Play 34, The Road to Calvary
Play 34, THE ROAD TO CALVARY: FOOTNOTE
Play 34, THE ROAD TO CALVARY: 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 passing of Jesus from Pilate’s palace to Calvary is a continuation of the torment and suffering experienced by him during the legal proceedings against him. Only one of the tormentors appears at the beginning of the pageant, to be joined by a second and then at line 59 by a third, who is, unusually, given a name, Wymond. The path representing the road to Calvary must utilize the ground level, the playing area or place. The Ordo paginarum described a play in which Jesus, carrying his cross, appeared “covered with blood.”1 The role of the tormentors as extreme bullies amplifies the action.2 Love comments that Jesus “was drawene and hastede by grete violence, without reste, til he came to that foule stinkyng place of ‘Calvarie,’ where was set the ende and the reste of this harde bataile that we speken of.”3 The audience is asked to “make rome” for them to pass (line 16), and at the end they set off for “Calvarie,” again passing through the audience. The Meditations cited Peter Comestor’s Historia scholastica for the view that the cross was fifteen feet in height, and reports that Jesus, “the most gentle Lamb,” took it up “patiently” and carried it.4 But such a large cross would not have been easily brought onto the set by Wymond. Less familiar will be the playwright’s use of the story of the wood of the cross that had been told in the Northern Passion5 and other sources, ultimately deriving from the Gospel of Nicodemus. The history is complex. Grown from seed from Eden that was interred with Adam at his death, the tree was cut down for use in building Solomon’s Temple, but failed to fit and was rejected. Thereafter it was used for a bridge over the brook Cedron (see line 64), and eventually a third of the wood from it was used for making the cross. A variant of this account appears in the Golden Legend.6 The pageant’s biblical source, which says nothing about the origin of the wood of the cross, is mainly Luke 23:26–32. Written principally in ten-line stanzas, the pageant was presented by the Shearmen, a trade that specialized in finishing wool cloth.
1–15 The first two stanzas seem to be additions to the text and are not in the ten-line stanzas in which the rest of the play mainly is written. In lines 9–11, the first soldier commands the audience not to give vocal support to the “traytoure” Jesus. This provides evidence for inherent audience sympathy for the victim and contradicts modernist views of subversive and “destabilizing” acting and widespread irreverence in response to the York mysteries. The pageant continues to present the tormentors as doglike, indecorous in their movements and barking their outbursts as they place Jesus on the cross. See the Meditations for reference to them as like “terrible and ferocious dogs,” once more keeping Psalm 21 in mind (p. 319). Even porcine masks would have been appropriate for them, one would imagine.
52–54 sties and ropes . . . nayles and othir japes. Ladders were used in some accounts of the Crucifixion in which Jesus is attached to the cross while it is erect, though that will not be the case at York. Nails, in this case large spikes, were important objects of devotion; see their designation as dulces clavos, “sweet nails,” in the antiphon Crux fidelis, sung on Good Friday; see Hymni, fol. 22. The nails were frequently depicted in the visual arts of a devotional nature (see the example from a prayer roll of the young Henry VIII, illustrated in Duffy, Stripping of the Altars, fig. 110), most usually along with other instruments of the Passion, including the ropes and hammers, also displayed in the pageant (see line 92).
65 Men called it the kyngis tree. The tree had flourished in King David’s garden and hence came to be called the King’s Tree.
67 balke. Compare the Northern Passion, 1:161 (Harleian manuscript, line 617: “A mekill balk tham bud have ane”).
80–83 I toke the measure . . . an ende. The holes in the cross are already bored. Inevitably, however, an error has been made, not only showing the incompetence of the workmen but also proving the rightness of the prophetic passages in the Old Testament.
106–41 John’s planctus or lament, which breaks off on account of the loss of a leaf in the manuscript following line 141. The loss unfortunately hampers understanding of the scene and possible interaction with the soldiers.
127 Mi modir. Anachronistic reference to the Virgin Mary as John’s “modir,” since only at the scene of the Crucifixion is he designated as her son, a substitute for Jesus who is dying on the cross.
after 141 Missing leaf in the manuscript.
160–79 Doughteres of Jerusalem . . . and dighte. Jesus’ speech to his mother and the other Marys, based on Luke 23:28–31, is understood as a prediction of the final days of history and the Last Judgment.
183–86 lete clense thy face . . . This signe schalle bere witnesse. Normally an act assigned to Veronica, here transferred to the third Mary. Jesus’ face makes an imprint on the cloth, which becomes a sign — and a valued relic — of the Passion. Extant examples of the “vernicle” from York appear in the Bolton Hours, fol. 174, and a fifteenth-century York Psalter (Cambridge, Trinity College, MS. O.3.10), fol. 11v.
190–92 Saie, wherto bide ye here . . . stevenis steere. Unless there has been previous interaction lost with the missing leaf, this is the first notice by the soldiers of the lamenting holy women. The first soldier insultingly calls them “quenys,” or harlots.
193 Go home, casbalde, with thi clowte. Referring to the third Mary holding the vernicle. In lines 196–97 she responds that “This signe schall vengeaunce calle / On yowe.” The word “casbalde” is a term of abuse.
200 Lady, youre gretyng greves me sore. In the extant text, he has not been greeted by the Virgin, though the next lines in which she asks for assistance suggest a lacuna here. There is no indication in the stanza structure of something missing, however. That the holy women and John depart for Calvary is revealed by John in lines 203–04.
217 oure tooles are before. They do not have their tools in hand, but rather they will be waiting for them at the site of the Crucifixion.
225 He swounes. On account of being “forbledde” (line 223), Jesus is like one who is drunk and hence unable to carry the cross. For discussion, see Marrow, Passion Iconography, pp. 142–49. In the Biblia Pauperum (p. 93) and the Speculum humanae salvationis (Wilson and Wilson, Medieval Mirror, p. 184), Jesus carries his cross himself and is being led like an animal by a rope attached around his waist.
228–92 The enlisting of Symon of Cyrene to carry the cross is much expanded over the accounts in the synoptic gospels. Symon is on a journey to complete a vital business matter which is urgent and requires that he be at his destination on this day. The soldiers will be unbending and unfeeling, extremely mean and violent — once again like the “terrible and ferocious dogs” noted in the Meditations (p. 319, quoting Psalm 21:17).
309 He muste be naked nede. Jesus has been wearing his customary garments — i.e., his seamless cloak. This will now be taken from him and placed “in stoore” (line 331) until later. His blood makes the cloth stick to his sides (line 314).
341 he is boune as beeste in bande. Now shorn of his garment, he is led like a “sheep going to the slaughter,” here made explicit. He would have projected an image of one disgustingly bruised who could hardly be an object of affection and reverence if he were not the Savior, regarded as one who is like a beloved member of one’s family. Recognizing the force of such feeling is crucial to understanding the aesthetic and spiritual context of this pageant and the others in the Passion series.
Play 34, THE ROAD TO CALVARY: 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).
11 Following line missing in Reg.
After 141 Following leaf missing in Reg.
142 MARIA SANCTA. This edition (conjecture).
177 seen. So RB; Reg omit.
198 withalle. So LTS, RB; Reg: with ille.
201 everemore. So RB; Reg, LTS: nevere more.
206 I MILES. Reg: added twice, in one instance in red, by later hands.
208 Go. So LTS, RB; Reg: To.
243 III MILES. Reg: added by LH.
336 as. So RB; Reg, LTS: of.
Play 34, THE ROAD TO CALVARY: EXPLANATORY NOTE FOOTNOTES
Footnote 1 REED: York, 1:21, trans. 2:717.
Footnote 2 For illuminating commentary on bullying behavior, see White, “Psychodynamic Perspective.”
Footnote 3 Love, Mirror, p. 175.
Footnote 4 Meditations, p. 331.
Footnote 5 Northern Passion, 1:135, 148–67.
Footnote 6 Jacobus de Voragine, Golden Legend, 1:277–78.
Go To Play 35, Crucifixio Christi