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Play 24, The Woman Taken in Adultery and the Raising of Lazarus


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 pageants are based on readings (John 8:3–11 and 11:1–44) for Lent1 and in fact began as separate plays. In the Ordo paginarum of 1415, the Woman Taken in Adultery and the Raising of Lazarus were listed individually, with the Capmakers being one of the guilds responsible for the latter along with the Pouchmakers and Bottlers. The Woman Taken in Adultery had been presented by the Plumbers and Pattenmakers. These pageants maintain something of their original identity, with Lazare mortus beginning at line 99. By 1422 the producer of the Lazarus was the guild of Hartshorners, who dealt with harts’ horns, perhaps as a medicinal substance (see MED, s.v. hertes-horn). Both appear to have been written by the same author, and retain the same twelve-line stanza. By the time the Register was compiled, the plays had been amalgamated under the sponsorship of the Capmakers, with the Hatmakers being added in the sixteenth century.2 John Clerke noticed the missing pages in the manuscript, but it is hard to see how the play could have been mounted without their content. As Beadle has suggested, by then the play seems to have been recast, yet never entered in the Register in its new form, this in spite of an order as late as 1567 that this should be done.3 Why the Ministry stories were so poorly represented in the cycle is hard to explain, with the present pageant being, along with the Transfiguration, the only extant text between the Temptation and the Entry into Jerusalem, which to be sure incorporates some further miracles. The Woman Taken in Adultery, based as it is on a post-Patristic addition to John’s gospel, focuses on the contrast between Christian values of community and forgiveness as set forth in the new law in contrast with the old law of ancient Judaism that would set firm penalties for lapses in human behavior and crimes against established values. The Lazarus is a foreshadowing of the Resurrection and helps to define this event’s importance for human behavior.

9 and he a wedded man. An elaboration of the story as reported in the gospel that increases the seriousness of the accusation in the eyes of the Jews. In N-Town, the man runs away holding up his trousers with his hand and with boots unlaced (Play 24, line 124 s.d.).

13 false stodmere and stynkand strye. Name calling. The MED supports the emendation of the text in the Register from “stroye,” which makes no sense here, to “strye.” In N-Town the woman is called a “fayre yonge qwene,” terms suggesting that she is a prostitute (Play 24, line 69).

20 Sho schall be demed to ded. Compare Leviticus 20:10: “both the adulterer and adulteress” are to be “both put to death.”

48 stoned to dede. See John 8:5, citing the law of Moses, presumably Leviticus 10:10, as requiring stoning.

after 54 The missing leaf would have continued the accusation of the woman, including further mention of stoning as the appropriate punishment according to the old law. The suggestion is made to have Jesus weigh in on the trial as a way of entrapping him; then Jesus “bowing himself down, wrote with his finger on the ground.” As the Jews continued with their line of questioning him, he “said to them: He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” (John 8:6–7). For relevant commentary, see Gibson, “Writing before the Eye.” The extant lines of the pageant which follow reveal what happened next.

57 here will new gaudes begynne. It is clear that the Jews are enjoying themselves; catching the couple in flagrante is regarded as a sport, as will be the (expected) summary execution of the woman. “Forgiveness” is not part of their lexicon. Interestingly, it is the fourth Jew who speaks, and he is supposed to be, like the third Jew, a figure of authority (see lines 25–26).

68 Of all thy mys I make thee free. Jesus’ act of absolution. This scene is particularly appropriate for Lent, a period of penitence for one’s sins, leading up to Easter, by which time one was to have confessed to a priest.

70–74 Absolution is without value without acceptance of one’s guilt and making a sincere determination to maintain oneself without sin. The woman is repentant and offers praise for being released from her sinful state.

85–86 Whoso schall othir blame, / Loke firste thamself be clene. Proverbial. See Tilley, Dictionary of the Proverbs, F107.

98a Lazare mortus. This is not a stage direction but rather is the beginning of the Lazarus play, announced by a heading in Latin.

107–08 that sekeness / Is noght onlye to dede. Conventionally, the “sickness unto death” is despair, but here death will be turned to life to show the joy of God’s goodness. Love’s Mirror follows traditional teaching in equating Lazarus prior to his death with the Lenten theme: he represents the sinful man, even the death of the soul, from which Jesus miraculously is able to resurrect him from the sleep of death (p. 125).

141 His sisteres praye with bowsom beede. Mary and Martha of Bethany, who pray with their rosary beads in their hands. Though they despair because the Resurrection has not yet made salvation available, they nevertheless attempt to pray for their departed brother without Christian hope. This is expressed in the laments at lines 147–70.

after 171 Missing leaf. The narrative would have included Jesus going to Bethany, where he will stand before the tomb of Lazarus. It seems to be a coffer tomb, covered with a stone that requires to be removed much as in depictions of the Resurrection tomb. In the biblical text, when Jesus saw the sisters weeping and asked the location of the tomb, he wept. This effect may have been present in the part now missing from the pageant.

184 Lazar, veni foras. From the Vulgate, John 11:43; said with a loud voice.

204 to Jerusalem will I wende. The events commemorated on Palm Sunday and Holy Week will now follow.


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).

At top, guild attribution: and Hatmakers (added by LH, probably in 1569; see REED: York, 1:356).

13 strye. This edition; Reg, LTS, RB: stroye.

29 certayne. So LTS, RB; Reg: certaye.

50 Reg: at right, JC has added Hic deficit.

51 hyde. So RB, who suggests byde might have been intended.

After 54 Missing leaf follows in Reg.

98a Lazare mortus. Reg: written in red at top of page by Scribe B, preceding line 81. Placement in text after line 98 in this edition follows LTS, RB.

124 lange. Emended to longe by LH in Reg.

After 171 Missing leaf follows in Reg.

186 Reg: at right, by JC: Nota quia non concordat and novo addicio facto.

189 LH has written memorandum and word (illegible) to right in Reg.


Footnote 1 See King, York Mystery Cycle, pp. 79–83.

Footnote 2 REED: York, 1:356.

Footnote 3 RB, p. 441; REED: York, 1:351.

The Cappemakers and Hatmakers










































I JUDEUS   Steppe fourth, late us no lenger stande
But smertely that oure gere wer grayde.
This felowe that we with folye fande,
Late haste us fast that she wer flayed.

II JUDEUS   We will bere witnesse and warande
How we hir raysed all unarayed
Agaynste the lawes here of oure lande
Wher sche was with hir leman laide.

I JUDEUS   Yaa, and he a wedded man,
That was a wikkid synne.

II JUDEUS   That bargayne schall sche banne,
With bale nowe or we blynne.

I JUDEUS   A, false stodmere and stynkand strye,
How durste thou stele so stille away
To do so vilaunce avowtry
That is so grete agaynste oure lay.

II JUDEUS   Hir bawdery schall she dere abye,
For as we sawe, so schall we saye,
And also hir wirkyng is worthy
Sho schall be demed to ded this day.

I JUDEUS   The maistirs of the lawe
Are here even at oure hande.

II JUDEUS   Go we reherse by rawe
Hir fawtes as we tham fande.

I JUDEUS   God save you, maistirs, mekill of mayne,
That grete clergy and counsaille cann.

III JUDEUS   Welcome, frendis, but I wolde frayne
How fare ye with that faire woman?

II JUDEUS   A, sirs, we schall you saie certayne
Of mekill sorowe sen sche began.
We have hir tane with putry playne,
Hirselff may noght gaynesaie it than.

IV JUDEUS   What, hath sche done folye
In fornicacioun and synne?

I JUDEUS   Nay, nay, in avowtery
Full bolde and will noght blynne.

III JUDEUS   Avowtery, nemyn it noght, for schame.
It is so foule, opynly I it fye.
Is it sothe that thei saie thee, dame?

II JUDEUS   What, sir, scho may it noght denye;
We wer than worthy for to blame
To greve hir, but sche wer gilty.

IV JUDEUS   Now, certis, this is a foule defame,
And mekill bale muste be tharby.

III JUDEUS   Ya, sir, ye saie wele thore,
By lawe and rightwise rede
Ther falles noght ellis therfore
But to be stoned to dede.

I JUDEUS   Sirs, sen ye telle the lawe this tyde
And knawes the course in this contré,
Demes hir on heght, no lenger hyde,
And aftir youre wordis wirke schall we.

IV JUDEUS   Beis noght so bryme, bewsheris, abide,
A new mater nowe moves me.
. . .
III JUDEUS   He shewes my mysdedis more and myne;
I leve you here, late hym allone.

IV JUDEUS   Owe, here will new gaudes begynne;
Ya, grete all wele, saie that I am gone.

I JUDEUS   And sen ye are noght bolde,
No lengar bide will I.

II JUDEUS   Pees, late no tales be tolde
But passe fourth prevylye.

JESUS   Woman, wher are tho wighte men went
That kenely here accused thee?
Who hase thee dampned, toke thou entent?

MULIER   Lord, no man has dampned me.

JESUS   And for me schall thou noght be schent.
Of all thy mys I make thee free;
Loke thou no more to synne assentte.

MULIER   A, Lord, ay loved mott thou bee.
All erthely folke in feere
Loves hym and his high name
That me on this manere
Hath saved fro synne and schame.

I APOSTOLUS   A, Lorde, we love thee inwardly
And all thi lore, both lowde and still,
That grauntes thy grace to the gilty
And spares tham that thy folke wolde spill.

JESUS   I schall you saie encheson why,
I wote it is my Fadirs will
And for to make tham ware therby
To knawe thamselffe have done more ill.
And evermore of this same
Ensample schall be sene:
Whoso schall othir blame,
Loke firste thamself be clene.

II APOSTOLUS   A, maistir, here may men se also
How mekenes may full mekill amende,
To forgeve gladly where we goo
All folke that hath us oght offende.

JESUS   He that will noght forgiffe his foo
And use mekenesse with herte and hende,
The kyngdom may he noght come too
That ordande is withouten ende.
And more sone schall we see
Here or ye forther fare
How that my Fadir free
Will mustir myghtis more.

      Lazare mortus.

NUNCIUS    Jesu, that es prophett veray,
My ladys Martha and Marie,
If thou fouchesaffe, thai wolde thee pray
For to come unto Bethany.
He whom thou loves full wele alway
Es seke and like, Lord, for to dye.
Yf thou wolde come, amende hym thou may,
And comforte all that cumpany.

JESUS   I saie you that sekeness
Is noght onlye to dede,
But joie of Goddis gudnesse
Schal be schewed in that stede.

And Goddis Sone schall be glorified
By that sekenesse and signes seere;
Therfore brethir no lenger bide,
Two daies fully have we ben here;
We will go sojourne here beside
In the Jurie with frendis in feere.

I APOSTOLUS   A, Lorde, thou wote wele ilke a tyde
The Jewes thei layte thee ferre and nere
To stone thee unto dede
Or putte to pereles payne,
And thou to that same stede
Covaites to gange agayne.

JESUS   Ye wote by cours wele for to kast,
The daie is now of twelve oures lange,
And whilis light of the day may last
It is gode that we grathely gange,
For whan daylight is pleynly past
Full sone than may ye wende all wrang.
Therfore takes hede and travayle fast
Whills light of liffe is you emang.
And to you saie I more,
How that Lazar oure frende
Slepes nowe, and I therfore
With you to hym will wende.

II APOSTOLUS   We will be ruled aftir thi rede,
But and he slepe he schall be save.

JESUS   I saie to you, Lazare is dede,
And for you all grete joie I have.
Ye wote I was noght in that stede
What tyme that he was graved in grave.
His sisteres praye with bowsom beede
And for comforte thei call and crave;
Therfore go we togedir
To make there myrthis more.

I APOSTOLUS   Sen he will nedes wende thedir,
Go we and dye with hym ther.

MARIA   Allas, owtane Goddis will allone
That I schulld sitte to see this sight.
For I may morne and make my mone,
So wo in worlde was nevere wight.
That I loved most is fro me gone,
My dere brothir that Lazar hight,
And I durst saye I wolde be slone,
For nowe me fayles both mynde and myght.
My welthe is wente forevere,
No medycyne mende me may.
A, dede, thou do thy dever
And have me hense away.

MARTHA   Allas, for ruthe, now may I rave
And febilly fare by frith and felde.
Wolde God that I wer grathed in grave,
That dede hadde tane me under telde.
For hele in harte mon I nevere have
But if he helpe that all may welde.
Of Crist I will som comforte crave,
For he may be my bote and belde.
To seke I schal noght cesse
Tille I my sovereyne see.
Hayle, pereles prince of pesse,
Jesu, my maistir so free!

JESUS   Martha, what menes thou to make such chere?
. . .
This stone we schall full sone
Remove and sette on syde.

JESUS   Fadir that is in hevyn on highte,
I thanke thee evere overe all thyng
That hendely heres me day and nyght
And takis hede unto myn askyng:
Wherfore fouchesaffe of thy grete myght
So that this pepull, olde and yyng,
That standis and bidis to se that sight
May trulye trowe and have knowyng
This tyme here or I pas
How that thou has me sent.
Lazar, veni foras,
Come fro thy monument.

LAZARUS   A, pereles prince, full of pitee,
Worshipped be thou in worlde alway
That thus hast schewed thi myght in me,
Both dede and dolven, this is the fourthe day.
By certayne singnes here may men see
How that thou art Goddis Sone verray.
All tho that truly trastis in thee
Schall nevere dye, this dar I saye.
Therfore ye folke in fere,
Menske hym with mayne and myght,
His lawes luke that ye lere;
Than will he lede you to his light.

MARIA   Here may men fynde a faythfull frende
That thus has covered us of oure care.

MARTHA   Jesu, my Lord and maistir hende,
Of this we thanke thee evermore.

JESUS   Sisteres, I may no lenger lende,
To othir folke nowe bus me fare,
And to Jerusalem will I wende
For thyngis that muste be fulfilled there.
Therfore rede I you right,
My men, to wende with me.
Ye that have sene this sight
My blissyng with yo be.
sharply; equipment; arrayed
fellow [inferior, or immoral]; found

undressed (nude)

lover lying

(see note)

before; cease

broodmare; stinking witch; (see note); (t-note)
wicked adultery

dearly pay for

judged; death; (see note)


of great authority
learning; counsel (wisdom) know



prohibited sex



harass; unless

disgraceful situation

well there
correct legal advice

(see note)

Judge; without delay; (t-note)

fast (impatient); good sirs, wait

[pages missing, see note, t-note]

sports; (see note)


those men of authority


sin; (see note)

(see note)


harm (kill)



(see note)

humility; greatly


is ordained
before you further

power greater

(see note); (t-note)

very (true)

are willing

Is sick

sickness; (see note)
joy; goodness
shown; place

signs various

Jewry (Judea); (i.e., among friends)

know well every time
search for


Wish to go

well how to compute
hours; (t-note)


go astray
life; among

receive salvation

buxom prayer; (see note)


mourn; moan
[so] strong

is called
fails; strength

death; duty

woods; field
taken; cover [of earth]
hale (well-being)

help; support
seek; cease

[pages missing; see note, t-note]

graciously hears


Lazarus, come forth; (see note)


dead and buried; (t-note)


all together
look; learn



(see note)



Go To Play 25, The Entry into Jerusalem