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Play 27, The Last Supper


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 Bakers were an obvious choice for the Last Supper since bread was an essential requirement for the institution of the Eucharist. No event in biblical history could be of greater significance in relation to the feast of Corpus Christi, which was a celebration of the Sacrament of the Eucharist in liturgical rite and procession as well as, at York, the plays. It is thus all the more unfortunate that, due to the loss of a leaf between lines 89 and 90, the central portion of the narrative with its representation of the blessing of the bread and wine is missing. The actions performed by Jesus at the table very likely were modeled on the gestures of the priest in consecrating the elements at Mass. This is supported by the stage direction that has Jesus perform the lavabo rite by washing his hands after the foot washing and in preparation for the main rite of the Passover meal. King points out that the lesson for Maundy Thursday described the foot washing, and that at vespers the York Missal quite remarkably specifies a mimed representation of the ritual meal: “table-cloths and wafers, with wine, are to be placed before the bishop and the others sitting together by the ministers of the church, as if to dine.”1 It is hard to know how the actors were arranged for the scenes involved in the Bakers’ pageant, but suggestions may be gained from entirely conventional mid-fourteenth-century painted glass in the choir of York Minster. In the Last Supper panel, Jesus is centrally placed and blessing with his right hand, while with the left he reaches out toward a dish on the cloth-covered table. The apostles are located on each side, except for Judas, who is in front of the table, as typically is the case so that he will be turned away from the viewer’s gaze. A chalice and a ciborium, with hosts, stand on the table.2 At Great Malvern, a panel shows Judas receiving the Host and simultaneously stealing a fish, which he is hiding under the table cloth.3 The classic article on the play is by Mill, “York Bakers’ Play of the Last Supper.” The pageant is written in twelve-line stanzas.

4 feeste of Paas. The Pascal feast, Passover, which is to be hereafter rejected in favor of the new Easter feast and the regular celebration of the Mass. The Eucharist was presented by Love and others in terms of a sacramental mysticism (see Mirror, pp. 153–56).

7–8 Oure lambe is roste . . . / As Moyses lawe will lely lere. Prescriptions for the roast lamb are found in Exodus 12:3–10.

9–10 ilke man that has / Pepill in his awne posté. Implying the authoritarian family, with the patriarch as head of the family responsible for organizing the feast.

19 array you all on rawe. Perhaps the disciples took places standing by the table, but the foot washing will intervene before they actually are allowed to eat.

25–26 Of Moyses lawes here make I an ende / In som party. The extensive rules specified in the Old Testament are abrogated, and the new law of Christ will be substituted. For example, the lamb will no longer be required, nor the ritualistic way of eating it. But not all the old rules will be declared obsolete.

36 wasshed clene. The new law will declare that persons taking communion must be cleansed through penance and absolution.

40 Do us have watir. Embedded stage direction. In Mark14:13–14 and Luke 22:10 two disciples are sent into the town to meet Marcellus for the pitcher of water, but there is no time for anything so time-consuming. Marcellus will also bring a towel for the foot-washing.

47–50 Peter objects to having his feet washed by Jesus, as in John 13:6–9.

60 s.d. Tunc lavat manus. The foot washing is completed, and it seems that among the disciples only Peter took part in it in the pageant. Now is the preparation for the meal, which is to be an example for all future generations.

79 To whilke of you such fare schulde fall. The disciples have been talking inappropriately about precedence among themselves.

after 89 The missing leaf contained the Last Supper up to the moment when Jesus gives the sop to Judas. This is the detail depicted in the Great Malvern glass and very commonly in other works of visual art. In the popular Biblia Pauperum block books the event is aligned with Melchisedech’s offering of bread and wine and with Moses in the desert who feeds himself with manna (pp. 81 and 83). In play production, as in depictions in the visual arts, it would probably have been the case that Judas was turned away from the audience so as not to make eye contact.

96 thou sittist nexte his kne. Spoken by James to John.

104–05 Now is tyme to me to gang . . . of newe. Embedded stage direction. Judas’ exit is covered by the disciples seeming to be talking quietly among themselves.

116–23 Jesus’ warning to the disciples. He especially has prayed for Peter, who will need to fend off the assaults of the devil — and, as indicated below in lines 132–37, will deny Jesus three times before the night is over.

142–43 All that in worlde is wretyn of me / Shall be fulfilled. All the ancient prophecies will be fulfilled and proven true.

144–47 I am the herde, the schepe are ye . . . to save. The brief parable of the shepherd and the sheep, told to the disciples by Jesus in Matthew 26:31–34 and Mark 14:27–31.

159 on twelffe seeges sitte schall ye. In heaven, the apostles are promised twelve thrones to sit beside Jesus at Judgment Day.

168–70 swerdis . . . Shall selle his cote and bye hym one. A rather confused adaptation of Luke 22:36 and 38. Andrew will report that they have two swords at line 176.

173–75 And stones to stynte all striffe. They are to carry stones for protection? The editor is indebted to a suggestion by Russell Peck, who wonders if this might not be an echo of the Temptation pageant in which the Fiend would tempt Jesus to turn stones into bread; here Jesus will turn bread into the body of Christ “Yoursellfe for to save” (line 174).


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).

1 JESUS. So LTS, RB; Reg: Deus in JC’s hand.
Above, top right of page in Reg: caret hic principio.
Pees. Reg: Large P sketched in.

2 Reg has all interlined; and here added by later scribe (replacing ?theryn).

60, s.d. Tunc lavat manus. Supplied by JC in right margin in Reg.

61 Reg has ascription by JC: Deus. This edition omits.

After 89 Missing leaf follows in Reg.

96 I hope. So Reg, LTS; RB: Jhon.

100 is. So LTS, RB; Reg: is is.

148 slayne. So RB; Reg, LTS: allone.

151 mende. So LTS, RB; Reg: mened.

173 stones. So Reg, LTS, RB; Kölbing: swordes.

177 Us. So LTS, RB; Reg: Vis.

187 At left in margin in Reg: Hic caret, in LH; JC has added novo loquela.


Footnote 1 King, York Mystery Cycle, p. 173, quoting the York Missal, 1:97, 101 (in translation).

Footnote 2 See YA, p. 71.

Footnote 3 See Rushforth, Medieval Christian Imagery, pp. 57–63, fig. 13.

The Baxsteres






































JESUS  & Pees be both be day and nyght
Untill this house and till all that is here.
Here will I holde as I have hight
The feeste of Paas with frendis in feere.

MARCELUS  & Maistir, we have arayed full right
Servise that semes for youre sopere:
Oure lambe is roste, and redy dight
As Moyses lawe will lely lere.

JESUS  & That is, ilke man that has
Pepill in his awne posté
Shall roste a lambe at Paas
To hym and his meyné.

ANDREAS  & Maister, the custome wele we knawe
That with oure elthers ever has bene,
How ilke man with his meyné awe
To roste a lambe and ete it clene.

JESUS  & I thanke you sothtly of youre sawe,
For ye saye as youreselffe has sene;
Therfore array you all on rawe,
Myselfe schall parte itt you betwene.
Wherfore I will that ye
Ette therof evere ilkone;
The remelaunt parted schall be
To the poure that purveyse none.

Of Moyses lawes here make I an ende
In som party, but noght in all;
My comaundement schall othirwise be kende
With tham that men schall craftely call.
But the lambe of Pasc that here is spende,
Whilke Jewes uses grete and small,
Evere forward nowe I itt deffende
Fro Cristis folke whatso befall.
In that stede schall be sette
A newe lawe us bytwene,
But who therof schall ette
Behoves to be wasshed clene.

For that new lawe whoso schall lere,
In harte tham bus be clene and chaste.
Marcelle, myn awne discipill dere,
Do us have watir here in hast.

MARCELUS  & Maistir, it is all redy here,
And here a towell clene to taste.

JESUS  & Commes forthe with me, all in feere;
My wordis schall noght be wroght in waste.
Settis youre feete fourth, late see:
They schall be wasshen sone.

PETRUS  & A, Lorde, with thi leve, of thee
That dede schall noght be done.

I schall nevere make my membres mete
Of my soverayne service to see.

JESUS  & Petir, bott if thou latte me wasshe thi feete,
Thou getis no parte in blisse with me.

PETRUS  & A, mercy, Lorde and maistir swete,
Owte of that blisse that I noght be,
Wasshe on, my Lorde, to all be wete,
Both hede and hande, beseke I thee.

JESUS  & Petir, thou wotiste noght yitt
What this werke will bemene.
Hereaftir schall thou witte,
And so schall ye all, bedene.

          Tunc lavat manus.

Youre Lorde and maistir ye me call,
And so I am, all welthe to welde.
Here have I knelid unto you all
To wasshe youre feete as ye have feled.
Ensaumple of me take ye schall
Ever for to yeme in youthe and elde,
To be buxsome in boure and hall,
Ilkone for to bede othir belde.
For all if ye be trewe
And lele of love ilkone,
Ye schall fynde othir ay newe
To greve whan I am gone.

JACOBUS  & Now sen oure maistir sais he schall
Wende and will not telle us whedir,
Whilke of us schall be princepall,
Late loke now whils we dwell togedir.

JESUS  & I wotte youre will, both grete and small,
And youre high hartis I here tham hedir,
To whilke of you such fare schulde fall;
That myght ye carpe when ye come thedir
Where it so schulde betyde
Of such materes to melle.
But first behoves you bide
Fayndyngis full ferse and felle.

Here schall I sette you for to see
This yonge childe for insaumpills seere.
Both meke and mylde of harte is he
And fro all malice mery of chere,
So meke and mylde but if ye be
. . .
[JESUS]   Quod facis fac cicius,
That thou schall do, do sone.

THOMAS  & Allas, so wilsom wightis as we
Was nevere in worlde walkand in wede;
Oure maistir sais his awne meyné
Has betrayed hym to synfull seede.

JACOBUS MAJOR  & A, I hope, sen thou sittist nexte his kne,
We pray thee spire hym for oure spede.

JOHANNES  & Domine, quis est qui tradit te?
Lord, who schall do that doulfull dede?
Allas, oure playe is paste,
This false forward is feste;
I may no lenger laste,
For bale myn herte may breste.

JUDAS  & Now is tyme to me to gang,
For here begynnes noye all of newe.
My fellaws momellis thame emang
That I schulde alle this bargayne brewe,
And certis thai schall noght wene it wrang.
To the prince of prestis I schall pursue,
And thei schall lere hym othir ought long
That all his sawes sore schall hym rewe.
I wotte whedir he removes
With his meyné ilkone,
I schall telle to the Jewes
And tyte he schalle be tane.

JESUS  & I warne you nowe, my frendis free,
Sese to ther sawes that I schall say:
The fende is wrothe with you and me,
And will you marre if that he may;
But Petir I have prayed for thee
So that thou schall noght drede his dray;
And comforte thou this meyné
And wisse hem whan I am gone away.

PETRUS  & A, Lorde, where wilte thou lende?
I schall lende in that steede,
And with thee schall I wende
Evermore in lyffe and dede.

ANDREAS  & No wordely drede schall me withdrawe
That I schall with thee leve and dye.

THOMAS  & Certis, so schall we all on rawe,
Ellis mekill woo were we worthy.

JESUS  & Petir, I saie to thee this sawe,
That thou schalte fynde no fantasie.
This ilke nyght or the cokkys crowe
Shall thou thre tymes my name denye
And saye thou knewe me nevere
Nor no meyné of myne.

PETRUS  & Allas, Lorde, me were lever
Be putte to endles pyne.

JESUS  & As I yow saie, so schall it bee;
Ye nedis non othir recours to crave.
All that in worlde is wretyn of me
Shall be fulfilled, for knyght or knave.
I am the herde, the schepe are ye,
And whane the herde schall harmes have,
The flokke schall be full fayne to flee
And socoure seke thameselffe to save.
Ye schall whan I am slayne
In grete myslykyng lende,
But whanne I ryse agayne,
Than schall youre myrthe be mende.

Ye have bene bowne my bale to bete,
Therfore youre belde ay schall I be;
And for ye did in drye and wete
My comaundementis in ilke contré.
The kyngdome of heven I you behete
Even as my Fadir has highte itt me.
With gostely mete there schall we mete,
And on twelffe seeges sitte schall ye,
For ye trewlye toke yeme
In worlde with me to dwell,
There shall ye sitte bydene
Twelve kyndis of Israell.

But firste ye schall be wille of wone,
And mo wathes then ye of wene
Fro tyme schall come that I be tone;
Than schall ye turne away with tene.
And loke that ye have swerdis ilkone,
And whoso haves non you bytwene
Shall selle his cote and bye hym one:
Thus bidde I that ye do bedene.
Satcheles I will ye have
And stones to stynte all striffe
Youreselffe for to save
In lenghyng of youre liff.

ANDREAS  & Maistir, ye have here swerdis twoo
Us with to save on sidis seere.

JESUS  & Itt is inowe, ye nedis no moo,
For fro all wathis I schall you were.
Butt ryse now uppe, for we will goo,
By this owre enemyes ordand are.
My Fadir saide it schall be soo;
His bidding will I noght forbere.
Loke ye lere forthe this lawe
Als ye have herde of me:
Alle that wele will itte knawe,
Ay blessed schall thei bee.
Peace; (t-note)
To; to all; (t-note)
Paschal feast; all together; (see note)

(see note)
truly teach

(see note)
[patriarchal] power


elders (forefathers)
family ought
eat; entirely

truly; words

in order; (see note)

Eat; everyone
remnant (leftovers)
poor; [can] provide

(see note)
dispensed with



Should be; (see note)

must be pure

(see note)

for use

washed soon

(see note)


unless; allow me to

know; yet


Then he washes his hands; (see note); (t-note)

wield (control)

give heed to
obedient; bower
Each one; offer others support



proud; hither
matter; (see note)
talk (discuss)

Trials; fierce; cruel

examples many

[pages missing; (see note); (t-note)]
That which thou doest do quickly

confused men
(i.e., sinful folk)

(see note); (t-note)
inquire [of]; assistance

Lord, who is the one who has betrayed you?

passed; (t-note)
[If] this; agreement; certain


(see note)
mumble among themselves

consider it wrong

instruct; otherwise
rue (be sorry for)
whither; goes

quickly; arrested

(see note)
Pay attention to the words
fiend; angry

dread; assault


be (dwell)


worldly dread; restrain
(i.e., From) That; living and dying

in order




written; (see note)

shepherd; sheep; (see note)

slain; (t-note)
unhappiness be

restored; (t-note)

obliged; relieve

promised it to me
spiritual food (sustenance)
thrones; (see note)

all together

more dangers; expected
(see note)

Satchels (Small bags)
stop; (see note); (t-note)


(i.e., on all sides); (t-note)

(i.e., I shall help you)

intended (planned)

teach (proclaim)


Go To Play 28, The Agony and Betrayal