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Play 16, Herod Questioning the Three Kings and the Offering of the Magi


1 Clouds wrapped in splendor that their region encloses


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.

In the Ordo paginarum of 1415 the pageant of how the three Magi, following the star, appear in Herod’s court and then present their gifts to the Christ Child is attributed to the Goldsmiths and Masons, though in that document the guild identifications and description of the play were at some time altered and hence are difficult to interpret. In the second list of c. 1422 in the York Memorandum Book, these guilds seem to be responsible for different plays, with further doubt introduced since the reference to the Masons is entered in a different hand and interlined. In the Register the guilds’ plays are entered separately with a portion copied twice. Lucy Toulmin Smith printed them as separate plays, but Beadle has described how, probably in 1432 or thereabouts, they had been revised to create a single drama that could be performed on two pageant wagons representing Herod’s court and the scene of the Holy Infant, the Masons then being given the responsibility for the former. Beadle’s argument is convincing in part also since the alliterative verse forms in the first fifty-six lines likewise argue for composition at about this time, with the remainder utilizing a familiar twelve-line stanza representing older strata in the text. In its present state, the play in the Register is only representative of how it was staged between c. 1432 and not long after c. 1470, since by 1477 the Masons were instead given responsibility for the Purification.1 Information is lacking about the Masons’ portion of the drama between 1477 and 1561, when its “pageant of Herod inquyryng of the three kynges for the child Jesu” was given to the Minstrels; however, the earlier sponsorship was then still remembered as being formerly “brought forth by the late Masons.”2 The Masons were much employed about York, especially on the city churches and the Minster, until the 1530s, which more or less marked the end of church building in York on account of the Reformation. The Goldsmiths, who tended to live and work in the liberties, would have been uniquely able to supply the kings’ crowns and other touches of gold signifying royalty, including the first Magi’s gift. The Epiphany, the manifestation of the Godhead incarnate to the gentile princes of the world, is celebrated in the West on January 6; the play follows the narrative outlined in the Gospel lesson for that day (Matthew 2:1–12).

1–22 Herod reveals himself to be the typical ranting tyrant, the ridiculousness of what he says underlined by various claims such as his alleged ability to control the winds. In lines 17–18, he insists he is sixty-seven times “fairer of face and fressher on folde,” which is highly unlikely to have been the way he was represented in the pageant. He seems to be directing his claim to fair appearance against those who have the right to use heraldic red, a color common in coats of arms and represented as valued beyond the financial resources of ordinary people. King calls attention to the antiphon Herode iratus at the feast of the Massacre of the Innocents in which Herod precipitates an overflowing of anger resulting in terrifying atrocities (York Mystery Cycle, p. 111, citing York Breviary, 1:118 and 147). To symbolize such wrath at Beverley the actor playing Herod apparently appeared in blackface (Leach, “Some English Plays and Players,” p. 213), and a dark-faced Herod appears in thirteenth-century painted glass in the York Minster Chapter House (YA, p. 54, fig. 12). The reasons for his angry disposition are outlined in the Stanzaic Life, culminating in his fear that as an earthly monarch he will be destroyed by a heavenly king (pp. 63–64).

23–26 All kynges to youre croune . . . fro light. Herod’s soldier-retainers are consummate flatterers, but here what they say has immediate meaning for the encounter with the three kings who will shortly meet with the tyrant. In the following lines Herod will assert his supremacy, threatened as he is by any challenge to his authority. He remains the villainous tyrant of the liturgical drama (for the Officium Stellae and Fleury Herod, see Young, Drama of the Medieval Church, 2:59–100), but since he is not restrained by the decorum of liturgical drama he can demonstrate much broader and more inappropriate gestures and loud speech. In his pride he thus serves as a foil to the gentle Mary and her infant Son, who represent peace and humility as they also are strong beyond anything that Herod can imagine, since theirs is the power that has formed the cosmos and continues to sustain all things. In stained glass in the church of St. Michael Spurriergate, Herod has been given a crown with a devil emerging from it (Skey, “Herod’s Demon Crown”), an accouterment that well might also have appeared as part of his costume in this play on the feast of Corpus Christi. See also the discussion of masks for such characters in Twycross and Carpenter, Masks and Masking, pp. 216–20.

57–90 Beginning the Goldsmith’s contribution to the pageant, the three kings are introduced as directly opposed to proud Herod. Entering from different directions, they praise God as the author of everlasting life. They are following the brilliant star stationary in the east that will stand over the place where Jesus has been born. Jacobus de Voragine’s Golden Legend, citing Fulgentius, indicates that the star, instead of being “fixed in the firmament” was “suspended at a level of the air close to earth” and “was brighter than other stars, so bright indeed that sunlight could not dim it” (1:81). The same source mentions that when Jesus was born, the star appeared in the shape of “a most beautiful child over whose head a cross gleamed” (1:80), iconography that has been traced to the Book of Seth in the fourth century (Trexler, Journey of the Magi, p. 27). The Child appears in the star in the Coventry Shearmen and Taylors’ pageant (line 536; Coventry Corpus Christi Plays, p. 99). In the York pageant, the star would have been required to be suspended at a high point above the Goldsmith’s wagon stage where it would be clearly seen by the audience, and it would need also to disappear over Herod’s court (see, for example, Mirk, Festial, p. 49). Its reappearance may have been produced, as in the York liturgical Magi play of 1220–25, by introducing a second star (REED: York, 1:1), presumably shining when the Magi depart from the tyrant’s court. The kings know, if they are a little vague about it, what they are looking for, and they are grateful for their meeting so that they may travel together. Their names are not specified in the pageant, but the Golden Legend identifies them as Gaspar, Balthasar, and Melchior.

109 of felashippe are we fayne. Their meeting is fortuitous. They represent friendship, as opposed to the bully Herod who can have no real friends, and hence look forward to the sense of community that should exist among Christians — and should be reinforced by the Peace in the Mass when the pax brede or osculatorium is passed (see McLachlan, “Liturgical Vessels and Implements,” p. 420).

119–24 Sir Herowde is kyng . . . to drede. They will ask for “his wille and his warande” in order to travel safely — in other words, the equivalent of a modern visa. In the Coventry Shearmen and Taylors’ pageant, Herod extravagantly offers a “paseporte for a hundred deyis” (line 615, p. 102).

129ff. The action returns to Herod’s court as the Magi approach. Herod reveals himself to be a sadist, torturer, murderer, and, significantly, deceiver. In this he will be encouraged by the Consolators.

157 Mahounde, my god. Stereotypically, Mohammed is idolatrously worshiped and in league with Satan.

189–91 Whedirward, in the develis name . . . bune in bande. This must have been spoken as an aside, and so too the lines of the Consolators. Similarly, lines 235–46 are asides, which the kings should not hear.

215–34 Recitation of the prophecies of Christ’s coming by Balaam, Isaias, and Hosea.
215–16 Balaham saide a starne shulde spryng / Of Jacob kynde. Echo of the Epiphany sequence, portion sung on the second day of the season (see King, York Mystery Cycle, p. 114, citing York Missal, 1:32).

260 Ye be bygilyd. Spoken as soon as the kings have departed. Herod and his evil counsellors will, however, be the ones beguiled — another instance of the beguiler beguiled, an important theme in the York cycle.

268 And playe us in som othir place. The Masons are now free to move their pageant wagon and cast to the next station, which means that it would be placed forward, before the Goldsmiths’ wagon, on the pageant route.

272 s.d. Harrode passeth and the three kynges commyth agayn. At this point the Masons depart, and the Goldsmiths take up the remainder of the pageant.

285 Whame seke ye, syrs. Spoken by Mary’s handmaiden and echoing the Quem queritis of the Easter Visitatio sepulchri, which is there spoken by the angel.

303 giftis of gud aray. They show the gifts they have brought. Love’s Mirror states that they “offred and leide here giftes before him” upon a cloth before his feet (p. 44).

307–08 for honnoure and elde, / Brother, ye shall begynne. Showing the required deference to the eldest, who will present his gift and worship the Child first. In iconography, this is usually quite obvious, with the eldest, who is kneeling, having a long beard, and the youngest, still beardless, standing where he will be seen to be the last to present his gift. For an example, see the Biblia Pauperum, p. 52, but the iconography is ubiquitus. Among several York examples, see the painted glass in a window in All Saints, North Street (Gee, “Painted Glass of All Saints' Church,” pl. XXIIa), and the Bowet Window in the Minster (YA, pp. 54–55, fig. 13). The king who is kneeling and presenting a gift invariably has removed his crown, and in the Bowet Window the second king is beginning to take his off in preparation for presenting his gift.

309–20 Hayle . . . I pray thee. The first king speaks a set of Hail lyrics, as will the others; compare the Nativity, lines 107–12. Jesus has come into time to give protection from the fiend and to unbind people from sin and hell — a suggestion of the power of the keys, the ability to bind and loose sins, later delegated to St. Peter and subsequently to the Church.

313 marc us thi men. To be marked (sealed) as Christ’s own forever, normally in the baptismal rite.

319 golde that is grettest of price. Traditionally the first king’s gift, an appropriate tribute to a king (see Jacobus de Voragine, Golden Legend, 1:83). In the window at All Saints, North Street, the gift is a gold cup. Love’s Mirror, praising Mary’s devotion to poverty, says that she gave the gold and other gifts “al to pore men” (p. 45).

321 foode that thy folke fully may fede. The word “foode” signifies child, but here is a pun since the infant in this case will also become the spiritually nourishing food of the Eucharist.

328 Als the gleme in the glasse. As the miraculous conception has taken place, so then his birth also happens in a way that will not to disturb Mary’s virginity. In depictions of the Annunciation in some Flemish paintings, the beam of light representing the coming down of the Holy Ghost passes through a glass window on its way to the Virgin (Schiller, Iconography, 1:49), often to her right ear, to emphasize by this means the major Epiphany theme of the Word become Flesh (Scott, Later Gothic Manuscripts, figs. 204, 209, 346, and 448). See also the poems cited by Gray, Themes and Images, pp. 100–01.

331 Insens to thi servis. The second gift, explained in the Golden Legend as symbolizing sacrifice (1:83), foreshadowing the Crucifixion but also indicative of Christ’s role as the Great High Priest.

334 For our boote shall thou be bounden and bett. In the course of the Passion, preparatory to the actual Crucifixion. In Love’s Mirror, the kings prepared to leave by kissing Jesus’ feet and hand — and the infant then blessed them (pp. 44–45). The kneeling king kissing the Child’s feet appears in Italian art (see Trexler, Journey of the Magi, pp. 99 and 112, figs. 22 and 28), and the infant holding up his hand in blessing is common (see, for example, YA, pp. 49–50).

341–42 sen thy body beryed shal be, / This mirre will I giffe to thi gravyng. Myrrh, used for burial, foreshadows Christ’s death and burial.

357ff For solas ser now may we synge. The kings possibly did engage in song as they processed away from the Bethlehem site, but there is no indication of what they sang. Processions were an important part of the Epiphany ceremonies. However, Rastall believes this reference to singing is merely metaphorical (Heaven Singing, pp. 45–46). Instead of then returning to Herod, the kings discover they are very tired, and, at the suggestion of the Third King, decide to “reste a thrawe” (line 365). In depictions in the visual arts, the kings retain their crowns as they sleep.

369–80 The vision of the angel, whose warning against returning to Herod’s court will be heeded; they will flee to their own countries.


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).

After ascription to Masons, LH has added Mynstrells.

1 HERODES. Reg: added by LH.

6 Listes. So RB; Reg, LTS: I list.

19 is. Reg: interlined by LH.

56 ?hic caret. Reg: erased and a cross.

64 Of. Misplaced at end of line 63 in Reg.

73 noght. So LTS, RB; Reg omit.

129–272 Entered in Reg in the texts of both the Masons and the Goldsmiths, of which the Masons’ (abbreviated Reg/M) is presented here, with only the most substantive readings from the Goldsmiths’ text (abbreviated Reg/G) included in these textual notes. For a parallel text edition, see RB (pp. 138–45).
129 At left in Reg: sequitur postea (erased and now indecipherable except under ultraviolet light).

131 Reg/G: Sir, new nott is full nere this towne.

132 harlott. So Reg/M; Reg/G: losell.

133 Reg/G: Go bette boy and dyng tham downe.

136 do. So Reg/M; Reg/G omits.

139 Reg/G: Of one that is nowe borne.

141 Sir, so I say. Misplaced in Reg/M at beginning of next line.

147 Reg/G: Have done. Dresse us in riche array.

151 we. Interlined in Reg/M.

172 will. Reg/G: schall.

175 Forsoth. Reg/G: Sir.

177 King? So RB, Reg/G; Reg/M: Kingis.
develes name: Reg/G: devyl way.

178 ye. So Reg/G, RB; Reg/M: thee.
rave. So RB, Reg/G; Reg/M: rase.

180 shulde ye. So RB; Reg/M, Reg/G: ye shulde.

181 he is. So Reg/M; Reg/G: I am. Reg/G omits Filius and assigns his speech to Herodes.

183 he is. Reg/G: I am.

187 II REX. So RB; Reg/G: Lorde, we aske noght but leve.

189 Whedirward. So Reg/M; Reg/G: Whedir.

194 there hye wordis. So Reg/M; Reg/G: such wondir.

199 thys. So RB, after Reg/G: this; Reg/M: thy.
thing. Added as emendation over deleted counsaille.

202 kyth. Overwritten by LH in Reg/M.

205 will saye. So Reg/G; under ink blot in Reg/M.

209 I REX. RB, after addition by LH in Reg/G.

213 II REX. RB, after Reg/G.

214 newes. So RB, following Reg/G; Reg/M: newe.

217 III REX. RB, after Reg/G.

218 barne. So Reg/M; Reg/G: sone.

219 contrees. Deleted in Reg/M; JC emended to the world.

221 beiths. So Reg/M; Reg/G: shal be.

224 here. Reg/M: her; Reg/G: now.

225 I REX. So RB, after entry by LH in Reg/G.

227 forsoth saide. So Reg/M; Reg/G: sais.

229 childe consayved sall. So Reg/M; Reg/G: barne consayved shulde.

233 II REX. So RB, after late addition in Reg/G.

238 Reg/G: <>This bryge shall well to ende be broght.

245 is. So Reg/M; Reg/G: was.

250 is. So Reg/M; Reg/G: it is.

251 grathely. So Reg/M; Reg/G: grathe.

255 than were. So Reg/M; Reg/G: that is.

258 Reg/G: Alle the soth of that childe.

259 we. So Reg/M; Reg/G: that we.

263 swytteron. So Reg/M; Reg/G: littil.

264 all. So Reg/M; Reg/G omits.

272 Below in Reg/M, but erased: Hic caret: I Rex. Alake fosoth what schall I say. We lake that syne that we have sought. Also: sequitur postea (confirmed by RB). Reg/G: Nota . . . offerynges. Stage direction supplied in margin by JC.

295 and se. So RB. Misplaced in line 296 in Reg.

318 I soght sone, I. So RB; Reg: soght sone I.

329 thow. So RB2; LTS: yow.

336 fro the fende to thee fette. So RB; Reg: free thu fende fals thee to thy fette (thy canceled; obviously corrupt); LTS: fro the fende fals thee to fette.

371 God hymselfe. So RB; Reg: God of hymselfe (of deleted).


Footnote 1 REED: York, 1:115.

Footnote 2 REED: York, 1:334.

The Masonns [and] Goldesmythis













HERODES   The clowdes clapped in clerenes that ther clematis inclosis,1
Jubiter and Jovis, Martis and Mercurii emyde,
Raykand overe my rialté on rawe me rejoyses,
Blonderande ther blastis to blaw when I bidde.
Saturne, my subgett, that sotilly is hidde,
Listes at my likyng and laies hym full lowe.
The rakke of the rede skye full rappely I ridde,
Thondres full thrallye by thousandes I thrawe
When me likis.
Venus his voice to me awe
That princes to play in hym pikis.

The prince of planetis that proudely is pight
Sall brace furth his bemes that oure belde blithes;
The mone at my myght he mosteres his myght,
And kayssaris in castellis grete kyndynes me kythes;
Lordis and ladis loo luffely me lithes,
For I am fairer of face and fressher on folde,
The soth yf I saie sall, sevene and sexti sithis
Than glorius gulles that gayer is than golde
In price.
How thynke ye ther tales that I talde,
I am worthy, witty, and wyse.

I MILES   All kynges to youre croune may clerly comende
Youre lawe and youre lordshippe as lodsterne on hight.
What traytoure untrewe that will not attende
Ye sall lay thaim full lowe, fro leeme and fro light.

II MILES   What faitoure, in faithe, that dose you offende,
We sall sette hym full sore, that sotte, in youre sight.

HERODES   In welthe sall I wisse you to wonne or I wende,
For ye are wightis ful worthy, both witty and wighte.

But ye knawe wele, ser knyghtis, in counsaill full conande,
That my regioun so riall is ruled her be rest;
For I wate of no wighte in this worlde that is wonnande
That in forges any feloune, with force sall be fest;
Arest ye tho rebaldes that unrewly are rownand,
Be they kyngis or knyghtis, in care ye thaim cast.
Yaa, and welde tham in woo to wonne, in the wanyand,
What browle that is brawlyng his brayne loke ye brest,
And dynge ye hym doune.

I MILES   Sir, what foode in faith will you feese,
That sott full sone myselfe sall hym sesse.

II MILES   We sall noght here doute to do hym disesse,
But with countenaunce full cruel we sall crake her his croune.

HERODES   My sone that is semely, howe semes thee ther sawes?
Howe comely ther knyghtis, thei carpe in this case.

FILIUS   Fadir, if thai like noght to listyn youre lawes,
As traytoures ontrewe ye sall teche them a trace,
For, fadir, unkyndnes ye kythe them no cause.

HERODES   Faire falle thee, my faire sone, so fettis of face,
And knyghtis, I comaunde, who to dule drawes,
Thas churles as cheveleres ye chastise and chase
And drede ye no doute.

FILIUS   Fadir, I sall fell tham in fight,
What renke that reves you youre right.

I MILES   With dyntes to dede bes he dight
That liste not youre lawes for to lowte.
(see note); (t-note)
Mars; amidst
Rushing; row (in order)
Whirling about; blow
subject; subtly
Attends to my desire; (t-note)
rack [of clouds]; quickly I get rid of
violently; throw

picks (chooses)

(i.e., the sun); adorned
radiate; happiness gladdens
moon; musters
caesars; affords me
courteously; attend
on earth
sixty-seven times
red (heraldic color); (t-note)


(see note)
guiding star in heavens


false person

arrange for you to dwell; go
men; strong

royal; in peace
plans; crime; caught
Arrest; rascals; unruly; speaking
suffering; them
live; waning [of the moon]
wretch; rioting; smash

immature person; punish
fool; seize

fear; discomfort

handsome; sayings

disloyal; lesson
have given

son; handsome
dole (evil)

man; robs

strokes; death be; put
respect; (t-note)
















I REX   A, Lorde, that levis, everelastande lyff,
I love thee evir with harte and hande,
That me has made to se this sight
Whilke my kynrede was coveytande.
Thay saide a sterne with lemys bright
Owte of the eest shulde stabely stande,
And that it shulde meffe mekill myght
Of one that shulde be Lorde in lande,
That men of synne shulde saff be;
And certis I sall saye,
God graunte me happe to have
Wissyng of redy waye.

II REX   All weldand God, that all has wroght,
I worshippe thee als is worthye
That with thy brightnes has me broght
Owte of my reame, riche Arabie.
I shall noght seys tille I have sought
What selcouth thyng it sall syngnyfie,
God graunte me happe so that I myght
Have grace to gete goode companye
And my comforte encrese
With thy sterne schynyng schene.
For certis, I sall noght cesse
Tille I witte what it mene.

III REX   Lorde God, that all goode has bygonne
And all may ende, both goode and evyll,
That made for man both mone and sonne
And stedde yone sterne to stande stone stille.
Tille I the cause may clerly knowe,
God wisse me with his worthy wille.
I hope I have her felaws fonde,
My yarnyng fathfully to fullfille.
Sirs, God yowe saffe ande see,
And were yow evere fro woo.

I REX   Amen, so myght it bee,
And saffe yow, sir, also.

III REX   Sirs, with youre wille, I wolde yow praye
To telle me some of youre entent,
Whedir ye wende forthe in this way
And fro what contré ye are wente.

II REX   Full gladly, sir, I shall you say,
A sodayne sight was till us sente,
A royall sterne that rose or day
Before us on the firmament
That garte us fare fro home
Som poynte therof to preffe.

III REX   Sertis, syrs, I saw the same
That makis us thus to moyfe.

For sirs, I have herde saye sertayne
Itt shulde be seyne of selcowthe seere
And ferther therof I wolde freyne;
That makis me moffe in this manere.

I REX   Sir, of felashippe are we fayne,
Now sall we wende forth all in feere,
God graunte us or we come agayne
Som gode hartyng therof to here.
Sir, here is Jerusalem,
To wisse us als we goo,
And beyonde is Bedleem;
Ther schall we seke alsoo.

III REX   Sirs, ye schall wele undirstande
For to be wise nowe were it nede,
Sir Herowde is kyng of this lande
And has his lawes her for to leede.

I REX   Sir, sen we neghe now thus nerhand,
Untill his helpe us muste take heede,
For have we his wille and his warande
Than may we wende withouten drede.

II REX   To have leve of the lorde,
That is resoune and skyll.

III REX   And therto we all accorde;
Wende we and witte his wille.
lives; (see note)

kinfolk were desiring
star; beams
stand still
move (indicate)
sin; saved


All powerful

cease; (t-note)
wonderful; signify



positioned yon star

yearning faithfully
defend; from woe



caused; to travel from


sign of many wonders

desirous; (see note)
encouragement; hear


(see note)
here; lead

come near; nearby




Masons and Goldsmiths:






























NUNCIUS   My lorde, ser Herowde, kyng with croune.

HERODES   Pees, dastarde, in the develes dispite.

NUNCIUS   My lorde, now note is nere this towne.

HERODES   What, false harlott, liste thee flight?
Go betis yone boy and dyngis hym downe.

II MILES   Lorde, messengeres shulde no man wyte,
It may be for youre awne renoune.

HERODES   That wolde I here, do telle on tyte.

NUNCIUS   My lorde, I mette at morne
Thre kyngis carpand togedir
Of a barne that is borne,
And thei hight to come hiddir.

HERODES   Thre kyngis, forsoth?

NUNCIUS                                     Sir, so I say,
For I saw thaim myselffe all fere.

I CONSOLATOR   My lorde, appose hym, I you pray.

HERODES   Say, felowe, are they ferre or nere?

NUNCIUS   Mi lorde, thei will be here this day,
That wote I wele, withouten were.

HERODES   Do rewle us than in riche array,
And ilke man make tham mery chere
That no sembelant be sene
But frendshippe faire and still
Till we witte what thei mene,
Whedir it be gud or ill.

I REX   The lorde that lenes aylastand light
Whilke has us ledde owte of oure londe,
Kepe thee, ser kynge and comely knyght
And all thy folke that we her fynde.

HERODES   Mahounde, my god and most of myght
That has myn hele all in his hande,
He saffe you, sirs, semely in sight,
And telle us nowe som new tithand.

II REX   Some sall we saie you, sir.
A sterne stode us beforne
That makis us speke and spir
Of one that is new borne.

HERODES   New borne? That burden halde I bad,
And, certis, unwitty men ye wore
To leppe overe lande to laite a ladde.
Say, whan loste ye hym, ought lange before?
All wise men will wene ye madde,
And therfore moves this never more.

III REX   Yis, certis, swilke hertyng have we hadde
We will not cesse or we come thore.

HERODES   This were a wondir thyng.
Saie, what barne shulde that be?

I REX   Forsoth, he sall be kynge
Of Jewes and of Jude.

HERODES   Kyng? In the develes name, dogges, fye!
Nowe se I wele ye roye and rave.
Be any skemeryng of the skye
When shulde ye knawe outhir kyng or knave?

FILIUS   Naye, he is kyng and non but he
That sall ye kenne if that ye crave,
And he is jugge of all Jurie
To speke or spille, to saie or saffe.

HERODES   Swilke gawdes may gretely greve
To witnesse that nere was.

II REX   Nowe, lorde, we axe but leve
Be youre poure to passe.

HERODES   Whedirward, in the develis name,
To layte a ladde here in my lande?
Fals harlottis, bot yhe hye you hame
Ye sall be bette and bune in bande.

II CONSOLATOR   Mi lorde, to fell this foule defame,
Late alle there hye wordis falle on hande
And spere thaim sadly of the same,
So sall ye stabely undirstande
Thaire mynde and ther menyng,
And takes gud tente therto.

HERODES   I thanke thee of thys thing,
And certis so sall I doo.

Nowe, kyngis, to cache all care awaye
Sen ye are comen oute of youre kyth,
Loke noght ye legge agaynste oure laye,
Uppon payne to lose both lymme and lith.
And so that ye the soth will saye
To come and go I graunte you grith,
And yf youre poyntes be to my paye
May fall myselfe sall wende you with.

I REX   Sir kyng, we all accorde
And sais a barne is borne
That sall be kyng and lorde,
And leche tham that ar lorne.

II REX   Sir, ye thar mervaylle nothynge
Of this ilke noote that thusgattes newes,
For Balaham saide a starne shulde sprynge
Of Jacob kynde, and that is Jewes.

III REX   Isaie sais a maiden yonge
Sall bere a barne emange Ebrewes
That of all contrees sal be kynge
And governe all that on erthe grewes.
Emanuell beiths his name,
To say, Goddis Sone of hevene.
And certis this is the same
That we here to you neven.

I REX   Sir, the proved prophete Ossee
Full trewly tolde in towne and toure,
A maiden of Israell, forsoth saide he,
Sall bere oone like to lilly floure.
He menes a childe consayved sall be
Withouten seede of mannys socoure,
And his modir a mayden free,
And he both Sonne and Saveour.

II REX   That fadres talde me beforne
Has no man myght to marre.

HERODES   Allas, than am I lorne,
This wax ay werre and werre.

I CONSOLATOR   My lorde, be ye nothyng abast,
This brigge till ende sall wele be broght.
Byde tham go furth and frendly frayste
The soth of this that thei have soght,
And telle it you, soo sall ye traste
Whedir ther tales be trewe or noght.
Than sall ye waite thaim with a wraste
And make all waste that thei have wroght.

HERODES   Nowe certis, this is wele saide,
This matere makes me fayne.
Sir kyngis, I halde me paied
Off all youre purpose playne.

Wende furth youre forward to fulfill,
To Bedlem is but here at hande,
And speris grathely both gud and ille
Of hym that shulde be lorde in lande,
And comes agayne than me untill
And telle me trulye youre tithande.
To worshippe hym than were my will,
This sall ye stabely undirstande.

II REX   Certis, ser, we sall you say
The soth of that same childe,
In all the haste we may.

II CONSOLATOR   Fares wele. Ye be bygilyd.

HERODES   Now, certis, this is a sotell trayne.
Nowe sall thai truly take there trace
And telle me of that swytteron swayne
And all thare counsaille in this case.
Giffe itt be soth thai shall be slayne,
No golde shall gete them bettir grace.
Bot go we tille they come agayne
And playe us in som othir place.
This holde I gude counsaill,
Yitt wolde I na man wiste;
For certis, we shall noght faile
To lose tham as us liste.
crown; (see note); (t-note)

Peace; malice

news; (t-note)

argue; (t-note)
beat; strike; (t-note)

own reputation

hear; quickly; (t-note)

called (designated)

all together


far or near

without question

dress; then; (t-note)
outward sign; seen

know; intend; (t-note)

lends everlasting
Which; land


Mohammed; (see note)
my well-being


birth hold
hurry; seek
(i.e., was it long before)
consider you to be
refer to this

cease until; (t-note)



well you talk nonsense (boast); (t-note)
glimmering in
either; (t-note)

know; desire
judge; Jewry; (t-note)
defend; condemn; save

tricks; grieve (offend)

ask; permission; (t-note)
power (authority)

(see note); (t-note)
go; home
beaten; bound

put down; disgrace
Let; their hasty; be put aside; (t-note)
inquire; soberly

careful attention


take (drive)
(i.e., native land); (t-note)
allege; law
(i.e., life and limb)
It may fall out that


heal; lost

note (matter); in this manner is news; (t-note)
Balaam; star; (see note)
Jacob’s kin

Isaiah; young; (t-note)
among Hebrews; (t-note)
shall be; (t-note)

name (identify); (t-note)

Hosea; (t-note)

conceived; (t-note)
assistance of a man’s seed

(i.e., forefathers); (t-note)

worse and worse

conflict (situation); (t-note)


wait for them; trick


Go; undertaking
ask plainly; (t-note)



Farewell; beguiled; (see note)

subtle trick
make their way
doubtful (of no account) boy; (t-note)
their; (t-note)
(see note)

no; knew

lose (kill); we please; (t-note)


Nota: The Harrode passeth and the three kynges commyth agayn to make there offerynges. (see note)


























I REX   A, sirs, for sight what shall I say,
Whare is oure syne? I se it noth.

II REX   No more do I; nowe dar I lay
In oure wendyng som wrange is wroght.

III REX   Unto that prince I rede we praye
That till us sente his syngne unsoght,
That he wysse us in redy way
So frendly that we fynde hym moght.

I REX   A, siris, I se it stande
Aboven where he is borne;
Lo, here is the house at hande.
We have noght myste this morne.

ANCILLA   Whame seke ye, syrs, be wayes wilde
With talkyng, travelyng to and froo?
Her wonnes a woman with hir childe,
And hir husband; her ar no moo.

II REX   We seke a barne that all shall bylde;
His sartayne syngne hath saide us soo,
And his modir, a mayden mylde,
Her hope we to fynde tham twoo.

ANCILLA   Come nere, gud syirs, and see:
Youre way to ende is broght.

III REX   Behalde here, syirs, her and se
The same that ye have soght.

I REX   Loved be that Lorde that lastis aye,
That us has kydde thus curtaysely
To wende by many a wilsom way
And come to this clene companye.

II REX   Late us make nowe no more delay
But tyte take furth oure tresurry
And ordand giftis of gud aray
To worshippe hym als is worthy.

III REX   He is worthy to welde
All worshippe, welthe, and wynne;
And for honnoure and elde,
Brother, ye shall begynne.

I REX   Hayle, the fairest of felde, folke for to fynde,
Fro the fende and his feeres faithefully us fende;
Hayll, the best that shall be borne to unbynde
All the barnes that are borne and in bale boune.
Hayll, thou marc us thi men and make us in mynde
Sen thi myght is on molde misseis to amende.
Hayll, clene that is comen of a kynges kynde
And shall be kyng of this kyth, all clergy has kende.
And sith it shall worthe on this wise,
Thyselffe have I soght sone, I say thee,
With golde that is grettest of price.
Be paied of this present, I pray thee.

II REX   Hayll, foode that thy folke fully may fede;
Hayll, floure fairest that never shall fade;
Hayll, Sone that is sente of this same sede
That shall save us of synne that oure syris had;
Hayll, mylde, for thou mett to marke us to mede,
Off a may makeles thi modir thou made.
In that gude thurgh grace of thy Godhede,
Als the gleme in the glasse gladly thow glade
And sythyn thow shall sitte to be demand,
To helle or to heven for to have us,
Insens to thi servis is semand.
Sone, se to thi suggettis and save us.

III REX   Hayll, barne that is best oure balys to bete,
For our boote shall thou be bounden and bett;
Hayll, frende faithtfull, we fall to thy feete,
Thy fadiris folke fro the fende to thee fette.
Hayll, man that is made to thi men mette
Sen thou and thy modir with mirthis ar mette;
Hayll, duke that dryves dede undir fete,
But whan thy dedys ar done to dye is thi dette.
And sen thy body beryed shal be,
This mirre will I giffe to thi gravyng.
The gifte is noght grete of degree,
Ressayve it, and se to oure savyng.

MARIA   Sir kyngis, ye travel not in vayne,
Als ye have ment, hyr may ye fynde,
For I consayved my Sone sartayne
Withouten misse of man in mynde,
And bare hym here withouten payne
Where women ar wonte to be pynyd.
Goddis aungell in his gretyng playne
Saide he shulde comforte al mankynde;
Tharfore doute yow no dele
Here for to have youre bone;
I shall witnesse full wele
All that is saide and done.

I REX   For solas ser now may we synge,
All is parformed that we for prayde.
But gud barne, giffe us thy blissing,
For faire happe is before thee laide.

II REX   Wende we nowe to Herowde the kyng,
For of this poynte he will be paied
And come hymselffe and make offeryng
Unto this same, for so he saide.

III REX   I rede we reste a thrawe
For to maynteyne our myght,
And than do as we awe
Both unto kyng and knyght.

ANGELUS   Nowe curtayse kynges, to me take tent,
And turne betyme or ye be tenyd,
Fro God hymselfe thus am I sent
To warne yow als youre faithfull frende.
Herowde the kyng has malise ment
And shappis with shame yow for to shende,
And for that ye non harmes shulde hente
Be othir waies God will ye wende
Even to youre awne contré.
And yf ye aske hym bone,
Youre beelde ay will he be
For this that ye have done.

I REX   A, Lorde, I love thee inwardly.
Sirs, God has gudly warned us thre.
His anungell her now herde have I,
And how he saide.

II REX                 Sir, so did we,
He saide Herowde is oure enmye
And makis hym bowne oure bale to be
With feyned falsed, and forthy
Farre fro his force I rede we flee.

III REX   Syrs, faste I rede we flitte
Ilkone till oure contré.
He that is welle of witte
Us wisse, and with yow be.
sign; not


So that lovingly; might

missed (failed)

Whom; (see note)

Here dwells
here are

infallible sign; informed us thus

a conclusion

hear and see; (t-note)

Praised; exists forever
lonely (dangerous) way

quickly; treasure
intended gifts [for the Child]; (see note)

age; (see note)

(i.e., in the world); (see note)
fiend; companions; defend

mark; keep; (see note)
earth sins
undefiled one; lineage
people; revealed
since; happen this way
soon; (t-note)
(see note)

child; may nourish; (see note)
mild one; chose; reward
maid matchless (without sin)
good [maid]
gleam through; glided; (see note)
then; judging; (t-note)

Incense; appropriate; (see note)

sorrows to overcome
assistance; beaten; (see note)

fetch; (t-note)
Since; joys
death under [his] feet
buried; (see note)
myrrh; give; burial

conceived; certainly

to feel pain

doubt; entirely
wish (desire)

special; (see note)

good fortune

matter; pleased

advise; awhile

courteous; pay attention; (see note)
without delay; hurt (killed)

shapes (schemes); destroy
own country
a favor


feigned falsehood
power; advise

Each one
the source of knowledge

Go To Play 17, The Purification of the Virgin