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The Towneley Plays: Introduction


1 Plays borrowed from York include the plays of Pharaoh, the Doctors, the Harrowing of Hell, the Resurrection, and Judgment, but likely also the play of the Dice, although no equivalent from York is extant. There are other apparent York connections and borrowings as well, including a single stanza in the play of the Offering of the Magi (see 10.595–606 and note), and a significant portion of the Scourging (see the headnote to play 19).

2 The first page of the Burnley Parish register, for example, begun in 1562 and now in the Lancashire Records Office in Preston (Ref. PR 3027/1/1), has an initial R with similar strapwork, among other decoration.

3 The average page size is 12 x 8.25 inches, yet the library pressmark on the first page (13½ : 35 above F : 35) implies a height of 13.5 inches, and thus indicates the extent of the trimming. (As Meg Twycross has informed me in personal communication, the rest of the pressmark indicates that the bound copy was #35 on Bookshelf F in the library, along with other volumes of the same height.)

4 Markland, p. xvii.

5 When Henry Huntington acquired the manuscript, the coats of arms were concealed beneath diamond-shaped pieces of pasted leather; Louis Wann (“A New Examination,” p. 139) misidentified the arms as those of Sir Isaac Lyon Goldsmid, also an avid book collector. Stevens and Cawley take the misidentification further, asserting that the MS was sold “to John Louis Goldsmid on behalf of his brother-in-law, Sir Isaac Lyon Goldsmid, whose coat of arms appears on the covers of the present binding” (The Towneley Plays, p. xvi; see also p. xix). The two men were actually cousins (and both cousins to Sir Isaac’s wife, Isabel).

6 Bibliotheca Towneleiana, p. 45.

7 According to the Roxburghe Club website, “Peregrine Edward Towneley, Esq. was one of 7 people co-opted into the Roxburghe Club by the first 18 members at the St. Albans Tavern on 17 June 1812,” as was James Heywood Markland (“Peregrine Edward Towneley”).

8 Judicium, p. ix.

9 The Towneley Mysteries, ed. Raine, p. ix.

10 Marriott, A Collection, p. xxxviii.

11 Indeed, Alfred W. Pollard’s Introduction (Towneley plays, ed. England, pp. x–xiv) quotes or summarizes all but a few paragraphs of the Preface to the Surtees edition, which as noted was also George England’s base text for the EETS edition itself, as evident from various reproduced errors.

12 The Ely attribution occurs in an Anglo-French “List of English Towns in the Fourteenth Century,” transcribed and published by C. Bonnier in 1901. See also Epp, “Re-Editing Towneley,” p. 89.

13 The Towneley Plays, ed. Stevens and Cawley, p. xx.

14 The Cabinet Cyclopædia, p. 198; the entry, ostensibly a biography of playwright John Heywood, is subtitled “The Origin and Early History of the English Stage” and includes an extensive description of these and other plays.

15 See Cawley et al., “References to the Corpus Christi Play in the Wakefield Burgess Court Rolls: The Originals Rediscovered.” The rediscovery was in part due to the (uncredited) detective work of Barbara Palmer, who had earlier found evidence of the fabrication of records in Walker’s private papers; see Palmer, “‘Towneley Plays’ or ‘Wakefield Cycle’ Revisited,” especially pp. 324–33.

16 The text here and below is slightly modernized from the transcription by Cawley et al., “References . . . Rediscovered,” pp. 87–88.

17 Barbara Palmer, “Corpus Christi ‘Cycles’ in Yorkshire,” p. 228.

18 Cawley et al., “References . . . Rediscovered,” p. 88.

19 Martin Stevens has asserted that the regenall of the 1559 record “was almost certainly the Towneley MS” (Four Middle English Mystery Cycles, p. 94n3); however, see Dane, Abstractions of Evidence, pp. 71–74. The York records mention payment, coincidentally for 1559, “for entryng in the Regyster the Regynall of the pagyant pertenyng to Craft of Fullars whiche was never before Regestred” (REED: York, p. 330), making a clear distinction between the city’s official Register and the individual guild-held exemplars.

20 See A. F. Johnston, “Religious Guilds,” and Jeremy Goldberg, “Tableaux to Text.” One of the surviving records of the Creed Play refers to three different copies, including both “the Original . . . newly written. . . . And another old book of the same play” (Johnston, “Religious Guilds,” p. 83); Wakefield’s regenall need not have been the oldest copy of its contents, merely the official one. Yet the term implies singularity; the official copy of the text for the cycle, where individual guilds retained control of individual pageants, was not the "Original" but the "Register."

21 See for example Lawrence M. Clopper, Drama, Play and Game, pp. 155–57, regarding the Norwich plays.

22 The Wakefield Pageants, ed. Cawley, p. 125, slightly modernized.

23 See Epp, “The Towneley Conspiracy.”

24 Both cancellations were first noted by John Payne Collier, in History of English Dramatic Poetry 2:198, although he wrongly describes the cancelled lines regarding transubstantiation as being “from the mouth of the Saviour on the cross,” rather than as part of a post-resurrection speech.

25 “Tudor Origins of Medieval Drama,” p. 241.

26 Stevens, “Missing Parts,” p. 257.

27 See McGillivray, “Tudor Recycling?,” p. 56 (and p. 68n27).

28 See Wann, “A New Examination,” p. 143.

29 For further explanation, see the Headnote to the Advent sequence, and Epp, “Re-editing Towneley,” pp. 97–98.

30 This leaf serves as the color frontispiece for the facsimile edition.

31 “The Tudor Origins of Medieval Drama,” p. 237.

32 “The Tudor Origins of Medieval Drama,” p. 242.

33 See Epp, “Visible Words” and “Be ye thus trowing.”

34 The text for this production was an unpublished translation by David Parry.

35 Palmer, “The Relation Between Drama and Art in the West Riding Yorkshire.”

36 Rose, The Wakefield Mystery Plays, p. 35.

37 For further discussion, see Epp, “The Towneley Conspiracy.”

38 What is required for staging is of course not the same as what one might consider ideal. In “Noah’s Flood, the River Jordan, the Red Sea: Staging in the Towneley Cycle,” Cynthia Haldenby Tyson argues that “It is not to be supposed that the Towneley playwright who makes such a point of the presence of water (particularly in the Noah and Pharaoh plays) did so without having at his disposal the means to present such plays as spectacularly as he has written them” (p. 109); she thus ignores the York origin of the Pharaoh play and production practices in York that simply would not allow the kind of staging she envisions. See also Epp, “Hazards of Cycling.”

39 See Epp, “Corected & not playd,” for further discussion.

40 See for instance Gardner’s Construction of the Wakefield Cycle, as well as Martin Stevens’ work on the plays, including the EETS edition.

41 p. 57. A similar process gave rise to the York “Realist” and “Metrist” as putative author-revisers of the York plays; see Johnston, Jr., “Notes on the Dialect of the York Corpus Christi Plays,” offered as an appendix to Davidson’s edition of the York Plays.

42 “The Date,” p. 660. Frampton also argues that an earlier dating is impossible because Wakefield was too small to produce the entire ‘cycle,’ while lamenting the lack of “historical evidence whereby we may presume to continue to trace intimately the growth of the town for the next century or more” (p. 654).

43 See REED: York, p. 87, pp. 763–64.

44 The Towneley Plays, ed. Stevens and Cawley, p. xxxi.

45 Variations abound: the East Anglian morality play, The Castle of Perseverance, for example, uses the same form but with longer lines; as Stevens and Cawley point out (The Towneley Plays, p. xxxi), the Towneley Flight into Egypt is written in a somewhat different 13-line stanza. Examples of the 13-line ‘bob and wheel’ stanza have also been identified in the Towneley plays of Abel, Lazarus, the Conspiracy, the Scourging, the Crucifixion, the Dice, the Pilgrims, the Ascension, and of course Judgment, although variations exist between some of these as well.

46 See the Introduction to the EETS edition by Stevens and Cawley (The Towneley Plays, p. xxix–xxxi) for a detailed explanation of the stanza form and the choice to represent it as a 13-line stanza; Dane (Abstractions of Evidence, pp. 64–70) has contested their reasoning (mostly as outlined in earlier work by Martin Stevens), but not the similarity of this to other 13-line stanzas.

47 Warren Edminster, in a conference paper entitled “Authorship and Lexical Source Analysis of the Towneley Cycle” (39th International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, MI, May 2004), gave striking evidence of differences in vocabulary between this play and the five traditionally ascribed to the 'Wakefield Master.'

48 See Epp, “The Towneley Conspiracy,” pp. 103–04. Different portions of the Conspiracy play, too, use these different forms, likely indicating different regional origins. Analysis of possible dialect differences within and between the supposed 'Wakefield Master' plays in particular has been hampered by their inclusion, as a group, as West Riding sources for the 1986 Linguistic Atlas of Late Mediaeval English, now online (eLALME).

49 Stevens and Cawley are inconsistent in this particular case: “holy gost” (in various spellings) is capitalized in only two of four instances in the Thomas play (28.107 and 194, but not 233 and 345), for example. See Epp, “Re-Editing Towneley,” p. 89, an essay that overlaps significantly with this introduction.

50 Plays with stage directions in black include 1, 3, 4, 5 (a–b), 9, 10, 13, 15, 16, 19, 22, 25, 26, and 27; those without any, excluding the Judas fragment, include 2, 7 (that is, the entire Advent series), 8, 11, 12, 18, 20, and 21. Wann (p. 141) oddly listed the Prophets (7.a) as one of the plays with stage directions in black, although it has none of any sort.

Huntington MS HM 1 is a unique, beautiful, and puzzling manuscript collection of biblical plays now in the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, in San Marino, California; it was formerly owned by the Towneley family of Towneley Hall near Burnley, Lancashire, and the plays themselves have long been known by that family name. These plays include some of the best and best-known examples of medieval English drama, including several pieces attributed to a single anonymous poet problematically dubbed the 'Wakefield Master.' The Towneley plays have often been referred to as the Wakefield Cycle, and asserted to have been performed by guilds in the town of Wakefield in the West Riding of Yorkshire, yet evidence for this identification has largely been discredited, along with the collection’s status as a coherent cycle of plays for sequential production. What was deemed clear only a few decades ago is again in question; the origins and purpose of the manuscript remain unknown, as does the nature of its connection to Wakefield — a name that appears on its first extant page, and on the first page of the third play. With some significant exceptions, the plays are arranged in chronological order from Creation to Judgment, much like the guild cycles of York and Chester; however, more like the N-Town manuscript, HM 1 contains a disparate collection of plays, of varied origin and production requirements. Several plays have been borrowed almost verbatim from the York cycle, some of which may preserve earlier readings than the York register itself,1 although they also show clear signs of editing and adaptation, like other plays in the collection. This edition of the Towneley manuscript does not presume the unity of its contents, but rather treats it simply as a collection of biblical plays, in the hope that readers will be able to find new insights, and new connections.

The Manuscript and its History

The manuscript consists of 132 folio leaves of parchment or vellum, written largely by a single scribe in a style of Anglicana script particularly associated with legal use. While most of the plays were likely written much earlier, the manuscript itself is now thought to have been produced as late as the mid-sixteenth century. The initial letters at the beginning of the first two plays imitate those of sixteenth-century English printed books — a decorated letter in a black square, outlined in red — while the plays that follow begin with (increasingly) elaborate strapwork capitals, of a style found in sixteenth-century northern England.2 The edges of the pages were all significantly trimmed at some point,3 presumably when rebinding the volume, but relatively little of the primary text was affected. However, up to 28 of the original leaves are missing, including the two middle leaves from two different quires or gatherings (each originally containing eight leaves), and four middle leaves from another, all of which were likely lost accidentally. As discussed below, two other lacunae are more interesting, and more controversial: one entire gathering is apparently lost from the beginning of the manuscript, and parts of two other gatherings are missing near the end; these leaves are often assumed to have been deliberately removed due to censorship. Another leaf has been left blank. The plays are usually said to number 32, although this includes a fragmentary poetic monologue by Judas, added by someone other than the main scribe sometime after the completion of the manuscript and included here only as an appendix. Several plays are also misplaced in terms of chronology, and are reordered here, while some plays have been recombined, changing the traditional numbering as well as the order, as outlined in a table at the end of this Introduction.

The Towneley plays have been previously edited in full three times, not including the 1961 translation of the entire collection by Martial Rose, under the title The Wakefield Mystery Plays. The first of the two editions produced for the Early English Text Society, published in 1897, was edited by George England with an Introduction and side-notes by Alfred W. Pollard, but was based less on the manuscript itself than on the Surtees Society edition of 1836, entitled The Towneley Mysteries and edited by James Raine (with a Preface by Joseph Hunter and Glossary by James Gordon, sometimes credited as editors). The second, now standard scholarly edition was produced by Martin Stevens and A. C. Cawley, and published in two volumes by the Early English Text Society in 1994. Cawley himself had already edited what he called The Wakefield Pageants in the Towneley Cycle for the University of Manchester’s Old and Middle English Texts series in 1958. These and other plays have also been published individually. The second of Towneley’s two Shepherds plays, with its unbiblical subplot involving the sheep-stealing Mak, now the most anthologized and studied of all pre-Shakespearean drama, was first edited separately and privately printed by John Payne Collier in 1835 as “The Adoration of the Shepherds: A Miracle Play,” and assembled as one of Five Miracle Plays, or Scriptural Dramas in 1836, the same year as the Surtees Society volume. But already in 1818 the Roxburghe Club had printed several excerpts from the plays of Noah and Herod the Great as a “Postscript” to an edition by James Heywood Markland of Chester Mysteries: De Deluvio Noe, De Occisione Innocentium. This was the first printed edition of any portion of what Markland called “the Townley [sic] Mysteries,"4 although the manuscript was no longer owned by a member of the Towneley family. The first individual play to be published in its entirety, however, was the Judgment play, likewise published by the Roxburghe Club, edited by Francis Douce, under the title Judicium, A Pageant. Extracted from the Towneley Manuscript of Ancient Mysteries, in 1822.

By that point the manuscript was back in Towneley hands. Following the death of John Towneley, son Peregrine Edward Towneley had put his father’s library up for sale in order to pay for renovations to Towneley Hall. The play manuscript was sold at auction in 1814 to John Louis Goldsmid, whose coat of arms is on the present binding,5 and sold again late the following year to John North, who gave permission for those first excerpts to be published by the Roxburghe Club. The manuscript returned to Towneley Hall only in 1819, after North’s death, when it was repurchased by Peregrine Edward Towneley. It would be sold again only in 1883, to Bernard Quaritch, who was the owner when the 1897 EETS edition was published, but who sold it in 1900 to Edward F. Coates; Coates died in 1921, after which the manuscript was purchased by the influential American rare book dealer A. S. W. Rosenbach on behalf of Henry E. Huntington and brought to its current home in California. Yet while this later history is easily documented, the manuscript’s earlier history is obscure.

The first printed description of the manuscript was prepared by Francis Douce for the June 1814 auction catalogue for R. H. Evans entitled Bibliotheca Towneleiana. A Catalogue of the Curious and Extensive Library of the late John Towneley, Esq. (item 894). Douce described it then as “A volume, very fairly written on vellum, in the reign of Henry VI. or Edw. IV.; and, as it is supposed, formerly belonging to the Abbey of Widkirk, near Wakefield, in the county of York.”6 However, in his introduction to the 1822 Roxburghe Club edition of the Judgment, which he prepared on behalf of member and ‘presenter’ Peregrine Edward Towneley,7 Douce gave the manuscript both a later date and a notably different provenance:

The following Pageant has been extracted from a Manuscript Volume supposed to have belonged to the Abbey of Whalley, and which, on the dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry the 8th, found shelter in the family library at Towneley Hall in the county of Lancaster.

This Manuscript has been very fairly written on velum in the reign of Henry the 7th, or in the early part of that of Henry the 8th. From the words “In Dei nomine Amen. Assit principio Sancta Maria meo, Wakefeldus,” we are probably made acquainted with the name of the author, who must have been a member of the above Abbey; for there can be no doubt that the composition of all these dramatic pieces, or Mysteries as they were termed, is to be ascribed to the clergy of their times.8

Some splendid ecclesiastical vestments from Whalley did indeed find shelter at Towneley Hall (and are now on permanent display there), along with a number of documents relating to the abbey. However, as already noted, this manuscript is now thought to have been produced later still, likely during the reign of the Catholic Queen Mary in the 1550s. It is not known when or how the Towneley family might actually have acquired the volume.

The first description of the manuscript, in any case, found greater acceptance than the second. In his Preface for the Surtees Society edition, Joseph Hunter admitted that there was no “Abbey of Widkirk, near Wakefield” yet argued that the attribution “has upon it remarkably the characteristics of a genuine tradition.”9 For “Widkirk” he substituted Woodkirk, which had no abbey but was indeed near Wakefield and had been home to some Augustinian friars. Two years later, in 1838, William Marriott included five plays (Pharaoh, second Shepherds, Crucifixion, Harrowing, and Judgment) in A Collection of English Miracle-Plays or Mysteries: Containing Ten Dramas from the Chester, Coventry, and Towneley Series; he quotes the Surtees Preface at length in his introduction, but refers nonetheless to “the Towneley or Widkirk” series.10 The 1897 EETS edition, too, quotes extensively from the Surtees Preface.11 Unfortunately, Douce apparently never explained or elaborated upon his implicit retraction; he died two years before the Surtees edition was published. By the time Henry Huntington acquired the volume in 1922, even Woodkirk had been effectively abandoned for Wakefield itself both as home to the plays and as source of the manuscript.

The Wakefield Connection

As Douce’s second description notes, and as shown in Figure 1 (p. 20), the first of the Towneley plays begins not with a title but with a colophon in the form of an invocation: In dei nomine, Amen. Assit principio sancta Maria meo. Wakefeld (“In the name of God, Amen. May holy Mary be present at my beginning. Wakefield”). The particular colophon itself is highly common, a fairly standard opening for a late medieval manuscript, but the name is not. That same name also follows the title of the Noah play — the third play in the manuscript, and the first of several plays written in a particular 13-line stanza (written in the manuscript as a 9-line stanza with internal rhymes) associated with the putative 'Wakefield Master.' Between these two plays is the Cain and Abel play, sometimes ascribed to the same author due to its lively dialogue and characterization, despite differences in both form and vocabulary from the plays written in the 13-line stanza; yet this play contains an allusion to Goodybower, the medieval quarry at Wakefield. Most other commonly-cited allusions to places near Wakefield, however, have proven dubious: an often-cited reference to “ayll of Hely” in the first Shepherds play (8.352), for example, acknowledges the fame of ale from Ely, as attested elsewhere in the period, not from the village of Healey near Wakefield (or indeed any of the other places by that name).12 And while Stevens and Cawley describe Watling Street (see 27.186) as “the Roman road which crossed the parish of Wakefield,”13 the ancient road best known by that name — there being several, usually with alternate names — ran from Wroxeter past London to Dover. Moreover, “Wakefeld” itself could name the scribe rather than the place, although not “the author” as Douce suggested, authorship being clearly multiple, especially given the inclusion of plays originally from York. A line initially written below the title of the Noah play, and thus immediately after the second mention of the name, might well have carried an important clue or explanation; however, that line was long ago erased and crossed-out, and is now illegible.

It is worth noting that even some of the earliest critics of the play suspected that at least some of the plays originated outside of Yorkshire. Samuel Astley Dunham, describing the plays in an entry for The Cabinet Cyclopædia in 1836, states:

some of the words, and two or three of the allusions, in the Towneley dramas, are said to be local, and to be perfectly intelligible, if not peculiar, to the inhabitants of the district surrounding Wakefield. All this evidence is certainly entitled to some weight; but we would not confidently affirm that all the dramas were exhibited in the same place, still less that all were written or transcribed by the same hand. We meet with several words, and with several allusions, that we believe peculiar to Lancashire.
He then abruptly concludes, “On this subject, however, we will not dwell. It is one on which the curious reader may satisfy himself, the whole of this series having recently been published by the Surtees Society.”14 A thorough lexical study still remains to be done.

Regardless, the idea that Wakefield was home to the Towneley plays was widely accepted throughout most of the twentieth century, thanks largely to the work of two Wakefield residents: Matthew H. Peacock, Headmaster at the Wakefield Grammar School, and historian J. W. Walker, both of whom published sixteenth-century records pertaining to dramatic production, ostensibly from Wakefield’s Burgess Court Rolls. In 1988, half a century after the publication of the definitive two-volume second edition of Walker’s Wakefield: Its History and People (1939), all but three of those records were discovered to be Walker’s invention, or borrowings from elsewhere, while others were mis-transcribed and misdated.15 However, Wakefield did indeed have a play of some sort in the mid-sixteenth century, around the time that the manuscript was likely compiled. The first of the three genuine records is from 1556, during the reign of Queen Mary:

Item a payne is sett that everye crafte and occupacion doo bringe furthe theire pagyauntes of Corpus Christi daye, as hathe bene heretofore used, and to gyve furthe the speches of the same, in Easter holydayes, in payne of everye one not so doynge to forfett xl s.16
What is being ordered, under threat of the very substantial fine of forty shillings, is apparently the revival of a series of craft-produced pageants, with a shift in production date from the feast of Corpus Christi to Easter, some two months earlier. Yet it remains unclear what exactly might have been performed, or even whether the "speeches" constitute dramatic dialogue. Moreover, Barbara Palmer has demonstrated that, while other towns in the area such as Pontefract and Doncaster (not to mention others further afield) clearly could and did produce biblical drama, Wakefield itself “did not acquire a civic structure, organized craft guilds, or cultural environment which would suggest that Wakefield was the progenitive or even ultimate site for a Corpus Christi cycle performance.”17 The Towneley manuscript does contain some apparent guild ascriptions, but these are later additions and in no way authoritative. Indeed, marginal ascriptions to a Litsters (or Dyers’ guild) are associated both with the play of Moses and Pharaoh, borrowed from York (where it was produced by the Hosiers’ guild) and with the non-dramatic Judas fragment written in a later hand at the end of the manuscript; the very existence of the second ascription calls the others into question.

The other two genuine records from the Burgess Court Rolls are both from 1559, the year in which the English Parliament under Queen Elizabeth reversed Queen Mary’s re-establishment of Catholicism: “Item a payn ys layd that Gyles Dolleffe shall brenge in or causse to be broght the regenall of Corpus Christy play before this & Wytsonday,” and “Item a payn ys layde that the mesteres of the Corpus Christi playe shall come & mayke thayre acountes before the gentyllmen & burgessus of the town before thys & May day next, In payn of euere on not so doynge — xx s.”18 The reference to multiple "masters" and accounts clearly suggests the existence of multiple pageants, but the first of these records refers to a single regenall — that is, the “original” text or exemplar, possibly of a single play, as opposed to a transcription or copy of works of varied origin such as the Towneley manuscript.19 Moreover, given the date of these records, it is likely that this regenall was being collected for theological inspection, not for copying into a new manuscript collection. It is thus unlikely that either this record or this regenall has anything to do with the extant Towneley manuscript. It is worth noting that York’s craft guilds not only produced their own pageants for the Corpus Christi cycle but were also involved, under the auspices of the Corpus Christi guild to which many individual craftsmen would have belonged, in the production of the much shorter multi-pageant Creed Play, the text of which unfortunately does not survive.20 Wakefield’s assorted craftsmen could well have been involved in something similar; they could even have produced or co-produced a series of biblical pageants, some of which did indeed get copied at some point into the Towneley manuscript. Contrary to the supposition most closely associated with V. A. Kolve’s landmark study, The Play Called Corpus Christi, full-scale Creation to Judgment cycles were by no means the norm for biblical drama in medieval England.21

Despite the demanded collection of the regenall, Wakefield’s play apparently did continue to be performed in Wakefield until at least 1576, the same year that Richard Burbage built The Theatre in Shoreditch. A document dated 27 May of that year records an intervention by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners of York:

This daie upon intelligence geven to the saide Commissioners that it is meant and purposed that in the towne of Wakefeld shalbe plaied this yere in Whitsonweke next or thereabouts a plaie commonlie called Corpus Christi plaie which hath been heretofore [u]sed there, wherein they ar done t’undrestand that there be many thinges used which tende to the derogation of the maiestie and glorie of god, the prophanation of the sacramentes, and the maunteynaunce of superstition and idolatrie. The said Commissioners decred a lettre to be written and sent to the Balyffe Burgesses and other the inhabitantes of the said towne of Wakefeld that in the said playe no pageant be used or set furthe wherin the maiestye of god the father, god the sonne, or god the holie ghoste, or the administration of either the sacramentes of baptisme or of the lordes supper be counterfeyted or represented, or anything plaied which tende to the maintenaunce of superstition and idolatrie or which be contrarie to the laws of god or of the Realme.22
The Towneley text includes a partial representation “of the lordes supper,” but not the institution of the Eucharist, and not due to any obvious censorship such as the removal of pages, as in the case of the York manuscript. The Towneley Conspiracy play is an interesting but awkward amalgamation of at least two earlier plays, one of which likely contained representation of the sacrament itself;23 however, the extant play is clearly not part of the “Corpus Christi plaie” the Commissioners objected to and evidently hoped to suppress.

In two other plays, however, stanzas that mention sacraments have been obviously cancelled, in red ink: one in the Resurrection play referring to the doctrine of transubstantiation (23.345–50), and another in the play of John the Baptist referring to the number of sacraments (15.193–200).24 In the margin beside the latter cancellation someone has also written “corected & not playd.” However, the objectionable portion of the cancelled stanza amounts to one easily alterable (and indeed, apparently altered) word in one line; the representation of the baptism itself in the previous stanza is unaltered and unmarked. The marginal comment may represent a later reader’s attempt to explain a curious cancellation, itself possibly by an earlier reader, rather than having anything to do with an actual performance, or even doctrinal objection. The hand that wrote the marginal note may have been responsible for yet another puzzling annotation: “no Maters ben as sade” (“no matters are as said”) is written in the margin of the Purification play beside lines in which Simeon asks God to let him see the savior before death; nothing said there is objectionable from the point of view of virtually any Christian doctrine (see the Textual Note for 13.59–72). Anti-papist sentiment is very likely behind the attempt to erase part of a line in Herod the Great where the villainous king vows to make someone “a pope” (12.381). However, some annotation suggests a more positive readerly response: the Angel’s assertion in the pageant of Joseph’s Trouble that Mary “hase consavyd the Holy Gast” (7.e.179) has been underlined, and beside it, cut off at the trimmed margin, someone has written “note this very [well?]”; as Theresa Coletti and Gail McMurray Gibson have pointed out, such a note “is much more likely to inscribe devotional comment than objection.”25

Missing and Misplaced Parts

Some of the various lacunae or missing portions of the Towneley manuscript are generally understood to be the effects of censorship, but again the evidence is ambiguous. As mentioned earlier, as many as 28 leaves have been lost, most of which are conjoined pairs that were likely lost by accident; see the table at the end of this Introduction for a play-by-play listing. The leaves missing from the beginning of the manuscript are often asserted to have contained the banns — a public announcement made sometime prior to the actual production of a play. Martin Stevens has stated that:

These banns, from all indications, were extensive. The average length of full gatherings in the Towneley MS is between 800 and 900 lines. Thus, if the first quire was made up of the same number of leaves as the remaining ones, and if the leaves were filled with writing, the missing Towneley banns must have been considerably longer than the N-Town 528-line banns of the plays, the longest set of banns surviving from the English mystery cycles.26
However, as Murray McGillivray has pointed out, we know neither the number nor the contents of the missing leaves. Having explained that “This now-missing gathering might certainly have been of a different extent than other gatherings in the manuscript, tailored to whatever introductory materials — perhaps, so late after the introduction of printing, a title page and dedication, a table of contents, and so on,” McGillivray notes the possibility “that this front matter was never prepared, although planned for at the time of signing the extant quires.”27 The opening invocation itself — Assit principio sancta Maria meo (“May holy Mary be present at my beginning”) — suggests that the extant, heavily worn first page was always the first page, the beginning of this work.

The other major lacuna is more problematic: fully twelve leaves are evidently missing from near the end of the manuscript, following the first leaf of the S-gathering; the final U/V gathering begins four leaves later. The missing leaves certainly contained the ending of the Ascension play and the beginning of the Judgment, likely totaling no more than two full pages of material, in theory leaving sufficient room for at least two but as many as four more plays. The most common conclusion is that the missing pages contained Marian plays (dramatizing Mary’s death and heavenly assumption, as in the York cycle) removed on doctrinal grounds; however, the awkward placement of the Lazarus play, following the Judgment (and thus the end of the world), should serve as a caution against over-trusting chronological arrangement. Nor, at least without unbinding the manuscript, can we even be certain that a gathering of fully eight pages was ever actually removed: the gathering could have been intentionally shorter, or planned to accommodate material that proved unavailable and so abandoned entirely (if indeed the signatures are not simply erroneous). The sole surviving signature for the missing gathering (S1) is unusually inscribed in red rather than in black ink, perhaps to indicate an issue with the signature itself. It is possible that only four or fewer leaves are actually missing, and due to accidental loss rather than deliberate removal.

One other signature is similarly written in red: the L gathering is complete, and contains all but the first page of the play of John the Baptist and the last page of the Conspiracy play, which begins on the last of the four marked signatures, L4, on folio 67r of the manuscript. The Lazarus play belongs between these two plays, chronologically, raising the possibility that the red signature S was intended to note its proper placement, although no other extant markings indicate this, unlike the “tokens” that indicate two accidentally reversed pages in the Abel play (see the Textual Note to 2.274). The gathering that follows was clearly altered during the compilation process: as Louis Wann long ago pointed out, a large decorated initial D on the recto of folio 80, blocked off and unconnected to anything else written on the same page, was apparently intended for the opening of the Buffeting play, but written on the wrong side of the leaf, leaving no room for the completion of the Conspiracy play; the fold between the conjoined outer leaves of the gathering was reversed, so that folio 73 became folio 80.28 The decorated initial remains, but the text is otherwise unaffected.

One play was evidently left incomplete by the main scribe. The play of the Prophets ends abruptly before the bottom of a page, followed by an entire leaf that has been left blank. The opening of the Pharaoh play, which should have preceded the Prophets, has been written and erased from the verso side of the leaf, while the other side was left empty although neatly ruled (another hand has copied the first line of the previous page on the first line). The Annunciation pageant gives a clue as to at least part of what might be missing, as indicated in the Explanatory Notes, but the blank leaf could accommodate an entire short play. The scribe evidently intended to copy a significant amount of text onto that leaf at a later date, but never did so. The intended text might well have been another portion of what originally constituted a separate series of pageants, here reconstructed as the Advent sequence, and accordingly renumbered along with the Pharaoh play that now precedes it. The Prophets pageant opens the sequence, followed immediately by Caesar Augustus and the Annunciation. However, the episode of Joseph’s Troubles, which has been copied continuously with the Annunciation, out of chronological sequence, has been extracted and placed after the Salutation where it belongs.29

Unlike the continuously written Towneley manuscript with its single blank leaf, the York manuscript — the city’s official register for the Corpus Christi cycle — contains numerous blank leaves, indicating a significant difference in the compilation process. Individual York pageants were copied only if and when the producing guilds made them available, but arranged in the manuscript in the order of chronology and performance; some pageants, such as the Vintners’ Marriage at Cana, were never registered although space was left for them. Obviously no space was left for Towneley’s Lazarus play; the play is thus awkwardly placed at the end of the manuscript. The York pageants were also registered under the names of the producing guilds, whereas the Towneley plays are given titles, although these do not always accurately reflect the content, and were likely invented for and at the time of the compilation. The Pharaoh play was likely given that title simply because Pharaoh is the first-named speaker, not because he is more important than Moses; the play of Noah is far more concerned with the relations between Noah and his wife than with his sons, who are nonetheless mentioned in the original title. Titles also vary between incipit and explicit for some plays: the Conspiracy (Conspiracio) is called the Capture of Jesus (Capcio Iesu) in the explicit, while the Crucifixion play (crucifixio Cristi) begins as the “pageant of the Cross” (processus crucis). And of course the famous “Second Shepherds Play,” which like the first of the two is referred to in the explicit as a Shepherds play (pagina pastorum), is initially referred to simply as “another of the same” (alia eorundem; see Figure 2, p. 131). Thomas of India was initially entitled the Resurrection of the Lord (Resurreccio domini), the same as a previous play; however, that title has been crossed out and “Thomas Indie” written in small letters below,30 to accord with the play’s explicit, evidently written only after the scribe realized the duplication.

This and other evidence strongly suggests that, while written continuously, the Towneley manuscript is not a copy of a single prior exemplar — one regenall — but of many. As Coletti and Gibson have suggested, the manuscript may have been compiled as “a response to the short-lived return to official Catholicism under Mary Tudor.”31 They go on to explain that:

Until very recently, recusant secrecy, as well as the prejudices of nineteenth- and twentieth-century historians, have obscured the evidence that not only the Towneley Plays but also a number of other late-medieval religious drama manuscripts were collected, compiled, read, and so performed in recusant halls and libraries and chapels.32
The manuscript’s format itself, in combination with the relatively late date, does indeed suggest that it may have been compiled for devotional reading, rather than for any sort of staged performance, or even as a record of plays associated with any particular place or performance history as was the case for the surviving manuscripts of the Chester plays, written after the suppression of that civic cycle.

Editing Towneley

With the exception of the Martial Rose translation, in which the Prophets and Lazarus plays and the Judas fragment have been restored to their chronological positions, previous editions have retained the manuscript order of the plays, and numbered them accordingly. This edition takes a more radical approach, with an eye toward both convenience of classroom study and background for theatrical production, as well as toward scholarly argument. While the manuscript constitutes a collection of disparate plays from varied sources, it also bears evidence of an attempt to shape the collection into a coherent whole; the current edition effectively continues that editorial process, while attempting to clarify some of the existing disparities. The Advent sequence has been reconstructed, as noted, and the apparently separate plays of Isaac and Jacob have been joined into one, while the non-dramatic Judas fragment has been eliminated from the sequence, although included as an appendix. The plays can thus be read as a relatively coherent and chronological whole, resembling the biblical cycles of medieval York and Chester, much as the compiler seems to have intended, for whatever reason. However, the inclusion of two Shepherds plays in a row, here as in the manuscript, along with other less evident discontinuities, should serve as a reminder that this is indeed a compilation — an anthology.

This edition is also informed by performance practice and experience, although not always explicitly. No stage directions have been added and, while a number of staging difficulties are discussed in the notes, others have guided the annotation in less obvious ways to help clarify terms and context and thereby the performance possibilities. As in the bulk of early English drama, including the works of Shakespeare, the dialogue itself frequently guides the onstage action — what I have elsewhere referred to as gestic writing.33 However, the need for a particular action or choice of actions often becomes evident only when and if one attempts to perform the work, or portions thereof, as I have regularly encouraged students to do.

I am conscious of many interesting staging issues in this text, having served as Artistic Director for a 1985 production of the plays under the auspices of the Poculi Ludique Societas (PLS) in Toronto.34 By then I had already heard Barbara Palmer voice her suspicions that these were not the Wakefield plays,35 but it was the production of the plays themselves that convinced me that they were never intended to be performed as a coherent processional cycle. Martial Rose had argued for place-and-scaffold staging with a single cast, stating that “the Passion sequence . . . sweeps on in continuous action from play to play and from stage to stage.”36 His evidence for such staging centered almost entirely on the Conspiracy play, in which the action flows between a variety of locations, including Pilate’s hall, a room for the Last Supper, and Mount Olivet, where Jesus must speak with a character problematically designated as “Trinitas” (that is, the Trinity, of which he himself is a part), who should presumably be seated in a separate but adjacent “Heaven” scaffold.37 Still, while a majority of the plays, even aside from those borrowed from York, could easily be performed on a single wagon stage, one must take any exceptions into account in order to envisage or stage them as a cycle. Besides, even a wagon play from York such as Pharaoh, with its scene of drowning in the Red Sea, could doubtless benefit from the opportunity to spread out the action.38 Thus the 1985 Toronto production was indeed staged on multiple scaffolds, which surrounded the audience. As for previous PLS productions of the York and Chester cycles, groups from across North America were invited to produce individual plays, but using the pre-set scaffolds rather than individual wagon stages. This required very careful and precise organization. The stage design (by Ralph Blasting) worked well, and created an illusion of unity and iconographic resonance even where there was none in the individual texts. Lazarus and Jesus were raised from the same tomb, and all the various tyrants ranted from the same “Palace” scaffold; Jesus was crucified in exactly the same place where the tree of knowledge had earlier stood, and where Isaac was to have been sacrificed. Yet the changes of cast and location served to disguise the disappearance of Malchus, for example, who at the end of the Conspiracy leads Jesus to see “Syr Cayphas” but is not part of the Buffeting that follows (see note to 17.778–79). The staging also helped minimize the effect of certain redundancies, such as the double gambling for the robe of Jesus, briefly below the cross in the Crucifixion play, and at greater length but on another scaffold in the play of the Dice. No one seemed to notice the absence, either, of Herod in the Passion sequence, despite some pointed references especially in the Scourging play, where one of the torturers claims to be bringing Jesus “From Syr Herode” (19.54) and Pilate refers to Herod’s having found Jesus guiltless (19.120–23). Even the lack of a Nativity seemed relatively untroubling to observers. Still, the second of the two Shepherds plays was taken out of sequence and offered as a stand-alone indoor production.

Such a mode of performance contradicts the 1556 Wakefield reference to bringing forth “pagyauntes of Corpus Christi daye,” not to mention other records that J. W. Walker claimed for Wakefield, which in 1985 had not yet been proven false. Yet even Walker and Peacock had ultimately argued for stationary ‘place and scaffold’ rather than processional staging, if only because some of the plays themselves, like the sprawling Conspiracy, clearly demanded it.39 Seeing these plays as a cycle — as a Wakefield cycle in particular — almost necessarily prevents seeing their different staging requirements, their different rhetorical and iconographic modes and resonances; one instead expects, and seeks out, unity and internal resonance. Problematic lines and obscure stage actions are interpreted primarily in relation to lines and action in other plays within the same collection, even where these may not be relevant. I long ago referred to such problems as “The Hazards of Cycling.” Any edition by a single editor of these same plays as a group risks similar hazards, simply through imposition of a singular editorial view or bias on the collection as a whole. Yet it remains a singular collection, a unique manuscript written largely by a single scribe; commonalities between plays should clearly be sought out and studied, but not presumed. Cross-references between the plays have thus been kept to a minimum in the Explanatory Notes, as have references to the very large body of critical commentary on the plays, precisely because the bulk of this work is built at least in part on the presumption of unity — the presumption, indeed, that these plays constitute a Wakefield cycle. I have tried in the notes to signal various issues and explain potential obscurities without unduly limiting either critical or theatrical options. For example, while the boy in the first Shepherds play is likely a ghost character whose lines should be reassigned to Shepherd 3, his speech headings have been left intact (see 8.257 and note), as in previous editions. Both Cain’s plow-team (see note to 2.25) and the feast in the first Shepherds play (see notes to 8.300, 341–42, and 396–97) are likely imaginary, yet the evidence in both cases is sufficiently ambiguous to have encouraged significant scholarly debate; such ambiguities must be acknowledged. What happens in performance clearly matters, and creates meaning — meaning that is not always clearly evident from the extant text itself. My hope is simply that each play can and will be read, understood, studied, and even staged on its own terms, in so far as these terms might be recoverable.

The Wakefield Master, a.k.a. Bob

While numerous references to the 'Wakefield plays' can be found in print and continue to proliferate on the internet, the majority of scholarly criticism has always referred to these collectively as the Towneley plays. The chief exception is in regard to the plays that A. C. Cawley published in 1958 as The Wakefield Pageants in the Towneley Cycle: the Killing of Abel and the five plays written entirely in a particular ‘bob and wheel’ stanza form, namely, Noah, the two Shepherds plays, Herod the Great, and the Buffeting — all attributed to a single anonymous poet, sometimes argued to be the compiler or primary author of the 'cycle.'40In a 2009 essay entitled “Myths of the Wakefield Master,” Joseph A. Dane has examined what he calls an “extreme example of authorial fiction; evidence from the Towneley manuscript is allegorized into a figure who in a happy coincidence embodies many of the virtues defined by early twentieth-century literary history and criticism — the Wakefield Master.”41 The critical ubiquity of the name alone bolsters the assumption that these are indeed Wakefield plays, and promotes the perception of unity, particularly given that over a dozen additional plays include at least one supposed 'Wakefield Master' stanza. Yet the 'Master' might well be several different poets, none of whom is from Wakefield.

They might also have written at different times. When Mendal G. Frampton published his influential 1935 article on “The Date of the Flourishing of the ‘Wakefield Master,’” he, like others, believed that he was dealing with a coherent cycle; his conclusion, “that the Wakefield Master did his work upon our cycle entirely within the reign of Henry VI — more specifically, within the second quarter of the fifteenth century,”42 relied heavily on costume references within the extensive dialogue (specifically, in lines 27.373–96 and 447–68) added to the now-incomplete Judgment play borrowed from York. However, Frampton does not comment on the possible significance of a record that he mentions regarding a 1454 agreement between the York Mercers and three men — two guildsmen from York and the parish clerk from Leeds — concerning production of the guild’s Judgment pageant.43 The date is tantalizingly consistent with Frampton’s costume evidence. The 1454 record may well indicate a more precise date for the Towneley Judgment play as it stands; however, it does not suggest a Wakefield connection of any kind. Moreover, the dating makes this play, and possibly others, a full century older than the manuscript itself, belying the assertion that the author of those 13-line stanzas “was a major redactor of the full cycle, if not the compiler himself.”44

In teaching these plays, I long ago took to referring not to a 'Wakefield Master' but to 'Bob,' the ‘bob and wheel’ stanza form. After all, much the same form is used in the York pageant of the death of Jesus (York 36), among other places; it is not unique.45 Indeed, this is one reason for the choice here to present it as a 13-line stanza, as is done in the Stevens and Cawley EETS edition; in the manuscript and in most modern editions, including Cawley’s 1958 edition, it is normally written as a 9-line stanza with interior rhymes in the first four lines.46 And while the five plays written entirely in that stanza form do share other characteristics as well, including vocabulary (in contrast to the Abel play, with which they share little, linguistically or poetically),47 the differences have been ignored. This includes apparent linguistic differences: for example, where Herod the Great resembles the York plays in its use of a form such as ilkon (“each one”), the Noah play uses more the typically Lancastrian or Midland ichon.48 On the other hand, Cain’s boy, in the only play with a clear Wakefield allusion, to the medieval Goodybower quarry, refers in his opening speech to “Harlottys everichon” (2.22), not “everilkon” (used at 10.79); individual plays may well have been written in a dialect at odds with that of the scribe, and consciously or unconsciously altered. Certainly there are notable, obvious connections between some of these plays. For example, one of the 13-line stanzas added to the Judgment play, otherwise based on the York Mercers’ pageant as noted, effectively quotes the Buffeting, written entirely in that stanza form (see the notes to 18.202, 27.812, and 27.814); another stanza in the Judgment uses some relatively distinctive terms that also appear in the Conspiracy and the Scourging, again all in 13-line ‘bob and wheel’ stanzas (see the notes to 17.36–39, 19.23–26, and 27.270–71). While such instances could represent deliberate quotation of one author by another, using the same stanza form, one would still need in each case to account for the availability of one play to the author of another; in some cases, at least, a single author seems more plausible. In short, some whole plays and stanzas in the Towneley collection written in the 'Bob' stanza might well be written by one playwright-poet, but this should not be assumed.

This Text

This edition is based on the manuscript itself, but is obviously deeply indebted to its predecessors, as well as to a wide body of critical work on these plays. As should be clear, it also represents something of a departure, in its rearrangement of plays and critical assumptions regarding the unity of the collection. However, the aim has been to make these plays accessible to a non-specialist student audience, while remaining useful to scholars in the field of early English drama. Punctuation has been added, and abbreviations have been expanded, including roman numerals, which have been spelled out in Middle English (normally following the England and Pollard EETS edition). The text has also been lightly modernized in accordance with METS convention. Orthography has been altered where necessary (the medieval letter thorn [þ] becoming th), and some spellings modernized (the or thee as appropriate for þe; us for vs and love for loue) or otherwise altered for clarity (thé for the meaning “thrive”; magesté for mageste, and so forth). In addition, speakers’ names have been translated and regularized into modern English: thus Mak’s wife — uxor eius or simply uxor in the manuscript, but referred to in dialogue as Gill — like Noah’s wife is given the speech heading “Wife” (a designation that can elicit useful discussion in the classroom). A list of dramatis personae has been added at the beginning of each play, primarily for the convenience of anyone thinking about performance. The play titles have mostly been translated from the original Latin incipit (or explicit, which as noted is sometimes different), but sometimes altered to accord with convention, as in the case of the Harrowing of Hell: the term “harrowing” has no real equivalent in Latin, but is the common English term for what the explicit refers to as “The Deliverance of Souls from Hell.” As explained in the headnote to the play of the Dice, that play’s original title — both in the incipit and explicit — represents an apparent misreading of the Latin, corrected here as in the Stevens and Cawley edition. Also, the two Shepherds plays are here entitled simply Shepherds I and II (I have too often seen the latter title rendered as the “Second Shepherd’s Play”). Unless otherwise indicated, quotations from the Bible in the notes are all from the Douay-Rheims translation of the Latin Vulgate.

Capitalization is perhaps more problematic. Capitalized, a declaration such as “Mary,” used more than once in the second Shepherds play prior to the meeting of the shepherds and the Virgin Mary, usefully demonstrates both the word’s origin as an oath "by Mary" and the use of anachronism in the plays; however, it also separates that word from the relatively familiar declarative “marry” of many later texts, including the plays of Shakespeare; where it is not the first word in a line or sentence, then, it has been left uncapitalized (as at 9.949, for example). More obviously religious terms pose a slightly different problem. “God” is capitalized when used as a name (unlike the original scribe, who only capitalizes “god” where it is the first word in a line); perhaps problematically, this includes a line in which Caesar Augustus swears “by Mahowne, God all-weldand” (7.b.226) — a line in which the word is arguably merely a descriptor, distinguishing a (false) god from the mere human messenger that Caesar addresses. Another religious title is even more problematic: capitalizing "Lord" when the word refers to Jesus but not when it refers to a secular leader erases or at least obscures a political metaphor of importance both to medieval and to biblical societies: for some readers, “Lord” — capitalized — can mean only one thing, one "God", although for an increasing number of readers this capitalization is merely another source of confusion in an already obscure text. Nor is it always easy to decide in particular cases whether or not the modern religious convention applies: in the Herod play, for example, a woman facing the soldier who is about to kill her child cries out, "Mercy, lord" (12.506–07); she could be addressing the soldier or God. Even clear referents can pose difficulties: when the Doctors (repeatedly) address the young Jesus as “son,” they are evidently referring to Jesus not in his capacity as Son of God, but as a child that they have just met; when Mary in the same play tells Joseph to “fetche youre son and myne” (14.218), on the other hand, she speaks both as the human mother of an apparently wayward son, and as the Mother of God. I have tried to balance such concerns with the METS policy of standard capitalization of terms designating God (including Father, Son, and Holy Ghost).49

The Explanatory Notes concentrate on issues affecting the potential meaning of the text itself. They thus mention some but not all of the marginalia in the manuscript. Various names, for instance, such as Thomas Hargraves (or Hargreaves) of Burnley (whose name shows up twice), William Lyng, and “James blake bowrne,” all as yet untraced, are mentioned only in the Textual Notes. For these and other matters regarding the physical manuscript, one should consult the facsimile edition, if not the lovely manuscript itself. Matters such as rubrication — difficult to examine in the black and white facsimile, but explained in the Introduction to that volume — are similarly mentioned in the notes only if considered relevant to an issue at hand. Folio numbers are indicated here in the left margin, except wherever the speakers’ names limit space; in such cases, folio numbers are indicated in the right margin.

One aspect of rubrication perhaps worth pointing out here, however, pertains to stage directions. These vary greatly in number and type from play to play, but also vary in color. More than half of the plays in the manuscript have stage directions written in black ink, typically written outside the main text and underlined in red; two plays have stage directions written within the text in red ink, while three plays have both. The rest have no stage directions at all. Interestingly, three of the plays borrowed from York (and indeed the three that most resemble their York counterparts) — the plays of Pharaoh, the Doctors, and the Resurrection — all include stage directions in red, as is typical in the York Register, and which was perhaps the case for the Towneley scribe’s exemplars as well; on the other hand, neither the Pharaoh or Doctors pageants in the extant York register include any stage directions. The plays that precede the Pharaoh play in the manuscript, incidentally, employ rubrication differently from those that follow: the initial letter of each speaker’s name and the initial letter of the first word of each new speech is typically touched in red for the first seven plays, but not thereafter; other than the misplaced Lazarus play, the Prophets play is also the last to have its explicit written in black (and the only one to have a miniature “E” written in red inside the “E” of the word “Explicit”).50

Aside from the facsimile volume, Louis Wann’s 1928 article, “A New Examination of the Manuscript of the Towneley Plays” remains highly valuable, despite some errors, to anyone wishing to know more about the manuscript itself, including its scribal practices and varied marginalia. And of course the Stevens and Cawley edition for EETS remains indispensable. While I clearly take issue with the pervasive assumption that the manuscript represents the regenall of a Wakefield cycle, and correct a number of errors both in their commentary and occasionally in the text itself, I happily confess my admiration for their work; they provided much of the foundation upon which this current edition has been built, even where my own work might seem oppositional.

Order in this Edition Title MS Order Folio Numbers MS Title (according to incipit/explicit) Lines Roles Lacunae
1 The Creation 1 1-2v In dei nomine Amen. Assit principio sancta maria meo. Wakefeld. 267 9 4 leaves: ending
2 The Killing of Abel 2 3-7 Mactacio Abel. Secunda pagina 476 4  
3 Noah 3 7v-12v Processus Noe cum filiis. Wakefeld 806 9  
4 Abraham 4 13-15v Abraham 286 6 2 leaves: ending
5.a Isaac 5 16-16v Isaac 70 4 2 leaves
5.b Jacob 6 16v-17v Jacob 142 5  
6 Pharaoh 8 21-25v Pharao 430 7  
7.a The Prophets 7 17v-19v Processus prophetarum 234 4 ending [text + blank leaf 20]
7.b Caesar Augustus 9 25v-28 Cesar Augustus 240 5  
7.c The Annunciation 10 28-29v Annunciacio 154 3  
7.d The Salutation 11 31v-32v Salutacio Elezabeth 90 2  
7.e Joseph's Trouble 10[b] 29v-31v [. . .] 219 3  
8 The Shepherds (1) 12 32v-38 Pagina pastorum 724 6  
9 The Shepherds (2) 13 38-46v Alia eorundem 1088 7  
10 The Offering of the Magi 14 46v-53 Oblacio Magorum 642 9  
11 The Flight Into Egypt 15 53-55 Fugacio Josep et Marie in Egiptum 181 3  
12 Herod the Great 16 55-60 Magnus Herodes 741 10  
13 The Purification of Mary 17 60v-61v Purificacio Marie 141 5 2 leaves: ending
14 The Doctors 18 62-64v Pagina doctorum 280 6 beginning
15 John the Baptist 19 64v-67 Johannes Baptista 288 4  
16 Lazarus 31 129-131 Lazarus 237 7  
17 The Conspiracy 20 67-73 Conspiracio &c. / capcio Jesu 779 17  
18 The Buffeting 21 73v-78v Coliphizacio 650 6  
19 The Scourging 22 78v-84 Flagellacio 572 12  
20 The Crucifixion 23 84-91v Processus crucis / crucifixio Cristi 724 11  
21 The Dice 24 92-97 Processus talentorum 438 5  
22 The Harrowing of Hell 25 97v-101 Extraccio animarum &c. / extraccio animarum ab inferno 416 11  
23 The Resurrection 26 101-107v Resurreccio domini 659 14  
24 The Pilgrims 27 107v-111v Peregrini 386 3  
25 Thomas of India 28 111v-117 Thomas Indie [Resurreccio domini] 648 13  
26 The Ascension 29 117-121v Ascencio domini etc. 451 13 4-12 leaves: ending
27 Judgment 30 122-128v Judicium 830 13 beginning
Appendix The Hanging of Judas 32 131v-132 Suspencio Jude 96 1 ending
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Total:  14385   237

Go To The Towneley Plays, 1. The Creation