Play 24, The Woman Taken in Adultery and the Raising of Lazarus
Play 24, THE WOMAN TAKEN IN ADULTERY AND THE RAISING OF LAZARUS: 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 pageants are based on readings (John 8:3–11 and 11:1–44) for Lent1 and in fact began as separate plays. In the Ordo paginarum of 1415, the Woman Taken in Adultery and the Raising of Lazarus were listed individually, with the Capmakers being one of the guilds responsible for the latter along with the Pouchmakers and Bottlers. The Woman Taken in Adultery had been presented by the Plumbers and Pattenmakers. These pageants maintain something of their original identity, with Lazare mortus beginning at line 99. By 1422 the producer of the Lazarus was the guild of Hartshorners, who dealt with harts’ horns, perhaps as a medicinal substance (see MED, s.v. hertes-horn). Both appear to have been written by the same author, and retain the same twelve-line stanza. By the time the Register was compiled, the plays had been amalgamated under the sponsorship of the Capmakers, with the Hatmakers being added in the sixteenth century.2 John Clerke noticed the missing pages in the manuscript, but it is hard to see how the play could have been mounted without their content. As Beadle has suggested, by then the play seems to have been recast, yet never entered in the Register in its new form, this in spite of an order as late as 1567 that this should be done.3 Why the Ministry stories were so poorly represented in the cycle is hard to explain, with the present pageant being, along with the Transfiguration, the only extant text between the Temptation and the Entry into Jerusalem, which to be sure incorporates some further miracles. The Woman Taken in Adultery, based as it is on a post-Patristic addition to John’s gospel, focuses on the contrast between Christian values of community and forgiveness as set forth in the new law in contrast with the old law of ancient Judaism that would set firm penalties for lapses in human behavior and crimes against established values. The Lazarus is a foreshadowing of the Resurrection and helps to define this event’s importance for human behavior.
9 and he a wedded man. An elaboration of the story as reported in the gospel that increases the seriousness of the accusation in the eyes of the Jews. In N-Town, the man runs away holding up his trousers with his hand and with boots unlaced (Play 24, line 124 s.d.).
13 false stodmere and stynkand strye. Name calling. The MED supports the emendation of the text in the Register from “stroye,” which makes no sense here, to “strye.” In N-Town the woman is called a “fayre yonge qwene,” terms suggesting that she is a prostitute (Play 24, line 69).
20 Sho schall be demed to ded. Compare Leviticus 20:10: “both the adulterer and adulteress” are to be “both put to death.”
48 stoned to dede. See John 8:5, citing the law of Moses, presumably Leviticus 10:10, as requiring stoning.
after 54 The missing leaf would have continued the accusation of the woman, including further mention of stoning as the appropriate punishment according to the old law. The suggestion is made to have Jesus weigh in on the trial as a way of entrapping him; then Jesus “bowing himself down, wrote with his finger on the ground.” As the Jews continued with their line of questioning him, he “said to them: He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” (John 8:6–7). For relevant commentary, see Gibson, “Writing before the Eye.” The extant lines of the pageant which follow reveal what happened next.
57 here will new gaudes begynne. It is clear that the Jews are enjoying themselves; catching the couple in flagrante is regarded as a sport, as will be the (expected) summary execution of the woman. “Forgiveness” is not part of their lexicon. Interestingly, it is the fourth Jew who speaks, and he is supposed to be, like the third Jew, a figure of authority (see lines 25–26).
68 Of all thy mys I make thee free. Jesus’ act of absolution. This scene is particularly appropriate for Lent, a period of penitence for one’s sins, leading up to Easter, by which time one was to have confessed to a priest.
70–74 Absolution is without value without acceptance of one’s guilt and making a sincere determination to maintain oneself without sin. The woman is repentant and offers praise for being released from her sinful state.
85–86 Whoso schall othir blame, / Loke firste thamself be clene. Proverbial. See Tilley, Dictionary of the Proverbs, F107.
98a Lazare mortus. This is not a stage direction but rather is the beginning of the Lazarus play, announced by a heading in Latin.
107–08 that sekeness / Is noght onlye to dede. Conventionally, the “sickness unto death” is despair, but here death will be turned to life to show the joy of God’s goodness. Love’s Mirror follows traditional teaching in equating Lazarus prior to his death with the Lenten theme: he represents the sinful man, even the death of the soul, from which Jesus miraculously is able to resurrect him from the sleep of death (p. 125).
141 His sisteres praye with bowsom beede. Mary and Martha of Bethany, who pray with their rosary beads in their hands. Though they despair because the Resurrection has not yet made salvation available, they nevertheless attempt to pray for their departed brother without Christian hope. This is expressed in the laments at lines 147–70.
after 171 Missing leaf. The narrative would have included Jesus going to Bethany, where he will stand before the tomb of Lazarus. It seems to be a coffer tomb, covered with a stone that requires to be removed much as in depictions of the Resurrection tomb. In the biblical text, when Jesus saw the sisters weeping and asked the location of the tomb, he wept. This effect may have been present in the part now missing from the pageant.
184 Lazar, veni foras. From the Vulgate, John 11:43; said with a loud voice.
204 to Jerusalem will I wende. The events commemorated on Palm Sunday and Holy Week will now follow.
Play 24, THE WOMAN TAKEN IN ADULTERY AND THE RAISING OF LAZARUS: 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).
At top, guild attribution: and Hatmakers (added by LH, probably in 1569; see REED: York, 1:356).
13 strye. This edition; Reg, LTS, RB: stroye.
29 certayne. So LTS, RB; Reg: certaye.
50 Reg: at right, JC has added Hic deficit.
51 hyde. So RB, who suggests byde might have been intended.
After 54 Missing leaf follows in Reg.
98a Lazare mortus. Reg: written in red at top of page by Scribe B, preceding line 81. Placement in text after line 98 in this edition follows LTS, RB.
124 lange. Emended to longe by LH in Reg.
After 171 Missing leaf follows in Reg.
186 Reg: at right, by JC: Nota quia non concordat and novo addicio facto.
189 LH has written memorandum and word (illegible) to right in Reg.
Play 24, THE WOMAN TAKEN IN ADULTERY AND THE RAISING OF LAZARUS: EXPLANATORY NOTE FOOTNOTES
Footnote 1 See King, York Mystery Cycle, pp. 79–83.
Footnote 2 REED: York, 1:356.
Footnote 3 RB, p. 441; REED: York, 1:351.
The Cappemakers and Hatmakers
Go To Play 25, The Entry into Jerusalem