Play 33, The Second Trial before Pilate
Play 33, THE SECOND TRIAL BEFORE PILATE: FOOTNOTES
2 It will be a long [time] before you meet such company as you met this morning
Play 33, THE SECOND TRIAL BEFORE PILATE: 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.
Concluding the series of Trial pageants, the Tilemakers' play, in spite of missing a leaf that was lost sometime after the middle of the sixteenth century, is one of the longer plays in the cycle. It was at one time two separate plays, as verified by the second list of pageants in the York Memorandum Book A/Y. These presented the trial as distinct from the Flagellation and Crowning with Thorns or Mocking.1 The episodes therein dramatized were brought together by a dramatist who adopted the long alliterative line found elsewhere in the Passion series, but in this case choosing a twelve-line stanza that, as Beadle notes, is not elsewhere used.2 Pilate's hand-washing appears commonly in iconography3 and is depicted in a devotional woodcut inserted in a local Book of Hours of c. 1420 in the York Minster Library (MS. XVI.K.6, fol. 45). Pilate typically appears with his servant, who has a ewer and a towel draped over his shoulder. In the play a basin would also of necessity have been included. However, local spirituality focused much more on the Flagellation and Mocking, which were culminating moments in the suffering of Christ in the Trial scenes. Love stresses the importance of imagining these events "by inwarde meditacion of alle hees peynes abidyngly, and bot thou fynde thi herte melte in to sorouful compassion, suppose fully and halde, that thou hast too harde a stonene herte."4 The pageant plausibly was regarded as an aid to such meditation since, made vivid in being staged, the sight would impress itself vividly on the memory. As Diller points out, these Trial plays are characterized by a conscious and serious effort by the York dramatist (or dramatists) to "‘de-carnivalize' the Torture scenes."5
1 Lordyngis. Pilate opens with a term of polite address; see MED, s.v. lording 7b. However, he soon begins threatening and reminds his listeners that he has the power of life and death over his subjects.
37 ye prelates of pees. Caiphas and Anna are consistently seen as bishops "of the hoold lawe," as the N-Town writer describes them (Play 26, line 164 s.d.), but peaceable they are not since they have been urging vengeance against the Prince of Peace.
46–51 Pilate has been awaiting news of the trial before Herod, and now is approached by the soldiers who have returned from his court. The first soldier in his "Hayll" greeting will parody the Hail lyrics directed to Christ, but here involving pure flattery.
55 As his gud frende. See also line 75, below, and comment on Play 31, lines 82–83, above. Herod and Pilate, who had previously been enemies, were cemented in friendship at this time, according to the account in Luke 23:12.
97–104 Agayne Ser Cesar hymselfe he segges and saies . . . be slayne. Citing Jesus' answer to those who wished to entrap him with the question "Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or no?" (Matthew 22:17, Mark 12:14, Luke 20:22). In Caiphas' speech the charges against Jesus culminate in the accusation of blasphemy on account of his claim to be God's Son and in his insistence that he deserves execution.
112–16 Simon, Yarus, and Judas . . . Togithere. Caiphas' list of witnesses is adapted from the Middle English Gospel of Nicodemus (p. 25), which differs from the Latin original; see Craigie, "Gospel of Nicodemus and the York Mystery Plays," p. 54.
131 youre langage so large. That is, Anna and Caiphas would say anything to prejudice Pilate against Jesus. Pilate recognizes here that this is a case of malicious prosecution; see Tiner, "English Law."
142–45 Uncleth hym, clappe hym, and clowte hym . . . lord badd. Preco, the beadle, will do whatever is commanded, including torture, but here will only ask the knights to "bryng him to barre" — i.e., before the bar of justice. The soldiers are equally vicious and look forward in anticipation to the extreme torment to which Jesus will be put.
157 stirre noght fro that stede. Jesus is like a prisoner in the dock in an English court, but iconographic evidence only suggests that Jesus stands before Pilate, seated as judge. Jesus is said to have been brought "to barr" in the Middle English Gospel of Nicodemus (p. 34).
160–83 The episode of the banners in which the soldiers who hold them involuntarily lower them to show reverence for Jesus as for a king and as God's Son; see the Gospel of Nicodemus, in which they explain that the "schaftes" were not under their control and "lowtyd noght at oure wyttynge" (p. 33), all very much to the shock of the high priests and Pilate.
205ff. Preco will round up "right bigg men and strange," a "company of kevellis" (lines 217–18), but, as in the Middle English Gospel of Nicodemus (pp. 32–35), these strong men will also not be able to prevent their banners from bowing before Jesus in spite of the stern warning that they must not allow this to happen.
258 the cokkis has crowen. Identifying the time of day as morning, when a cry can be made for the final stage of the trial to begin. It is subsequent to the cry that the second set of strong men, along with Pilate himself, will bow to Jesus. In an embedded stage direction (lines 274–75), Pilate explains that he had risen from his seat, unable to "abstene / To wirschip hym" in deed and in thought. It was, he explains, "past all my powre," though he had tried very hard to restrain himself (line 278).
288 Be his sorcery. Caiphas' claim that Jesus is a necromancer has been taken too seriously as the charge against him; it is only one of a number of allegations.
300–07 Jesus finally breaks his silence, in an oblique answer to Pilate only briefly rebuking those who are speaking ill against him. As the silent sufferer who will be led to his death like a sheep to the slaughter, he otherwise will not speak, even when severely tortured. He is an exemplar of patience, like Job, understood to be an Old Testament type of Christ.
322–23 Us falles not, nor oure felowes in feere, / To slo no man. The ecclesiastical courts cannot act on a capital case, but they are able to turn the person over to be convicted and sentenced by the secular authority.
326–27 He is fautles . . . his gate. Pilate objects to the procedure on the basis of his determination that Jesus is innocent, and would prefer to let him go free. To this Caiphas brings up the charge of treason against Pilate's power (lines 329–32). This has an effect.
342 Do wappe of his wedis. The stripping of Jesus has a deeper typological significance, but it is doubtful that this would have been on the minds of either players or audience. Nevertheless, the act was something taken very seriously, for thereupon Jesus will stand, as Love reminds us, "nakede before hem alle" (Mirror, p. 170) like one in utter disgrace. He will be bound to a pillar (line 351), and the scourging, in which he patiently allows himself to be beaten bloody, will begin. His torturers again are modeled on Psalm 21 (AV 22), the Good Friday psalm, in which he is as if encircled by vicious attacking dogs, most vividly depicted in the fourteenth-century Holkham Bible Picture Book, where they use whips fitted with small pieces of metal attached to leather thongs (fol. 29v). In the Bolton Hours Jesus is depicted as wounded all over his body, from his head to his feet (York Minster Library, MS. Add. 2, fol. 57v). The Northern tradition associated with Richard Rolle has the number of wounds at 5,475 or thereabouts (Breeze, "Number of Christ's Wounds," pp. 87–90); the Towneley Resurrection play mentions 5,400 (Play 26, lines 291–92). He is beaten, according to Love, until "there was none semlynesse nor beutye in hym, and we helde him as foule as a leprose manne . . ." (Mirror, p. 171). In line 431 Jesus' flesh will be described as "al . . . beflapped." The description has its source in part in Isaias 1:6: "From the sole of the foot unto the top of the head, there is no soundness therein: wounds and bruises and swelling sores." For further discussion, see Marrow, Passion Iconography, pp. 134–41. As in the case of the Coventry Smiths' Passion pageant (REED: Coventry, p. 231), the Tilemakers' Jesus would presumably have had a white leather body garment to simulate nudity as well as to provide a surface for simulated wounds. For detailed discussion of such a violent act in drama, Jesus' nudity, and the veneration of his blood, see C. Davidson, History, Religion, and Violence, pp. 180–204.
380 tarand. If a tarandre is meant, as may be the case, this creature was chameleon-like in being able to change color; Beadle cites OED (RB, p. 524).
383 He swounes or sweltes. Previously the suffering Jesus had been accused of falling asleep; now the pain is so intense that he seems to lose consciousness.
386 Nowe unboune is this broll, and unbraced his bandes. Embedded stage direction; the unloosening that was begun "lyghtyly" at line 384 is now completed, though it may appear that the ropes were not entirely removed. The Mocking will follow.
389 We will kyndely hym croune with a brere. The crowning with thorns as a mock king; the common model for the crown was the relic at Sainte-Chapelle in Paris (see Horne, "Crown of Thorns in Art," and Réau, Iconographie, 2:2:457–59). It will be pushed into place at lines 400–01, so painfully that his brain "begynnes for to blede."
390–92 but first this purpure and palle / . . . sall he were / For scorne. A purple gown. Love called it "an olde silken mantelle of redde" (Mirror, p. 171).
397 sette hym in this sete. A mock throne, as if he were seated in the great hall of a palace.
403–05 rede . . . For his septure. The fourth soldier places a reed in his right hand (Matthew 27:29). Mark, however, says the reed was used to strike him on the head (15:19), while John merely reports that the soldiers "gave him blows" (19:3).
408–16 Mock reverence for the King as rex judeorum. The soldiers presumably kneel, as Matthew's account specifies.
420–21 Embedded stage direction. They lead Jesus back to Pilate — not an easy task because he is so sorely wounded.
434 beholde upon hight and ecce homoo. In John 19:13–14, Pilate, having seated himself in the judgment seat, shows Jesus to the people. In depictions in the late Middle Ages, he is shown dressed only in a loincloth, with hands still bound and consistent with Psalm 21:8: "All they that see me have laughed me to scorn: they have spoken with the lips, and wagged the head"; see Schiller, Iconography, 2:75–76. This was not infrequently presented as a devotional image, typically still bound and wearing the crown of thorns.
439 In race. Uninterpretable, appearing prior to the missing leaf which must have included the Jews' demand that Jesus be executed and that Pilate should release the criminal Barabbas; see Matthew 27:15–23. On the next extant folio, Pilate's hand washing follows in which he is attempting to deny his responsibility for the conviction of Jesus.
450–61 Pilate announces his judgment. Criminals will be hung on crosses on "aythir side" of Jesus on Golgotha.
472 Nowe feste is he. Jesus is more securely tied up; embedded stage direction.
474 Drawe hym faste hense. He will be violently led like an animal to the slaughter; the reference to "his tree" (line 481) suggests the presence of the cross, on which he will be dragged away. But this is not consistent with the next pageant. It is indeed an evil hour, as the final line of the pageant suggests.
Play 33, THE SECOND TRIAL BEFORE PILATE: 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).
Craft assignment to Mylners added by LH.
24 hym. So LTS, RB; Reg: hyn.
32 Following line missing in Reg; LTS suggests and chasted.
35 tasted. Reg: letter d added by LH.
42 my. So LTS, RB; Reg: my my.
48 yitt. Reg: added by LH.
49 undre sylke on. So RB (conjecture); Reg, LTS: undre on.
108 CAYPHAS. Reg: speech tag added by JC.
138 PILATUS. So RB; Reg, LTS omit.
146b PRECO. So RB; LTS: Præco; Reg omits.
146c I MILES. So LTS, RB; Reg omits.
147 this. So RB; Reg: ths.
155 name. So RB; Reg, LTS: named.
159 his. So RB; Reg, LTS: hir.
175 dastardes. So RB; Reg, LTS: dastard.
191 unfittyng. This edition; LTS, RB: unsittyng.
242 barnes. So Reg, LTS; RB: baners.
of. So LTS, RB; Reg: of of.
263, s.d. They cry. This edition.
Oyes. Reg: added by JC.
267, s.d. Et Preco . . . Jesus. Reg: stage direction entered, in red ink, in right margin by Scribe B.
293 convyk. So LTS, RB; Reg: covyk.
323 man. So LTS, RB; Reg: nan.
360 this. Reg: letter t added by later scribe.
361 Swete. Reg: original scribe had written Swte; missing letter added by LH.
382 Reg: line deleted in red ink (duplicated on next page).
403 a rede. Reg: a interlined by LH.
432 as. Reg: letter s added by a late hand.
After 439 Missing leaf follows in Reg.
441 fende. So RB; Reg, LTS: lende.
443, s.d. Tunc lavat manus suas. Reg: stage direction added by JC.
444 Reg: line deleted, then rewritten.
465 alone. Reg: LH deleted one and substituted alone.
Play 33, THE SECOND TRIAL BEFORE PILATE: EXPLANATORY NOTE FOOTNOTES
Footnote 1 See Meredith, "Ordo paginarum and the Development of the York Tilemakers' Pageant."
Footnote 2 RB, p. 450.
Footnote 3 Schiller, Iconography, 2:64–65.
Footnote 4 Love, Mirror, p. 171.
Footnote 5 Diller, "Torturers," p. 62.
Go To Play 34, The Road to Calvary