than good. It is only Jesus, once he arrives, w h o both understands the sisters' need to mourn and helps them to the true consolation; and in this regard, it is significant that the Consolers do not understand even Jesus' tears, asking w h y such a mighty prophet should weep
58 Death Takes to the Stage (376-77). Even after the miracle, they continue to misunderstand, thinking that Jesus has promised not a heavenly consolation but eternal life on earth: "oure deth ye m a y A-slake and kepe us stylle on lyve" (448). It is the "helpful" group of Consolers, then, rather than the nearly hysterical Magdalen, w h o presents the horrible example of misplaced consolation. In contrast, Jesus shows the way to true consolation: acceptance of God's will, yes—but with the humane allowance for a time of mourning before looking forward to reun- ion with the loved one in Heaven. It is only after the catharsis of tears that Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead; and only after the same catharsis that Martha and Madgalen are ready both to receive and to give consolation themselves. Th e Wakefield Lazarus does not deal with consolation but proceeds almost immediately to the miracle. Lazarus, in this play, serves as a figure of Dreary Death proclaiming his memento mori in the manner of the Legend or the Death-figures of Herod and the Moralities: y oure dede is Worme s coke, youre myrroure here ye loke, and let m e be your boke, youre sampill take by me ; fro dede you cleke in cloke, [seize in claw] sich shall ye all be. (119-24) A n d for ninety-two grisly lines, he tells both the onstage and the offstage audience what will happen to them. Despite all their gay clothing, he says, they will rot away in the grave, where worms and toads will devour their flesh. Their great hall will be a nar- row grave, and their clothing a winding sheet. Stinking like "dog in dike" they will lie, while their executors rob their wives and children of all the wealth that they have acquired in life, and, after a while, even their wives and children will forget them. D o not, therefore, put your trust in the earthly life, Lazarus warns his audience, but heap up riches for Heaven: the good deeds that alone will accompany you to the grave and thence to salvation.
Death Takes to the Stage 59 I have been in Hell, he adds, and have seen what the damned must suffer. Take warning, then, amend your lives, and put your trust in G o d . Lazarus's speech is an impressive one, very close in substance to the warnings on tombstones and in the Legends. The use of varying stanzaic patterns in the speech also suggests that it m a y have been augmented over the years as the storehouse of death literature increased. A n d outside of the last three stanzas, in which Lazarus describes his o w n sufferings in Hell, the whole speech might have been delivered by the Death w h o comes for Herod, H u m a n u m Genus, and Everyman.
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