Play 19, The Massacre of the Innocents

Play 19, THE MASSACRE OF THE INNOCENTS: EXPLANATORY NOTES


ABBREVIATIONS: AV: Authorized (“King James”) Version; Meditations: Meditations on the Life of Christ, trans. Ragusa and Green; MED: Middle English Dictionary; OED: Oxford English Dictionary; RB: Richard Beadle, ed., York Plays; REED: Records of Early English Drama; YA: Davidson and O’Connor, York Art; York Breviary: Breviarium ad usum insignis ecclesie Eboracensis; York Missal: Missale ad usum insignis ecclesiae Eboracensis.

References to the Ordo paginarum are to REED: York, 1:16–27.

The Ordo paginarum of 1415, insofar as the damaged manuscript can be read, mentions Herod, two soldiers with lances, and four weeping mothers, but probably Consolators would have been included. The text in the Register again represents the pageant in c. 1463–77 in which presumably only two mothers have speaking roles, though in regard to speech designations the manuscript here is not reliable. By John Clerke’s time, the text had been revised or, more likely, replaced, for he entered the comment that “This matter . . . agreyth not with the Coucher in no poynt, it begynnyth, ‘Lysten lordes unto my lawe.’” The episode of Herod and the massacre of the children of Bethlehem, deriving ultimately from Matthew 2:16, was commemorated in the liturgy in association with the feast of Holy Innocents (December 28). Iconographic evidence from York, fourteenth-century glass in the Minster, suggests that the soldiers wore armor and that they appeared to impale the infants on their spears.1 Herod witnesses the carnage, and may even participate in it. The York pageant, written in an eight-line stanza with three stresses to the line, was produced by two manufacturing crafts, the Girdlers, makers of belts and similar items, and the Nailers.

3 Stente of youre stevenes stoute. Undoubtedly aimed at members of the audience, who presumably were jeering at Herod, the enemy of Christ and, by association, of all children. Herod is a worshiper of Mahounde, understood as a god, or an idol, directly opposed to the ideals of a Christian community. His evil advisors, identified as Consolators, will encourage him to act out his anger and hostility.

41–45 I am noyed of newe . . . a swayne. Herod is disturbed that the three kings have not returned, as they said they would — to which the Consolator in the following lines suggests that they had been wrong and hence were embarrassed to return to Herod without anything positive to relate.

57 Tham shamys. A dative of agency construction (now archaic) in which the subject is acted upon; i.e., a shame came to them. Compare “methinks.”

63–69 This portion of Herod’s speech is corrupt in the manuscript, though the gist of it is clear.

89 boy, thou burdis to brode. Herod accuses the messenger of jesting; it cannot be that the kings have gone on without fulfilling their promise. But in lines 103–05 the messenger will reveal the truth, which is that Herod is deceived. His response is anger, Herod’s typical temperament being revealed; in iconography, as at Fairford, he is typically seen holding a child whom he is stabbing with a long sword (Wayment, Stained Glass, pp. 79–80, pl. XXXIX). Nevertheless, here he is somewhat less extreme than the Herod of the Coventry Shearmen and Taylors’ play in which “Erode ragis in the pagond and in the strete also” (line 728 s.d.; Coventry Corpus Christi Plays, p. 105).

145 it is past two yere. There seems to be some confusion in the play about the length of time since Jesus was born. Later it seems to be recognized that Jesus was not yet two years of age.

152 knave childir kepte in clowte. The practice was to wrap children up rather tightly in swaddling clothes in lieu of diapers and the freedom given to modern infants; two years in such a condition would not have been unusual.

193 The soldiers have now arrived at Bethlehem. The missing line following line 193 would presumably have been an addition to the first soldier’s speech rather than to that of the outraged mother. In the scene which follows, the infants would have been represented by dolls or puppets since it is of course unimaginable that a real child could have been jerked, pulled, and tossed about as violently as would have been required.

203 And me, but itt be quytte. A stage direction is implied here to indicate that the soldier is returning the mother’s blows. Still, the scene is more subdued than the massacre in the Digby play of the Killing of the Children, nor is there any character like the cowardly and comic Watkin of that drama.

214 And I hadde but hym allone. An echo of Mary’s line in the Flight to Egypt: “And I have but hym allone” (line 146).

226–30 Allas, that we wer wroughte / In worlde women to be . . . spill. The women lament their state; they will see the children whom they have brought into world in the pain of childbirth now literally butchered in their sight.

240 How so they wraste or wryng. Hand gestures, a common sign of grief and despair. See C. Davidson, “Gesture,” pp. 82 and 97.

281 we will wende before. Herod will lead a procession on foot to the next station where the pageant will again be presented.


Play 19, THE MASSACRE OF THE INNOCENTS: TEXTUAL NOTES


ABBREVIATIONS: Bevington: David Bevington, ed., Medieval Drama (1975); Köbling: E. Köbling, “Beiträge zur Erklärung und Textkritik der York Plays”; LTS: Lucy Toulmin Smith, ed., The York Plays (1885); RB: Richard Beadle, ed., The York Plays (1972) (incorporating numerous emendations from other sources); RB2: Richard Beadle, “Corrections to The York Plays,” in Gerald Byron Kinneavy, A Concordance to the York Plays (1986), pp. xxxi–xxxii; s.d.: stage direction; Sykes: A. C. Cawley, ed., “The Sykes MS of the York Scriveners’ Play”; Towneley: Martin Stevens and A. C. Cawley, eds., The Towneley Plays.

The base text for this edition is London, British Library, MS. Add. 35290, called the “Register” in the York civic records and here identified by the abbreviation Reg. Some variations in lineation from the manuscript are not noted here; see RB and Beadle and Meredith’s The York Play: A Facsimile. In most cases the line numbering in the present text is consistent with RB. Lineation of alliterative verse throughout is based on Reg, with line numbering adjusted accordingly to account for half lines. Scribes are identified as follows: Scribe A; Scribe B: main scribe; JC: John Clerke; LH: later scribal hand (unidentified).

Top of previous page, in JC’s handwriting: This matter of the gyrdlers agreyth not with the Coucher in no poynt; it begynnyth, Lysten lordes unto my lawe.

1 HEROD. Reg: centered above text, added in JC’s hand.

90 NUNCIUS. So LTS, RB; Reg omit.

91 HERODES. So LTS, RB; Reg omit.

153 and. So LTS, RB; Reg: and and.

167 I MILES. So RB; Reg, LTS: I CONSOLATOR.

171 boght. This edition; Reg, LTS: boght he; RB: bathe.

173 wathe. RB; Reg, LTS: waghe.

176 II MILES. So RB; Reg, LTS: II CONSOLATOR.

193 The following line is missing in Reg.

223 I MILES. So LTS, RB; Reg: II MILES.

240–41 Lines reversed in Reg.

245 thydingis. So Reg (as corrected by ?LH).

274 I CONSOLATOR. So LTS, RB; Reg omit.

275 than. Misplaced in Reg at end of previous line.

276 HERODES. So RB; LTS: II CONSOLATOR; Reg omit.

279 banne. So LTS, RB; Reg: bande.


Play 19, THE MASSACRE OF THE INNOCENTS: EXPLANATORY NOTE FOOTNOTE


Footnote 1 YA, pp. 58–60, fig. 16.















 
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Play 19, The Massacre of the Innocents

The Gyrdillers and Naylers
 




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280   

HEROD   Powre bewcheris aboute,
Peyne of lyme and lande,
Stente of youre stevenes stoute,
And stille as stone ye stande,
And my carping recorde.
Ye aught to dare and doute,
And lere you lowe to lowte
To me, youre lovely lord.

Ye awe in felde and towne
To bowe at my bidding
With reverence and renoune,
As fallis for swilk a kyng,
The lordlyest on lyve
Who herto is noght bowne,
Be allmighty Mahounde,
To dede I schall him dryve.

So bolde loke no man be,
For to aske helpe ne holde
But of Mahounde and me
That hase this worlde in welde
To mayntayne us emell;
For welle of welthe are we,
And my cheffe helpe is he;
Herto what can ye tell?

I CONSOLATOR   Lord, what you likis to do
All folke will be full fayne,
To take entente therto,
And none grucche ther agayne.
That full wele witte shall ye,
And yf thai wolde noght soo,
We shulde sone wirke tham woo.

HERODES   Ya, faire sirs, so shulde it bee.

II CONSOLATOR   Lorde, the soth to saie,
Fulle wele we undirstande,
Mahounde is god werraye,
And ye ar lorde of ilke a lande.
Therfore so have I seell,
I rede we wayte allway,
What myrthe most mende you may.

HERODES   Sertis, ye saie right well.

But I am noyed of newe,
That blithe may I noght be,
For thre kyngis, as ye knowe,
That come thurgh this contré,
And saide thei sought a swayne.

I CONSOLATOR   That rewlle I hope tham rewe,
For hadde ther tales ben trewe
They hadde comen this waye agayne.

II CONSOLATOR   We harde how thei you hight
Yf they myght fynde that childe,
For to have tolde you right,
But certis thei are begilyd.
Swilke tales ar noght to trowe,
Full wele wotte ilke a wight,
Ther schalle nevere man have myght
Ne maystrie unto you.

I CONSOLATOR   Tham shamys so, for certayne,
That they dar mete you no more.

HERODES   Wherfore shulde thei be fayne
To make swilke fare before,
To saie a boy was borne
That schulde be moste of mayne?
This gadlyng schall agayne
Yf that the devyll had sworne.

For be well never thei wotte,
Whedir thei wirke wele or wrang,
To frayne garte them thusgate,
To seke that gedlyng gane,
And swilke carping to kith.

II CONSOLATOR   Nay, lorde, they lered overe latte
Youre blisse schal nevere abatte,
And therfore, lorde, be blithe.

NUNCIUS   Mahounde withouten pere,
My lorde, you save, and see.

HERODES   Messenger, come nere,
And, bewcher, wele thee be.
What tydyngis, telles thou, any?

NUNCIUS   Ya, lorde, sen I was here,
I have sought sidis seere
And sene merveyllis full many.

HERODES   And of mervayles to move,
That wer most myrthe to me.

NUNCIUS   Lorde, even as I have seene,
The soth sone schall ye see,
If ye wille, here in hye.
I mette tow townes betwene
Thre kyngis with crounes clene,
Rydand full ryally.

HERODES   A, my blys; boy, thou burdis to brode.

NUNCIUS   Sir, ther may no botment be.

HERODES   Owe, by sonne and mone,
Than tydis us talis tonyght.
Hopes thou thei will come sone
Hedir, as thei have hight,
For to telle me tythande?

NUNCIUS   Nay, lorde, that daunce is done.

HERODES   Why, whedir are thei gone?

NUNCIUS   Ilkone into ther owne lande.

HERODES   How sais thou, ladde? Late be.

NUNCIUS   I saie, for they are past.

HERODES   What, forthe away fro me?

NUNCIUS   Ya, lord, in faitht ful faste,
For I herde and toke hede
How that thei wente, all thre,
Into ther awne contré.

HERODES   A, dogges, the devell you spede.

NUNCIUS   Sir, more of ther menyng
Yitt well I undirstode,
How thei hadde made offering
Unto that frely foode
That nowe of newe is borne.
Thai saie he schulde be kyng,
And welde all erthely thyng.

HERODES   Allas, than am I lorne.

Fy on thaym, faytours, fy!
Wille thei begylle me thus?

NUNCIUS   Lorde, by ther prophicy
Thei named his name Jesus.

HERODES   Fy on thee, ladde, thou lyes.

II CONSOLATOR   Hense tyte, but thou thee hye,
With doulle her schall thou dye
That wreyes hym on this wise.

NUNCIUS   Ye wyte me all with wrang,
Itt is thus and wele warre.

HERODES   Thou lyes! false traytoure strange,
Loke nevere thou negh me nere.
Uppon liffe and lymme
May I that faitour fange,
Full high I schall gar hym hange,
Both thee, harlott, and hym.

NUNCIUS   I am nott worthy to wyte,
Bot fareswele, all the heppe.

I CONSOLATOR   Go, in the develes dispite,
Or I schall gar thee leppe,
And dere aby this bro.

HERODES   Als for sorowe and sighte,
My woo no wighte may wryte.
What devell is best to do?

II CONSOLATOR   Lorde, amende youre chere,
And takis no nedles noy,
We schall you lely lere
That ladde for to distroye
Be counsaille if we cane.

HERODES   That may ye noght come nere,
For it is past two yere
Sen that this bale begane.

I CONSOLATOR   Lorde, therfore have no doute
Yf it were foure or fyve.
Gars gadir in grete rowte
Youre knyghtis kene belyve,
And biddis tham dynge to dede
Alle knave childir kepte in clowte
In Bedlem and all aboute,
To layte in ilke a stede.

II CONSOLATOR   Lorde, save none, for youre seell,
That are of two yere age withinne,
Than schall that fandeling felle
Belyve his blisse schall blynne,
With bale when he schall blede.

HERODES   Sertis, ye saie right wele
And as ye deme ilke dele,
Shall I garre do indede.

Sir knyghtis, curtayse and hende,
Thow ne nott bees nowe all newe,
Ye schall fynde me youre frende,
And ye this tyme be trewe.

I MILES   What saie ye, lorde, lette see.

HERODES   To Bedlehem bus ye wende,
That schorwe with schame to schende
That menes to maistir me.

And abowte Bedlehem boght
Bus yowe wele spere and spye,
For ellis it will be wathe
That he losis this Jury.
And certis that were grete schame.

II MILES   My lorde, that wer us lathe,
And he escapid it wer skathe,
And we welle worthy blame.

I MILES   Full sone he schall be soughte,
That make I myne avowe.

I CONSOLATOR   I bide for hym yow loghte,
And latte me telle yowe howe
To werke when ye come there,
Bycause ye kenne hym noght,
To dede they muste be brought,
Knave childre, lesse and more.

HERODES   Yaa, all withinne two yere,
That none for speche be spared.

II MILES   Lord, howe ye us lere
Full wele we take rewarde,
And certis we schall not rest.

I MILES   Comes furth, felowes, in feere,
Loo, fondelyngis fynde we here
. . .
I MULIER   Owte on yow theves, I crye!
Ye slee my semely sone.

II MILES   Ther browls schall dere abye
This bale that is begonne;
Therfore lay fro thee faste.

II MULIER   Allas, for doule I dye.
To save my sone schall I,
Aye whils my liff may last.

I MILES   A, dame, the devyll thee spede,
And me, but itt be quytte.

I MULIER   To dye I have no drede,
I do thee wele to witte,
To save my sone so dere.

I MILES   As armes! for nowe is nede,
But yf we do yone dede,
Ther quenys will quelle us here.

II MULIER   Allas, this lothly striffe.
No blisse may be my bette,
The knyght uppon his knyffe
Hath slayne my sone so swette;
And I hadde but hym allone.

I MULIER   Allas, I lose my liffe;
Was nevere so wofull a wyffe
Ne halffe so wille of wone.

And certis, me were full lotht
That thei thus harmeles yede.

I MILES   The devell myght spede you bothe,
False wicchis, are ye woode?

I MULIER   Nay, false lurdayns, ye lye.

I MILES   If ye be woode or wrothe,
Ye schall noght skape fro skathe;
Wende we us hense in hye.

I MULIER   Allas, that we wer wroughte
In worlde women to be,
The barne that wee dere bought
Thus in oure sighte to see
Disputuously spill.

II MULIER   And certis, ther nott is noght,
The same that thei have soughte
Schall thei nevere come till.

I MILES   Go we to the king;
Of all this contek kene
I schall nott lette for nothyng
To saie as we have sene.

II MILES   And certis, no more shall I.
We have done his bidding;
How so they wraste or wryng,
We schall saie sothfastly.

I MILES   Mahounde, oure god of myght,
Save thee, sir Herowde the kyng!

I CONSOLATOR   Lorde, take kepe to youre knyght;
He wille telle you nowe thydingis
Of bordis wher they have bene.

HERODES   Yaa, and thei have gone right,
And holde that thei us hight;
Than shall solace be sene.

II MILES   Lorde, as ye demed us to done,
In contrees wher we come . . .

HERODES   Sir, by sonne and mone,
Ye are welcome home
And worthy to have rewarde.
Have ye geten us this gome?

I MILES   Wher we fande felle or fone,
Wittenesse we will that ther was none.

II MILES   Lorde, they are dede ilkone,
What wolde ye we ded more?

HERODES   I aske but aftir oone
The kyngis tolde of before
That schulde make grete maistrie.
Telle us if he be tane.

I MILES   Lorde, tokenyng hadde we none
To knawe that brothell by.

II MILES   In bale we have tham brought
Aboute all Bedleham towne.

HERODES   Ye lye, youre note is nought,
The develes of helle you droune!
So may that boy be fledde,
For in waste have ye wroght.
Or that same ladde be sought,
Schalle I nevere byde in bedde.

I CONSOLATOR   We will wende with you than
To dynge that dastard doune.

HERODES   As arme, evere ilke man
That holdis of Mahounde.
Wer they a thousand skore,
This bargayne schall thai banne
Comes aftir as yhe canne,
For we will wende before.
Poor good sirs; (t-note)
Pain; limb
Stop; shouting loud; (see note)

speaking pay attention to
fear; worry
learn; bow (reverence)


ought


befits
alive
obliged

death


support

[our] keeping
between us
fountain (source)
principal



glad
pay attention
complain; against
well know

soon work them





very (true)
every
well-being
advise; watch




annoyed; (see note)
happy

through
squire (or knight)

action; regret



heard; promised



trust
knows every man

over you

They are ashamed; (see note)
meet

glad
reveal such matter

power
base fellow (bastard); (see note)


whatever they think
work good or ill
ask make; in this manner
did
reveal

too late
slacken
happy

Mohammed



good sir, well



everywhere
seen marvels

perform



soon
(i.e., straightaway)
between two towns
perfect
Riding; royally

jest too broadly; (see note)

remedy; (t-note)

(t-note)
This indicates tales to us

Hither; promised
news

(i.e., that is over and done)



Each one

Let

gone




took notice





significance


noble child


have earthly power over

destroyed

liars
beguile






quickly; go
misery (dole) here
proclaims

blame
much worse


come near
limb
deceiver catch
cause him to hang


do not deserve to be blamed
crowd (i.e., all of you)

malice
make; leap
dearly pay for; brew (unsavory business)


man; write (record)



annoyance
truly teach

are able


(see note)




Bring together; assembly
(i.e., all ready without delay)
beat them to death
male; swaddling clothes; (see note)
(t-note)
seek

well-being

bastard feel (perceive)
Quickly; end
bleed

say
judge
set out to do

worthy
Though this matter is all new

If

(t-note)


shrew; destroy
intends; overcome

?both; (t-note)
inquire and spy
a danger; (t-note)
causes the loss of


loath; (t-note)
If; harm



pledge

bid (request); seize
let

know




eloquence


pay heed


all together
foundlings (bastards); (see note)
[line missing, see note]

handsome son

brats; dearly pay

(i.e., let go the child quickly)

dole
son



even; (see note)


(i.e., I want you to know)
dear

To arms

queans (harlots); frustrate (destroy)


comfort

sweet
(see note)



(i.e., distraught)

reluctant
unharmed went


witches; mad

rascals; lie

mad; angry; (t-note)
escape; harm
Go; haste

(see note)



Controversially killed

their business (i.e., labor) is in vain




combat sharp
hold back
speak; seen [the events]



twist and wring; (see note); (t-note)
tell truthfully




pay attention
(t-note)
amusing stories [about]

if they
promised


judged; to do


sun; moon


caught; man

found many or few


dead every one
killed

one (only)


taken

tokens (signs)
worthless fellow




effort is in vain


(i.e., you have wasted your time)
Ere


(t-note)
strike; wretch (dullard); (t-note)

(t-note)
embraces
(i.e., 20,000)
curse; (t-note)

(see note)

Go To Play 20, Christ and the Doctors