Play 29, The Trial before Cayphas and Anna
Play 29, THE TRIAL BEFORE CAYPHAS AND ANNA: FOOTNOTES
2 My lord, was there no man to prevent or hinder us
Play 29, THE TRIAL BEFORE CAYPHAS AND ANNA: 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.
In this play, produced by the Bowers and Fletchers (makers of bows and arrows), Jesus now comes before the Sanhedrim: he will face the high priest, Caiphas, and Anna for the initial stage of his trial in an ecclesiastical court. The injustice effected here and throughout the trial scenes may, according to King, have been a deliberate reminder of legal irregularities in the trial of the popular Archbishop Scrope in 1405, when he was convicted of treason for his involvement in a rebellion against Henry IV and executed.1 The play, along with the other trial plays, illustrates the law applied as an instrument of injustice and tyranny, with which the people of York were not unfamiliar. The pageant begins with a speech by Caiphas, a bully and braggart who boasts about his power over lower clergy and the people as well as about his wisdom. He begins with a call for “Pees,” that is, silence, which indicates an intentionally confrontational approach to the audience, and it is clear that his pursuit of the “boy” (a pejorative designation) is vindictive and hardly a pursuit of true justice. The playtext presents considerable difficulty, especially on account of the irregularity of the verse, which more or less falls into quatrains and, after line 170, the long alliterative line within twelve-line stanzas. In its present state, the text must be seen as differing from the pageant described in the 1415 Ordo paginarum which appears to have focused on the Buffeting. Numerous corrections were made by later hands in the manuscript.
7 semely in seete. In the seat of judgment, as judge in an ecclesiastical court.
33 I have sente for that segge halfe for hethyng. As an unjust judge, Caiphas expects to enjoy the proceedings, which will involve the working out of a vindictiveness that will cloud all sense of partiality in his treatment of the accused. In line 41 he admits his “ire,” his predominant emotion and, since it causes him to be out of control, a sign of his unsympathetic character. He is a contrast to Jesus, and must have reflected this in his gestures, surely indecorous and directly opposed to the restraint displayed by his victim.
35–50 Caiphas’ charges against Jesus throughout include sorcery (he will name witchcraft outright at line 57) and sabbath-breaking in violation of the Mosaic law. He also believes that, by calling himself God’s Son, Jesus is committing an act of blasphemy and that, by founding a new sect, he is an apostate and heretic under the old law.
51–56 Anna tries to contradict Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God by pointing to his parents, Mary and Joseph, the latter an ordinary craftsman, a carpenter.
60 To take hym with a traye. They will use deception to catch Jesus, as in fact has already been done in the Betrayal scene. Legally, the case against Jesus involves malicious prosecution here and elsewhere in the Trial plays (see Tiner, “English Law,” pp. 145–46).
80 Do on dayntely and dresse me on dees. The dais, on which he is also being prepared for bed, serves as the location of his bishop’s throne. The bed must be nearby. After he sleeps and Anna leaves the set, the scene moves to Peter’s predicted denial of his Lord. This cannot be in the same location but rather where Jesus can be brought by, bound with ropes, as later he is being brought to the high priest’s palace. A flame will be required by which Peter hopes to be warmed in the cold night.
130a youre felawschippe. The manuscript has oure felawschip, but Peter remains an outsider, all the more so since he has deserted his Master, as Malcus points out upon his recognition of him.
137a hurled hym hardely. So Jesus will be treated in his captivity as, with his hands tied, he will be dragged from place to place and tortured. It will be Malcus who points out, at line 161, that Peter has thrice denied his Lord. Then Jesus will pass by for a short speech in which he confirms the denial, whereupon Peter must repent since he stands as a direct contrast to Judas, who is unable to do so. There is a problem with the time scheme here, since Peter’s recognition of what he has done in denying Jesus comes at the cock crow — i.e., morning — and otherwise in this pageant the action is taking place in the depths of the night.
169 full sadde sorowe sheris my harte. Peter’s sight of Jesus is stressed in the Northern Passion, which reports that at that point the apostle was “ful drery in his thoght” and went forth, weeping “sare” (1:75; Harleian manuscript), the stage action implied here. The lines that follow will be in the long alliterative line.
177 nowe of the nyght. Noon of the night, midnight, but again the nighttime here is in fact very indeterminate. The third and fourth soldiers must be outside, with the first and second inside the gate to the priests’ palace.
247 we myght als wele talke tille a tome tonne. The image of an empty barrel as inappropriately signifying Jesus, who is the silent one, noted for his patience. The soldiers are a hardened lot, while Jesus, as frequently noted, is presented as one who is silent “as a sheep to the slaughter, and shall be dumb as a lamb before his shearer, and he shall not open his mouth” (Isaias 53:7). Woolf suggests the influence of the Meditations and related writings (English Mystery Plays, p. 257). At line 248 Anna says that he thinks Jesus is “witteles.” But, as Robinson notes, Anna’s charge is premature “since Jesus has not yet been asked any questions or given a chance to speak” (Studies in Fifteenth-Century Stagecraft, p. 183).
256–57 The interrogation begins in earnest, with the listing of charges. No lawyer is allowed for the defense. The scene may not have appeared very different from that depicted in an alabaster to which attention is called by Hildburgh, “English Alabaster Carvings,” pp. 77–78, pl. XVI.d; here Caiphas is seated on a throne, with hands raised as he interrogates Jesus, who has his hands tied before him. In the background are a man with a scroll of parchment and a number of others. Caiphas is wearing a miter, and is clean shaven.
266–69 One of the charges against him involves his prophecy of the destruction of the Temple, and his claim to be able to raise it up again in three days. See Matthew 26:61, Mark 14:58.
274–75 Jesus of Jewes will have joie / To spille all thy sporte for thy spellis. Beadle would amend to “we will have joie” (RB, p. 250), but the line is more likely ironic. Of course, as bullies the priests will have pleasure on account of what they are able to inflict on Jesus. See also line 288: “we schall have game or we goo.”
286 by Beliall bloode and his bonys. The blood and bones are relics of a demon, Belial, and represent the reverse of the cult of relics of saints.
292 Yf thou be Criste, Goddis Sonne, telle till us two. See Matthew 26:61, Mark 14:58. Jesus will not fall into the snare, but now will speak briefly, answering that Caiphas has made this statement himself. He is aware of the priests’ strategy to obtain a conviction and subsequently execution, as lines 312–18 demonstrate. But here the priests take his answer to be as good as a guilty plea. To Jesus’ complaint about the proceedings, Caiphas will only become irate, and the first soldier, calling him a beggar, chides him for “bourd[ing] with oure busshoppe” (line 327a).
331 Wherfore thou bourdes to brode for to bete me. It is presumably Caiphas, not the soldier who is the deceitful witness (“wronge witteness,” line 329), so Jesus turns the charge of jesting or playing (as “to brode” — i.e., too broadly — or hastily) back upon his accuser.
336 prelatis estatis. The arrogance of Caiphas and Anna would have resonated from time to time with York’s citizens, who frequently did not have good relations with the higher clergy associated with the Minster and the archbishop; York wills demonstrate that, as an index of their affection, citizens’ bequests were very generous to parish churches, while little was usually given by them to the Minster.
340 ye muste presente this boy unto Sir Pilate. The decision to execute someone would need to be made by the secular authorities, just as in late medieval England. There a person could not be condemned to die by the ecclesiastical authorities, though he could be turned over to the civil government to do the deed.
344 late men lede hym by nyght. Injustice is best hidden, rather than exposed to the public. This is another reason for proceeding speedily through the night with Jesus’ trial, in addition to the requirement imposed of reaching a conclusion before the Jewish Sabbath; see Caiphas’ orders to the soldiers at lines 388–89.
355 play popse. A “common game” in which a person is blindfolded, then is to guess who hit him; “until he rede him that smote him, he will be blindfold stille and hold in for the post of player” (Owst, Literature and Pulpit, p. 510, quoting MS. Bodley 649, fol. 82). In the Towneley Coliphizacio the game is called “A new play of Yoyll” (Play 21, line 498), but elsewhere it is called Hot Cockles (Owst, Literature and Pulpit, p. 510).
356–57 stole . . . hatir. The Buffeting. Jesus will sit on the stool, like a “foole” in this game (line 358), with the cloth (hatir) over his head so that he cannot see those who are hitting him with the palms of their hands in what the torturers consider a game. In this and other episodes of torture during the Passion, the iconographic evidence indicates that the tormentors surrounding Jesus should appear to be like animals, as in the Holkham Bible Picture Book (fol. 29v), to be consistent with Psalm 21 (AV 22), the psalm read in the liturgy on Good Friday: “Many dogs have encompassed me,” etc. The relevance of this psalm to illustrations of the Passion is discussed by Marrow, “Circumdederunt me multi.” Part of the torment at this time, according to the accounts in Matthew and Mark, involved being spit upon (and so too in later redactions of the story, as in Love’s Mirror, p. 168), and something of this may have been effected, though the text of this pageant does not specify it. For a depiction of spitting, see the Speculum humanae salvationis (Wilson and Wilson, Medieval Mirror, p. 178) and the discussion in Marrow, Passion Iconography, pp. 132–34.
369a Wassaile, wassaylle. As if raising a drink to offer a toast.
373 Quis te percussit. Garbled quotation in manuscript, as emended by Beadle on the basis of Luke 22:64.
376 stode in a foles state. The point has been missed by those who wish to speak of Christ as a “fool king,” for the pageant is in fact trying make clear that it is the tormentors who are the fools, not the Christ who is keeping his silence out of “hie pacience” (Love, Mirror, p. 168). His wits are hardly “awaye,” as the fourth soldier believes (line 375b).
395 daunce forth in the devyll way. Concluding Caiphas’ curse. The Dance of Death, leading to that which lies beyond the hellmouth — i.e., the realm of the fende.
Play 29, THE TRIAL BEFORE CAYPHAS AND ANNA: 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 CAYPHAS. Entered by JC in Reg.
23b Tunc dicant Lorde. Added at right by JC in Reg.
73–74 At right in Reg, Hic caret (deleted); also, by JC: Hic For be we ones well wett / The better we will reste. At left: Hic.
86 MULIER. So RB; Reg, LTS: I Mulier.
128a that. Reg: written at end of line (deleted).
130a youre. So RB; Reg, LTS: oure.
145 than. So RB, LTS; Reg: thon.
152 Following line missing in Reg.
153 Reg: at right, in LH: Caret hic.
176 III MILES. So RB; staste (deleted), followed by stande in Reg.
178b I MILES. So RB, for gap in Reg.
178c III MILES. So RB; Reg: I Miles.
198 I MILES. Added by RB.
199 CAYPHAS. Reg: main scribe had written I Miles, altered by later scribe.
200–07 Reg: speech designations emended by LH; initially assignments to Cayphas and Anna had been reversed.
211 are buxom. This edition; Reg, LTS: have buxom; RB: have ben buxom.
213b I added, emendation in Reg.
214 And felawes. At end of previous line in Reg.
226a Reg: he deleted between to and take.
241 IV MILES. So LTS, RB.
242 CAYPHAS. Originally IV Miles; emended by LH.
255 tere. So RB; Reg, LTS: stere.
261b sidis seere. So LTS, RB; Reg: sere sidis seere.
262 CAYPHAS. Reg: speech designation entered by JC.
272 CAYPHAS. Reg: main scribe had written IV Miles; emended by JC.
275 Reg: at right, Hic caret in LH.
304b Sertis, so I schall. In Reg written at beginning of next line.
307 Reg: at right, JC has written: Sir my reason is not to rehers. Jesus. Incipit of Jesus’ speech at line 308, hence cue to indicate that the speeches by Jesus and Anna, which follow in lines 308–11, are reversed.
362–64 Lineation as in LTS, RB, to correct defective order in Reg.
365 Reg repeats III Miles; this edition omits.
372 I saie. So RB; Reg, LTS: ysaie.
373 Quis te. So RB, following Köbling; Reg: in juste; LTS: Injuste.
thou. So RB; LTS: you.
394a CAYPHAS. So RB; Scribe B: Anna, corrected by JC, but Anna retained by LTS.
395 Speech designation Cayphas by Scribe B; this edition omits.
Play 29, THE TRIAL BEFORE CAYPHAS AND ANNA: EXPLANATORY NOTE FOOTNOTES
Footnote 1 King, “Contemporary Cultural Models,” p. 212.
The Bowers and Flecchers
Go To Play 30, The First Trial before Pilate