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Play 3, The Creation of Adam and Eve


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 Cardmakers, or Combsmiths, a craft that made the necessary tools for carding wool and presumably other similar items of manufacture, produced this pageant, which required that the actors who played Adam and Eve must appear in simulated nudity, probably effected with tawed leather suits as in the Cornish Creacion of the World which specifies suits of “whytt lether” (line 343 s.d.). The same type of costume would presumably have been used for other pageants in which Adam and Eve appear. The creation of Adam is shown in a panel in the Great East Window of the Minster, though this glass is heavily restored and hence should be cited with care.1 The play was copied into the Register twice; see textual notes.

23 Eftyr my schape and my lyknes. Genesis 1:26 reports that God made Adam after his image (imaginem) and likeness (similitudinem). The primacy of Adam is implied in that he was first created, then Eve, and this is reinforced in the second Creation account in Genesis which has her made from one of Adam’s body parts.

31–32 Death is already assumed as part of life, as if God already has foreknowledge of Adam’s fall, resulting eventually in his death and the death of all humans throughout history.

35 erthe. In the second Creation story in Genesis, the “slime of the earth” is the substance from which Adam was made; see Genesis 2:7.

38 lyft rybe. While the second Creation account contains the story of Eve’s creation from the rib of Adam, it does not specify the left. The left side was traditionally associated with the feminine, considered weaker, and in some locales in northern Europe women and children were relegated to the left side in church, the men to the right. The 1565 property list of the Norwich Grocers’ play included a “Rybbe Colleryd Redd” (REED: Norwich, p. 53).

41 gaste of lyffe. The account in the second chapter of Genesis reported that God caused Adam and Eve to live by breathing life into them (2:7). Spirit (gaste, modern ghost) is identified with breath. In ancient Jewish thought, life hence begins when the newly created (and, subsequently, the newborn) takes his or her first breath.

70 made of noght. A return to the concept of the Creation as made out of nothing by God, but somewhat curious in this context since Adam was made from mud and Eve from his rib.


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).

The Cardmakers’ pageant was entered twice in Reg. The A-text is followed in this edition, with significant variant readings in the B-text listed here. Following the craft attribution in the A-text version, a later scribe, possibly JC, has written: “This is entryd afterwards.”

1 In. Reg: large capital I, in red, incorporating line drawing of a man’s face, facing left.

2 ende. So A-text; B-text: the ende.

4 Methynke. So A-text; B-text: Me thynketh.

14 I no. So A-text; B-text, RB: I here no.

15 kynde and skyll. So A-text; B-text: kyndly skylle.

21 mare. Emended to more by LH in Reg.

22 In Reg, wyght interlined by LH above best.

24 me. So B-text, followed by RB; A-text: my.

27 hauttande. So A-text; B-text: haunttande.

31 hym fynde. So B-text, RB; A-Text: fynde hym.

39 nought. So B-text; A-text, RB: nough.

43 The. So A-text; B-text, followed by RB: This.

44 Marginal notation by JC in both texts, indicating an omission, of which the B-text is more complete:
And leyd your lyves in good degré.
Adam here make I thee a man of mykyll myght;
This same shall thy subget be,
And Eve her name shall hight.
51 thi. So B-text, followed by RB; A-text: the.

52 be. So B-text; A-text, RB: by.

53 all degré. So B-text, followed by RB; A-text: all the degre.

55 tyll us. So A-text; B-text: to us.

72 I have. So A-text; B-text: is.

75 ye kone. Reg has extraneous letter between.

81 sene. So RB; A-text, B-text: sone.

82 othir. So B-text, followed by RB; A-text: othithir.

85 DEUS. So B-text; added by LH in A-text.

96 Marginal note added by LH, erased and faded, gives first two lines of the following play: Adam and Eve this is [the place] / that I have grant you of my grace to have your. . . .


Footnote 1 French, York Minster: The Great East Window, p. 49.





















DEUS   In hevyn and erthe duly bedene
Of five days werke, evyn onto ende,
I have complete by curssis clene.
Methynke the space of thame well spende.

In hevyn er angels fayre and brighte,
Sternes and planetis ther curssis to ga,
The mone servis onto the nyght,
The son to lyghte the day alswa.

In erthe is treys, and gres to springe,
Bestis and foulys, bothe gret and smalle,
Fyschis in flode, all othyr thyng
Thryffe and have my blyssyng all.

Thys werke is wroght now at my will,
But yet can I no best see
That acordys be kynde and skyll
And for my werke myght worschippe me.

For perfytt werke ne ware it nane
But ought ware made that myght it yeme,
For love mad I this warlde alane;
Therfor my loffe sall in it seme.

To kepe this warlde bothe mare and lesse
A skylfull best thane will I make
Eftyr my schape and my lyknes,
The wilke sall worschipe to me take.

Off the symplest part of erthe that is here
I sall make man, and for this skylle
For to abate hys hauttande chere,
Bothe his gret pride and other ille,

And also for to have in mynde
How simpyll he is at hys makyng,
For als febyll I sall hym fynde
Qwen he is dede at his endyng.

For this reson and skyll alane,
I sall make man lyke onto me.
Ryse up, thou erthe in blode and bane,
In schape of man, I commaunde thee.

A female sall thou have to fere:
Her sall I make of thi lyft rybe
Alane so sall thou nought be here
Withoutyn faythefull frende and sybe.

Takys now here the gast of lyffe
And ressayve bothe youre saules of me;
The femall take thou to thi wyffe,
Adam and Eve your names sall be.

ADAM   A, Lorde, full mekyll is thi mighte,
And that is sene in ilke a syde,
For now his here a joyfull syght
To se this worlde so lange and wyde.

Mony diveris thyngis now here es
Off bestis and foulis, bathe wylde and tame,
Yet is nan made to thi liknes
But we alone. A, lovyd be thi name.

EVE   To swylke a Lorde in all degré
Be evirmore lastande lovynge,
That tyll us swylke a dyngnité
Has gyffyne before all othyr thynge,

And selcouth thyngis may we se here
Of this ilke warld so lange and brade
With bestis and fowlis so many and sere.
Blessid be he that us made.

ADAM   A, blyssid Lorde, now at thi wille
Syne we er wroght, wochesaff to telle,
And also say us two untyll,
Qwate we sall do and whare to dewell?

DEUS   For this skyl made I yow this day,
My name to worschip ay whare.
Lovys me forthi, and lovys me ay
For my makyng, I axke no mare.

Bothe wys and witty sall thou be,
Als man that I have made of noght.
Lordschipe in erthe than graunt I thee,
All thynge to serve thee that I have wroght.

In paradyse sall ye same wone,
Of erthely thyng get ye no nede;
Ille and gude both sall ye kone,
I sall you lerne youre lyve to lede.

ADAM   A, Lorde, sene we sall do nothyng
But louffe thee for thi gret gudnesse,
We sall ay bay to thi biddyng
And fulfyll it, both more and less.

EVE   His syng sene he has on us sett
Beforne all othir thyng certayne.
Hem for to love we sall noght lett
And worschip hym with myght and mayne.

DEUS   At hevyne and erth first I begane,
And six days wroght or I walde ryst:
My warke is endyde now at mane.
All lykes me will, but this is best.

My blyssyng have thai ever and ay.
The seveynt day sall my restyng be:
Thus wille I sese, sothely to say,
Of my doying in this degré.

To blys I sall yow bryng:
Comys forthe, ye tow, with me.
Ye sall lyffe in lykyng.
My blyssyng wyth yow be.
forthwith; (t-note)
them; (t-note)

Stars; go

sun; also

trees; grass


beast (animal); (t-note)
nature and ability; (t-note)

were it none
Unless something were; care for it
made; alone
love; appear

rational animal then; (t-note)
After; (see note)
which; (t-note)

haughty; (t-note)

weak; (see note); (t-note)
When; dead

bone; (see note)

as companion
left rib; (see note)
Alone; (t-note)

spirit (breath); (see note)

on all sides

none; (t-note)
praised; (t-note)

praise (worship)
such a dignity; (t-note)

very world; long; broad

Since; vouchsafe
What; dwell

Praise me therefore; love (worship)
creation; ask; more

nothing; (see note)


together live

Evil and good; know; (t-note)

praise (worship)
always obey

sign since; (t-note)
Him; abandon

ere I would rest
man (humankind)




Go To Play 4, The Prohibition of the Tree of Knowledge