Play 5, The Fall
Play 5, THE FALL: 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 Ordo paginarum description of this pageant is not consistent with the text, for it calls for Adam and Eve to be standing on each side of the forbidden tree as Satan deceives them — i.e., precisely the scene depicted in a panel in the Great East Window in the Minster. In James Torre’s seventeenth-century description of the glass, the serpent is “twisted about a great Tree like a fair woman with his face toward Eve who is with one hand reaching to take an Apple from the Tree; And with her right hand delivering a golden Apple to Adam, who receives it with his left hand and eats it out of the other elevated to his Mouth.”1 The pageant text introduces Satan in his fallen state, having taken the form of a serpent (see line 23); his main grievance appears to have derived from his envy of God and of the power of the Creator, but clearly his thinking is confused, as he himself admits. Yet he is able to seduce Eve, who only thereafter convinces Adam to eat. According to St. Augustine, Eve’s sin was less than Adam’s since she was deceived, while Adam ate knowingly.2 The pageant was produced by the Coopers, makers of casks, tubs, buckets, and similar wares. It is written in an eleven-line stanza.
3–11 The notion that Satan’s envy centered on his expectation that God would assume the form and status of an angel seems curious, but it calls attention to how Lucifer was self-deceived by his appearance as the brightest of the heavenly host.
12–13 Satan is envious of God’s decision to create man and his female companion as a substitute for the angels of heaven whom he has lost through their rebellion. He especially sees Eve as prey (line 18), and is certainly not the friend he claims to be. Traditionally he appears with a woman’s face; see Bonnell, “Serpent with a Human Head.”
26–82 An elaboration of the account in Genesis 3:1–5.
69–73 yhe shalle be wyse . . . als wise as he. Compare Genesis 3:5: “your eyes shall be opened: and you shall be as Gods, knowing good and evil.” The York Satan adds that Eve will be God’s equal in every way, “als wise as he.”
104–05 Adam impulsively eats with the hope that the promise of divinity is true. Ironically, of course, it is, since this “bad bargayne” (line 119) is an essential moment in the “happy fall,” felix culpa, that ultimately will culminate in the coming into time of Christ to effect salvation and in the promise of bliss for all humans who perform the Corporal Acts of Mercy and believe on his name — the culmination too of the cycle in the Mercers’ Doomsday pageant (Play 47).
110–11 Me shames . . . I am naked. See Genesis 3:7; compare Cursor Mundi: “For shame thei stode bothe and quaked” (line 800, 1:55). In the Expulsion scene in York Minster glass in the Great East Window, Eve holds one hand over her breast and another over her genitals (French, York Minster: The Great East Window, p. 51). In the pageant, at her suggestion (line 131), they will cover themselves with “fygge leves,” for which, on account of their unavailability in medieval York, another type of leaf would necessarily have been substituted in production.
138 Where art thou. A direct quote from Genesis 3:9, but in the biblical account God has been walking in the garden of paradise when he calls to Adam and Eve. In performing the play they probably were hiding like guilty children, which would be quite consistent with Genesis.
150–59 A wikkid worme . . . ete and drynke. God’s curse on the serpent. Compare Genesis 3:14–15.
160–63 Adam and Eve alsoo . . . we synke. They are condemned to “swete and swynke,” but no mention is made here of the travail in childbirth to which Eve and her descendants are condemned or of the rule that they should be under the domination of their husbands. These commands appear, however, in the Expulsion pageant, where they are pronounced to Adam and Eve by the angel (lines 69–74).
166–67 Now, Cherubyn, . . . To middilerth tyte go dryve there twoo. The Expulsion is mentioned as part of the Coopers’ play in the Ordo paginarum, though this is in fact the subject of the next pageant.
175–76 for sorowe and care, / Owre handis may we wryng. A conventional gesture of despair.
Play 5, THE FALL: 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).
This and subsequent pageants copied by Scribe B unless otherwise noted.
1 DIABOLUS. Added by JC.
For. Reg: letter F is a large capital in red.
6 dedyned. So RB; Reg, LTS: denyed.
16 Reg: addition by LH, at right.
25b EVA. Above, speech ascription at right in Reg, scribe has written Eve.
25c SATANAS. JC has added: Diabolus.
43 matere. So LTS, RB; Reg: materere.
54 SATANAS. In Reg, written in large letters, in red, beside canceled Eva; below, at right, Satanas is written a second time.
87 wrothe. So LTS, RB; Reg: wrorthe.
119 made. Correction (added letter a) interlined by scribe.
158 be. Corrected (from by) in Reg.
159 Reg: in red, added by Scribe B.
165 derfly. So Bevington, RB; Reg, LTS: defly.
170 Reg: Line entered by JC.
Play 5, THE FALL: EXPLANATORY NOTE FOOTNOTES
Footnote 1 Torre, Antiquities of York Minster, p. 71.
Footnote 2 Augustine, City of God, 14.11.
Go To Play 6, The Expulsion from the Garden