Play 28, The Agony and Betrayal
Play 28, THE AGONY AND BETRAYAL: 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 pageant falls into two parts, the first dramatizing the story of Jesus’ Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane as he prays and looks forward with very human fear and apprehension to his death on the cross. The intended effect is to stimulate a sympathetic response from the audience, the feeling of devout compassion that Love insisted upon.1 The second part builds on this sympathy as the arrest is prepared and Judas’ betrayal is effected. It is clear that there were substantial changes between the compilation of the Ordo paginarum in 1415 and the entering of the pageant into the Register in 1463–77. In fact, as Beadle notes, “This play must have reached the main scribe in state of considerable confusion,”2 probably due to the stages of revision to which the pageant had been subjected. The usual verse form is the twelve-line stanza, with the introduction of the long alliterative line, but with considerable irregularity and passages where the verse form thoroughly breaks down. At some time after the compilation of the Register the pageant appears to have been revised or rewritten but not re-entered in the manuscript, as a marginal note in the manuscript by a later hand explains. The Cordwainers, known from the York dramatic records to have been a troublesome craft on account of their running dispute in the final decades of the fifteenth century with the Weavers over precedence,3 were a successful leather craft, mainly devoted to the making of shoes.
2 My flesshe dyderis and daris for doute of my dede. Because he is entirely human as well as entirely divine, his humanity fears the death which he must endure. As Love explains, while his reason was fully obedient, his flesh — that is, his humanity — “grucchede and dredde and wold not gladely suffre deth” (Mirror, p. 163). See too lines 48–49, where Jesus explicitly is filled with dread because of what he knows and fears will be the end of his life’s journey as a human being.
8a bidis me a stounde. Embedded stage direction, telling the disciples, who are physically tired and perplexed, to remain alert as Jesus goes away a short distance from them to a “mounte” (see line 84) or raised space on the pageant wagon where he will be alone. At line 18 the disciples sit down. They will fall asleep swiftly even though they have been advised by Jesus to pray and not to succumb so as to resist temptation — a passage which carries a suggestion of the parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins in Matthew 25 but also has a direct source is Luke 22:40. Unfortunately, the text is defective following line 42.
50 I swete now both watir and bloode. See Luke 22:44. The effect was created at Revello and Lucerne with paint, applied by a hidden stage hand during Jesus’ speech (Meredith and Tailby, Staging, p. 108). The usual iconography would dictate that Jesus should be kneeling during his prayer.
58 if it possible be this payne myght I overpasse. In the biblical accounts Jesus asks that “this chalice [calicem]” may be taken from him (e.g., Luke 22:42); the chalice is sometimes depicted literally in iconography.
71–75 I wolde that ye wakened . . . mildely with me. Jesus goes to the disciples for the first time to find them sleeping, as will happen two more times.
90 Be torned fro this turnement. For this metaphor as used to describe the Crucifixion, see the discussion in Woolf, “Theme of Christ the Lover-Knight.” This motif is much stronger in the Towneley Crucifixion (Play 23, lines 89–124).
113–22 The angel is traditionally St. Michael (so identified in the Gospel of Nicodemus, followed by the Meditations, p. 323). He comes to comfort and strengthen Jesus, but not to release him from the task of becoming the sacrifice for the misdeeds of humans both before and after the Crucifixion. Afterward Jesus is promised that he will reign in bliss as monarch of heaven. This detail appears only in Luke’s gospel.
127b I schall you sayne. Jesus probably signs — i.e., makes the sign of the cross over his disciples, who are again sleeping — but “sayne” may also not implausibly signify “heal.”
132–33 als soon as I am tane / Than schall ye forsake me. Jesus’ prediction, which will be proven correct in spite of their protests here. They will be like sheep that have been sheared and flee away. Peter is singled out.
153 Along with the high priests, Malcus, Judas, Peter, James, John, and fourteen soldiers, the Ordo paginarum reported the presence of Pilate, but this is either an error or a sign that the extant text was much altered from what it had been in 1415. It is more likely that only four soldiers and four Jews were needed for production of the play as presented in the extant text.
238 I bere light for my lorde. Malcus is the bearer of a lantern, as in numerous depictions, including stained glass in the church of St. Martin-cum-Gregory (YA, p. 72, fig. 19).
248 All hayll. Taken to be a sign of deception as late as Shakespeare; see Macbeth 1.3.48–50.
250 I wolde aske you a kysse. This is the instant nearly always represented in the iconography, as in the St. Martin-cum-Gregory glass where Peter has already attacked Malcus. In the Bolton Hours, Peter at the moment of the kiss has his sword lifted high, and in the foreground the small figure of Malcus has fallen (fol. 34v). In the pageant this is delayed until lines 274–75.
258 leme of this light. The bright light radiating from Jesus is rare in the visual arts. The light (for possible techniques of producing it in the play, see Butterworth, Theatre of Fire, esp. pp. 55–78) causes the soldiers to fall to the ground. John 18:6 only has the soldiers react by falling as a result of their recognition of Jesus; the scene is depicted in the Speculum humanae salvationis (Wilson and Wilson, Medieval Mirror, p. 174). Muir suggests that the great light, which also appears in the Semur Passion, was borrowed from the Conversion of St. Paul (Biblical Drama, p. 131).
259 whome seke ye? John 18:4, quoted in the Stanzaic Life, p. 194, but also perhaps an echo of Quem queritis, “Whom seek ye,” of the angel in the Visitatio Sepulchri, the liturgical Easter play.
282–90 Of aungellis full many . . . at vayle. Derived ultimately from Matthew 26:53–54. At the end of the speech Jesus heals Malcus’ ear, for which he receives no thanks but rather a curse.
298 Even like a theffe. Love reports that he has “hees handes bonden byhynde hym as a thefe, girde above his kote . . . and his mantile drawen fro him, and goyng barehede and stoupyng for the grete haste and travaile that thei made him to have” (Mirror, p. 167).
Play 28, THE AGONY AND BETRAYAL: 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).
1 JESUS. Added LTS, RB; omit Reg.
Reg: at right, in LH: de novo facto.
12 in. So LTS, RB; Reg: ni.
42 Missing leaf follows in Reg.
111–12 Reg: text erased, partially recovered under ultraviolet light; corroborated by RB: And seis . . . yght / With rappes full rudely . . . the rode rente.
113 ANGELUS. LH adds and archangels in Reg.
142 Following in Reg is an intruded cue for the actor: This sothly quod Petir.
143 Misplaced line, in Reg between lines 139 and 140.
148a For. So LTS, RB; Reg: Fo.
159a se. Interlined in Reg.
168–72 Speeches of Anna and Cayphas reversed in Reg. Lineation follows LTS, RB.
173–81 Confused lineation in Reg; text here follows RB.
181a Reg: line originally assigned to Cayphas at end of next line.
183 Sir knyghtis, in hy. Part of Cayphas’ speech, but originally assigned to I Miles in Reg; Reg’s ascription of line 183b to II Miles altered to I Miles; so LTS, RB.
193 armed. Altered to myned by LH in Reg.
199 Reg: at right, in LH, faint: hic caret.
204 he. So LTS, RB; Reg omits.
214 slane. Reg: slone, changed to slane by LH.
236a CAYPHAS. Speech designation added by RB. Originally assigned implausibly to Malcus in Reg.
247 CAYPHAS. Speech heading added RB.
249b ye. So RB; Reg, LTS: he.
272b Given to Malcus in RB; in Reg and LTS to Jesus.
278 JESUS. Inserted in LH in Reg.
295 Line incomplete in Reg.
300 mekenes. So Reg, LTS; RB: merkenes.
Play 28, THE AGONY AND BETRAYAL: EXPLANATORY NOTE FOOTNOTES
Footnote 1 Love, Mirror, pp. 153–56.
Footnote 2 RB, p. 444.
Footnote 3 See esp. REED: York, 1:126, 158–59, 162–65, and 166–74.
Go To Play 29, The Trial before Cayphas and Anna