14. The Doctors
Play 14, THE DOCTORS: FOOTNOTES
1 Then Jesus comes
2 Out of the mouths of infants and suckling babes you have perfected praise (Psalm 8:3)
3 Then come Joseph and Mary, and Mary says
4 Here ends the pageant of the doctors
Play 14, THE DOCTORS: 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 incomplete (see headnote to play 13), the play of the Doctors has structural and verbal similarities to both the Chester and Coventry versions of this episode, and shares a notable amount of dialogue with the York version, having apparently been adapted from an earlier version of that play (see the section on “Christ and the Doctors: Inter-Relation of the Cycles” in Greg, Bibliographical and Textual Problems, pp. 69–108). However, the portions of these two plays that are closely parallel begin only with the entrance of the twelve-year-old Jesus at line 49 (see York 20.73), making it uncertain as to how much of the Towneley play, exactly, has been lost along with the ending of the Purification play. While both Chester and Coventry combine this episode with that of the Purification, the appearance of the teachers is preceded, as it is in York, by a discussion between Mary and Joseph who, leaving the Temple in Jerusalem, realize that Jesus is not with them. Such a discussion was almost certainly part of the Towneley play, as well. That dialogue in York occupies 48 lines, and the teachers in that version share only 24 lines before Jesus enters — only half as many as in the extant (and unique) Towneley text. For comparison, in Chester, the parallel scene between Mary and Joseph occupies only 20 lines, but Jesus is already among the teachers and speaks just four lines into that segment. The Towneley text begins mid-speech, which means — given the regularity of form here — that it was likely preceded by one or more likely two quatrains from the same speaker, Teacher 2, and by one or more quatrains (again likely four in total) assigned to Teacher 1 prior to that, likely all focused on prophecy as are the extant lines. The initial dialogue between Mary and Joseph was likely no longer than its York equivalent, and might well have been shorter, allowing for an estimate of between 48 and 72 missing lines in total.
The basis for the meeting between Christ and the Doctors can be found in Luke 2:41–52, but the Gospel account gives little idea as to what they might have spoken about. Focusing that discussion on the commandments, as Clifford Davidson states, “seems related to the campaign of religious education, encouraged by Archbishop Thoresby, that was the force behind the assembling and dissemination of the Lay Folks’ Catechism and the specifying of the basic demands of laypersons’ knowledge” in late fourteenth-century England (York 20: headnote). The initial part of this discussion, though, also has a scriptural basis, namely conversation between (the adult) Jesus and a teacher of the law in Matthew 22:34–40 (and with a scribe in Mark 12:28–34; see the note to lines 115–16 below) regarding the greatest of the commandments and the summation of the law.
1 Teacher 2 (speech heading). There is no extant speech heading here, but the regular 1-2-3 pattern of speakers through the earlier part of the play makes it clear that these lines (along with at least one preceding quatrain) belong to Teacher 2. The MS speech heading for each of these three characters is Magister, or Master, a typical title or designation for a teacher — “teacher” being the literal translation of the Latin term doctor (from docere, to teach). While “Doctors” has been retained for the title for the play, the character designation used here avoids potential confusion between Masters and Doctors in a modern academic sense.
1–8 That a madyn . . . . man may go. These lines, which clearly continue a speech regarding messianic prophecy, refer to Isaiah 7:14, quoted in the second Shepherds play (9.982–84), and discussed by Herod’s counselors in two other plays (see 10.417–28 and 12.304–14; see also the final note to the Prophets play, 7.a).
7–8 of brede and lenghthe / As far as any man may go. That is, everywhere.
11 Abacuk. The lines which follow do not actually refer to Habakkuk but to Isaiah 11:1–2 (partly quoted at 8.502–03); on Habakkuk, see 8.437–38 and the final note to 7.a.
15 A wande shall spryng fro Jesse roytt. A branch shall sprout from the root of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1); see also 8.502–03 and the note to 7.a.97, above.
22–24 The goost of . . . . brede and sytt. The image — ultimately derived from Deuteronomy 32:11 and Genesis 1:2 (see note to 9.1020–23 above) — is of the Holy Spirit as a brooding ben sitting on the nest.
44 Fele prophetys have prechyd it full playn. “Fele” here (see Textual Note) could mean either “worthy” or “many” (MED fele (adj.) and (indef. num.).
55 othere tayllys to tent. That is, other business (literally, “things told”) to attend to. See MED tale (n.), sense 1a.
61–62 For in som mynde it may thee bryng / To here oure sawes red by rawes. That is, the law of Moses (line 58) may make you inclined to listen to what we recite, line by line; to be “read by row” also implies that something is correctly understood — see 22.345 and note.
71 Com sytt. As evident from lines 117–18, below, the teachers are seated together in a row (impressively dressed in furred garments — see line 224), likely facing the audience from behind a table or lectern on which books are laid out, possibly chained to the lectern, as in a medieval library. Jesus is still seated when Mary and Joseph find him at line 213.
74 Untill oure resons right shuld reche. That is, should correctly understand our discourse.
77–80 The Holy Gost . . . . heven to preche. These lines echo Luke 4:18, in which Jesus (in his first appearance in Nazareth’s synagogue since his forty days in the desert) quotes Isaiah 61:1.
After 90 Ex ore infancium et lactencium perfecisti laudem. The extrametrical Latin quotation from Psalm 8:3, written by the main scribe beside line 90 in the MS, is not given in the York version, although arguably required by the context.
111–12 I trow the barn be sent / Sufferanly to salfe oure sare. I believe the child has been sent by (God’s) supreme power to heal our wounds — that is, to ease our suffering.
115–16 Which callys thou . . . . in Moyses lare. The phrasing of the question here combines that of Matthew 22:36 (“greatest”) and of Mark 12:28 (“first”); in both of those passages, however, Jesus immediately answers the question himself, rather than putting it back to his interlocutors.
121–25 I rede that this is the fyrst bydyng . . . . hym shall hyng. This rephrasing of the first of the ten commandments, spoken by Jesus in Matthew 22:37 and Mark 12:29–30, is ultimately derived from Deuteronomy 6:5.
127–28 Ye nede none othere . . . this to fulfyll. That is, you do not need the rest of the law if you can keep just this one. See Matthew 22:38: “This is the greatest and the first commandment.”
129–32 The seconde . . . . truly. See Leviticus 19:18, as well as Matthew 22:39–40 and Mark 12:31.
141–44 Then shuld we . . . . Right as oureself. The York version switches to the second person plural after the first line (“all youre . . . . as youreselfe,” York 20.166–168). Davidson comments: “the manuscript reading is correct since he is lecturing the priests of the Temple and it would be inappropriate to include himself” (York 20n153–56). However, the Towneley version is consistent with the influential description of the Last Judgment in Matthew 25; in the Towneley Judgment play, Jesus states that, whenever kindness or mercy was extended to a neighbor, “this dede was to me done” (27.641; see Matthew 25:40).
145–46 synthen thou has told us two, / Which ar the aght. The two commandments just expounded are not identical with the first two as given to Moses, which prohibit idolatry and taking God’s name in vain, but are effectively a summary of all ten commandments, as stated in Matthew 22:40 and in lines 135–40 here. The other eight commandments are given in the subsequent lines 147–80 (at greater length than in the York version); however, in the Prophets pageant, Moses outlines all ten as listed in Exodus 20:1–17 and Deuteronomy 5:4–21, including the first two (see 7.a.50–60).
165 no thefe feyr. As SC point out (p. 538n165), this phrase seems to be an abbreviated version of one used in the Speculum Christiani, a likely source text, another version of which is used in the Conspiracy play: “thefe or thefys fere” (20.726).
167 Oker ne symony thou com not nere. Simony, the selling of sacred objects and benefits, named after Simon Magus (see Acts 8:18–20), and usury, charging interest for a loan, were both forbidden under church law, although Jews were exempt, and thus frequently employed as bankers and money-lenders to the Christian community. See also 27.527–29 and note.
196, s.d. Tunc venient Ioseph et Maria. Mary and Joseph likely remained at audience level after their initial appearance (in the missing portion of the play), but now come forward through the audience toward the stage area where Jesus and the teachers are seated. As noted in line 202, three days have elapsed since they realized that Jesus was not with them (see Luke 2:46).
223 I can not with thaym. That is, I cannot converse or mell (line 221) with them.
255–56 I shall thynk on them weyll / To fownd what is folowand. That is, I shall ponder these things well, to find what conclusions might follow; see Luke 2:51: “And his mother kept all these words in her heart.”
265 No wonder if thou, wife. Doctor 3 here addresses Mary, to compliment her son.
Play 14, THE DOCTORS: 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).
7 brede. MS: the word lenght (anticipating the final word in the same line) is crossed out before this word.
44 Fele. MS: fful, likely anticipating full later in the same line.
57 Son if thou. So SC, following York 20.81. MS: Son thou.
After 90 Ex ore infancium et lactencium perfecisti laudem. See Explanatory Note.
103 plener. So SC. York 20.127: playnere. MS: plene.
130 clerly. So SC, following York 20.154. MS: clergy.
133 Thus. MS: us badly worn.
146 aght. So EP. MS: viij.
165 seven. EP: seuen. MS: vij.
169 aght. So EP. MS: viij.
171 fede. So SC, restoring rhyme. MS: syb (that is, “sibling”).
173 neyn. So EP. MS: ix.
177 ten. So EP. MS: x.
182 Lord. So EP. SC: Lord. MS: this word is inserted above the line in a different hand.
206 mowrnyng. So SC. York 20.214: mourning. MS: mowryng.
238 thee. So SC (þe), following York 20.246. EP, MS: se.
250 tyll. So SC. MS: ityll following partial erasure.
253–54 Mary: Thise sawes . . . can not understand. MS: the speech heading and rule separating this from the previous speech are missing. MS line 154 reads I can well vnderstonde. SC add the speech heading and correct well to not as done here (following York 20.262), but inadvertently begin the line as hise sawes.
257 sothly. So EP, SC. MS: sothtly.
273 of youre. MS: between these words is the letter c, or more likely a partial g, anticipating good later in this line.
After 280 Explicit. MS: Explcit.