25. Thomas of India
Play 25, THOMAS OF INDIA: FOOTNOTES
1 Then Jesus comes and sings “Peace be with you” and he shall not stay (see note)
2 This is the day that the Lord has made (see note)
3 Jesus comes again and sings “Peace be with you” and he shall not stay
4 The table is prepared and the sixth apostle should offer honeycomb and fish, saying
5 Here he breathes on them
6 Here he shall depart from them
7 Lines 279–80: Yet I wish neither friend nor foe / knew how sorrowful I was
8 Here he goes to the [other] disciples
9 So did they steal your clothes from you
10 No one [else] could bring you to that understanding
11 Here ends Thomas of India
Play 25, THOMAS OF INDIA: 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).
This play is problematic in several respects, from its awkward and anachronistic inclusion of the apostle Paul — a figure that enters the biblical narrative only later, initially as the Christian-persecuting Saul, and here a notably misogynistic presence (see note to line 97 below) — to its famously altered title, featured as the frontispiece to the manuscript facsimile. The original title of Resurreccio domini — the same as that of play 23 — has been crudely crossed out, and Thomas Indie, the title given in the explicit, written below. It is possible that the original title was taken from the exemplar itself, and altered simply to differentiate this play from the earlier Resurrection play. The latter, original title is arguably better suited to the extant play; only the second part focuses on Thomas and his doubts concerning the resurrection of Jesus, and does not allude to the apostle’s legendary evangelization of India. That second part (lines 65–648, all in 8-line stanzas) forms a relatively coherent play in itself (likely intended as a stand-alone play — see note to line 272 below), largely based on Luke 24:36–49 and John 20:19–29, to which has been added a prologue (in 6-line stanzas rhymed aabccb) involving Mary Magdalene, Peter, and Paul, which focuses on news of the resurrection in relation to the supposed unreliability of women’s witness (for further discussion, see Epp, “Doubting Thomas”).
2 I bryng to amende. That is, I bring news, or a message, to cheer you up; see MED bringen (v.), sense 4b. Much like another Mary, the mother of Jesus, whose immediate response to the startling, miraculous news brought to her by the angel Gabriel was, in the Towneley version of the Annunciation, “I trow bodword that thou me bryng” (7.c.146), Mary Magdalene effectively serves here as the willing vessel for God’s word, which is disbelieved even by men of faith.
24 Tryst it stedfast and cowth. That is, trust what I tell you as being a stable, known truth.
30 Ther is no trust in womans saw. The misogynist views attributed here to Paul are commonplace in medieval antifeminist writing, which frequently cites Paul’s canonical letters (such as 1 Timothy 2) as an authority. This particular line echoes one by Adam in York 6.149–50.
38 Till an appyll she is lyke. The comparison of woman to a fair but rotten apple is proverbial, and provides an implicit link to Eve.
56–58 I dar lay . . . . That we shall here anothere. That is, I dare pledge my life that, before we go to bed, we shall hear another preposterous story from Mary Magdalene.
60 Or this thrid day be away. As SC note, the attempted emendation in the MS to this apparently defective line (Or this [be the] thrid day) makes little sense in context, this being the third day already (SC p. 617n60); this edition follows their own suggested emendation, making the line refer to the approaching end of the third day.
65 Waloway my lefe deres. That is, alas, my beloved friends. Peter’s line is likely the beginning of the original play, written in 8-line stanzas. He addresses all the gathered disciples of Jesus, rather than just Paul and Mary Magdalene, who apparently vanishes from the text at this point. Mary Magdalene is mentioned in this stanza (line 69) and again at line 412 as a credible witness to the resurrection (in sharp contrast to the added prologue), but only in the third person; she does not speak.
77–78 When I my lord Jesu forsoke / For drede of womans myght. As he more fully narrates in lines 83–88, the first of Peter’s predicted three denials (see John 13:38) occurs when he is asked by a female servant whether he is one of the disciples (John 18:15–18), as he goes to warm himself by a fire.
79–80 A rightwys dome I will me loke / That I tyne not that semely sight. That is, I will hope for a righteous judgment in order that I never lose that fair sight — namely, Jesus, who will of course be in heaven, where Peter still hopes to be, despite his denial.
82 abastir. SC’s emendation from the evidently nonsensical MS reading a barstir (see Textual Note and SC p. 620n82) accords with MED, which suggests this as a comparative form of abaishen (v.), sense 1d (citing this line), meaning “more upset” or more abashed.
85–86 And for a woman . . . spake to me of frastir. That is, a woman who stood there spoke to me in order to test me. As noted by SC (p. 620n86) these lines were inadvertently left out of the Surtees edition of the plays, and subsequently from EP, and hence were not available to the compilers of the MED or OED. The otherwise unattested form frastir is evidently a derivative of a verb that otherwise appears in the MS as frast, meaning “to test, to try, or to ask” (see MED fraisten (v.), sense 1); and in 3.265, 4.53, 6.145, 17.313, and 27.154.
97 Paul (speech heading). As noted in the headnote, Paul’s presence in this play is highly anachronistic. However, here as at line 313 and 473 (similarly part of what was likely the original pageant), his name appears to have been substituted for that of John (who commonly speaks immediately after Peter) or for a more generic “Apostle 2” (where Peter would be Apostle 1); the next named speaker is Apostle 3, followed by Apostle 4, and so forth. Unlike Peter at lines 74–88 and 305, Paul is identified only by speech rubrics and never in the dialogue, even in the prologue (except arguably by the misogyny of his arguments there).
104, s.d. Tunc venit Jesus et cantat pax vobis et non tardabit. Jesus enters and sings the words ascribed to him in John 20:19 (which is also what a bishop would sing at mass, rather than the usual Dominus vobiscum — “the Lord be with you”), then immediately exits — an action repeated after line 120 (see Dutka, Music in the English Mystery Plays, p. 73). In SC as in prior editions, the subsequent line in the MS is treated as part of the stage direction, although it is clearly assigned to the Third Apostle (see the following note). The stage direction as translated in SC thus reads: “Then Jesus comes and sings: ‘Peace be with you, and it shall not be long; this is the day that the Lord has made’” (p. 621n104+SD).
After 104 Hec est dies quam fecit dominus. This extrametrical Latin line (see previous note), translated in line 105, is from Psalm 117/118:24, and was sung as part of the Easter liturgy; it is possibly intended to be sung here.
107–10 The Holy Gost before us glad . . . . Red clethyng apon he had. The third Apostle mistakes Jesus for the Holy Spirit, who will light upon them at Pentecost (Acts 2; an event not represented in Towneley). The feast of Pentecost is associated with red vestments, but Jesus is frequently represented as wearing red clothing in his post-Resurrection appearances — red symbolizing his blood (but see also Isaiah 63:1–2, quoted at the ascension in Chester 20.121–24).
120, s.d. Iterum venit Jesus et cantat pax vobis et non tardabit. See note above to 104, s.d. Jesus reappears immediately prior to his first full speech at line 129, but that entrance is not marked with an additional stage direction.
121–22 Whoso commys in Goddys name / Ay blissid mot he be. These lines translate the second part of the Sanctus hymn of the Latin mass, Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini, based on Matthew 21:9 and Psalm 117/118:26; in Matthew 23:39, after his entry into Jerusalem, Jesus says, “For I say to you, you shall not see me henceforth till you say: ‘Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.’”
133–35 Grope and fele . . . . has goost none. See Luke 24:39. His body would appear bloody, even aside from his red garments (see note to lines 107–10 above): in the next stanza he refers specifically to his visible “woundes fyfe” (line 139) but also to his being “strenkyllid with blood so red” (line 154).
143 Of syn who will hym shryfe. That is, whoever will confess his sins.
145–48 For oon so swete a thyng . . . . To batell was I broght. That is, I went to battle for one sweet thing that I had created — the human soul.
187 Of a madyn withoutten steven. The word “steven” here means alteration or mutability, as doubtfully defined by the MED (stevene (n.2), sense 2d), in relation to the term’s use to refer to time: Mary is effectively outside time itself, not only as a perpetual virgin but also by virtue of her ascension into heaven according to Catholic doctrine, where she remains changeless.
200 My manhede eft to tast. That is, to prove that he is a living man.
205–08 That I ette is . . . . Fulfillyd that it be. See Luke 24:44.
233–40 The grace of the Holy Gost . . . . bonden be he. See John 20:22–23. Commentators regularly connect the divine breathing here with that of God giving life to Adam in Genesis 2:7 (the Greek texts share the same verb); the disciples will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, but here are symbolically reborn.
251 Of mysbelefe that we be noght. That is, in order that we should not disbelieve.
269–70 Jesu stode witnes betwene / That with hym dwelland was. That is, Jesus stood as witness (to his resurrection) among those who had lived with him.
272 Safe oonly Thomas. Thomas enters here (but remains apart from the others until after line 296), this line serving to tell the audience who he is. The story of Thomas’ doubts is found only in John 20:24–29; the York Weavers’ pageant (York 45) dramatizes the legend that, in a reversal of this story, Thomas was the sole (and hence disbelieved) witness to the Assumption of Mary — an event for which he was miraculously transported from India, where according to tradition he brought the gospel and was martyred (hence the name Thomas of India). As indicated by the reference to the peacock in his first line, Thomas is richly dressed, but vows by the end of the play to give his fine clothing — emblems of his wealth and pride (see lines 577, 585–86, and 601–02) — to the poor, allowing the biblical episode to serve as a stand-alone morality play.
319 And lyfyng man. That is, Jesus has shown himself to be alive.
321–22 Apartly / Fantom dyssavys thee. Obviously an illusion (or a ghost — see line 324) deceives you.
331–32 How a fysh swalod Jonas / Thre dayes therin he lay. The story of Jonah and the whale (Jonas 1–2) is treated in Matthew 12:39–40 as a sign of the resurrection of Jesus (see also lines 515–19).
343–44 Therfor am I full sore dredand / That who myght his boote be. That is, I am highly doubtful that anyone could save him (see MED dreden (v.), sense 6).
360 And I withoutten red. And I without any course of action — that is, bewildered (see MED red (n.1), sense 3a(d)).
384 What nede were els thertill. That is, why else would this — his becoming fully, physically human — be necessary?
416 Hir sorow of syn to safe. That is, to prevent her sorrow from becoming excessive and thus sinful.
425 Lefe. While this could mean “Dear,” the adjective would normally be followed by a politely affectionate term such as “brother” as it is at line 313. The lack of a subsequent noun suggests it works better as an imperative verb.
436 Whils that he lyfyd ay. That is, while he was still alive; see MED aye (adv.), sense 3.
440 His lyfe noght trow I may. That is, I cannot believe that he is alive.
441–42 Thyne hard hart thi saull will dwyrd / Thomas bot if thou blyn. That is, your hard heart will destroy your soul, Thomas, unless you cease (to speak this way). The MED entry for the verb dwirden (defined doubtfully as “?to confound, lead astray; ?destroy”; and unattested in the OED) is based on this single instance as glossed in EP (p. 400, also doubtfully); dwyrd might be formed from de- (OED, sense 1c, meaning “completely”) and werde (OED “harm or injure”) to signify “harm completely” — that is, to destroy.
449–52 That God . . . . that woundid wyght. I believe full well that God appeared to you as a ghost (that is, in spirit) but not that Jesus, that wounded creature, appeared bodily.
456 Longeus the knyght. See line 566 as well as 20.655 and note.
459–68 With Lucas . . . . cutt had beyn. Reference to the Emmaus episode (here a castle rather than a city or town as in the Towneley Pilgrims play — see note to 24.273) strongly contradicts the expression of doubt concerning the resurrection and Mary Magdalene’s witness in the added prologue (see also lines 497–502 and note below). The detail concerning Jesus breaking bread as cleanly as a knife could cut it also occurs in the poem Cleanness (lines 1105–08).
471–72 If ye me told sich seven / The more ye myght me teyn. That is, the more often you tell me such things, the more it will anger me.
497–502 The cors that dyed on tre . . . . was gone. This Apostle claims that he and others have already seen the empty tomb and so know that Jesus has risen, contrary to the prologue. In regard to the “sudary” (line 501), see the notes to 23.407 and 16.99–102.
535 Thyne absens gars thi saull be shent. That is, your absence at his appearance to the rest of us causes injury or confusion to your soul.
557–58 Noght bot I myght my fynger wyn / In sted as nayle stode. That is, unless I might reach (or touch) with my finger the place where the nail stood; see John 20:25.
565 no fres. The word “fres(e)” is only attested as part of such a phrase (see MED fres(e (n.1), sense b), used here to indicate that Thomas should fear no negative consequences in touching the wounds of Jesus.
577 Kest away my staf will I. In the lines that follow, Thomas will also cast away his fine clothing (see note to line 272, above).
606 clothes of pall. Jesus is wearing red clothing in this play (see note to lines 107–10 above), but the primary reference is to the scarlet robe of the passion (which is nonetheless not clearly represented in Towneley; see note to 19.313); the term can also refer to grave cloths.
641–48 Thomas for thou felys me . . . . heven be theym yare. See John 20:29.
Play 25, THOMAS OF INDIA: 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).
Title Thomas Indie. The hand for this added title (see headnote to this play in Explanatory Notes) is normally asserted to be later than that of the main scribe, but may be the same, albeit written more finely. The few distinguishing marks are apparent elsewhere in MS; for example, the same e, with a slight ornamental flourish on the center stroke, shows up in the first line of the Lazarus pageant (which lacks the “distinctive script” that characterizes the first two lines of plays 20–27 as well as play 8 — see Facs, pp. xiii–xiv, and the first note below).
Before 1 A later hand has faintly written Lyng in the right margin beside the decorated initial H. (See the first Textual Note to play 22 above.)
1–3 Hayll brether . . . . and knawe. MS: the first three lines are written in a formal variant of the main Anglicana hand.
14 hym grymly. So EP, SC. MS: hym s grymly.
24 Tryst it stedfast and cowth. MS: above this line in the top margin is a partial bar of music, the top portion having been cropped.
27 If. MS: the word is written in the left margin, the scribe having apparently started the line with the next word, we.
43 At the colke within. MS: in the right margin following this line is a scrawled word that looks like Grony h, above which are two other scrawled and partial capital letters.
53 Mary Magdalene (speech heading). MS: beside this in the margin is a black cross.
60 Or this thrid day be away. MS: Or this be þe thrid day, with be þe written in another hand above the line with a caret mark. See Explanatory Note.
75 When I for care and cold qwoke. MS: a metrical mark intended to separate lines 75 and 76 is misplaced before qwoke but repeated in the correct position.
82 abastir. So SC. EP: abarstir. MS: a barstir. See Explanatory Note.
85–86 And for a woman . . . of frastir. These lines are missing from Surtees and subsequently from EP. See Explanatory Note.
97 Paul (speech heading). See Explanatory Note.
112 Full myldly he did lythe. So EP, SC. MS: he did is written in a different hand above the cancelled word vs (“us”).
158 It. MS: I is written over y.
170 Forsoth that it is I. So EP. SC: Forsoth that is I. MS: for soth that is I.
215 cors. MS: the first half of this word is badly worn.
235, s.d. Hic respirat in eos. This marginal stage direction follows line 234 (that is, lines 233–34, written as one line in MS) both in EP and in SC, which is dramatically awkward.
389 he. MS: h is written over y.
429 thou. MS: this word is preceded by he with the h lightly cancelled.
466 sopere. So EP. SC: soper. MS: soper with a flourish indicating final e.
473 brothere. So EP. SC: brother. MS: brother with a flourish indicating final e.
521 Certys. MS: rt is rubbed and illegible.
624–27 Ilk man on . . . . dark as nyght. MS: in the right margin opposite these lines, parallel to the edge of the page, a later hand has written In my nam.
(see note); (t-note)
(see note); (t-note)