Play 5B, JACOB: FOOTNOTES
1 Jacob follows
2 Here let [Jacob] awake
3 That God leaned upon a ladder (see note)
4 Here Jacob leaves the land of Aran for the land of his birth
5 Here he should examine his household things, and the angel should wrestle with him (see note)
6 He divides the crowd into three parts
7 And Jacob goes to kiss Esau; Jacob comes, bends his knees, praying to God
8 And [Jacob] rising, Esau rushes to his embrace
9 [Esau] speaks to his servants
10 Here ends Jacob
Play 5B, JACOB: EXPLANATORY NOTES
ABBREVIATIONS: Chester: The Chester Mystery Cycle, ed. Lumiansky and Mills (1974); CT: The Canterbury Tales, ed. Benson (1987); DSL: Dictionary of the Scots Language; Elliott: The Apocryphal New Testament, ed. Elliott; EP: The Towneley plays, ed. England and Pollard (1897); MED: Middle English Dictionary; MS: Huntington MS HM 1 (“the Towneley manuscript”); N-Town: The N-Town Plays, ed. Sugano (2007); OED: Oxford English Dictionary; REED: Records of Early English Drama; SC: The Towneley Plays, eds. Stevens and Cawley (1994); s.d.: stage direction; Whiting: Whiting, Proverbs, Sentences, and Proverbial Phrases; York: The York Corpus Christi Plays, ed. Davidson (2011).
While presented as separate works in the manuscript, the incomplete play of Isaac and the Jacob play that follows effectively form a single unit, with a continuous narrative involving the same characters written entirely in couplets; the subject — the feud between Isaac’s twin sons, Jacob and Esau, based on Genesis 25–33 — is unique in early English biblical drama. This edition therefore treats them as a single play, but respects the original manuscript division into two parts or pageants, giving separate lineation and retaining the original manuscript titles. It is impossible to know what exactly is missing from the Isaac pageant, but the action could well have begun with the episode in Genesis 25 in which a hungry Esau, the firstborn and Isaac’s favorite, sells his birthright to Jacob, favored by their mother, Rebecca, for a bowl of lentil stew. The extant pageant begins with Jacob’s gaining his father’s blessing by deceit. Just prior to this in the biblical account, blind Isaac asks Esau to go hunting and to prepare a meal for him; Rebecca cooks meat and has Jacob bring it to his father, wearing Esau’s clothing in order to smell like him, and with the skin of young goats wrapped around his arms and neck so that he better resembles his hairier brother (Genesis 27:1–17). The pageant continues with the encounter between Isaac and Esau, who realize the deception. Jacob is then sent away into Mesopotamia (line 58) for his protection; he is still on his way there at the beginning of the Jacob pageant, when he encounters God in a dream. A more significant break in the action occurs after this, when he returns to the land of his birth, suddenly accompanied by his wives and children and “two ostes of men” (line 5.b.68). The existing division between plays is likely an error: a copyist (whether the Towneley scribe or someone responsible for transcribing an earlier original) was perhaps confronted by a leaf beginning with a speech heading for Jacob, following a leaf that (like many medieval biblical plays) ends with a blessing, and thus mistook these for the ending of one play and the beginning of another. The title “Jacob” may have been supplied from this initial speech heading or from an explicit or colophon, the most common placement for a title; the now-separate first part of the play could then have been entitled “Isaac” in order to differentiate it from what followed.
1 Lord Adonay. See note to 4.1.
37 That God leynyd hym to a stegh. This line translates Genesis 28:13 in the Vulgate: “Dominum innixum scalae.” According to Genesis 28:11–12, this ladder stood on the earth and reached up to heaven, and accommodated the ascent and descent of angels. God’s later appearance in the form of an angel (line 84, s.d.; see note below) may indicate that an actual ladder or staircase was to be used onstage, leading to an upper level signifying heaven, from which God could descend (in the form of an angel; see note to line 84, s.d. below).
58, s.d. Hic egrediatur Iacob de Aran in terram natiuitatis sue. This stage direction effectively covers a gap of fourteen years during which Jacob worked for his uncle Laban, Rebecca’s brother (see 5.a.59), and married Laban’s daughters Leah and Rachel, prior to returning to Canaan.
70 To multyplye my seede as sand of see. See Genesis 32:12.
74 These moders with thare barne-teme. Jacob fathered twelve sons and a daughter, through two concubines as well as his two wives, but only Rachel’s children, Joseph and Benjamin, are named in the play (line 117); in the biblical account Rachel dies giving birth to Benjamin (Genesis 35:16–19) well after their arrival in Canaan and the reconciliation with Esau.
84, s.d. Hic scrutetur superlectile et luctetur angelus cum eo. According to Genesis 32:24, a mysterious man wrestles with Jacob until morning and is subsequently recognized as a manifestation of God (see Genesis 32:30); Hosea 12:4 refers to this wrestler as an angel. In the play, as indicated by subsequent speech headings, this is God in the form of an angel, not an additional character.
110 This place shall hight Fanuell. See Genesis 32:30, which translates the Vulgate “Phanuhel” (Peniel or Penuel) meaning “face of God.”
114, s.d. Hic diuidit turmas in tres partes. This division of those accompanying Jacob is based on Genesis 33:1–2. Facing what he thinks might be a hostile army sent by Esau, Jacob puts his two concubines and their children in front of Leah and her children, with Rachel and Joseph (see note to line 74, above, for Benjamin, named at line 117) safely in the rear (“in the last eschele,” as in line 115). The “crowd” here would also include any supernumeraries onstage constituting the “two ostes of men” mentioned at line 68; however, these “hosts” could signify the audience itself.
140–41 Go we togeder . . . and his wife. This line suggests that the play as a whole should end with the reappearance of Isaac and Rebecca from the Isaac pageant; staging the reunion of the two sons with their parents at this point in the narrative has no biblical warrant.
Play 5B, JACOB: TEXTUAL NOTES
ABBREVIATIONS: EP: The Towneley Plays, ed. England and Pollard (EETS, 1897); Facs: The Towneley Cycle: A Facsimile of Huntington MS HM 1, ed. Cawley and Stevens; MED: Middle English Dictionary; MS: Huntington MS HM 1 (base text); SC: The Towneley Plays, ed. Stevens and Cawley (EETS, 1994); s.d.: stage direction; Surtees: The Towneley Mysteries, ed. Raine; York: The York Corpus Christi Plays, ed. Davidson (2011).
110 shall hight Fanuell. So EP, SC. MS: shall Fanuell.
124 That thou save. So SC. MS: That save.