Fourteenth Century Verse & Prose

By Kenneth Sisam | Go to book overview

XVII
THE TOWNELEY PLAY OF NOAH

Towneley MS. (about 1475), ff. 76 ff.

The Towneley Miracles, so called because the manuscript belonged in recent times to the library of Towneley Hall in Lancashire, are edited by England and Pollard, E.E.T.S., 1897. The cycle is a composite one--for instance it includes a later form of the York play Harrowing of Hell (No. XVI, above)--but it is distinguished by a group of plays and interpolated scenes which seem to have been specially composed for representation at Wakefield. Formally this group is marked by the use of a peculiar nine-lined stanza, riming a a a a b c c c b, with central rimes in the first four lines. The rough vigour of the comic scenes is still more distinctive, and there can be little doubt that all are the work of one man. The specimen of his style most often reprinted is The Second Shepherd's Play, which has an original and purely secular comic plot. The Play of Noah is more typical of the English Miracle in its later development. This subject was always popular with early playwrights, for the Ark made a spectacle, and the traditional quarrels of Noah and his wife gave scope for contests in fisticuffs and rough raillery--the stuff of primitive comedy.

NOE PRIMUS FILIUS PRIMA MULIER
DEUS SECUNDUS FILIUS SECUNDA MULIER
VXOR NOE TERCIUS FILIUS TERCIA MULIER

1. Noe. MYGHTFULL God veray, Maker of all that is,
Thre persons withoutten nay, oone God in endles blis,
Thou maide both nyght and day, beest, fowle, and fysh,
All creatures that lif may wroght Thou at Thi wish,
As Thou wel myght;

The son, the moyne, verament, 5
Thou maide, the firmament,
The sternes also full feruent
To shyne Thou maide ful bright.

-185-

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Fourteenth Century Verse & Prose
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction ix
  • The Texts xlv
  • Select Bibliography xlvi
  • I - Robert Mannyng of Brunne's Handlyng Synne Begun 1303 1
  • II - Sir Orfeo 13
  • III - Michael of Northgate's Ayenbyte of Inwyt 32
  • IV - Richard Rolle of Hampole 36
  • V - Sir Gawayne and the Grene Knight About 1350-75. 43
  • VI - The Pearl 57
  • VII - The Gest Hystoriale of the Destruction of Troy 68
  • VIII - Piers Plowman (1362-1400) 76
  • IX - Mandeville's Travels 94
  • Epilogue. 104
  • X - The Bruce Written in 1375 by John Barbour. 107
  • XI - John Wiclif 115
  • XII - John Gower D. 1408. 129
  • XIII - John of Trevisa's Translation of Higden's Polychronicon 1387. 145
  • XIV - Political Pieces 151
  • XV - Miscellaneous Pieces in Verse 162
  • XVI - The York Play 'Harrowing of Hell' 171
  • Xvii the Towneley Play of Noah 185
  • Notes 204
  • Appendix the English Language in the Fourteenth Century 265
  • A Middle English Vocabulary 293
  • Glossary 297
  • Index of Names. 455
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