Appendix: The Hanging of Judas


1 The hanging of Judas

2 There where I lay in the sand as a wreck

3 The end of this


Abbreviations: Chester: The Chester Mystery Cycle, ed. Lumiansky and Mills (1974); CT: The Canterbury Tales, ed. Benson (1987); DSL: Dictionary of the Scots Language; Elliott: The Apocryphal New Testament, ed. Elliott; EP: The Towneley plays, ed. England and Pollard (1897); MED: Middle English Dictionary; MS: Huntington MS HM 1 (“the Towneley manuscript”); N-Town: The N-Town Plays, ed. Sugano (2007); OED: Oxford English Dictionary; REED: Records of Early English Drama; SC: The Towneley Plays, eds. Stevens and Cawley (1994); s.d.: stage direction; Whiting: Whiting, Proverbs, Sentences, and Proverbial Phrases; YorkThe Corpus Christi Plays, ed. Davidson (2011).

This fragment, written entirely in a different hand from that of the main scribe, is out of place in more than one sense. Like the Lazarus play that precedes it in the manuscript, it is out of chronological sequence — nothing can follow the last judgment and the end of the world — but unlike that piece, it is not a play (although see Meredith, “The Towneley Pageants,” p. 165, for a contrary suggestion, tying it to one of the missing York pageants). Rather, it is a poetic monologue, with no speech heading even at the beginning, although another hand has scrawled “sayd Iudas” along with some indecipherable words; each stanza is identified by a paragraph marker in the left-hand margin. Despite the evident non-dramatic status of the text, someone has written “Lysters pag” in the middle of the right-hand margin of the first page — that is, the pageant of the litsters or dyers, which serves as evidence of the untrustworthiness of the other apparent guild ascriptions in the manuscript (including mention of litsters at the outset of the Pharaoh play, performed in York by the Hosiers’ guild). The poem is written in a 6-line rime couée stanza — a form used in several of the York plays (including the Resurrection play, which Towneley borrows), as well as in the Towneley Offering of the Magi and much of the Pilgrims play, but also typical of metrical romances. The text cuts off at the end of a stanza and at the bottom of a page, the other side of which is blank. Another hand has written finis huius (“the end of this”) at the bottom of the page, which contains other marginalia as well, mostly cut off (see Textual Notes). Yet the poem is far from complete; it cuts off mid-narrative, long before the suicide that gives the poem its ostensible title, indeed well before any actual biblical elements enter the story.

The apocryphal legend of Judas Iscariot, likely written in the twelfth century, resembles the legend of Oedipus, with Judas unwittingly killing his father (while gathering apples for Pilate) and marrying his mother. When he discovers what he has done, he goes to Jesus to beg forgiveness. Later, as keeper of the disciples’ collective purse, from which he regularly steals a tenth, he becomes outraged by the waste of expensive ointment poured onto the feet of Jesus, and resolves to win back what he has lost, by selling Jesus to Pilate (see note to 17.264). The story was included in Jacob de Voragine’s influential collection known as the Golden Legend (1:167–69), as part of the story of Saint Matthias, who replaced Judas as one of the apostles according to Acts 1:23 (in which Judas is said not to hang himself but to die accidentally in the field that he bought with his “blood money” — see Acts 1:18). For further analysis of the Judas legend and its sources, see Baum, “Mediæval Legend of Judas Iscariot.”

17 That cursyd clott of Camys kyn. See 17.663 and 27.648 for similar phrases.

45–46 Alas, that I had beyn forlorn / Within hir syd. That is, alas, if only I had been lost — had died — within her womb.

49–50 For I was born withowtyn grace / Thay me namyd and callyd Judas. His parents named him Judas because he was born without grace, anachronistically anticipating the reputation of the name after the betrayal.

51–54 The father . . . . deth to se. Because a father by nature has compassion for his child, he could not see him killed outright, in front of him.

65–66 of that land . . . Judas Skariott. Judas’ surname — used in the gospels primarily to distinguish him from the other disciple bearing the relatively common name of Judas (see the headnote to the Ascension play) — in Hebrew means “of Kerioth,” a village in Judea, but here the name of the island on which he is cast up.

85–86 Then the kyng gart make a fest / To all the land of the best. That is, then the king had a feast prepared, of all the best kind of fare, for everyone in the land.


The edition by Stevens and Cawley for the Early English Text Society, along with the facsimile edition that they likewise co-edited, remains the chief source for analysis of the Towneley manuscript and its various textual annotations, corrections, marginalia, and other particularities. Unlike theirs, the current edition makes no note of most minor corrections, such as an obviously misplaced and crossed-out letter before a correctly written word, except where these might potentially affect understanding of the established text.

Abbreviations: EP: The Towneley Plays, ed. England and Pollard (EETS, 1897); Facs: The Towneley Cycle: A Facsimile of Huntington MS HM 1, ed. Cawley and Stevens; MED: Middle English Dictionary; MS: Huntington MS HM 1 (base text); SC: The Towneley Plays, ed. Stevens and Cawley (EETS, 1994); s.d.: stage direction; Surtees: The Towneley Mysteries, ed. Raine; York: The York Corpus Christi Plays, ed. Davidson (2011).

1 Judas (speech heading). MS: no speech heading. See headnote to this play in Explanatory Notes.

2 cursyd. MS: r inserted above the line.

9 Als. MS: the s resembles an abbreviation for -ys.

19-25 Dreyd of that . . . . sche cryed faste. MS: a later hand has written Lysters pag, now smudged, down the right-hand margin.

32 if. MS: added above the line.

40 full well knaw. MS: another hand has copied this phrase just above the existing line, now badly smudged.

49 grace. MS: gce. Above this word is the same mark used in the left margin to mark stanzas throughout these two pages.

74 on. MS: added above the line.

After 96 Finis huius. MS: written by a later hand. To the left of this in the bottom margin, mostly smudged, are the phrases by me the and below that by me Rcd D; below these, upside down and partly cropped with the bottom of the page, is an inscription that apparently reads, in part, being the first daye of, the last portion being illegible.

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Appendix: The Hanging of Judas

from: The Towneley Plays  2017

[fol. 131v]











[fol. 132r]










Suspencio Jude. 1

Alas, alas and walaway!
Waryd and cursyd I have beyn ay.
I slew my father and syn bylay
My moder der,
And falsly aftur I can betray
Myn awn mayster.

My fathers name was Ruben right,
Sibaria my moder hight;
Als he her knew apon a nyght
All fleshlé,
In her sleyp sche se a sighte,
A great ferlé.

Her thoght ther lay her syd within
A lothly lumpe of fleshly syn,
Of the which distruccion schuld begyn
Of all Jury;
That cursyd clott of Camys kyn
Forsoth was I.

Dreyd of that sight mad her awake,
And all hir body did tremyll and qwake;
Her thoght hir hert did all to-brake.
No wonder was
The first word my moder spake
Was “alas, alas.”

“Alas, alas” sche cryed faste,
With that on weping owt sche braste.
My father wakyd at the laste
And her afranyd;
Sche told hym how she was agaste
And nothyng laynyd.

My father bad “let be thy woo.
My cowncel is, if hit be soo
A child be gettyn betwixt hus too,
Doghter or son,
Lett hit never on erth go
Bot be fordon.

Bettur hit is fordon to be
Then hit fordo both thee and me,
For in a while then schall we se
And full well knaw
Wheder that swevyns be vanité
Or on to traw.”

The tyme was comyn that I was borne
Os my moder sayd beforn.
Alas, that I had beyn forlorn
Within hir syd,
For ther then spronge a schrewid thorn
That spred full wyd.

For I was born withowtyn grace,
Thay me namyd and callyd Judas.
The father of the child ay hays
Great petye;
He myght not thoyle afor his face
My deth to se.

My ded to se then myght he noght.
A lytyll lep he gart be wroght
And ther I was in bed broght
And bondon faste;
To the salt se then thay soght
And in me caste.

The wawes rosse, the wynd blew;
That I was cursyd full well thai knew.
The storme unto the yle me threw,
That lytill botte,
And of that land my to-name drew:
Judas Skariott.

Thor os wrekke in sand I lay, 2
The qweyn com passyng theraway
With hir madyns to sport and play.
And prevaly
A child sche fond in slyk aray
And had ferly.

Neverthelesse sche was well payd
And on hir lap sche me layd;
Sche me kissid and with me playd
For I was fayre.
“A child God hays me send,” sche sayd,
“To be myn ayre.”

Sche mad me be to norice done
And fosterd os hir awn son,
And told the kyng that sche had gon
All the yer with child,
And with fayr wordys os wemen con
Sche hym begild.

Then the kyng gart mak a fest
To all the land of the best,
For that he had gettyn a gest,
A swetly thyng,
When he wer ded and broght to rest,
That myght be kyng.

Sone aftur, within yers too,
In the land hit befell soo
The qweyn hirself with child can goo.
A son sche bayr;
A fayrer child from tope to too
Man never se ayre.

Finis huius. 3

Afflicted and cursed; always; t-note
then lay with; t-note
mother dear



sleep; she saw


clot (lump); Cain’s kin; (see note)

Dread; made; t-note
heart; break [to pieces]

weeping; burst
finally awoke

counsel; it; t-note
between us two



Whether dreams are false
to believe in [them]

been lost

Because; t-note; (see note)

always has; (see note)

basket; he had made

bound securely
sea; approached

waves rose

little boat
surname; (see note)
Judas Iscariot

queen; in that direction
her maidens
found; such [miserable] condition



had me nurtured
fostered as her own son
[such] as women know

(see note)

begotten a guest
sweet little thing

two years
it so happened
got with child
fairer; head to toe
saw before; t-note