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Play 2, Creation of the World; Fall of Man


1 Here Eve returns to Adam her husband and says to him

2 Here God withdraws, and a seraphic angel with a flaming sword beats Adam and Eve out of paradise


Abbreviations: MED: Middle English Dictionary; S: N-Town Play, ed. Spector (1991); s.d.: stage direction; s.n.: stage name; Whiting: Whiting, Proverbs, Sentences, and Proverbial Phrases.

The N-Town manuscript places the creation of the world, the creation of Adam and Eve, their fall, and their expulsion from paradise in a combination of plays. The creation story is based upon Genesis 1:6–25. Spector notes that the order of events here has been changed (S 2:419); the story of the fall in the garden is based on Genesis 3. As remarked in the notes to the previous play, this organization is close to Towneley’s (Play 1) and Chester’s (Play 2), but quite different from York’s organization that separates all of the aforemen­tioned sub­jects into separate plays (Plays 2–6). There are two versions of a Creation and Fall play by the Norwich Grocers (see Non-Cycle Plays, ed. Davis, pp. 8–18). N-Town’s economy is worth noting, as God recounts the creation of the universe, the world, and people in a matter of twenty-five lines.

It is important to note that only the play number in the N-Town manuscript separates this play from the previous one. Spector notes that Play 2 begins at the fifth line of a thir­teener, the first four serving as the conclusion to Play 1 (S 2:419). It could be that these two creation plays were played continuously, without a break. See Martin Stevens, Mystery Cycles, pp. 186–87.

Most of the play is written in thirteeners.

1–17 The first two stanzas are a nine-line stanza followed by an octave.

35 pyan. The powdered root and/or seed of the peony was used as a spice in wine and also for medicinal purposes, e.g., as a stay against epilepsy and frenzy (Bar­tholomeus, De Proprietatibus Rerum, 7.10, which cites Galen, Platarius, Constan­tine, and Aiascorides as authority), or to staunch bladder ache or "Þe flux of Þe matrice" (Macer, ed. Frisk, lines 158–59); or as "a precyus medcyn" against "Þe fallyng evyll" (John of Burgundy, Practica Phisicalia, ed. Schöffler, 228.22). See MED pioné, n., and note Pearl, line 44, where it is cited with other medicinal herbs in a proto-Edenic setting.

38 this tre that is of cunnyng. Usually known as the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but here, as in a few other medieval cases, a tree of cunning (S 2:420). See Ashley, "‘Wyt’ and ‘Wysdam,’" pp. 121–35.

46 Compare Genesis 2:17.

57–60 These are a quatrain.

87, s.n. SERPENS. The serpent is, of course, Lucifer in disguise. See note to line 235.

117–18 To myn husbond with herte ful fayn . . . as thu byddyst me. Though Serpens has given Eva two apples, one for herself and one for Adam (lines 109–11) and told her to eat (line 115), there is no evidence that she does, in fact, eat first. Rather her res­ponse seems to reflect a proper loyalty to Adam with whom she would gladly share the boon, albeit even as Serpens bid her to do, but only after serving Adam first.

156 A fayr aungell. Spector reviews a debate about Lucifer’s appearance, possibly as an angel or as a snake with an angel’s face (S 2:520). See Woolf’s conjecture that in this play the compiler is following a tradition originating in the Book of Enoch (picked up in Genesis B) wherein Satan appears to Adam and Eve as an angel (English Mystery Plays, p. 117).

164, s.d. Though the stage direction does not specify the act, its interposition in their exchange indicates a pause in their dialogue during which Adam partakes of the forbidden fruit and then makes his woeful exclamation. In other plays Eve eats from the fruit before carrying it to Adam. But in N-Town Serpens seems mainly concerned with getting Adam to eat. Perhaps she eats somewhere between lines 119 and 121, but more likely she shows good manners and serves Adam first (see note to lines 117–18). In line 152, Adam says "if we it ete, ourself we kylle," which seems to imply that Eve has not yet taken the fruit. That she does in fact taste the fruit we know only after Adam’s penitential response when she notes that "that sory appyl that we han sokyn" (line 184).

165–90 Compare Genesis 3:7.

169 Oure Lordys wurd wold we not drede. The line carries multiple meanings, as wurd could refer either to ME word (from OE word) meaning God’s speech, his pre­cautionary words (lines 38–43); or to ME werd (from OE wyrd), meaning God’s pronouncement of destiny, his fate or fortune for the world. Likewise, in the summary plot of N-Town, wurd also could refer more spiritually to Christ, God’s Logos or Word, as the actual agent of Creation and the Last Judgment: that Judgment that Adam and Eve must face and would thus most drede.

191–282 These lines make up a quatrain followed by octaves.

193–94 Woolf notes: "The conjoining of the idea of man’s diminished apprehension of God with the beautiful and perennial symbol of transience is especially effective: the poetry conveys a nostalgic sense of loss rare in medieval literature" (English Mystery Plays, p. 119).

203–10 Compare Genesis 3:12. Adam’s admission that he walks now as a werm (line 209) is not found in the biblical account, and suggests a loose correspondence be­tween man’s fallen nature and that of Lucifer, who will be referred to in several subsequent lines as a "worm" (lines 220, 227, 259, and 262). On the other hand, it also associates Adam’s body with worms, whose food he has become, now that he is mortal. But mainly it is a humility trope that sets him apart from the fallen angels in that this worm, through humility, will ultimately fly.

235, s.n. DIABOLUS. I.e., Lucifer, by another of his multiple designations. That his stage name here shifts from SERPENS (in his conversations with Eve) to DIABOLUS indi­cates a shift in costuming as Lucifer, previously disguised as a serpent, is now revealed as the Devil.

243–66 Compare Genesis 3:14–19.

275–82 Compare Genesis 3: 23–24.

304–12 Spector cites M. D. Johnson’s note that Eve’s request to die at Adam’s hand derives from The Life of Adam and Eve; he cites several additional medieval sources as well (S 2:421). It is noteworthy that Adam would consider such an act a form of sui­cide since Eve is wrought from his own flesh and "I wyl not sle flescly of my flesch" (line 311).

304 fonde. Block and Davies gloss this as "findest; provest." Spector glosses this word as "proceed; endeavor" (to go) (S 2:421). I think the whole line should be: "Dear husband, go on without me."

311–13 Woolf notices that: "The author . . . has taken pains to minimize the unpleasant impression left by the Genesis accusations" (English Mystery Plays, p. 119). Here, as opposed to the other English dramatic versions, N-Town’s Adam shares re­sponsibility for the fall.

316 Proverbial. See Whiting M642. Compare Towneley Play 13, lines 97–99 (S 2:421).

321 wepyng dale. Main meaning is "valley," but "grave" is also possible (MED). Fig­uratively, this phrase refers to Adam and Eve’s new fallen nature which includes sin, mortality, and spiritual death.

322–34 Compare Genesis 3:17–19.

331-34 It is pleasing that Eve is given the final pronouncement of the play, demon­strating her healthy sense of responsibility and care.


Abbreviations: Bl: Ludus Coventriae, ed. Block (1922); S: N-Town Play, ed. Spector (1991); s.d.: stage direction; s.n.: stage name.

1–3 MS: large play number 2 in right margin.

2 MS: script capital N appears in left margin.

4 bryth. MS: altered to lyth.

47 lest. MS: last, with e written above and deleting dot below the a.

48 sefnt. MS: feste vijte.

62 welthe anow. MS: obscured by blot.

65 govyn. Bl: geven.

70 ryche. Bl: rythe.

85 plenté. MS: t written above canceled letter.

95 sayde. S notes that a is altered from an e.

109 hond. MS: corrected from hand.

117 MS: line preceded by capitulum but not a stanza break.

151 ete. MS: final e blotted.

161 Of. MS: Off.

167 unhede. MS: vnhede, perhaps corrected from unhede.

182 byn. MS: h canceled before byn.

195 MS: line lacks capitulum.

212 stryffe. MS: r smudged and written above.

213 be. MS: omitted and written above the line.

233 lokyn. MS, Bl: loky.

243, s.n. MS: Ad precedes Deus.

253 undyrlyng. MS: letter canceled before l.

260 Fowle. MS: o altered from another letter.

282, s.d. MS: rubricated m with loop precedes s.d. in margin.

309 MS: lacks capitulum.
MS: at the foot of fols. 16v–18 is written in larger script (textura quadrata) a geneology: Adam genuit Caym/Abel/Seth) Caym genuit Enoch genuit Iradh genuit. On fol. 17, it says: Maynael genuit Matussahel genuit Lamech. And the main scribe has added in his usual hand: Þat slow Caym. Þis Lame[ch] had 2 wyffys, Ada and Sella. Of Ada com Jabel, fadere of tentys and herdmen. The rest of the note is cropped. On fol. 17v, again in the larger script, is: Seth genuit Enos genuit Caynan genuit Malalchel genuit Jared genuit. Con­tinued on fol. 18r is: Enok genuit Matussalem genuit Lamech genuit Noe.

320 logge. S suggests that could also be read longge.

325 to pynde. MS: erasure precedes pynde.

After 334 MS: no break between plays.

























DEUS Now hevyn is made for aungell sake.
The fyrst day and the fyrst nyth;
The secunde day watyr I make,
The walkyn also ful fayr and bryth;
The thryd day, I parte watyr from erthe,
Tre and every growyng thing,
Bothe erbe and floure of suete smellyng;
The thryd day is made be my werkyng.
Now make I the day that shal be the ferthe.

Sunne and mone and sterrys also,
The forthe day I make in-same.
The fifte day: werme and fysch that swymme and go,
Byrdys and bestys, bothe wylde and tame.
The sexte day, my werk I do
And make the man, Adam be name.
In erthelech paradys withowtyn wo
I graunt thee bydyng lasse thu do blame.

Flesch of thi flesch, and bon of thi bon:
Adam, here is thi wyf and make.
Both fysche and foulys that swymmyn and gon
To everych of hem a name thu take.
Bothe tre and frute and bestys echon,
Red and qwtye, bothe blew and blake —
Thu geve hem name be thiself alon,
Erbys and gresse both beetys and brake.
Thi wyff thu geve name also.
Loke that ye not ses
Yowre frute to encres —
That ther may be pres
Me worchipe for to do.

Now come forth, Adam, to paradys!
Ther shalt thu have all maner thynge:
Bothe flesch and fysch and frute of prys,
All shal be buxum at thi byddyng.
Here is pepyr, pyan, and swete lycorys —
Take hem all at thi lykyng —
Both appel and pere and gentyl rys.
But towche nowth this tre that is of cunnyng.
Allthynge, saff this, for thee is wrought.
Here is allthinge that thee shulde plese.
All redy made onto thin ese.
Ete not this frute ne me dysplese,
For than thu deyst thu skapyst nowth.

Now have I made allthynge of nowth,
Hevyn and erth, foull and best.
To allthynge that myn hand hath wrowth,
I graunt myn blyssyng that evyr shal lest.
My wey to hefne is redy sowth:
Of werkyng I wole the sefnt day rest.
And all my creaturys that be abowth,
My blyssyng ye have both est and west,
Of werkyng the sefnt day, ye sees.
And all tho that sees of laboryng here
The sefnt day, withoutyn dwere,
And wurchyp me in good manere —
Thei shal in hefne have endles pes.

Adam, go forth and be prynce in place,
For to hefne I sped my way.
Thi wyttys wel loke thu chase,
And gostly governe thee as I say.

ADAM Holy Fadyr, blyssyd thu be,
For I may walke in welthe anow.
I fynde datys gret plenté,
And many fele frutys ful every bow.
All this wele is govyn to me
And to my wyf that on me lowh.
I have no nede to towche yon tre
Agens my Lordys wyl to werke now —
I am a good gardenere.
Every frute of ryche name
I may gaderyn with gle and game.
To breke that bond I were to blame
That my Lord bad me kepyn here.

EVA We may both be blythe and glad,
Oure Lordys comaundement to fulfyll
With fele frutys be we fayr fad,
Woundyr dowcet and nevyr on ill.
Every tre with frute is sprad
Of them to take as plesyth us tyll.
Oure witte were rakyl and ovyrdon bad
To forfete ageyns oure Lordys wyll
In ony wyse.
In this gardeyn I wyl go se
All the flourys of fayr bewté
And tastyn the frutys of gret plenté
That be in paradyse.

SERPENS Heyl, fayr wyff and comely dame!
This frute to ete I thee cownselle.
Take this appyl and ete this same!
This frute is best as I thee telle.
EVA That appyl to ete I were to blame,
From joy oure Lorde wold us expelle!
We shuld dye and be put out with schame
In joye of paradyse nevyrmore to duelle
God hymself thys sayde!
What day of that frute we ete.
With these wurdys, God dyd us threte
That we shuld dye, our lyff to lete.
Therffore, I am affrayde.

SERPENS Of this appyl — yf ye wyl byte —
Evyn as God is, so shal ye be!
Wys of connyng — as I yow plyte —
Lyke onto God in al degré!
Sunne and mone and sterrys bryth,
Fysch and foule, bothe sond and se,
At your byddyng bothe day and nyth:
Allthynge shal be in yowre powsté.
Ye shal be Goddys pere!
Take this appyl in thin hond,
And to byte therof, thu fond.
Take another to thin husbond;
Therof have thu no dwere.

EVA So wys as God is in his gret mayn
And felaw in kunnyng fayn wold I be.
SERPENS Ete this appyl, and in certeyn,
That I am trewe sone shalt thu se!
EVA To myn husbond with herte ful fayn,
This appyl I bere as thu byddyst me.
This frute to ete, I shal asayn.
So wys as God is — yf we may be —
And Goddys pere of myth.
To myn husbond I walke my way
And of this appyl I shal asay
To make hym to ete — yf that I may —
And of this frewte to byth.
the angels'; (see note); (t-note)

firmament; (t-note)


moon; stars

by name
to live in unless; sin


them; you give
each one
white; pale
them; by
do not cease
a throng
To worship me

peony; licorice; (see note)
not; knowledge; (see note)
Everything, except this; created
your pleasure
die without escape

from nought
fowl; beast
(see note)
last; (t-note)
to be found; (t-note)

seventh; cease
those; cease; hear (understand)
certainly (without doubt)


[that] place; (see note)

guide yourself spiritually

enough; (t-note)
dates [in]
fine; bough
wealth; given; (t-note)


honorable; (t-note)
with glee and pleasure
would be a sin
bade me

abundant; fed
Wondrously sweet; a bad one

unstable and evil
To transgress; Lord's
any way


(see note)



I swear to you

moon; stars
shore; sea

Everything; power

your; (t-note)

equal; gladly
truthful immediately
gladly; (see note); (t-note)

[To be] as wise
God's peer; might



  [Hic Eua reueniet Ade viro suo et dicet ei:1

































My semely spowse and good husbond,
Lysteneth to me, sere, I yow pray:
Take this fayr appyl all in your hond,
Therof a mursel byte and asay.
To ete this appyl, loke that ye fonde:
Goddys felaw to be alway.
All his wysdam to undyrstonde,
And Goddys pere to be for ay,
Allthyng for to make,
Both fysch and foule, se and sond,
Byrd and best, watyr and lond.
This appyl thu take out of myn hond —
A bete therof thu take.

ADAM I dare not towch thin hand for dred
Of oure Lord God omnypotent!
If I shuld werke after thi reed,
Of God, oure Makere, I shuld be shent!
If that we do this synful dede,
We shal be ded by Goddys jugement!
Out of thin hand, with hasty spede,
Cast out that appyl anon present
For fer of Goddys threte!
EVA Of this appyl, yf thu wylt byte,
Goddys pere thu shalt be pyht.
So wys of kunnyng — I thee plyht —
This frute yf thu wylt ete.

ADAM If we it ete, oureself we kylle!
As God us told, we shuld be ded
To ete that frute and my lyf to spylle.
I dar not do aftyr thi reed!
EVA A fayr aungell thus seyd me tylle:
“To ete that appyl, take nevyr no dred.
So kunnyng as God in hevyn hille,
Thu shalt sone be withinne a sted;
Therfore, this frute thu ete.”
ADAM Of Goddys wysdam for to lere,
And in kunnyng to be his pere,
Of thyn hand I take it here
And shal sone tast this mete.

[Adam dicit sic:

Alas! Alas, for this fals dede!
My flesly frend, my fo I fynde.
Schameful synne doth us unhede:
I se us nakyd before and behynde —
Oure Lordys wurd wold we not drede.
Therfore, we be now caytyvys unkynde!
Oure pore prevytes for to hede —
Summe fygge levys fayn wolde I fynde,
For to hyde oure schame.
Womman, ley this leff on thi pryvyté!
And with this leff I shal hyde me.
Gret schame it is, us nakyd to se
Oure Lord God thus to grame!

EVA Alas, that evyr that speche was spokyn
That the fals aungel seyd onto me.
Alas, oure Makers byddyng is brokyn,
For I have towchyd his owyn dere tre.
Oure flescly eyn byn al unlokyn,
Nakyd for synne, ouresylf we se.
That sory appyl that we han sokyn
To deth hath brouth my spouse and me.
Ryth grevous is oure synne
Of mekyl shame now do we knowe!
Alas, that evyr this appyl was growe
To dredful deth, now be we throwe
In peyne us evyr to pynne.

DEUS Adam, that with myn handys I made,
Where art thu now? What hast thu wrought?
ADAM A, Lord, for synne oure flourys do fade!
I here thi voys, but I se thee nought.

DEUS Adam, why hast thu synnyd so sone,
Thus hastyly to breke my bone?
And I made thee mayster undyr mone,
Trewly of every tre.
O tre, I kept for my owe:
Lyff and deth therin I knowe.
Thi synne fro lyf now thee hath throwe,
From deth thu mayst not fle.

ADAM Lord, I have wrought agens thi wyll!
I sparyd nat mysylf to spylle.
The woman that thu toke me tylle —
Sche brougth me therto.
It was her counsell and her reed:
Sche bad me do the same deed.
I walke as werm withoutyn wede,
Awey is schrowde and sho.

DEUS Womman, that arte this mannys wyffe,
Why hast thu steryd youre bothers stryffe?
Now ye be from youre fayr lyffe
And are demyd for to deye.
Unwys womman, sey me why
That thu hast don this fowle foly?
And I made thee a gret lady
In paradys for to pleye.

EVA Lord, whan thu wentyst from this place,
A werm with an aungelys face —
He hyth us to be ful of grace,
The frute yf that we ete.
I dyd his byddyng, alas, alas!
Now be we bowndyn in dethis las.
I suppose it was Sathanas
To peyne he gan us pete.

DEUS Thou werm — with thi wylys wyk —
Thi fals fables, thei be ful thyk.
Why hast thu put dethis pryk
In Adam and his wyff?
Thow thei bothyn my byddyng have brokyn,
Out of whoo yet art not wrokyn.
In helle logge thu shalt be lokyn
And nevyr mo lacche lyff.

DIABOLUS I shal thee sey wherefore and why
I dede hem all this velony,
For I am ful of gret envy
Of wreth and wyckyd hate
That man shulde leve above the sky,
Whereas sumtyme dwellyd I.
And now I am cast to helle sty
Streyte out at hevyn gate.

DEUS Adam, for thu that appyl boot
Agens my byddyng well I woot,
Go teyl thi mete: with swynk and swoot
Into thi lyvys ende;
Goo nakyd, ungry, and barefoot;
Ete both erbys, gres, and root.
Thy bale hath non other boot,
As wrecch in werlde thu wende.

Womman, thu sowtyst this synnyng
And bad hym breke myn byddyng.
Therfore, thu shalt ben undyrlyng
To mannys byddyng bend.
What he byddyth thee, do thu that thynge,
And bere thi chyldere with gret gronynge,
In daungere and in deth dredynge
Into thi lyvys ende.

Thou wyckyd worm, ful of pryde,
Fowle envye syt be thi side.
Upon thi gutt thu shalt glyde,
As werm wyckyd in kende.
Tyl a maydon in medyl-erth be born —
Thu fende, I warn thee beforn —
Thorwe her thi hed shal be totorn.
On wombe awey thu wende.

DIABOLUS At thi byddyng, fowle I falle.
I krepe hom to my stynkyng stalle.
Helle pyt and hevyn halle
Shul do thi byddyng bone.
I falle down here a fowle freke.
For this falle I gynne to qweke —
With a fart my brech I breke —
My sorwe comyth ful sone.

DEUS For youre synne that ye have do,
Out of this blysse sone shal ye go.
In erthly labour to levyn in wo
And sorwe thee shal atast.
For youre synne and mysdoyng,
An angell, with a swerd brennyng,
Out of this joye he shal yow dyng.
Youre welth awey is past.


God's equal

God's peer; all time
sea and shore


By; punished

right now

God's equal; set
I swear to you

dare; advice
to me; (see note)
Heaven's hills
in a moment

learn; (t-note)


Adam says this; (see note)

(see note)
fleshly; foe
reveals; (t-note)

Lord's; fear; (see note)
wicked scoundrels
poor private parts; hide

leaf; privates


Maker's commandment

eyes are unlocked; (t-note)

wretched; fed upon (consumed)


to fix

(see note)
you done
flowers; (see note)

soon; (t-note)
[the] moon



against; (see note)
to ruin
gave to me


as a worm; clothing
Without clothing or shoes

stirred up strife for both of you; (t-note)
tell me

to enjoy

serpent; angel's
promised that we'd be

death's snare
he put us in pain

snake; wicked wiles

Though they both
woe; [you] are not rescued
locked; (t-note)

tell you; (see note)
caused them; villainy

live; (i.e., in heaven)
at one time
the pit of hell

bit; (see note); (t-note)
Against; know
till [for] your food; toil and sweat
Unto; life's
herbs, grass
suffering; relief

be an; (t-note)

danger; dreading
Unto; life's

by; (t-note)

by nature
on earth

Through her; torn to pieces
On [your] belly; go


to fart

done; (see note)

to live

burning sword

  [Hic recedit Deus, et angelus seraphicus cum gladio flammea verberat Adam et Euam extra paradisum.2; (t-note)












SERAPHIM Ye wrecchis unkend and ryht unwyse:
Out of this joye hygh yow in hast,
With flammyng swerd from paradyse
To peyn I bete yow, of care to tast.
Youre myrth is turnyd to carfull syse;
Youre welth with synne awey is wast.
For youre false dede of synful gyse,
This blysse I spere from yow ryth fast.
Herein come ye no more
Tyl a chylde of a mayd be born
And upon the rode rent and torn
To save all that ye have forlorn,
Youre welth for to restore.

EVA Alas, alas, and wele away,
That evyr towchyd I the tre!
I wende as wrecch in welsom way
In blake busshys my boure shal be.
In paradys is plenté of pleye:
Fayr frutys ryth gret plenté —
The gatys be schet with Godys keye.
My husbond is lost because of me.
Leve spowse, now thu fonde.
Now stomble we on stalk and ston,
My wyt awey is fro me gon!
Wrythe onto my necke bon
With hardnesse of thin honde!

ADAM Wyff, thi wytt is not wurth a rosch!
Leve woman, turne thi thought.
I wyl not sle flescly of my flesch.
For of my flesch, thi flesch was wrought.
Oure hap was hard; oure wytt was nesch
To paradys whan we were brought.
My wepyng shal be longe fresch:
Schort lykyng shal be longe bought.
No more telle thu that tale:
For yf I shulde sle my wyff,
I sclow myself withowtyn knyff
In helle logge to lede my lyff
With woo in wepyng dale.

But lete us walke forth into the londe:
With ryth gret labour oure fode to fynde,
With delvyng and dyggyng with myn hond;
Oure blysse to bale and care to pynde.
And wyff, to spynne now must thu fonde,
Oure nakyd bodyes in cloth to wynde
Tyll sum comforth of Godys sonde
With grace releve oure careful mynde.
Now come, go we hens, wyff.
EVA Alas, that ever we wrought this synne
Oure bodely sustenauns for to wynne.
Ye must delve, and I shal spynne
In care to ledyn oure lyff.


with sorrow to taste
sorrowful sighs
shut off from


woe is me

go; desolate
black; dwelling

shut; God's

Dear; go on; (see note)

Wring my
your hand

worth a rush (i.e., worthless); (t-note)
slay flesh; (see note)

fortune; weak
last a long time
Brief pleasure; (see note)

slay; without a knife
In hell's prison; (t-note)
valley of tears; (see note)

(see note)

my hand
to lessen our suffering and cares; (t-note)
God's messenger

(see note)


Go To Play 3, Cain and Abel