1. The Creation
Play 1, THE CREATION: FOOTNOTES
1 In the name of God, amen. May Holy Mary be present at my beginning. Wakefield
2 I am Alpha and Omega (Apocalypse 1:8)
3 Here God leaves his throne, and Lucifer will sit in the same throne
4 Then the demons will exit, crying out, and the first says
5 And he will touch him
6 Then the cherubin takes Adam by the hand, and the Lord says to him
7 That he should be angry for any reason
Play 1, THE CREATION: 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).
All Middle English creation plays are based on the biblical account in Genesis 1, but divide the material differently. Both N-Town and Chester have separate pageants representing the creation of the heavens and the fall of the angels on the one hand, and the creation of the world and the creation and fall of Adam and Eve on the other, while York divides the latter material into a series of five separate pageants. The Towneley version, while now fragmentary due to missing leaves, evidently included all of this material as part of a single play. Yet this play was itself a compilation: the portion of the text dealing with the fall of angels appears to be an interpolation into a monologue by God (written in a fairly regular aabccb stanza form, unlike the varied intervening material); similarly, the switch at the end of God’s (continued) monologue into couplets likely indicates a change in source material. The story of the creation and fall of the angels is not biblical, but is traditionally associated with the first day of creation, as represented in the pageants of York, Chester, and N-Town. Towneley alone places it immediately after the fifth day, further indicating that this episode is an interpolation, and perhaps not an especially well-considered one.
The extant play breaks off shortly after Lucifer’s (re-)entrance and prior to any actual temptation of Adam and Eve; four leaves are apparently missing here, which to judge by the length of what remains of the play (267 lines on two leaves) could have contained well over 500 additional lines. It is difficult now to imagine what all might have been included: the York pageants of the temptation and fall and of the expulsion from Eden together contain only 341 lines (as opposed to 528 lines in the previous four pageants, effectively covering everything in the extant Towneley play, consisting of two leaves). It is possible that the gathering originally consisted of fewer than eight leaves, or that two leaves (that is, the bifolium from the center of the gathering) were removed and discarded for other reasons, such as an error in transcription or duplication of material, which in turn led to the accidental loss of two more leaves.
Before 1 The addition of the name “Wakefeld” to an otherwise common invocation remains curious, especially given its repetition after the title of the third (but no other) pageant, of Noah and the flood. While often assumed to indicate that the plays themselves belonged to the town of Wakefield in the West Riding of Yorkshire, “Wakefeld” could perhaps name the scribe, or the location at the time of transcription. For more, see the Introduction to this volume, pp. 13–15, and Figure 1, p. 20.
1–2 Ego sum alpha . . . the last also. These lines are adapted from Apocalypse (1:8, 21:6, and 22:13); the Latin line similarly opens the Creation plays of York, Chester, and N-Town.
5–6 Fader and Son and Holy Goost / One God in Trinyté. At the outset of the play, prior to the creation of anything else, God asserts the doctrine of the Trinity — God as three distinct 'persons' sharing one essential, divine nature: Father, Son (Jesus), and Holy Spirit.
23–24 Darknes from light . . . serve and be. The division of darkness and light (see Genesis 1:4) to form day and night itself creates time and temporality.
33–34 And parte ather from othere / Water above. That is, divide the water that is to be on the earth, under the newly-created firmament or heavens, from the water above. See Genesis 1:6–7.
50 the planettys seven. The seven planets of pre-Copernican cosmology included both the sun and the moon (already named in the previous line) along with Saturn, Mars, Jupiter, Venus, and Mercury.
61–76 Oure lord God . . . . make of noght. Cherubin’s speech is in couplets, in contrast to the tail-rhymed stanzas of God’s lines (aside from lines 198–203), and interrupts the creation of the world, likely indicating an interpolation; God’s creative activity continues after the fall of the bad angels, but without explicit reference to the sixth (or the seventh) day. Lucifer speaks primarily in a 5-line tail-rhyme stanza form (aabab), perhaps a deliberate echo or parody of God’s (aabccb) speech, until line 104 when he switches to couplets.
76, s.d. Hic . . . Lucifer sedebit in eodem solio. While this stage direction — unusually written in the right margin, separated from Cherubin’s speech by a vertical red line — implies that Lucifer sits in God’s throne as soon as it is empty, subsequent lines indicate otherwise; he sits only after line 103 (“My sete shall be ther as was his”), at which point he also begins to speak in couplets, as noted.
91 My myght may nothyng kon. That is, no other being can comprehend my strength (rephrasing the previous line).
129 therof a leke what rekys us. To “not care a leek” is to care not at all; see MED lek (n.), sense 1c) and Whiting L183.
131, s.d. Therfor will I . . . et dicit primus. As in the first of the York pageants, God does not explicitly or actively cast the bad angels out of heaven; rather, they fall due to their own actions. When he attempts to fly, Lucifer falls, along with the two bad angels. Two demons then appear and lament what has occurred. While they clearly represent fallen angels (see line 134), these two demons may or may not be played by the same actors who play the two bad angels prior to their fall: the reference to demons (demones) rather than bad angels both in the stage direction and in subsequent speech headings, along with the apparent disappearance of Lucifer after the fall (he does not speak again until he appears in Eden, and Demon 2 refers to him here only in the third person), may indicate that all three of the actors who 'fall' with Lucifer should simply vanish, out of sight of the audience, and be replaced by their demonic doubles; these two actors then presumably exit from an area below the stage, proper, on the level of the audience, whom Demon 2 later addresses as “ye all that standys beside” (line 157).
132 welowo. “Wellaway” (spelled in various ways in the MS), like “alas” in the same line, is a common “exclamation expressive of grief, dismay, or regret” (MED wei-la-wei (interj.), sense 1).
137 And ugly, tatyrd as a foyll. As SC point out, the line alludes to the traditional “jagged or slashed costume of a court jester” (SC p. 440). In Langland’s Piers Plowman (Prol.75 and 16.89), the devil is called a “rageman” or “ragman” (see also the Judgment play, 27.326–27 and note).
142 Thou has maide neyn; there was ten. See note to lines 254–57 below.
151 syn. Isaiah 59:2 specifies that sin divides the sinner from God, a separation here made visible.
159 all unpeasse. The MED cites this line in support of its definition of unpes (n.) as “inquietude of mind or spirit, lack of mental peace, discontent, distress; also, the absence or lack of reconciliation with God” (sense b).
198 Heris thou, Adam and Eve thi wife. This line, which begins a sequence in couplets that ends the extant play, also seems at odds with the preceding instruction to the Cherubin to take the couple to Eden “And leyf them there in peasse” (line 197). The pattern of God’s preceding lines (and those in parallel plays) might lead one to expect reference here to the conclusion of the sixth day, and perhaps conclusion of the play itself.
199 the tre of life. The tree of life is explicitly separate from the tree of knowledge in the biblical account (see Genesis 2:9, 17) but the two are frequently conflated as they are here and in two other Towneley plays — see 3.50 and 7.c.26.
209 man to be oure feere. Humankind is created to replace Lucifer and the fallen tenth order, set apart from the rest of earthly creation as a companion to the heavenly angels. See lines 215 and 254–57 (and note, below).
254–57 Ten orders in heven . . . . with me. Of the traditional nine orders of angels, only “Cherubin” is explicitly represented here, along with Lucifer and the other fallen — the tenth order, whose place in the order of creation is to be taken by humankind, as mentioned in lines 209 (see note, above) and 262–65. In the Chester Creation play, prior to his fall, Lucifer names all nine (Chester 1.52–59), and each is given a speaking role, although not quite in their hierarchical order, which is further divided by tradition into triads or spheres as follows: Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones; Dominions, Virtues, Powers; Principalities, Archangels, Angels.
Play 1, THE CREATION: 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).
The edition by Stevens and Cawley for the Early English Text Society, along with the facsimile edition that they likewise co-edited, remains the chief source for analysis of the Towneley manuscript and its various textual annotations, corrections, marginalia, and other particularities. Unlike theirs, the current edition makes no note of most minor corrections, such as an obviously misplaced and crossed-out letter before a correctly written word, except where these might potentially affect understanding of the established text.
Before 1 Cherubin Cherubin. Both in the character list and in speech headings, I have used a modernized spelling of the Middle English singular form, cherubyn, given the connotations of the modern “cherub.” The cherubim (plural) are the second order of angels after the seraphim, and the guardians of Eden after the expulsion of Adam and Eve (see Genesis 3:24), not winged children or putti.
Before 1 Bad Angel Bad Angel / Demon. The MS distinguishes between Primus and Secundus Angelus on the one hand and Primus and Secundus Demones on the other; while ostensibly representing the same characters, before and after their fall from heaven, the roles may or may not be played by the same actors; see the Explanatory Note to line 131, s.d.
7 I am without begynnyng. MS: in the right margin opposite this line a sixteenth century hand has written Barker. Below this is the Towneley pressmark 13½:35, above F:35 (indicating the height and shelf number of the bound manuscript). That pressmark is also written in the top corner of the page, but was cut off when the manuscript was trimmed for rebinding.
36 day this is. MS: a hole in the page, with rust staining and additional rubbing, has partially obscured these words.
48 thryd. MS: thyrd; emended for rhyme, following EP.
58 be. So MS. SC: emend to se (“sea”).
62 be. to thee. MS: to the added in a different hand.
64 has made. MS: these words, run together, have been written over an erasure in the same hand as to the in line 62.
86 May nothyng stand then be. So SC. EP: may nothing stand ne be. MS: may thing stand then be.
97 Therfor. MS: thefor.
98 ye shall. A hole in the MS (see note to line 36) obscures the e and sh.
132 welowo. MS: the first o is indistinct due to a crease that runs the length of the leaf, obscuring many individual letters from here through to the end of the play, although the correct reading is generally clear, particularly in context.
136 waxen. MS: n indistinct.
138 Lucifer. MS: ifer indistinct.
142 neyn . . . ten. So EP. MS: ix, x (x indistinct).
144 that. MS: a indistinct.
148 noght. MS: t indistinct.
150 we. MS: indistinct.
152 pride. MS: p indistinct.
154 and. MS: a indistinct.
156 warrie. MS: e indistinct.
158 hym. MS: m indistinct.
162 that. t2 obscured by crease.
164 t2 missing due to a hole (corresponding to that at lines 36 and 98).
165 man. MS: n indistinct.
166 of. MS: o indistinct.
168 thee. MS: the, with th indistinct.
169 shall. MS: ha indistinct.
171 water or. MS: t, abbreviation for -er, and or indistinct.
172 thi. MS: th indistinct.
175 brede. MS: b indistinct.
177 have. MS: haue, au indistinct.
178 fulfill. MS: ulfi indistinct.
180 wonnyng. MS: won indistinct.
181 of solace. MS: of indistinct.
183 be. MS: e indistinct.
184 this. MS: is indistinct.
186 from. MS: m indistinct.
187 Therof shall be maide thi make. So EP, to restore meter. SC, MS: therof shall be thi make (m indistinct in MS).
189 governe. MS: final e indistinct.
190 in. MS: indistinct.
192 and. MS: abbreviation symbol effaced.
194 withoutten. So EP, SC. MS: without.
209 oure. MS: r indistinct.
213 thoght. MS: second h indistinct.
217 liffen. MS: l indistinct.
221 be. MS: e indistinct.
233 he. MS: indistinct.
237 seen. MS: n indistinct.
239 coloures. MS: e indistinct.
249 wroth. MS: th indistinct.
251 beyn. MS: b indistinct.
254 Ten. So EP. MS: X.
255 Of angels that had offyce sere. This line was accidentally omitted from SC.
257 teynd. So EP. MS: x.
260 felows. MS: e indistinct.
261 ay. MS: y indistinct.
263 end. MS: nd indistinct.
264 neyn. So EP. MS: ix.
After 267 MS: the next four leaves are missing (that is, the center half of the first extant gathering); see the headnote to the play in Explanatory Notes.