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Play 5, The Fall


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.


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.


Footnote 1 Torre, Antiquities of York Minster, p. 71.

Footnote 2 Augustine, City of God, 14.11.

The Cowpers




































Satanas incipit dicens:

DIABOLUS   For woo my witte es in a were
That moffes me mykill in my mynde:
The Godhede that I sawe so cleere
And parsayved that he shuld take kynde
Of a degree
That he had wrought, and I dedyned
That aungell kynde shuld it noght be.
And we wer faire and bright,
Therfore me thoght that he
The kynde of us tane myght,
And therat dedeyned me.

The kynde of man he thoght to take
And theratt hadde I grete envye,
But he has made to hym a make
And harde to her I wol me hye
That redy way,
That purpose prove to putte it by,
And fande to pike fro hym that pray.
My travayle were wele sette
Myght I hym so betraye,
His likyng for to lette,
And sone I schalle assaye.

In a worme liknes wille I wende
And founde to feyne a lowde lesynge.
Eve, Eve!

EVE         Wha is thare?

SATANAS                     I, a frende.
And for thy gude es the comynge
I hydir sought.
Of all the fruyt that ye se hynge
In paradise, why ete ye noght?

EVE   We may of tham ilkane
Take al that us goode thought,
Save a tree outt is tane,
Wolde do harme to neyghe it ought.

SATANAS    And why that tree, that wolde I witte,
Any more than all othir by?

EVE   For oure Lord God forbeedis us itt,
The frute therof, Adam nor I,
To neghe it nere.
And yf we dide we both shuld dye,
He saide, and sese our solace sere.

SATANAS    Yha, Eve, to me take tente.
Take hede and thou shalte here
What that the matere mente
He moved on that manere.

To ete therof he you defende
I knawe it wele, this was his skylle;
Bycause he wolde non othir kende
Thes grete vertues that longes thertill.
For will thou see
Who etis the frute of goode and ille
Shalle have knowyng as wele as hee.

EVE   Why what kynne thyng art thou
That telles this tale to me?

SATANAS    A worme that wotith wele how
That yhe may wirshipped be.

EVE   What wirshippe shulde we wynne therby?
To ete therof us nedith it nought;
We have lordshippe to make maistrie
Of alle thynge that in erthe is wrought.

SATANAS    Woman, do way!
To gretter state ye may be broughte
And ye will do as I schall saye.

EVE   To do is us full lothe
That shuld oure God myspaye.

SATANAS    Nay, certis it is no wathe:
Ete it saffely ye maye.

For perille ryght ther none in lyes
Bot worshippe and a grete wynnynge,
For right als God yhe shalle be wyse
And pere to hym in allkyn thynge.
Ay, goddis shalle ye be,
Of ille and gode to have knawyng,
For to be als wise as he.

EVE   Is this soth that thou sais?

SATANAS   Yhe, why trowes thou noght me?
I wolde be no kynnes wayes
Telle noght but trouthe to thee.

EVE   Than wille I to thy techyng traste
And fange this frute unto oure foode.

Et tunc debet accipere pomum.

SATANAS    Byte on boldly, be nought abasshed,
And bere Adam to amende his mode
And eke his blisse.

Tunc Satanas recedet.

EVE   Adam, have here of frute full goode.

ADAM   Alas, woman, why toke thou this?
Owre Lorde comaunded us bothe
To tente the tree of his.
Thy werke wille make hym wrothe.
Allas, thou has don amys.

EVE   Nay, Adam, greve thee nought at it,
And I shal saie the reasonne why:
A worme has done me for to witte
We shalle be as goddis, thou and I,
Yf that we ete
Here of this tree; Adam, forthy
Lette noght that worshippe for to gete.
For we shalle be als wise
Als God that is so grete
And als mekill of prise;
Forthy ete of this mete.

ADAM   To ete it wolde I nought eschewe
Myght I me sure in thy saying.

EVE   Byte on boldely, for it is trewe,
We shalle be goddis and knawe al thyng.

ADAM   To wynne that name
I schalle it taste at thy techyng.

Et accipit et comedit.

Allas, what have I done, for shame?
Ille counsaille, woo worthe thee.
A, Eve, thou art to blame;
To this entysed thou me,
Me shames with my lyghame,

For I am naked, as methynke.

EVE   Allas, Adam, right so am I.

ADAM   And for sorowe sere why ne myght we synke,
For we have greved God almyghty
That made me man,
Brokyn his bidyng bittirly.
Allas, that ever we it began.
This werke, Eve, hast thou wrought
And made this bad bargayne.

EVE   Nay, Adam, wite me nought.

ADAM   Do wey, lefe Eve, whame than?

EVE   The worme to wite wele worthy were,
With tales untrewe he me betrayed.

ADAM   Allas, that I lete at thy lare
Or trowed the trufuls that thou me saide.
So may I byde,
For I may banne that bittir brayde
And drery dede that I it dyde.
Oure shappe for doole me defes;
Wherewith thay shalle be hydde?

EVE   Late us take there fygge leves
Sythen it is thus betydde.

ADAM   Ryght as thou sais, so shalle it bee,
For we are naked and all bare.
Full wondyr fayne I wolde hyde me
Fro my Lordis sight, and I wiste whare,
Where I ne roght!

DOMINUS   Adam, Adam!

ADAM                                 Lorde!

DOMINUS                                     Where art thou, yhare?

ADAM   I here thee, Lorde, and seys thee noght.

DOMINUS   Say, wheron is it longe,
This werke, why hast thou wrought?

ADAM   Lorde, Eve garte me do wronge
And to that bryg me brought.

DOMINUS   Say, Eve, why hast thou garte thy make
Ete frute I bad thei shuld hynge stille
And comaunded none of it to take?

EVE   A worme, Lord, entysed me therto,
So welaway
That ever I did that dede so dill.

DOMINUS   A wikkid worme, woo worthe thee ay,
For thou on this maner
Hast made tham swilke affraye.
My malysoune have thou here
With all the myght I may.

And on thy wombe than shall thou glyde
And be ay full of enmyté
To al mankynde on ilke a side,
And erthe it shalle thy sustynaunce be
To ete and drynke.
Adam and Eve alsoo, yhe
In erthe than shalle ye swete and swynke
And travayle for youre foode.

ADAM   Allas, whanne myght we synke,
We that haves alle worldis goode?
Ful derfly may us thynke.

DOMINUS   Now, Cherubyn, myn aungell bryght,
To middilerth tyte go dryve there twoo.

ANGELUS   Alle redy, Lorde, as it is right,
Syn thy wille is that it be soo,
And thy lykyng.
Adam and Eve, do you to goo,
For here may ye make no dwellyng.
Goo yhe forthe faste to fare,
Of sorowe may yhe synge.

ADAM   Allas, for sorowe and care,
Owre handis may we wryng.
Satan begins, saying

turmoil; (t-note)
moves (distresses); greatly
(see note)
take on the nature
was offended; (t-note)
[of] angelic nature

might take on

(see note)

quickly; will; go
subvert it
try; pick (steal); prey
effort; well

felicity; spoil
attempt [it]

try to invent; lie

Who; (t-note)

friend; (t-note)
good; (see note)

every one

Except; is forbidden
Would; approach

would I know

cease; various joys

pay attention
meant; (t-note)

reason (purpose)
wanted no one else to know

kind of

knows well; (t-note)


If you

should; anger


(see note)
equal; all things

evil and good

true; you say

(i.e., in no manner)


And then she must take the apple

take [it to]; mood

Then Satan slips away

attend to
angry; (t-note)
[something] wrong

serpent; caused; know

Don’t forego; obtain


is true

(see note)

And he takes [the fruit] and eats

Evil advisor, a curse on you

body; (see note)

sorrow sore



dear; whom


took heed of your advice
trusted; trifling tales

curse; sharp (terrible) act
evil; did
[human] form; misery; overcomes

fig leaves
Since this has happened

if I knew where
Where I should not fear

quickly; (see note)

hear; see

what is the reason


enticed your mate
hang yet


silly (foolish)

a curse on you always; (see note)

such trouble


(see note)
sweat; work

grievous; (t-note)

(see note)


(see note)

Go To Play 6, The Expulsion from the Garden