Date and Composition
of the York Cycle and Its Fall of the Angels and Fall of Man
- surviving manuscript (known as
the "Register" of the Corpus Christi play) dates between 1463 and
1477, revised throughout its performance life--earliest reference to a cycle
drama in York 1376 (last known early performance 1569)
- authorship is inherently diverse
as the plays were composed at different points in the cycle's life and copied
from guilds' copies
- would have been performed on a
pageant wagon, in a procession through the streets of York with other cycle
- performed by the guilds
of the city of York
- Play 1, The Fall of the Angels,
was assigned to the Barkers (Tanners) guild; Play 5, The Fall of Man,
to the Coopers (Cowpers) guild
of the Angels
- The Fall of Lucifer (or Satan)
as depicted in the York play is not found in the Bible (Bevington, 258).
- There are, however, several
obscure allusions in the Bible that seem to refer to this Fall: Isaiah
14:12; Revelation 12:7-9; and Luke 10:18
- These verses allowed the Church
Fathers to develop an explanation of the existence of evil.
- Lucifer's Fall is the result of
an inner pride, which causes him and his angels to fall spontaneously without
being driven out of heaven.
- Staged with heaven and God's throne
above, and earth and hell mouth below
Fall of Man
- Based on the story of Adam and
Eve in Genesis.
- Satan as a tempting serpent is
not biblical, but rather part of the exegetical tradition developed by the
Church Fathers (Bevington, 267).
- This makes the Fall of Man
a direct result of the Fall of the Angels (267).
- Adam and Eve are disobedient
and guilty of the sin of pride just as Lucifer was.
- This episode acts typologically
with other biblical episodes (267):
- Adam's failure to obey God's
commands foreshadows Christ's ability to resist Satan's temptation in
- The tree from which Eve plucks
the fruit prefigures the cross.
- "Eve's role as sinful
woman point forward to Mary's role as the mother of God" (267).
- The argument between Adam
and Eve, the first marital discord, foreshadows "the discord which
is thematically associated with evil throughout the cycle" (Beadle
and King, 8).
- Depicts Satan as full of envy
and wrath (as well as pride)--two more of the 7 deadly sins (pride, envy,
wrath, greed, lechery, sloth, gluttony)
Links for Class
Exercises for Medieval Drama
See my photos of The Fall of Man performed in
York in 1998
See my photos of The Fall of Man (called
The Temptation and Fall) performed in Toronto in 1998
See my photos of The Fall of the Angels
performed in Toronto in 1998
- See photos of the the York Plays at Toronto and link
to the Middle English Text of the plays on this fab Website created and
maintained by Prof. Steve Wright, Catholic University of America.
- Try the York PSim (Pageant SIMulator), created
by Prof. Dennis Jerz, UW-Eau Claire; you can see how long it took individual
pageants to travel the route through York and also see the approximate playing
time of each show.
- Return to Medieval
- Return to Chaucer--The
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Syllabus | 373
Assignments | 373
Links | E-Mail Instructor |