The Artist, the Patron and the Slave
THE ORIGINS of English drama lie in the patronage of city corporations and craftsmen in celebration of God the Father and the creation of the world. In the leading Mystery play of the York cycle, the only complete series of late medieval plays in existence, God the Father spoke his opening lines in Latin before continuing in English during the pageant of Corpus Christi. Standing on top of a two-tiered waggon representing Heaven with Hell below, the actor playing the divine presence announced:
Ego sum Alpha et O, Vita, Via
Veritas, Primas et Novissimas.
(I am Alpha and O, Life, the Way
of Truth, the First and the Beginning.)
God the Father then created the nine orders of angels and cast down the rebellious Lucifer through a trap-door to Hell, where he began to quarrel with other fallen angels, now become devils. Five more plays in the York cycle dealt with the making and the fall of Man, particularly with the evil Worm causing Adam and Eve to be cast out of the Garden of Eden. Five further plays were on Old Testament subjects prophesying the coming of Jesus, nine dealt with the Incarnation, six with the Ministry of Jesus, eleven with His betrayal and Crucifixion, six with the Resurrection, four with the early Church and a final play with the Last Judgement.
These forty-eight playlets and pageants might illustrate the divine