Play 46, The Coronation of the Virgin
Play 46, THE CORONATION OF THE VIRGIN: 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 Coronation pageant is given to the Hostelers, or Innholders, in the Register. However, in the Ordo paginarum the ascription to the “Hostilers” is written over an erasure, and the second list which follows in the York Memorandum Book A/Y reveals that it was originally the responsibility of the “Maior etc.,” meaning the Mayor and Council. The York records show that only in 1463 were the Hostelers given the play.1 The play is short and much less dramatic than the spectacular Assumption of the Virgin play. The versification, mainly tetrameter in octaves and quatrains but with some stanzas in tail-rhyme (lines 21–32), is hardly exciting. The Assumption is reenacted, with six angels who will sing some unspecified music, but only after eighty lines. Yet this should rightfully be the climactic pageant in the Marian series that begins with the Virgin’s death, and so it perhaps may have been in its visual spectacle and its music before the affluent Weavers set out to outdo it with their pageant, as likely was the case. The iconography of the Coronation of the Virgin was extremely popular at York and, in spite of the effects of iconoclasm, a considerable number of images remain.2 A common depiction was of the Trinity with Jesus crowning his mother as Queen of Heaven,3 but in the play he seems to be alone with her among the angels of heaven. The recitation of the Five Joys of Mary (lines 113–28) and the following lines to the end of the play are clearly designed for Jesus, though in the extant text in the Register they were broken up into short segments distributed in order among the angels. This may be the way the lines were spoken in c. 1463–70, but the arrangement hardly makes logical sense and cannot have been the original intent of the playwright. An addition to the Coronation pageant, entered in the manuscript following the Last Judgment play, is not included here.4 It dates from the sixteenth century and, as Beadle notes, “does not seem to have been framed with any particular metrical principles in mind.”5
1–36 The scene is in heaven. Jesus speaks concerning his mother to the angels and requests that they “fecche hir hedir” (line 18). The angels then descend.
37–40 Hayle, the doughtir of blissid Anne . . . fendis boste. The story of the Immaculate Conception, in which Mary was conceived without physical intercourse, was a popular one, and Anne frequently appeared in local devotional images (see YA, p. 35).
42–43 oure Saveoure, / The whiche that made mankynde of noght. Referring to the tradition that the Second Person of the Trinity was also the Creator. See, for example, the Holkham Bible Picture Book, fols. 2–3v, in which the Creator has a cross nimbus.
57 The angels have now come before Mary, but it is not clear whether she is emerging from a tomb, as presumably should be the case.
80 s.d. Cantando. The previous line suggests that it is Mary who should sing, but the late stage direction is for the angels, probably played or directed by clerks, at least in earlier times when the Mayor and Council were in control of the play. It is possible that minstrels also played in the pageant, but not necessarily in connection with the singing at this point in the pageant; see REED: York, 1:54, 75, 86, and 94, and Rastall, Minstrels Playing, p. 42. There is no information about the nature of the music, but it can be safely assumed that it would have been derived from the liturgy celebrating the Assumption and Coronation.
101 Come forth with me. Embedded stage direction; Mary is now to step forth onto the heaven stage, and at line 155 she will be crowned Queen of Heaven by Jesus. That this is at a high level on the pageant wagon is specified by line 133: “Full high on highte.”
113–28 As noted above, the listing of Five Joys of the Virgin, culminating in the Ascension of Jesus into heaven, and finally her own Assumption and Coronation.
142–43 In hevene blisse that is so bright / With martiris and with confessouris. The saints, who are translated directly to heaven without having to pass through Purgatory.
157–58 Myne aungellis bright, a songe ye singe / In the honnoure of my modir dere. Another song will be sung, but again it is not specified. An appropriate liturgical piece for the Coronation of Mary must be assumed. This will occur after Jesus’ blessing is conferred on the audience — i.e., a representation of a blessing, surely with appropriate hand gestures.
Play 46, THE CORONATION OF THE VIRGIN: 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).
To right of Scribe B’s craft ascription, in LH: Inholderes.
1 Myne. In Reg, large capital M sketched in.
Reg: at right, above, by later hands: caret and memorandum.
80, s.d. Cantando. Reg: stage direction in red, at left; music not specified.
113–44 Lines here assigned to Jesus, following RB; assigned in Reg to angels, followed by LTS.
Play 46, THE CORONATION OF THE VIRGIN: EXPLANATORY NOTE FOOTNOTES
Footnote 1 See Dorrell, “Mayor of York”; REED: York, 1:94.
Footnote 2 See YA, pp. 107–11.
Footnote 3 A good example, though damaged and lacking the original head of the Virgin Mary, is the Assumption in the east window of c. 1470 in the church of Holy Trinity, Goodramgate, in York (Inventory of the Historical Monuments, vol. 5, color pl. 58).
Footnote 4 The addition is printed as a “later fragment” in RB, pp. 404–05.
Footnote 5 RB, p. 462.
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