Play 9, The Flood
Play 9, THE FLOOD: 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.
Fishing and fish farming in the Ouse are well documented in the civic records, but the Fishers’ craft, like that of the Mariners, also involved setting out to sea by way of Hull. Their play of the Flood, written in a fourteen-line stanza with some alliteration, required a pageant ship, perhaps fitted with animals painted on boards or some such innovation. But it is the farce involving the recalcitrance of Noah’s wife which can be traced to an Eastern legend that supports the action of the first part of the play. On the one hand, Uxor may be seen as a target of medieval anti-feminism, while on the other her weakness represents all humankind in need of salvation, for she, like every one of us, is in need of rescue from destruction.1 The Genesis account only mentions Noah’s wife’s boarding of the ark in 7:7 without hint of reluctance on her part. The Newcastle Noah, however, has the devil tempting her as a second Eve to subvert God’s plan of saving Noah’s family and subsequently the salvation of the race, and M. D. Anderson calls attention to a depiction of such a temptation in the Queen Mary Psalter.2 Noah and his family are shown in the ark, interestingly with a mast and a sail, in a panel in the Great East Window in the Minster; the hull of the ship, however, has been restored with scraps and hence is not original.3
5 worthy wiffe. Not consistent with the view of her that appears subsequently in the pageant. Noah’s piety and appreciation of his family are set against a warning from God that has already taken place (see line 12: “This world wastyd shalle be”).
15–28 My fadir Lamech . . . than was I borne. Noah’s father is not the person who was the murderer of Cain, but was a man noted for his piety. He therefore was one who already knew by “sarteyne signes” that God would take vengeance on humankind’s wickedness (lines 34–40).
145 It would appear that the rain has begun. If a stage effect were involved, as is quite likely, there is no indication of how it was produced. By line 152 Uxor’s “frendis” are already drowned in the Flood.
149 modir, mende youre moode. The first daughter encourages her mother, but the general mood of the family during the watery holocaust will generally remain solemn. Only at lines 197–98 does Uxor’s mood change to one of appreciation for being saved from the Flood through God’s grace, but by then the forty days and forty nights of rain are over (see line 183) and the waters are subsiding.
161 Wendes and spers youre dores bedene. An imbedded stage direction, implying that some openings, or at least one entry door, in the ark could be closed. Did the actors appear on the deck, or was there a large window (hardly practical) in which they could speak their lines?
170–76 The sons care for “thes catelles” and the women the “foules,” most likely a common division of labor in the York region.
190 catteraks. From the Vulgate cataractae caeli, which now have been “shut up” (Genesis 8:2).
199 caste leede. A plumb bob was cast down to sound the depth of the water, as would have been the practice among contemporary mariners. The water is still at its full height of fifteen cubits (Genesis 7:20) but is waning (line 204).
212–16 The raven is wighte . . . lande or tree. Though this bird has a bad reputation, its intelligence marks it as a choice for a reconnaissance mission to see if the time will soon come for their departure from the ark. It will not return; according to the Cursor Mundi, 1:117, this is because it fed on the flesh of the creatures drowned in the Flood — and hence could not return to the ark, a symbol of the Church. In the Cornish Ordinalia, Noah predicts in advance that if the raven finds carrion it will not come back to him (Ancient Cornish Drama, 1:82–85). Thus the raven was cursed and its color changed from white to black.
237–60 Thou doufe . . . now may we synge. A dove is then sent out, and brings back a token; see Genesis 8:8–11. The token is an “olyve braunche,” a sign that Noah and his family will “be saved.”
264 The hillis of Hermony. Noah’s first sight of land, but a pun is implied, since harmony is returning to the cosmos.
266, s.d. Tunc cantent Noe et filii sui. A time for singing by Noah and his sons had been announced in line 260, with the inclusion of song by them in early performances confirmed by this late stage direction. Rastall suggests a procession by the family from the ark (Heaven Singing, p. 243).
278 Dum dixit "penitet me." Adapted from the Vulgate (Genesis 6:7).
283 Arcum ponam in nubibus. Genesis 9:13. The rainbow will also figure in the Mercers’ Doomsday play; see REED: York, 1:55.
301 be waste with fyre. In answer to his son’s suggestion that the world might last forever, Noah explains that at last — that is, at the Last Judgment — the earth will be consumed by flames. The destruction of the world by fire appears as one of the signs of Doomsday in a panel in a window in All Saints, North Street — i.e., when, according to the caption in the glass, the time will come when “sall betyde The werlde sall bryn on ilk a syde” (Gee, “Painted Glass of All Saints’ Church,” pls. XXIII–XXIV). The Flood is connected typologically with Doomsday in Luke 17:26–27, a passage which is part of the Gospel reading for the final day of Sexagesima in the York Missal, 1:42).
Play 9, THE FLOOD: 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).
14 formefadres. LTS: forme ffadres; RB: forme-fadres; Reg: formed fadres.
24 As. So RB; Reg, LTS: And.
30 Reg: by LH in right margin: for ethe.
71 I FILIUS. So LTS, RB; Reg: Filius.
80 fellis. Added in Reg by LH; also, in right margin in red: fellys.
106 NOE. Reg: speech attribution added by LH.
134 had. Reg: interlined by LH.
204 wate. So LTS, RB; Reg: watir.
215 wynd. So LTS, RB; Reg: wymd.
221 mayd. Reg: corrected by LH (d interlined).
266, s.d. Tunc cantent Noe et filii sui. Reg: stage direction inserted in right margin by LH.
270 knwe. So Reg, RB; LTS: kn[e]we.
288 wast yt. So RB; Reg, LTS: wastyd.
294 Reg: line added at right by LH, replacing misplaced In ses (canceled).
Play 9, THE FLOOD: EXPLANATORY NOTE FOOTNOTES
Footnote 1 See C. Davidson, From Creation to Doom, pp. 51–52.
Footnote 2 Davis, ed., Non-Cycle Plays, pp. 22–23 and 28–29; Anderson, Drama and Imagery, p. 108; Stanton, Queen Mary Psalter, fig. 25.
Footnote 3 French, York Minster: The Great East Window, p. 53.
The Fysshers and Marynars
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