Printer Friendly

The Lazarus Effect: Translating Death in Medieval English Vernacular Drama.

LAZARUS OF BETHANY HAD BEEN DEAD FOR FOUR DAYS when Christ brought him back to life, an episode from John's gospel that has provided an enduring cultural conceit for reanimation. The term "Lazarus taxon," for example, designates living species once thought extinct because of their disappearance from fossil records. In a different yet relevant way, biological and textual studies cohere in Lazarus's incarnation in science fiction, where his rejuvenation informs a paradigmatic story line: an entity "survives" death via futuristic medical technology and "comes back" as an uncanny version of his or her native self. (1) In these sci-fi texts, the Lazarus type is often a cybernetic organism, a "cyborg" defined in terms of its human-machine hybridity. Although the cyborg's synthesis of the organism and the machine suggests a biological marvel, cybernetics--in its original conception--was a system for controlling information and communication. Cyborgs, N. Katherine Hayles explains, are "physical entities as well as discursive constructs," and the hybridized condition of this human-machine is in fact "most evident in the union of its morpholexical components by a hyphen." (2) Whether cyborgs are present in physical or textual forms, they are metaphors for various aspects of human ontology and thus are essentially literary creatures. In Lazarus's case, his cultural association with cyborgs raises a question inherent in medieval portraits of his resurrection: How is mortal life sustained in physical bodies as well as textual corpora?

A version of this "cybernetics" is intrinsic to medieval bibliography. Texts were comprised of animals who had been slaughtered, skinned, turned into parchment, and encoded. The scriptorium riddles of the Exeter Book, for example, are a locus classicus for the Anglo-Saxons' fascination with the prosaic (if graphic) details of their culture's textual technology. In the Bible riddle--where the artisanal process of bookmaking is narrated by the dead (if voiceful) animal transformed during it--the audience is enlisted in solving a puzzle as well as witnessing a religious mystery: through the animal's sacrifice, the flesh becomes word. (3) In Middle English charters of Christ, the ontological changes integral to textual production accrue soteriological meaning. Christ's suffering body produces a legal document that cancels the "writt of Mans dett," a covenant sealed with his side wound. (4) As these examples show, medieval people ascribed eschatological significance to the mundane manufacture of written texts, a hermeneutics that accounts for their multifarious figures for the resurrected body: a seed that sprouts to generate new life, an egg that hatches, a tree that blooms after winter, a statue that is reforged, a skeleton that is "reclothed," a phoenix that rises from its ashes, a temple that is rebuilt. (5) In these imaginative responses to an abiding theological question, "With what manner of body shall they come?" (1 Cor 15:35), medieval authors devised conceits for personal postmortem endurance, and thus they translated the dead into literary forms.

Lazarus of Bethany, though, is more akin to a Walking Dead extra than the Pauline seed. Though miraculous, there is nothing ingenious about his physical reanimation. Lazarus's single action in John's gospel account is his emergence from the crypt--his body still bound in grave cerements--a moment revisited often in medieval art, literature, and devotion. Christ's raising Lazarus is among a handful of episodes included in all four extant collections of English biblical dramas: the York Register, the Chester manuscripts, the Towneley manuscript, and the N-Town compilation. Digby's Mary Magdalene play includes it too. (6) Apart from the Nativity and the Easter story, the raising of Lazarus is the only episode from Christ's life that was included in twelfth-century church drama. (7) Lazarus does not talk in John's gospel account, but each of these medieval texts gives its title character a speaking part. Of these, in all but one Lazarus delivers a speech as he emerges from the crypt, an elaboration on scripture that intimates his significance to the medieval literary imagination.

Unlike other resurrection images such as the flowering tree or the phoenix, Lazarus is not a figure for "surviving death" per se. Rather, in medieval English dramatic literature he is a conceit for the affiliation of literary figuration with death. His characteristic position on the threshold of his crypt suggests why and how. As diverse cultural commentators have observed, death is an ontological state that epitomizes the uncanny. Given death's epistemological position between the familiar and the strange, it's not surprising that it informs language's key referential functions--metaphoricity and iterability--a fact that, according to Slavoj Zizek, explains the great number of liminal entities--ghosts, phantoms, specters, and revenants--that populate literary works. (8) Attuned to the convergence of Gothic themes and Jacques Derrida's diverse interest in inheritance, revenants, and writing, Jodey Castricano develops the notion of "cryptomimesis" to explain the relationship between literary semiosis and death. All writing, strictly speaking, is "cryptomimetic" for its foundation in encryption, that is, the semiotic play of concealment and revelation. A gravedigger entombs a body by opening a crypt. (9) So does the writer submerge a thanatopic entity--whether a dead person or the abiding knowledge of their own mortality--only to exhume it. (10) In fact, the dead are conjured in written texts, argues Michelle Ballif, who, informed by Derrida's work on mourning, invokes "cryptomimesis" to characterize writing's mediumistic function, evident in the routine exchange between the author and their audience. Its haunting with "the remains of the living dead" is thus an ineluctable effect of writing's practical purpose."

The origin story for literary hermeneutics offered by Martin Heidegger illuminates Lazarus's figuration for cryptomimesis. "By a playful thinking that is more persuasive than the rigor of science," Heidegger associates the Greek words for interpreting and interpretation--hermeneuein, hermeneia--with the god Hermes." (12) Heidegger's tenuous etymology notwithstanding, Hermes did transmit divine messages to mortals as well as between the underworld and mortals. His job was not unlike that of the hermeneut, one who studies dead languages and forgotten texts to unearth obscure knowledge." The hermeneut's literary journey to the crypt (and back) is one that Lazarus of Bethany literally took. In medieval texts that portray this episode from John 11, Lazarus serves as a metacritical agent for a hermeneutic paradox: despite and because of the epistemological uncertainty surrounding death, it is fundamental to literary expression.

In the N-Town manuscript's "Raising of Lazarus," Lazarus's status as a figure for cryptomimesis was conditioned by English vernacular literary culture. Whether vernacular authors were producing original texts or translating foreign-language ones into English, their literary output was steeped in questions of meditation and inheritance due to their tradition's long-standing indebtedness to multilingual influences. Cultural attitudes about translation inhere in the N-Town manuscript, which is comprised of vernacular biblical pageants compiled in the last decade of the fifteenth century. English-language Bibles had been legally restricted by Thomas Arundel's Constitutions published in 1407. Yet biblical dramatic literature--the so-called "cycle plays"--were not targeted by this anti-Lollard measure. (Anyone who's familiar with the antics of "Mrs. Noah" portrayed in Chester has surely wondered how the medieval playwrights "got away with" deviating so greatly--and often irreverently--from scripture.) These dramas were licit precisely because they were based on biblical stories but were not "translations" of them. These English-language biblical dramas were poised precariously between the Latin Vulgate and the vulgar tongue. Thus, Lazarus's exiting his crypt provides an apt image for their linguistic and cultural status.

In late medieval England, the word "translation" began to connote linguistic change while retaining, I contend, its conventional denotation as "physical transfer," a meaning exemplified in the ceremonial relocation of a saint's body or their relics. In turn, this particular meaning informs the notion of literary translation as an exchange between living and erstwhile authors. This cultural affiliation of linguistic and metaphysical translation transpires in the wealth of late medieval English texts in the ars moriendi tradition. As Amy Appleford argues in her study of Middle English texts devoted to the "art of dying," an educated awareness about death--which entailed providing for one's personal salvation, living relatives, and mundane memorialization--became critical to an individual's spiritual status as well as civic standing. (14) N-Town's "Raising of Lazarus" includes several key tropes from the ars moriendi, clear indication of the genre's popularity and cultural valence. As a metadiscursive figure for literature's semiotic basis in death, N-Town's Lazarus represents the desire fundamental to vernacular-language ars moriendi: to translate death--the most cryptic of subjects--into legible matter.

In the scriptural account of Christ's raising him, Lazarus is its absent center. At the beginning of John 11, we learn that Lazarus is ill ("languens," John 11:1). His sisters send word to Christ, who decides to delay visiting him. Lazarus's illness will not end in death, Christ enigmatically assures his apostles. After two days, Christ heads to Bethany, and by the time he arrives, Lazarus has been dead for four. Lazarus's sisters mourn, and while Christ assures them of a positive outcome thanks to their faith in him, he too weeps. Christ goes to Lazarus's tomb and commands that the rock at its entrance be removed. (This is done despite Martha's protest about the dead body's stench.) After praying, Christ shouts, "Lazare, veni foras!" (Lazarus, come out!; John 11:43). Lazarus emerges from the tomb, his hands and feet bound in strips of linen, and his face wrapped in cloth.

Medieval biblical plays are known for elaborating on scripture, but N-Town's "Raising of Lazarus," the longest and most detailed English version, departs the most from the Johannine account. In York, Chester, and Towneley, we first see Lazarus when he comes out of the tomb, at which point he delivers an extrabiblical speech. What he says differs greatly in each: in York, he attests to Christ's miraculous power; in Chester, he gives witness to the reality of hell; and in Towneley, he complains at length about the ephemerality of earthly bodies and mundane property. Unlike these Lazarus episodes, N-Town's version begins with Lazarus alive, robust enough to complain about his failing health. It's not until about a quarter of the way through the episode (s. d. after line 108) that Lazarus dies. He is buried with great ceremony before being raised by Christ. While exceeding his typical narrative, N-Town's Lazarus in fact embodies the medieval concept of the average mortal's ontological timeline: life, death, and "afterlife." Strictly speaking, though, Lazarus is not so much still alive when the episode begins as he is proleptically undead, rejuvenated via literary fabrication. More broadly, via the persona of "undead Lazarus," N-Town insinuates how any portrait of the postmortem condition depends on semiosis devised by pre-mortem beings. In its basic narrative structure, N-Town's "Raising of Lazarus" thus reflects writing's essence in cryptomimesis, figuration derived from mortals' apprehension of death.

N-Town's examination of literary semiosis as cryptomimetic transpires in its portrait of Christ's reaction to the news about Lazarus. In scripture, Christ's weeping is but a brief moment ("Et lacrimatus est Iesus"). (15) Unlike in the biblical account, N-Town has Lazarus's two sisters engage in a prolonged lament. When he arrives in Bethany, Christ himself joins them in this mourning. But first, he announces his need to weep:
zowre grett wepynge doth me constreyne
For my good frend to wepe also.
I cannot me for wo restreyn,
But I must wepe lyke as ze do. (25.369-72) (16)

Christ's disclosure is followed by a metadiscursive comment: Hic Jesus fingit se lacrimari (s. d. after 372; Here Jesus pretends to weep). When read as a stage direction, its saying "pretends to weep" makes some sense. With other physical movements, such as those that bookend the prayer that Christ recites to resurrect Lazarus--"Jhesus elevatis ad celum oculis dicit" (s. d. after 25.412) and "Hic Jhesus clamat voce magna" (s. d. after 25.420)--the Christ-actor could simply elevate his eyes or shout in a loud voice. In the case of "Hic Lazarus moritur" (s. d. after 108), the Lazarus-actor would just "play dead." So is Christ mourning Lazarus or performing mourning? And what is the difference between these two activities? The relevance of these questions to dramatic texts is timeless. Tellingly, though, N-Town uses Christ's mourning Lazarus as an opportunity to interrogate the nature of dramatic representation.

Furthermore, the trope's generic significance evokes practical questions about the N-Town manuscript's form and use. Contained in British Library MS Cotton Vespasian D VIII, "N-Town" is a collection of biblical pageants of separate and earlier origin that were brought together by a scribe-compiler sometime in the last decade of the fifteenth century. Once thought a comprehensive dramatic sequence like York's "Creation to Doom" cycle, N-Towns complicated manuscript instead suggests its indeterminate if not versatile use: in public performances, in private devotional reading, or both. With attention to the manuscripts diverse matter (comprised of bawdy jokes as well as liturgical formula) and disjointed structure (evident, for example, in its inconsistent punctuation and marginalia), Penelope Granger suggests several--perhaps mutually inclusive--pragmatic contexts for N-Town: solitary private reading, out-loud performative reading, and dramatic performances enacted by several players. (17) If we regard N-Town's "Raising of Lazarus" as a script for a biblical drama, then "Hie Jesus fingit se lacrimari" once cued an ephemeral performance, in particular, a Christ-actor's stage weeping. However, it's uncertain whether there even was a Christ-actor to (pretend to) weep. If the episode was instead intended as material for religious readers--whether private or communal, silent or vocal--this direction implies the literary influence of affective pious devotion. Thus, the dolorous substance of this paratextual apparatus indicates the poststructuralist textual strategies that it and, by extension, the N-Town manuscript, demands of its audience.

This direction's exact purpose notwithstanding, its substance inheres in the episode's dialogue, which, as Kathleen Ashley notes, is comprised much more of laments over Lazarus's death than Christ's miraculous raising of him. (18) Furthermore, the effusive mourning for Lazarus instigated by his sisters and furthered by Christ evokes the affiliation of practices known as "wailing the dead," a popular lament that could include kissing the corpse, ringing bells, and loud crying. (19) Wailing the dead was a spontaneous performance, so Katherine Goodland looks to medieval English drama as one of two textual sources for it, the other being Protestant denunciations of "popish" intercession for the dead. (20) While wailing the dead is not well-documented, it resonates with the general medieval evaluation of tears, which, "like prayers, could be offered for the dead," (21) an idea epitomized in Margery Kempe's sorrowful devotion. Even if N-Town's "Raising of Lazarus" was not meant to be dramatized, its lengthy lament for Lazarus is patently performative, in part for its resonance with extratextual popular rituals.

N-Town's portrait of effusive mourning, however, may not suggest a popular practice so much as critique its underlying doctrinal stance. We might suspect that Martha's "wailing the dead" is exactly what an attendant at Lazarus's funeral is trying to stanch: "Streyth from [thorn]is grave ze xul go hens. / [THORN]us for to grugge ageyns Godys myght, / Azens hyz God ze do offens!" (25.174-76). In a similar vein, another bystander discourages Magdalene: "For Goddys loue, be of good chere. / Indede ze do ryght sore amys, / So sore to wepe as ze do here" (25.182-84). In chiding Lazarus's sisters, these consolatores suggest a tacit motivation for "wailing the dead": a lack of belief in the afterlife. (22) Although they are wrong to imply that the pious sisters "grugge ageyns Godys myght," their criticism illuminates the potential spuriousness of Christ's mourning as indicative of his aversion to it. (23) This would explain his demeanor in Suscitatio Lazari, Hilarius's twelfth-century church drama, where Christ is the one who advises Martha to put her grief in check: "Nunc comprimas has lacrimas et luctum qui te urget" (lines 133-35; Now restrain these tears and the mourning that burdens you). (24) Martha subsequently tells Mary: "Jhesus adest, soror carissima; cesset luctus, et cesset lacrima" (lines 157-58; Jesus is here, dearest sister. Stop your mourning, stop your tears). In Hilarius's version of the episode, Christ does not weep--even briefly--as he does in scripture. Instead, he encourages belief in life after death: "Et qui vivens in me credit, / mors ad ilium non accedet" (lines 149-50; Living people who believe in me, / death will not approach them). In Christ's appeal to religious doctrine, we find tacit explanation for his lack of tears for Lazarus. N-Town's ambiguous direction that the Christ-actor should "pretend to weep"--which instigates his lachrymose performance--thus implies divergent cultural attitudes toward death and mourning. More broadly, in rendering an immortal being's reaction to human mortality, this ambivalent moment exemplifies the basis of literary encryption in death's inscrutability.

Thus, N-Town's "Raising of Lazarus" addresses the symbolic conflict at the heart of mourning, a condition that derives from the mourner's acquaintance with yet ignorance about morality. In losing a loved one, the mourner has "experienced" death. Yet still they wonder: What does death involve? What has happened to the departed person? The dubious significance of mourning was explored by Derrida and poststructuralists after him, who proposed that mourning for the dead is in fact mourning for oneself, that is, for the "other" who will die who inhabits the living subject. (25) Mourning is thus essentially metadiscursive, serving but to call attention to its latent subject. N-Town's portrait of Christ's mourning--which is decidedly performative and possibly pretentious--speaks to the affiliation of Lazarus's death with Christ's, a trope common in medieval biblical dramas.

In N-Town, Christ's death is interpolated into the "Raising of Lazarus" in the episode's allusion to an affiliated textual tradition, Passion plays. This discursive effect is most evident in N-Town's identifying Mary of Bethany as Mary Magdalene, whose signature feature in medieval dramatic literature is her maudlin complaint at Christ's tomb. In N-Town's "Raising of Lazarus", Magdalene experiences uncontrollable grief over her brothers sickness and death. (26) After Lazarus is buried, Magdalene announces her intention to "rest" (284) at his grave in order to prolong her lament:
Grett sorwyn my herte on tweyn hath scorn!
Now [thorn]at my brothyr from syth is lorn,
[THORN]er may no myrth my care releve.
Alas [thorn]e tyme [THORN]at I was born!
[THORN]e swerde of sorwe myn hert doth cleve. (25.324-28)

Compare this speech with one from N-Town's "Appearance to Mary Magdalene":
A grettyr cawse had nevyr woman
For to wepe bothe nyth and day
Than I myself haue, in serteyn,
For to sorwyn evyr and ay.
Alas, for sorwe myn herte both blede (37.25-29)

In its appeal to the "sorwe" in her injured heart, Magdalene's lament for Christ echoes the one for her brother. In turn, Magdalene's mourning at her brother's grave seems a "dress rehearsal" for her typical complaint at Christ's tomb.

In N-Town's "Raising of Lazarus", Magdalene's maudlin performance not only presages her mourning in the Resurrection episodes but also has its onset before her brother even dies (after line 108). In four speeches totaling twenty-two lines, Magdalene laments Lazarus's failing health ["Now, jentyl brothyr, for Goddys sake, / Lyfte up zoure herte and be not feynt" (25.21-22); "A, brothir, brothir, lyfte up zoure herte! / zoure hevy cher doth us grevaunce" (25.33-34)], registers the physical effects of her own grief ["Alas, alas! What eylight me? / Myne herte for wo is wundyr grete!" (25.55-56)], and instructs the messenger headed to Christ to "tell hym all oure hertys wo" (25.94). In these brief excerpts, repetition of the word "herte" unifies the separate speeches into one plaintive sequence. Magdalene's laments are interwoven with other characters' at Lazarus's deathbed, so collectively they suggest the Three Maries' sorrowful visit to Christ's tomb. The play thus links Lazarus's deathbed with Christ's empty tomb, the proleptically undead Lazarus with the risen Christ.

In N-Town, the correlative complaints at Lazarus's deathbed, his funeral, and Christ's tomb imply how literary portraits of Lazarus ultimately wrestle with a hermeneutic problem, one that presents itself in John's gospel account of his resuscitation. Christ discloses that his raising of Lazarus promises the general resurrection of the dead as well as his own Resurrection. (27) Lazarus's unique similarity to Christ, argues V. A. Kolve, affords him a "final figural resonance," which explains his conventional inclusion in biblical dramas. (28) Based on scripture, these texts often homed in on prophetic events. Abraham's would-be sacrifice of Isaac was a popular episode in English dramatic texts, undoubtedly for prefiguring the Passion. But Lazarus is not an Old Testament figure, so his symbolic relationship to Christ is not typological per se. Additionally, it's important to remember that Lazarus is not "resurrected" but rather resuscitated by Christ. Upon emerging from the crypt, Lazarus does not begin his afterlife but instead resumes his mortal life. In medieval texts, the resuscitated Lazarus is often cognizant of his experience of having been dead for four days. Compared to the risen Christ, the raised Lazarus is an uncanny figure; he is a mortal who's experienced death and--as the York, Chester, Towneley, and N-Town authors would have it--lived to tell about it. Thus, each presents Lazarus as a figure whose round-trip journey to the crypt has general significance to literary semiosis.

In York's "Raising of Lazarus," his postmortem speech invokes yet flouts its scriptural source:
That bus hast schewed [thorn]i myght in me,
Both dede and doluen, [thorn]is is [thorn]e four[thorn]e day.
By certayne singnes here may men see,
How that thou art Goddis Sone verray (24.188-91). (29)

Lazarus does not talk in John's gospel. So his postmortem speech, on the one hand, is the York dramatist's elaboration. On the other, the speech itself is scriptural as it is comprised of Christ's words from John 11. Christ designates his raising of Lazarus as a sign that will promote belief in his divinity. Before Christ and his apostles head to Bethany, he tells them that he is glad that he was not there when Lazarus died, "so that you might believe" (ut credatis; John 11:15). In his exchange with Lazarus's sister, Mary, Christ elaborates a bit more; his raising of Lazarus will prefigure the general resurrection of the dead (John 11:23-26). In York, this ventriloquial performance is definitively awkward; Christ himself is present when Lazarus speaks. Yet Christ's audition of Lazarus's speech serves to frame it as translated matter. It has moved from Christ's mouth into Lazarus's and, by extension, from the Latin Vulgate onto the vernacular stage. In John's gospel, however, Christ characterized Lazarus's resuscitation as a sign before he performed the miracle, while Lazarus was still dead. Inherent to the postmortem speech that York fabricates for Lazarus is his ontological indeterminacy, which, in this unusual case, authorizes his rhetorical act rather than compromises it. In ventriloquizing Christ's words, York's Lazarus speaks from beyond the grave.

So what does Lazarus's metacommentary signify? Before he heads to Bethany, York's Christ describes Lazarus's resuscitation as a divine sign in words taken from John 11: "But joie of Goddis gudnesse / Schal be schewed in [thorn]at stede; / And Goddis sone schall be glorified / By [thorn]at sekenesse, and signes seere" (24.109-12). Christ's verbal performance frames Lazarus's miraculous emergence from the crypt, the wordless performance that will speak to a particular belief. Among the medieval English dramatic texts, York's plays were the ones most closely associated with stage performances. Thus, audiences at York would have seen Lazarus's exit from the crypt, so his speech did not substitute for the spectacle per se. But it does redirect the audience's attention from his undead body to his pseudoscriptural words, a shift indicative of Lazarus's translation into a textual sign and, more broadly, his status as a figure for death's significance to literary encryption.

Chester's Lazarus episode likewise invokes its scriptural context to insinuate Lazarus's translation into a textual sign. In the Glovers' play, Christ's raising of Lazarus is preceded by his healing of a man blind from birth, a miracle recorded in John 9:1-12. This gospel account appeals to the trope of seeing as intellectual recognition. For example, before Christ heals the blind man, he self-identifies as the "light of the world" (lux sum mundi; John 9:5), thus insinuating to his apostles the miracle's general value to his followers' recognition of his divinity. The Pharisees, however, focus on his performing the miracle on the Sabbath, which they interpret as a sign of his licentiousness. Their accusations, however, indicate Pharisees' typical subscription to the literal law and thus their blindness to its spiritual substance. Christ's healing of the blind man is thematically linked with Lazarus's reanimation, so Chester's including them in a single pageant makes sense. (30) Yet in the account of Lazarus recorded in John 11, Christ's healing of the blind man is mentioned to question Christ's power, not reinforce it. Bystanders wonder why Christ--who has restored the blind man's sight--could not have kept Lazarus from dying (John 11:37). Chester registers this doubt, including the infidels' criticism of Christ ("this freake," line 427) for his expressing "great dowle for gowle / that hee loved well before" (great sorrow for the ghoul that he had loved so much; lines 428-29). However, Christ's restoration of the blind man's sight tacitly informs Mary's extrascriptural reaction to her brother's rejuvenation: "[F]or nowe my harte is glad and light / to see my brother ryse in my sight... By verey signe nowe men may see / that thou arte Godes Sonne" (13.467-68, 476-77). Mary has physically witnessed Lazarus come back to life; those not present can still "see" the spiritual significance of Lazarus's story. Thus, Mary insinuates the translation of Lazarus's reanimated form into an invisible discursive phenomenon.

Although they were not present for Lazarus's resuscitation in the sense that his sister was, the Chester audience witnessed it on stage, a venue associated with the trope of "proof by seeing." Chester's pageants saw live performances. Yet its survival in five manuscripts speaks to an impulse--whether literary or antiquarian--to record dramatic ephemera on the written page. (31) Indeed, "seeing" entails "reading" in Chester's characterization of Christ's miracles as scribal signs. Before he has healed the blind man or raised Lazarus, Christ delivers a sermon explaining that he will "heale the sicke and restore the blynde to sight" (13.24) in order to fulfill prophecies. At the sermon's end, he commands his apostles: "But or we goe hence, print these sayinges in your mynd and harte; / recorde them and keepe them in memorye. / Contynue in my worde; from yt doe not departe" (13.29-31). Christ portrays intellectual activity, the apostles' remembrance of his words, in terms of scribal activity. The apostles themselves serve as audience surrogates. So even if the Chester audience viewed the episode on stage rather than read it, they were aware of its existence as literary matter and, in turn, their interpolation into a textual activity. In the Glovers' play, the blind man is not immediately healed by Christ's words, but Lazarus is immediately raised when Christ commands: "Lazarre, come forth, I bydd thee" (13.450). Lazarus discloses that he was resuscitated "when I hard the voyce of thee" (13.454). Chester's Lazarus episode thus evokes the medieval notion that hermeneutics is resurrective, praxis derived from the Pauline image of the grain that dies to give new life as it traditionally entails his notion of the dead letter that, when read correctly, yields the living spirit. Lazarus's resuscitation evinces Christ's miraculous abilities, and thus the apostles need to "print" and "record" it in their memories, activity analogous to Lazarus's formal translation: from the theatrical stage into an antiquarian book, from a mortal performing body into an immortal textual sign.

In York and Chester, Lazarus's resurrection insinuates his translation into a textual sign. In Towneley's version of the Lazarus episode, his resuscitation instead entails his physical metamorphosis into literary matter. Upon emerging from the crypt, Towneley's Lazarus delivers a lengthy memento mori speech (103 lines) wherein he graphically describes the bodily disintegration that mortals can look forward to:
Youre rude that was so red,
Youre lyre the lylly lyke,
Then shall be wan as led
And stynke as dog in dyke.
Wormes shall in you brede
As bees dos in the byke. (153-58) (32)

Towneley's Lazarus emerges from the crypt, "like the figure of Death itself, consumed by worms and wrapped in a shroud, his very eyes having been eaten out of his head." (33) Although Christ has commanded that his grave-clothes be removed, the substance of Lazarus's speech suggests that he is still wearing them:
Youre dede is wormes coke;
Youre myrroure here ye loke
And let me be youre boke,
Youre sampill take by me. (31.119-22)

In this passage, the human body's conversion into "food for worms" is analogous to Lazarus's postmortem translation into textual materials: a mirror, a book, and an example. His physical decay authorizes rather than undermines the substance of his speech. Lazarus is not so much a figure for death as he is death's valence to literary semiosis.

As a mortal who's been to the crypt and back, Lazarus has significance to cryptomimesis. Towneley's Lazarus, however, envisions a general translation of individual mortals into a particular type of written texts, personal wills, which had become a prominent literary form by the mid-fifteenth century. (34) Invoking the memento mori trope, he warns his audience that "Youre goodys ye shall forsake / If ye be neuer so lothe, / And nothing with you take / But sich a wyndyng-clothe (31.167-70). While the dead person trades their property for grave-clothes, they must guarantee the ultimate fate of this property while they still possess it:
Take hede for you to dele
Whils ye ar on life;
Trust in no freyndys frele,
Nawthere of childe then wife,
For sectures are not lele (31.181-88)

Lazarus explains that relatives and executors ("sectures") cannot be counted on in mundane matters much less the care of the dead person's soul. In this caution, he urges his audience to amend their own sins. Yet he insinuates that each person needs to see to "mes-syngyng" (177) and "almus ded" (178), which were conventionally stipulated in wills. (35) Wills exemplify a practical way in which vernacular literature rendered "postmortem life" a legible discourse. They recorded an individual's desires for their heritage and thus prescribed their postmortem "voices." And in providing for the soul's future in attention to alms giving, Masses, and other intercessory activities, wills exemplified the dead person's translation between mortal and immortal realms. As documents composed by a living person qua postmortem being, wills epitomize the basis of literary encryption in death.

In York, Chester, and Towneley, Lazarus's emergence from the crypt is a metacritical moment in which the medieval authors reflect on his exclusive textual significance. N-Town is fundamentally different from these three texts since it begins with Lazarus still alive. Yet the N-Town audience would have viewed premortem Lazarus vis a vis his iconic emergence from the crypt. This symbolism is evident in Lazarus's initial actions where--paralleling his exit from the crypt--he makes his way to his deathbed:
My deth is come now, I gesse.
Help into chawmere pat I be led.
My grett desesse I hope xal lesse
If I were leyd upon a bed. (25.13-16)

On this bed, roughly a quarter of the episode's action will be focused, until Lazarus dies (s. d. after line 104). Given Lazarus's definitive association with his resuscitation, his bed cannot but imply his grave. Furthermore, N-Town's interpretation of Lazarus's signature pose evokes his relevance to literary encryption. In this case, the semiotic play of revelation and concealment is latent in an individual word: bed.

In the medieval imagination, the bed's significance as a grave was a traditional conceit; it was evident, for example, in Anglo-Saxon bed burials. In John 11, we find a more general symbolic convention, that is, sleep as a figure for death. Christ says he needs to go to wake Lazarus from sleep (John 11:11), and the apostles take this literally. In N-Town, the apostles jointly declare: "Of his syknes, he shal be save. / If [thorn]at he slepe, good sygne it is" (25.233-34). As in scripture, N-Town's Christ quickly explains: "Lazare is deed and leyd in grave; / Of his slepynge, ze deme amys" (25.235-36). He lets them know what has really happened: "[THORN]erfore, I telle 30W [thorn]e trewthe, iwys: / Oure frende is deed and vndyr erth clad" (25.239-40). Despite and because he has clarified the apostles' confusion, N-Town's Christ hints at his plan: "Be [THORN]e grett myght of myn Godhede, / Oute of his slepe he xal awake" (25.247-48). N-Town adheres to the gospel account in portraying the apostles' confusion wrought by their literal interpretation of Christ's figurative language wherein "sleep" connotes "death." When N-Town's Christ first announces his errand to Bethany, however, he takes "sleep" to its logical extension: "The cawse, [thorn]erfore, I thedyr wyl wende / Is for to reyse from bedde expresse / Lazare, pat slepyth, oure althere frende" (25.230-32). Out of the metaphoric language of John 11, N-Town engineers a literal deathbed for Lazarus. By the time Christ says he will "reyse [Lazarus] from bedde" (231), the N-Town audience has seen Lazarus die in his bed and get buried in his grave. Positioning Lazarus's bed at the episode's opening, N-Town insinuates his emergence from the grave and, more broadly, the basis of literary encryption in death.

Lazarus's deathbed suggests writing's general foundation in cryptomimesis as well as a literary mode designed for practical engagement with the postmortem condition: the ars moriendi, a body of literature that derives from two Latin texts known as the long version (1415) and the short version (ca. 1450). The popularity of these texts and their vernacular versions indubitably derived from the outbreak of fatal diseases such as the Black Death (1347-51). In these texts that instructed the moriens in making a "good death," the bed was the implied center of activity. With the help of attendants, the dying person was guided through questions, warnings, instructions, and prayers. Medieval deathbed iconography predates the ars moriendi. Yet this tradition was the first to associate deathbed scenes "with a sort of story, or at least connected action, running through them." (36) Given that the postmortem state was ultimately unknowable, the bed situated death itself in a particular time and place. (37) As a recognizable mise-en-scene in the ars moriendi, the deathbed exemplifies this literature's purpose, to render death in legible terms, which was especially true for the great wealth of vernacular translations.

N-Town's unusual opening scene reflects the cultural currency of this literary trope. Additionally, it suggests a practical relationship between the ars moriendi and the Lazarus episode, which, strictly speaking, stages the death of a figure famous for having died. Like other episodes in the N-Town manuscript, the "Raising of Lazarus" was perhaps not dramatized but instead used as pious reading material. Thus, like vernacular ars moriendi texts, N-Town may have instructed a reading audience in making a good death. The episode's opening scene--which has Lazarus's two sisters and four consolatores at his bed--indeed implies a public performance. This mise en scene does not determine the N-Town manuscript's use as a play script so much as it reflects the deathbed's position at the center of public performances in the ars moriendi. In its rituals meant to prepare the moribund person for death, the ars moriendi included scripts for various speaking roles. While the dying person could still talk and think clearly, their attendants needed to dispose them well toward death. This instruction entailed an extended inquisition into the dying person's faith in God, belief in the afterlife, contrition for sins, forgiveness of enemies, and rejection of worldly goods. The Lamentation of the Dying Creature, which is recorded in a late fifteenth-century manuscript (BL Harley MS 1706), adds a dramatic dimension to this deathbed scene in its inclusion of biblical and allegorical personae. Having heard the dying person's prescribed lament, the Virgin Mary petitions Christ for mercy. The virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity likewise have words of comfort for the moribund person. In a subsequent verbal performance, the dying body recounts the benefits of the virtues' speeches to its own soul, from which it will soon be parted. (38) Evocative of those portrayed in late medieval English ars moriendi, Lazarus's deathbed is indeed the locus of much conversation. N-Town captures the performative nature of this death literature and, in turn, portrays a scenario in which the ars moriendi is put to practical use.

In offering detailed instructions about dying, ars moriendi texts take human ignorance about death as their very subject. N-Town discloses the aporetic premise of this literary mode in the ambivalent advice that Lazarus's attendants dispense to him. Responding to Lazarus's complaints about his health, his sister Martha encourages his bed rest:
Lazarus, brother, be of good cher;
I hope zoure syknes ryght wel xal slake.
Vpon [thorn]is bed rest zow rygh her,
And a good slep assay to take. (25.17-20)

Martha's advice to Lazarus is indeterminate: Lazarus should get some rest in order to heal or, alternatively, Lazarus will have a "good slep" when he dies. The latter meaning evokes the desired outcome of the ars moriendi: to facilitate a "good death." If we take her words in their literal sense, Martha insinuates to Lazarus that he may recover from his nonspecific fatal illness. In its basic design, however, ars moriendi literature dictates that the sick person should not hope to recover their physical health. At the sick person's deathbed, attendants are supposed to prepare them for death--not dispense false hope of recovery--lest they die unprepared. (39) William Caxton's translation (1490) of a French ars moriendi text records this fundamental advice:

And there ought not to be given to any sick person over much hope of recovering his bodily health. Howbeit oft times many do the contrary, in prejudice of their souls, yea, to them otherwhile that draw to their death. And it happeth oft that they will not hear of death, and so by such false comfort, and by such faint trust of health, the sick person falleth into damnation. (40)

Contra the advice this literature conventionally offers, the consolatores try to distract Lazarus from thinking about death. When Lazarus discloses that he is dying, the First Consolator responds:
Be of good comforte and thynke not so,
Put out of herte bat idyl thought.
zoure owyn mysdemynge may werke zow wo
And cause zow sonere to deth be brought (25.65-68).

The Third Consolator tells him he may get better: "Many on hath had ryght grett sykness / And aftyr hath had his hele again" (25.73-74). He tells Lazarus that it's not uncommon for a dying person "with his wantruste hymsylf hath slayn" (25.76). Indeed, The Book of the Art of the Craft of Dying (Bodleian MS 423) warns that the moribund person is inclined to become desperate: "For when a sick man is sore tormented and vexed, with sorrow and sickness of his body, then the devil is most busy to superadd sorrow to sorrow, with all the ways that he may, objecting his sins against him for to include him into despair." (41) This desperation, however, is introduced by the devil to keep the dying person from confessing his sins. If N-Towhs Lazarus depended on his attendants, he would not have made a good death. In this context, Christ's miraculous raising of Lazarus in fact undermines the purpose of ars moriendi literature. Albeit differently than most mortals, N-Town's Lazarus still enjoys "life after death."

The attendants' negative example, however, would test the N-Town audience on their knowledge of the ars moriendi, which, as Appleford argues, had become critical to one's spiritual status as well as civic standing in late medieval London. Even if N-Town's audience did not recognize the scene's particular resonance with the ars moriendi, they would have apprehended its message thanks to the dramatic irony latent in the speeches of the consolatores. Despite their encouragement, Lazarus is not going to recover. Indeed, the play would not be staged at all if the consolatores were right. The scene's rendition of the biblical episode and, by extension, Lazarus's identity as a mortal who "survived death," depends on his succumbing to his illness. Furthermore, as the scene's meaning relies on the audience's acquaintance with the outcome of Lazarus's story, it evinces a key fact about the dead's significance to literature. They are in fact the "living dead," sustained in written texts by living subjects who use them as media for exploring their own deaths, which are omnipresent yet unknown.

As N-Town implicates its audience for their familiarity with Lazarus's story, so does the literary mode of ars moriendi interpellate its audience as "the living dead." These medieval texts thus exemplify a basic assumption in rhetorical studies about the human subject, who, as Michelle Ballif contends, is essentially a living subject: "As Vico's etymological account reveals: the very word 'humanity' can be traced to the Latin 'humare,' which means to bury. By implication 'the human' is categorically constructed in terms of the conceptual border between the living and the dead." (42) Drawing on Jacques Derrida's appellation of a "new scholar" who addresses the dead, Ballif designates addressing the dead as the ultimate rhetorical act. (43) This poststructuralist position on the dead's significance to verbal performances illuminates the rhetorical stakes of Magdalene's lament at her brother's funeral. Simply put, Lazarus's burial has stoked Magdalene's desire to "learn to die":
We dulfull women must burry oure brothir--
Alas, [thorn]at deth me wyl not slo!
If I to pitt with hym myght go,
[THORN]erein evrymore with hym to abyde,
Than were my care all went me fro,
[THORN]er now grett sorwe doth wounde me wyde. (25.155-60)

Positioned at her brother's grave while she delivers this lament, Magdalene demonstrates the valence of the liminal space between the living and the dead to human semiosis. In particular, Magdalene's wish to follow Lazarus indicates her desire for knowledge that in fact exceeds the ars moriendi. What she wants is a subject position that is innately appealing to humans yet impossible for mortals, one that the resuscitated Lazarus will inhabit.

But what does N-Towns Lazarus bring back from the dead? As in other English dramatic texts, Lazarus gives a short speech when he emerges from his crypt:
At zoure comaundement I ryse up ful ryght.
Hevyn, helle, and erth zoure byddyng must obeye.
For ze be God and man, and Lord of most myght.
Of lyff and of deth ze haue both lok and keye. (25.425-28)

As in York, Lazarus reflects on Christ's power. He does not offer details about his postmortem condition as do Towneley's Lazarus (who recounts his trip to the grave) and Chester's (who discloses that he'd been to hell). (44) With the image of the "lok and keye," however, N-Town's Lazarus associates his resuscitation with an analogous miracle, Christ's "Harrowing of Hell," an apocryphal event that was popular on the medieval English stage. The Harrowing has not yet happened when Christ raises Lazarus. In English dramatizations of the "Harrowing of Hell," Satan typically asserts his ownership of these dead souls, sinners descended from Adam. In response to this claim of "the devil's rights," (45) Christ points out a loophole: his salvific death voided Satan's tenure over mortals. In these episodes, Satan is given to complaining about Lazarus's escape from hell. For example, prior to Christ's arrival in Hell, York's Satan grumbles over his rescue of Lazarus:
I knowe his trantis fro toppe to taile,
He leuys with gaudis and with gilery.
[THORN]erby he brought oute of oure bale
Nowe late Lazar of Betannye;
[THORN]erfore I gaffe to [thorn]e Jewes counsaille
[THORN]at [THORN]ei schulde always garre hym dye. (37.159-64)

As he emerges from the crypt in N-Town, Lazarus enthuses over Christ's proprietary ability to spring him from hell, thus evoking Satan's indignation over Christ's forced entry into his physical and metaphysical domain.

In N-Town, Satan makes this complaint in the next episode, which is not the "Harrowing of Hell" but Satan's Prologue to Passion Play I, a dramatic sequence that includes events from Palm Sunday through Holy Thursday. (46) As he discloses his scheme to get Christ killed, Satan enumerates his nemesis's miracles. He is particularly angered that "Lazare, [thorn]at foure days lay ded, his lyff recuryd" (26.38). Despite Christ's raising Lazarus, Satan boasts that hell is inescapable:
And as for hem [thorn]at be vndre my grett domynacyon,
He xal fayle of hese intent and purpose also,
Be pis tyxt of holde remembryd to myn intencyon:
Quia in inferno nulla est redempcio (26.45-48).

Of the English biblical dramatic texts, the N-Town manuscript includes the most Latin, which is part of the reason that it has been associated with an erudite audience. In this context, however, the Latin trope--"Quia in inferno nulla est redempcio" (because there is no redemption in hell)--is meant to exhibit its discursive difference from the rest of Satan's Prologue. Indeed, Satan himself presents it as "tyxt of holde" (26.47), a source whose abstrusity is implied in the untranslated Latin. In the York and Towneley "Harrowing of Hell" episodes, Satan speaks this line to prove to Christ the futility of his mission to hell. Noteworthily, in these instances the trope is in the vernacular. In York, for example, Satan says to Christ: "Iob, [thorn]i servaunte also, / [THORN]us in his tyme gune telle / [THORN]at nowthir frende nor foo / Shulde fynde reles in helle" (York, 37.285-88). (47) Of course York's Job does get out of hell, so Satan's claim has been proven incorrect. In Satan's Prologue in N-Town, his boast about hell's inescapabilty thus draws our attention to translation in its linguistic and metaphysical senses. Satan's untranslated Latin is meant to convey the impossibility of a decedent's translation out of hell. Despite Satan's intentions, however, this trope was not occult knowledge but rather would have been familiar to medieval audiences from the Office of the Dead, a prayer cycle in the Canonical Hours. (48) Additionally, the Office of the Dead was usually the ultimate item in books of hours, and it might be in the vernacular or Latin. (49) In context, Satan in fact misuses this trope, which was performed to facilitate the repose of a deceased person's soul.

Satan's desire to frame postmortem translation in linguistic terms, however, illuminates Lazarus's significance to literary semiosis. As he exits the crypt, N-Town's Lazarus characterizes Christ's miraculous power in terms of his possession of a "lok and keye" (25.428). In its most basic sense, this image evokes the physical movement entailed in translation, such as of a saint's relics from one location to another. And in Lazarus's particular case, the image calls to mind a specific scene portrayed in "Harrowing of Hell" performances, namely, Christ's physical destruction of the doors to hell. In a related yet different vein, Lazarus speaks to the permeation of discursive boundaries, a meaning that inheres in the sense of "keye" as a device for accessing obscure knowledge, a denotation that Anglo-Saxon writers had acquired from Latin and that was current in Middle English texts. After Christ raised him, Lazarus did not embody the "afterlife" that humans would enjoy after death. But as a figure for death's generative role in mortals' semiosis, he suggests the wealth of intercessory forms--including vernacular texts--that afforded medieval subjects imaginary control over the cryptic margin between life and death.

University of Mississippi


(1) Noteworthy examples include the X-Files episode "Lazarus" (February 4, 1994); the Black Mirror episode "San Junipero" (October 21, 2016); The Lazarus Effect (2015); the television series The Returned (2015), Re-animator (1985); Flatliners (1990 and 2017); Pet Sematary (1989); Realive (2017); the David Bowie musical Lazarus. Bowie's song "Lazarus" was released on December 17, 2015, the feast of St. Lazarus that immediately preceded Bowie's own death.

(2) N. Katherine Hayles, How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics (U. of Chicago Press, 1999), 7-8.

(3) See Bruce Holsinger, "Of Pigs and Parchment: Medieval Studies and the Coming of the Animal," PMLA 124.2 (2009): 616-23; and my "The Talking Dead: Resounding Voices in The Exeter Book Riddles," Exemplaria 20 (2008): 123-42.

(4) "Magna Carta de libertatibus mundi,'' in Mary Caroline Spalding, "The Middle English Charters of Christ," (PhD diss., Bryn Mawr, 1914), 4.

(5) Caroline Walker Bynum, The Resurrection of the Body in Western Christianity: 200-1336, repr. with a new intra and afterword (Columbia U. Press, 1995; repr., 2017), 8.

(6) The Late Medieval Religious Plays of Bodleian MSS Digby 133and E Museo 160, ed. Donald C. Baker, John L. Murphy, and Louis B. Hall Jr., EETS o.s. 283 (Oxford U. Press, 1981), 24-95.

(7) David Bevington, Medieval Drama (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1975), 470. Bevington means the Fleury Playbook's Resusitatio Lazari and Hilarius's Suscitatio Lazari.

(8) Jodey Castricano, Cryptomimesis: The Gothic and Jacques Derrida's Ghost Writing (McGill-Queen's U. Press, 2003), quotes Zizek that the return of the living dead is "the fundamental fantasy of contemporary mass culture" (4).

(9) Michelle Ballif, "Regarding the Dead," Philosophy and Rhetoric 47 (2014): 455-71.

(10) Ballif, "Regarding the Dead," 467.

(11) Ibid., 468.

(12) Martin Heidegger, "A Dialogue on Language: Between a Japanese and an Inquirer," in On the Way to Language, trans. Peter D. Hertz (New York: Harper & Row, 1971), 29.

(13) See Richard E. Palmer, Hermeneutics (Northwestern U. Press, 1969), 13-15.

(14) Amy Appleford, Learning to Die in London, 1380-1540 (U. of Pennsylvania Press, 2015).

(15) This formula now has metadiscursive meaning as a swear. Also it is famous for being the shortest Bible verse after versification was introduced. When Stephen King had to memorize a Bible verse, he allegedly chose John 11:35 for its brevity.

(16) "The Raising of Lazarus," in The N-Town Play, ed. Stephen Spector, EETS s.s. 11, I:230-45 (Oxford U. Press, 1991).

(17) Penelope Granger, The N-Town Play: Drama and Liturgy in Medieval East Anglia (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2009), 172-92.

(18) Kathleen M. Ashley, "The Resurrection of Lazarus in Late Medieval English and French Cycle Drama," Papers on Language and Literature 22 (1986): 230, notes that eight-ninths of the matter revolves around laments.

(19) Katharine Goodland, Female Mourning and Tragedy in Medieval and Renaissance English Drama: From the Raising of Lazarus to King Lear (Abingdon: Routledge, 2017), 37-54, 92-93.

(20) Katharine Goodland, "'Obsequious Laments': Mourning and Communal Memory in Shakespeare's Richard III," in Shakespeare and the Culture of Christianity in Early Modern Europe, ed. Dennis Taylor and David N. Beauregard (Fordham U. Press, 2003), 53.

(21) Goodland, "Obsequious Laments," 48.

(22) Goodland, "Us for to wepe may no man lett," 92.

(23) Ibid., 90.

(24) Hilarius, Suscitatio Lazari, in Bevington, Medieval Drama, 155-68. The translations from Hilarius are mine.

(25) Ballif, "Regarding the Dead," 461.

(26) In a 456-line text, the ten complaints that Magdalene makes subsequent to Lazarus's death comprise 52 lines. In another brief speech, she breaks from lamenting Lazarus's death to assess the toll her formidable grief has taken on her: "I thank zow, frendys, for zoure good chere. / Myn hed doth ake as it xulde brest" (25.281-82).

(27) John 11:23-26.

(28) V. A. Kolve, The Play Called Corpus Christi (Stanford U. Press, 1966), 79-80.

(29) The York Plays, ed. Richard Beadle, EETS s.s. 23, 1:189-95 (Oxford U. Press, 2009). In the York Capmakers' Play, Lazarus is included with the "Woman Taken in Adultery."

(30) This is the convention followed in The Chester Mystery Cycle, ed. R. M. Lumiansky and David Mills, EETS s.s. 3, 1:230-50 (Oxford U. Press, 1974).

(31) See Claire Sponsler, "Drama in the Archives: Recognizing Medieval Plays," in From Script to Stage in Early Modern England, ed. Peter Holland and Stephen Orgel, (Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave, 2004), 111-30.

(32) "Raising of Lazarus", in The Towneley Plays, ed. Martin Stevens and A. C. Cawley, EETS s.s. 13 (Oxford U. Press, 1994), 425-31.

(33) Bevington, Medieval Drama, 470; Rosemary Woolf, The English Mystery Plays (U. of California Press, 1980), 396.

(34) Paul Binski, Medieval Death: Ritual and Representation (Cornell U. Press, 1996), 34.

(35) Binski, Medieval Death, 33.

(36) Mary Catharine O'Connor, The Art of Dying Well: The Development of the "Ars moriendi," Columbia University Studies in English 136 (Columbia U Press, 1942), 116.

(37) Katherine L. French, Kathryn A. Smith, and Sarah Stanbury, "An Honest Bed: The Scene of Life and Death in Late Medieval England," Fragments: Interdisciplinary Approaches to the Study of Ancient and Medieval Pasts 5 (2016): 75.

(38) Lamentation of the Dying Creature, in The Book of the Craft of Dying and Other Early English Tracts Concerning Death, ed. Frances M. M. Comper (New York: Longmans, 1917), 137-69.

(39) Steven Rozenski, "'Your Ensaumple and Your Mirour': Hoccleve's Amplification of the Imagery and Intimacy of Henry Suso's Ars Moriendi," Parergon 25.2 (2008): 7.

(40) William Caxton, "The Craft to Know Well to Die," in The Book of the Craft of Dying and Other Early English Tracts Concerning Death, ed. Frances M. M. Comper (New York: Longmans, 1917), 75.

(41) Caxton, The Book of the Craft of Dying, in The Book of the Craft of Dying and Other Early English Tracts Concerning Death, 12.

(42) Ballif, "Regarding the Dead," 457.

(43) Ibid., 455.

(44) On the postmortem disclosures traditionally attributed to Lazarus, see Edward J. Gallagher, "The Visio Lazari, The Cult, and the Old French Life of Lazarus: An Overview," Neuphilologische Mitteilungen 90 (1989): 331-39.

(45) The literary interpretation of this theological doctrine is explained in C. William Marx, The Devil's Rights and the Redemption in the Literature of Medieval England (Suffolk, UK: Boydell and Brewer, 1995).

(46) The N-Town manuscript is comprised of episodes in the so-called "Creation to Doom" cycle. It is a compilation; its individual episodes were produced at various times, under various textual circumstances. The Passion Play I, for example, is on paper whose watermark originated from a region different than the rest of the manuscript, which suggests its purchase at a different time. See Peter Meredith and Stanley J. Kahrl, "Introduction," The N-Town Plays: A Facsimile of British Library MS Cotton Vespasian D VIII, ed. Peter Meredith (U. of Leeds, 1977), xv.

(47) See also Towneley, 25.299-302.

(48) The line was included in a responsory of the Office of the Dead in the third Nocturn of Matins.

(49) Granger, The N-Town Play, 174.
COPYRIGHT 2018 University of Iowa
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2018 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Hayes, Mary
Publication:Philological Quarterly
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:4EUUE
Date:Sep 22, 2018
Previous Article:Performing Failure in Petrarch's Rerum vulgarium fragmenta.
Next Article:The Queen's Masques: Rethinking Jacobean Masques and an English Feminine Theater.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2022 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters |