not with them. Joseph’s response in the following lines should be seen as influenced by his age and feeble health, which make him at first the more reluctant partner in returning to Jerusalem. But he will be the one to recommend the return to look for him in the city. Their search for Jesus does not appear in iconography except for their discovery of him in the Temple at the end of the story.
45 He is but twelve yere alde. Jesus’ age is specified in Luke 2:42.
49–50 The first Magister/Doctor asks that a scholastic disputation be organized. The final lines are a sign that the author was aware of the necessity to maintain the discussion within orthodox limits; the Coventry Weavers’ play, as revised in the sixteenth century, refers to the “statute of this lande” and the “perell” of standing in opposition to “any artyccull.” Those who oppose are heretics to be prosecuted and “in the face of peple ooponnly slayne” (lines 855–56; Coventry Corpus Christi Plays, p. 138) — a glance at the statute De heretico carburendo (Statutes of the Realm, II Henry IV, c.15) perhaps.
67 Laye fourthe oure bokes. The Magisters will require their books; Jesus will not need to consult any. Late fourteenth-century painted glass at York Minster shows the Magisters reading at lecterns. In line 141, Jesus notes that they are “sette on rowes,” which is consistent with representations in iconography. These are embedded stage directions.
93–94 I wote als wele as yhe / Howe that youre lawes wer wrought. The Coventry play is even more emphatic, for Jesus says he has actually been “in those placis” in which “all owre lawis furst were wroght” (lines 903–04; Coventry Corpus Christi Plays, p. 139). His ability to understand scripture is due to the presence with him of the Holy Spirit, as he explains in the York play (lines 101–04).
112 Itt may falle wele in wirkyng. An offer to test the boy Jesus.
113–16 For David demys . . . loving. The reference is to Psalm 8:3: “Out of the mouth of infants and of sucklings thou hast perfected praise.” The Towneley play quotes the biblical text from the Vulgate.
145–50 this is the firste bidding . . . lowde and still. The first of the two commandments in the summary of the law in Matthew 22:37–40, but derived from Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18.
153–56 The secounde . . . sekirly. To love your neighbor “Als youreselffe,” Jesus says; the manuscript reading is correct since he is lecturing the priests of the Temple and it would be inappropriate to include himself. Compare the Coventry Weavers’ pageant: “asse thyself” (line 963; Coventry Corpus Christi Plays, p. 141).
193–94 he alleggis oure lawe / And lered nevere on boke to rede. Jesus astonishes the Magisters, especially since he has not had formal training and ought to be illiterate. But Jesus possesses all wisdom, to the point where in the following speech the third Magister will want him sent away since he would detract from their learning and hence receive more praise than they. He will, however, be defended by the first Magister, at which point Joseph and Mary appear again, having arrived at Jerusalem to look for Jesus.
221–22 where he sittis . . . Emong yone maistiris. The Coventry Weavers’ pageant has him sitting “aloft” (line 1022; Coventry Corpus Christi Plays, p. 143).
232 They are so gay in furres fyne. Probably ermine tippets are intended; in the example in Minster glass to which reference has been made above, the Magisters wear academic gowns and hats. Mary will refer to them in line 242 as “worthy wysse in wede,” which is suggestive but not specific. For further discussion of the iconography, see Coventry Corpus Christi Plays, pp. 268–69.
237 When I come there, what schall I saye? Joseph is very class conscious and also feels shy on account of his age and debility, which will not allow him to bow or kneel before the priests. Mary will have to take control of the situation.
259–60 -My Fadir werkis . . . am I sente for to fulfyll. See Luke 2:49: “did you not know, that I must be about my father’s business?” This is beyond Mary’s comprehension, and she will have to contemplate what is to follow.
Play 20, CHRIST AND THE DOCTORS: 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).
20 By LH, at right in Reg: hic caret (erased).
46–48 JOSEPH. RB, following Köbling; later scribe in Reg, LTS here only assign lines 47–48 to Joseph.
49ff. Reg: speech ascriptions in this pageant are inconsistent in that they use Magister and Doctor for the same set of characters.
56 aught. So RB; LTS: might.
82 lyve. Corrected in Reg; scribe originally wrote lyke.
89 bowrdyng. So RB; Reg, LTS: brandyng.
128 To say. Misplaced at end of previous line in Reg.
132 That. So RB, following Towneley; Reg, LTS: And.
134 Yitt fande. So RB2; LTS: Itt fand; Reg: Itt fande.
161 then. Misplaced at the beginning of line 162 by scribe in Reg.
181 forbedis. So RB; LTS: fo[r]bedis; Reg: fobedis.
209 we. So LTS, RB; omit Reg.
210 days thre. This edition; LTS, RB: ther dayes thre; Reg: thre dayes thre.
221 ye se. This edition; Reg: y se; LTS: y[e] se; RB: se ye.
227 gone. Altered to done by LH in Reg.
249 MARIA. Initially assigned by scribe to Jhc (deleted) in Reg.
253 twa. Reg: twa son (son deleted).
254 Son. Added by LH in Reg.
255 and. Ampersand interlined by LH in Reg.
271 or be. Misplaced at the beginning of the following line in Reg.
275 and he. Erasure between words in Reg.
288 Below, Scribe B has listed Jesu, Maria, Joseph, and Primus doctor, Secundus Doctor, et Tercius Doctor.
Play 20, CHRIST AND THE DOCTORS: EXPLANATORY NOTE FOOTNOTES
Footnote 1 York Missal, 1:36.
Footnote 2 For a collation comparing these plays, see Coventry Corpus Christi Plays, pp. 175–89, but see also Greg’s “Bibliographical and Textual Problems” and his chapter on the subject in his 1935 Malone Society volume (Trial and Flagellation with Other Studies, pp. 101–20), with corrections by Cawley, “Middle English Metrical Versions,” pp. 134–40.
Footnote 3 Love, Mirror, p. 59.
Footnote 4 See also King, York Mystery Cycle, pp. 38–41.
The Sporiers and Lorimers
Go To Play 21, The Baptism of Christ