Play 6, PHARAOH: FOOTNOTES
1 Here begins Pharaoh
2 Peace! On pain of punishment, let no man pass
3 And submit your life and body to my desire
4 And since then they have always continued to increase [in population]
5 Lines 49–50: They will confound you completely / unless they soon cease first [to multiply]
6 Then Moses enters with a staff in his hand, etc.
7 Here he hastens to the bush, and God speaks to him, etc.
8 Lines 351–53: And I think it is much more of a marvel / that during these three days there has been / such darkness that nobody can see anyone else
9 Lines 364–65: Perchance we shall capture them, / and hinder (or destroy) them before tomorrow at noon
10 Here shall they pass through the sea
11 Then the sea shall drown them
12 Here ends Pharaoh.
Play 6, PHARAOH: 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).
In the manuscript, this play follows the incomplete and misplaced Prophets pageant, reordered in this edition and rendered part of the Advent sequence. The misplacement could in part be due to Moses’ being the first speaker in the Prophets pageant; the title given the play (much as for the Jacob pageant as explained above) could have been derived from the first speech heading (on a presumably untitled exemplar), rather than from the importance of the Pharaoh in relation to Moses. The Pharaoh play itself closely parallels the Hosiers’ pageant from York, from which it was clearly borrowed. Differences between the texts range from minor linguistic or stylistic variations to the presence or absence of entire lines and stanzas; several lines missing from the Towneley text can and likely should be supplied from York, while three isolated quatrains and the final 12-line stanza from Towneley are without parallel in York. SC suggest that the three quatrains may be “the remnants of full twelve-line stanzas” from the hypothetical copy-text for the Towneley play (p. 465), namely, an earlier version of what was copied into the official extant York Register in the late fifteenth century. However, as they note, all of these apparent interpolations continue the rhyme scheme of the final four lines or cauda of the preceding 12-line stanza, whereas the existing play has no such repetition between stanzas; nor does any of the interpolated material echo the likely source of the York pageant and its stanza form, namely, The Middle English Metrical Paraphrase of the Old Testament (see SC, p. 465, citing the work of Richard Beadle). The second of these quatrains, however, closely echoes a significant verse from the original biblical source that is absent from the Paraphrase (see note to lines 113–16 below), implying a carefully considered and informed addition to the text — either of the Towneley play or of its immediate source — while the other two add relatively little in comparison. The Towneley text also lacks two counselors that confer with Pharaoh in York, dividing their lines between the two soldiers (Egiptius 1 and 2 in the York manuscript). Another notable difference is that Towneley includes stage directions (following lines 88, 108, 391, and 413), which are entirely lacking in the extant York version (see the note to lines 418–30, below). The biblical source for the events represented here is Exodus 2–14.
1 Peas! Of payn that no man pas. “On (or ‘of’) pain” was a standard phrase, often followed by a specific penalty (“of death,” or “of xx shillings”). This line is more forceful and alliterative than its parallel in the extant York pageant: “O pees, I bidde that no man passe” (York 11.1). Similarly, the reference to “helth” in line 4 reinforces the alliterative pattern of the line, unlike “liff” (“life”) in the York text.
5 Kyng Pharro my fader was. According to the biblical book of Exodus, Moses knew at least two pharaohs (rulers) of Egypt: one who orders the killing of the firstborn sons (see lines 73–76 and Exodus 1:22) — a fate from which the infant Moses escapes, being subsequently raised by Pharaoh’s daughter (as per Exodus 2) — and another whom he as an adult confronts, and who ultimately drowns in the sea pursuing the fleeing Israelites. Both York and Towneley apparently conflate the two (as does the Qur’an), although line 235 (see also York 11.223) refers to this Pharaoh’s father as having found “Greatt defawte” with Moses. Nonetheless, the “father” referred to here is explicitly the Pharaoh associated with “Joseph, . . . Jacob son” (line 45).
7 I am hys hayre, as age wyll asse. I am his heir, as age demands — that is, as first-born son. The form asse (to ask or demand; see MED asken (v.) sense 5a), emended here from has on the basis of the equivalent line in York (see Textual Note), is also used in this play at line 138 — an instance cited in the MED entry for asken (v.), sense 5a.
13–16 Full low he . . . . boste ye blaw. This quatrain is the first of three without parallel in the York Hosiers’ pageant.
19 put hymself in preasse. The phrase can mean to get into trouble or find one’s self under pressure, but can also refer to coming forward in a crowd, or more specifically coming forward with complaints (MED presse (n.), sense 1a(d)), something that would certainly trouble Pharaoh.
40 Oure lordshyp. SC, following York, emend the line to read “Youre lordship” (SC p. 466n39–40).
43 full fell folk ther was fun. Following York, which refers to “Tho felons folke” (York 11.39) in the parallel stanza, “fell” is glossed here as meaning “treacherous” (see MED fel (adj.)). However, given the references to population increase, the word could also mean “many” (MED fele (indef. num.)).
99 Byshope Jettyr shepe. See Exodus 3:1: “Now Moses fed the sheep of Jethro his father in law, the priest of Madian.”
105 A bush I se burnand. See Exodus 3:2–3. The bush that burns but is not consumed and through which God speaks has been an important symbol throughout Judeo-Christian society and culture.
113–16 Do of thy shoyes . . . . is halowd well. This quatrain, the second passage unique to the Towneley text, is essentially a versification of Exodus 3:5, a passage without parallel in The Middle English Metrical Paraphrase of the Old Testament. The line “Wyth mowth as I thee mell” literally means “As I tell you with [my] mouth.”
129–32 Bot I wyll . . . . go in hast. This, the last of the three quatrains unique to the Towneley play, serves as a clear (if arguably unnecessary) transition between the stanzas that precede and follow it.
159–64 Afore the kyng . . . . by myne intent. In Exodus 4:2–5, God has Moses throw down his rod in his presence, which then turns into a snake and back into a rod; here the action itself, involving what would doubtless have been an impressive stage effect, is reserved until the scene with Pharaoh at lines 246–57.
186 I am he that is the same. This line is an English paraphrase of the preceding line in Latin, from Exodus 3:14, closely associated with the Tetragrammaton, the four-letter Hebrew name of God (not to be spoken within Jewish tradition) usually transliterated (and extended) as Yahweh or, earlier, Jehovah.
199 God manteyn you. Moses here addresses the Israelites, having apparently left the area signifying “thys montayn syde” (line 98) where he speaks with God; after line 216 he moves to an area signifying Pharaoh’s palace. At lines 368–69, he will again address the Israelites, having just heard from Pharaoh and company within the same stanza. The distance between parties thus appears to have been minimal, here as in York, where a single wagon stage was likely used both for the mountain and for Pharaoh’s palace, while the Israelites may well have remained at street level.
273–76 the waters . . . . Ar turnyd into reede bloyde. This is the first of the ten biblical plagues; see Exodus 7:17–21.
283 For todys and froskys may no man flyt. The second plague; see Exodus 8:2–14.
285 Greatte mystys. The third plague is of gnats; see Exodus 8:16–17.
294 lykyng land. The line in the manuscript (unlike its counterpart in York 11.282) ends with “lang,” which preserves the expected rhyme but not the sense; like “land of lykyng” in line 371 (see note, below), the phrase refers to the promised land.
303 ragyd the dwyll. As SC suggest, ragyd (“ragged”) may be used here as the proper name of a devil (SC p. 469n303); this word is missing from the equivalent line in York. However, it could be a verb (“What, raged the devil . . .”) or a misplaced adjective, devils being associated with a ragged appearance (see the note to 1.137). Line 336 in the MS has “the ragyd the dwyll,” here emended to “the ragyd dwyll” on the basis of line 412 (“the raggyd dwyll”); the equivalent lines in York all use the unqualified term “devil.”
305–07 Grete loppys over . . . . oure bestys dede ly. Both York and Towneley conflate the fourth and fifth of the biblical plagues, of flies (“loppys” also means “fleas” but these do not fly) and of a disease affecting livestock. See Exodus 8:21–24 and 9:3–6.
307 And in every place oure bestys dede ly. The equivalent line in York begins a four-line speech that includes a line missing from the Towneley stanza: York has 1 Egiptius respond to a three-line speech by 2 Egiptius, saying “Lorde, oure beestis lyes dede and dry / Als wele on myddyng als on more,” before adding “Both oxe, horse, and asse / Fallis dede doune sodanly” (York 11.295–98; see lines 308–09 here, ascribed to Soldier 2).
326–28 sich powder . . . . man and wyfe. In Exodus 9:8–10, throwing ashes into the air brings about the sixth plague, of boils, here associated with leprosy (MED mesel (n.), sense 2).
329 Thus ar we hurt with hayll and rayn. For the seventh plague, see Exodus 9:18–26.
336 the ragyd dwyll. See Textual Note, and the note to line 303, above.
339 To Moyses have his folk to leyd. The York text follows this line (assigned to 1 Egiptius) with a three-line speech ascribed to 1 Consolator: “Lorde, war they wente, than walde it sese, / So shuld we save us and oure seede; / Ellis be we lorne, this is no lese” (York 11.329–31). The first two of these lines are missing from the Towneley text, while the last is equivalent to line 340 here.
348 Wyld wormes. These are the locusts of Exodus 10:4–15 — the eighth plague.
352–53 thise thre dayes . . . Sich myrk that no man may other se. The ninth plague is of darkness for three days; see Exodus 10:21–23.
354[c]–57 Grete pestilence is comyn . . . .Then is oure pride over past. The tenth plague was the death of all the first-born children of Egypt (Exodus 11:4–6); death is brought by “pestilence,” a term associated with the bubonic plague. The Black Death was responsible for the death of a large portion of the population of England (as in continental Europe) in 1348, and struck periodically thereafter.
371 land of lykyng. The phrase, which (like “lykyng land” at line 294) could translate as “the land of pleasure,” here refers to the promised land — “a land that floweth with milk and honey,” according to Exodus 3:17.
372 fals feynd. The phrase used here to describe Pharaoh is commonly used to signify the devil (see for example 3.51); the York text, more unusually but with the same force, here has “felowns fende” (York 11.363: “wicked fiend”).
391, s.d. Hic pertransient mare. MS: this stage direction, absent from the York text, is written beside line 390 (see Textual Note), but the action of crossing the sea (whatever way this may have been done in performance) should apparently follow line 391 with its exhortation to immediate action (“fownd ye now”).
410 Mahowne. Devotion to Muhammad (“Mahownde” in York 11.400), and to the devil, is a common attribute of tyrants (including Jewish tyrants such as Herod) in medieval English biblical plays, signifying their status as un- or anti-Christian.
418–30 Lofe we may . . . . Amen. This final stanza is unique to Towneley, but might well have been the original final stanza in the York Hosiers’ pageant. The extant copy, however, ends with a speech ascribed not to Moses but to the first boy:
Now ar we wonne fra waa
And saved oute of the see.
To God a sange synge wee. (York 11.404–07)
“Cantemus domino” is the incipit or opening line of the song of Moses and the Israelites from Exodus 15:1–20 — a well-known text associated with the Lenten liturgy. The same song might suitably have followed the final Towneley stanza, as well; at several points in the York manuscript, sixteenth-century hands have added stage directions indicating singing where there is no clear indication of this in the dialogue itself, only occasionally specifying what is to be sung (see the stage directions at York 9.266; 12.157, 165, 253; 22.91; 25.287, 544; 37.36, 384; and 38.186). Conversely, the York play may simply have been rewritten expressly to introduce the song, omitting the final stanza.
421 Lovyd be that lord Emanuell. This name is explicitly associated with Jesus in Matthew 1:23, quoting Isaiah 7:14; see also 10.425, 12.309–11, and 14.1–4, as well as the final note to 7.a (After 234).
Play 6, PHARAOH: 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).
Before 1 MS: in the top right corner a later hand has written Litsters pagonn. The page prior to this appears originally to have contained the beginning of the Pharaoh play, given that the large title (Incipit Pharaoh) remains partly visible, but all the writing has been erased.
7 as age wyll asse. So SC. MS: as age wyll has. (York 11.7: as elde will asse; see Explanatory Note.)
11 knawne. So EP, emended for rhyme. MS: knowne.
13 Full low he shall be thrawne. MS: another hand has written lyster play in the right margin.
40 Oure lordshyp. See Explanatory Note.
47 And. So SC. MS: In, perhaps anticipating the third word of the line.
58 Foure hundredth. MS: iiij C.
60 thre hundreth thousand. So EP. MS: CCC thousand.
109 Moyses, Moyses. These words, which are extra-metrical and have no equivalent in the York pageant, are written in the margin in the same hand, in red like the stage direction that follows.
171 neyn. So EP. MS: ix.
182 thy. So SC. MS: my. The emendation is supported both by York 11.170 and Exodus 3:13.
184 skape. So SC. MS: skake.
252 dog. MS: letters erased after this word appear to be a g along with an abbreviation for ys.
263 venyance. So SC. MS: venyange.
266 may no longer. So SC. MS: may longer. York 11.254 supplies the missing word.
285 mysys. MS: mystys. York 11.273: myses (see MED mise (n. pl.3)).
287 it. MS has is crossed out before this word.
294 land. MS: lang. York 11.362: lande. See Explanatory Note.
307 And in every place oure bestys dede ly. MS: a line is evidently missing after this one; see Explanatory Note.
310 Pharaoh (speech heading). MS: Phoraoh.
330 vynys. MS: vnys. York 11.319: wynes.
336 the ragyd dwyll. MS: the ragyd the dwyll; the emendation is supported by the similarity of line 412; see Explanatory Note to line 303
339 To Moyses have his folk to leyd. MS: two lines are evidently missing after this line; see Explanatory Note.
352 thre. So EP. MS: iij.
353 myrk. MS: myst. York 11.344 has myrke, darkness being the ninth plague.
356 Pestilence. MS: pentilence.
391, s.d. Hic pertransient mare. MS, SC: s.d. follows line 390; see Explanatory Note.