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Play 35, Crucifixio Christi


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 Crucifixio Christi, presented by the Pinners (and Painters), dramatizes the cruel placing of Jesus onto the cross by four soldiers, who would dominate the pageant if it were not for the Savior who is the silent center of the action. Their quick and impulsive gestures, movement, and speech would have been regarded as being typical of evil as opposed to the equanimity of more stable good characters. They attach Christ to the cross on the ground, as in the alternate way of doing it noted in the Meditations and in Love’s adaptation of this work.1 This is the manner in which the crucifying is done, for example, in a panel of painted glass now in the church of All Saints, Pavement, where, as too in the account in the Northern Passion, ropes are required to extend the body to fit the pre-drilled holes on the cross.2 Jesus speaks only twice, once before being nailed to the cross, and the second time reciting a variant of very popular verses from the cross — the O vos omnes speech addressed to those who pass by. The play, in twelve-line stanzas, represents a different style from the previous plays in the alliterative long line, and has some confusion in its speech designations. In this regard, the present text follows the edition of Beadle,3 who in turn was guided by J. P. R. Wallis.4

7 Sen we are comen to Calvarie. Locating the scene. There is some difficulty again with imagining the pageant’s action since much of it is as if on the ground; sight lines when Jesus is lying down, as he is during much of the play, are problematic even when using wagon staging. The Ordo paginarum specified that the crucifixion itself should be “super montem calvarie,” which must have been a raised area on the pageant wagon.

25–26 to this werke us muste take heede / So that oure wirkyng be noght wronge. This statement has been taken as a sign that the soldiers are good workmen who are anxious to do a good job, just as craftsmen in the city of York are expected to do quality work. It is tempting to invoke the concept of the “banality of evil” introduced by Hannah Arendt (Eichmann in Jerusalem). The executioners in this case may be energetic, but they are certainly sadistic bullies who go out of their way to torment and cause pain — acts which they clearly enjoy in spite of their frustration with the process of attaching Jesus to the cross. The soldiers are too much like out-of-control guards at a concentration camp or similar prison facility to be sympathetic. Research such as the Stanford Prison Experiment demonstrates how ordinary human beings are capable of participating in torment and torture under circumstances in which they can see their victims as the “other” (see Zimbardo, Lucifer Effect). The executioners in this pageant are betrayed by circumstances and their lack of vision so that they too become like the other rabid torturers who have been observed in the previous Passion pageants in the cycle.

49–60 Jesus’ prayer before being nailed to the cross may be compared to the prayer in the Meditations (p. 334) and also to the Northern Passion, 1:179.

75 hymselffe has laide hym doune. The Meditations and other sources report instead a violent action. Love wishes his readers to imagine Jesus being cast upon the cross by the soldiers, who are like mad thieves trying to pull his hands and feet so as to nail him to it (Mirror, p. 177); see also the Northern Passion, 1:179–80.

79–80 he claymeth kyngdome with croune . . . schall hee. Possible stage direction. He may have been given a crown here, but if so it could have been a mock crown such as was worn by a fool king in play; compare the paper crown placed on the head of the Duke of York in Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Part 3, 1.4.93–95.

102 a stubbe. A short, thick nail (MED); see C. Davidson, Technology, Guilds, fig. 40 (p. 39), for an illustration, though the nail in this instance is not exactly a stub.

107 It failis a foote and more. Compare the Northern Passion: “If the tone hand at the bore ware, / That other failed a fute and mare” (1:189, Harleian manuscript, lines 1608–09).

131–32 A roope schall rugge hym doune / Yf all his synnous go asoundre. All Jesus’ sinews and bones indeed will be pulled asunder (see lines 147–48, 223–24), and this was regarded as having been predicted by Old Testament prophecy; see Psalm 21 (AV 22), particularly verses 15 and 18. Verse 18 also says, “They have dug my hands and feet,” predicting the driving of nails through Jesus’ hands and feet. Pickering notes that ropes had been mentioned in connection with the Crucifixion by Hilary of Poitiers in the fourth century (Literature and Art, p. 244). The account in the Stanzaic Life is even more violent and bloody than in the pageant.

144 foure bullis. The suggestion that even four bulls would be ineffectual in pulling Jesus’ limbs into place is an echo of Psalm 21:13 (AV 21:12): “fat bulls have besieged me.”

161 The mortaise is made fitte. Having the cross fit into a mortise in a Passion drama may be reflected in a drawing of the Crucifixion in the Carthusian Miscellany (London, British Library, MS. Add. 37049, fol. 30). This therefore may be an instance in which art imitates the drama, a view promoted by Émile Mâle (Religious Art) and M. D. Anderson (Drama and Imagery), who believed that the artists were influenced by the stage. In general, however, a very healthy skepticism is required with regard to this theory.

225–26 This fallyng was more felle / Than all the harmes he hadde. The cross is now raised high. At first it will wobble until wedges are driven to stabilize it. The terrible pain of Jesus’ torment is consistently emphasized, and in this late medieval writers stressed the importance of sympathizing and identifying with the pain. For its greater intensity and the visible signs — e.g., the flow of blood caused by the shock of the fall — see Mâle, Religious Art, 3:85.

253–64 Al men that walkis by waye or strete . . . saules to save. Jesus’ address from the cross to those who pass by — i.e., in this case the audience watching the pageant. The words are again adapted from O vos omnes, the cry from Lamentations 1:12, chosen also as the text of an antiphon on Good Friday as well as a responsory on Holy Saturday, and incorporated in the Improperia. See Gray, Themes and Images, pp. 140–42. Jesus’ forgiveness of his persecutors is based on Luke 23:34.

273 Vath, qui destruit templum. Matthew 27:40, following the Vulgate text.

293 I rede we drawe cutte for this coote. Compare Psalm 21:19 (AV 22:18): “They parted my garments amongst them; and upon my vesture they cast lots.”


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).

As addition to craft ascription, by LH: and Paynters.

80 hange. So RB; Reg, LTS: have.

98–107 Speech identifications follow RB.

118 suerly. So Reg, LTS; RB: snelly.

154 and. So RB; Reg, LTS omit.

155 Thei. So RB; Reg, LTS: I.

183–84 We are redy . . . fang. Reg: added in margin by Scribe B.
183 IV MILES. So RB; Reg, LTS: III Miles.

230 morteyse. So LTS, RB; Reg: moteyse.

264 Reg: addition by JC in right margin: In welth without end / I kepe noght elles to crave.


Footnote 1 Meditations, p. 334; Love, Mirror, p. 177. See also the discussion in Pickering, Literature and Art, pp. 237–48.

Footnote 2 C. Davidson, From Creation to Doom, pp. 125–26, fig. 11; Northern Passion, 1:188–89.

Footnote 3 RB, p. 451.

Footnote 4 Wallis, “Miracle Play of ‘Crucifixio Christi.’”

The Pynneres and Paynters




























































I MILES   Sir knyghtis, take heede hydir in hye:
This dede on dergh we may noght drawe.
Yee wootte youreselffe als wele as I
Howe lordis and leders of owre lawe
Has geven dome that this doote schall dye.

II MILES   Sir, alle thare counsaile wele we knawe.
Sen we are comen to Calvarie
Latte ilke man helpe nowe as hym awe.

III MILES   We are alle redy, loo,
That forward to fullfille.

IV MILES   Late here howe we schall doo,
And go we tyte thertille.

I MILES   It may noght helpe her for to hone,
If we schall any worshippe wynne.

II MILES   He muste be dede nedelyngis by none.

III MILES   Thanne is goode tyme that we begynne.

IV MILES   Late dynge hym doune, than is he done;
He schall nought dere us with his dynne.

I MILES   He schall be sette and lerned sone,
With care to hym and all his kynne.

II MILES   The foulest dede of all
Shalle he dye for his dedis.

III MILES   That menes crosse hym we schall.

IV MILES   Behalde so right he redis.

II MILES   Thanne to this werke us muste take heede
So that oure wirkyng be noght wronge.

II MILES   None othir noote to neven is nede,
But latte us haste hym for to hange.

III MILES   And I have gone for gere goode speede,
Bothe hammeres and nayles large and lange.

IV MILES   Thanne may we boldely do this dede.
Commes on, late kille this traitoure strange.

I MILES   Faire myght ye falle in feere
That has wrought on this wise.

II MILES   Us nedis nought for to lere
Suche faitoures to chastise.

III MILES   Sen ilke a thyng es right arrayed,
The wiselier nowe wirke may we.

IV MILES   The crosse on grounde is goodely graied,
And boorede even as it awith to be.

I MILES   Lokis that the ladde on lenghe be layde,
And made me thane unto this tree.

II MILES   For alle his fare he schalle be flaied,
That one assaie sone schalle ye see.

III MILES   Come forthe, thou cursed knave,
Thy comforte sone schall kele.

IV MILES   Thyne hyre here schall thou have.

I MILES   Walkes oon, now wirke we wele.

JESUS   Almyghty God, my Fadir free,
Late this materes be made in mynde:
Thou badde that I schulde buxsome be,
For Adam plyght for to be pyned.
Here to dede I obblisshe me
Fro that synne for to save mankynde,
And soveraynely beseke I thee
That thai for me may favoure fynde,
And fro the fende thame fende
So that ther saules be saffe
In welthe withouten ende.
I kepe nought ellis to crave.

I MILES   We, herke sir knyghtis, for Mahoundis bloode,
Of Adam kynde is all his thoght.

II MILES   The warlowe waxis werre than woode;
This doulfull dede ne dredith he noght.

III MILES   Thou schulde have mynde, with mayne and moode,
Of wikkid werkis that thou haste wrought.

IV MILES   I hope that he hadde bene as goode
Have sesed of sawes that he uppe sought.

I MILES   Thoo sawes schall rewe hym sore
For all his saunteryng sone.

II MILES   Ille spede thame that hym spare
Tille he to dede be done.

III MILES   Have done belyve, boy, and make thee boune,
And bende thi bakke unto this tree.

IV MILES   Byhalde, hymselffe has laide hym doune
In lenghe and breede as he schulde bee.

I MILES   This traitoure here teynted of treasoune,
Gose faste and fette hym than, ye thre.
And sen he claymeth kyngdome with croune,
Even as a kyng here hange schall hee.

II MILES   Nowe, certis, I schall noght feyne
Or his right hand be feste.

III MILES   The lefte hande thanne is myne.
Late see who beres hym beste.

IV MILES   Hys lymmys on lenghe than schalle I lede,
And even unto the bore thame bringe.

I MILES   Unto his heede I schall take hede,
And with myne hande helpe hym to hyng.

II MILES   Nowe sen we foure schall do this dede,
And medill with this unthrifty thyng,
Late no man spare for speciall speede
Tille that we have made endyng.

III MILES   This forward may not faile.
Nowe are we right arraiede.

IV MILES   This boy here in oure baile
Shall bide full bittir brayde.

I MILES   Sir knyghtis, saie, howe wirke we nowe?

II MILES   Yis, certis, I hope I holde this hande.
And to the boore I have it brought,
Full boxumly withouten bande.

I MILES   Strike on than harde, for hym thee boght.

II MILES   Yis, here is a stubbe will stiffely stande,
Thurgh bones and senous it schall be soght.
This werke is wele, I will warande.

I MILES   Saie, sir, howe do we thore.
This bargayne may not blynne.

III MILES   It failis a foote and more,
The senous are so gone ynne.

IV MILES   I hope that marke amisse be bored.

II MILES   Than muste he bide in bittir bale.

III MILES   In faith, it was overe skantely scored;
That makis it fouly for to faile.

I MILES   Why carpe ye so? Faste on a corde
And tugge hym to, by toppe and taile.

III MILES   Ya, thou comaundis lightly as a lorde.
Come helpe to haale, with ille haile.

I MILES   Nowe certis, that schall I doo,
Full suerly as a snayle.

III MILES   And I schall tacche hym too,
Full nemely with a nayle.

This werke will holde, that dar I heete,
For nowe are feste faste both his handis.

IV MILES   Go we all foure thanne to his feete,
So schall oure space be spedely spende.

II MILES   Latte see, what bourde his bale myght beete,
Tharto my bakke nowe wolde I bende.

IV MILES   Owe, this werke is all unmeete.
This boring muste all be amende.

I MILES   A, pees, man, for Mahounde,
Latte no man wotte that wondir.
A roope schall rugge hym doune
Yf all his synnous go asoundre.

II MILES   That corde full kyndely can I knytte,
The comforte of this karle to kele.

I MILES   Feste on, thanne, faste that all be fytte;
It is no force howe felle he feele.

II MILES   Lugge on ye both a litill yitt.

III MILES   I schalle nought sese, as I have seele.

IV MILES   And I schall fonde hym for to hitte.

II MILES   Owe, haylle!

IV MILES                      Hoo, nowe, I halde it wele.

I MILES   Have done, dryve in that nayle
So that no faute be foune.

IV MILES   This wirkyng wolde noght faile,
Yf foure bullis here were boune.

I MILES   Ther cordis have evill encressed his paynes
Or he wer tille the booryngis brought.

II MILES   Yaa, assoundir are bothe synnous and veynis
On ilke a side, so have we soughte.

III MILES   Nowe all his gaudis nothyng hym gaynes;
His sauntering schall with bale be bought.

IV MILES   I wille goo saie to oure soveraynes
Of all this werkis howe we have wrought.

I MILES   Nay, sirs, anothir thyng
Fallis firste to youe and me,
Thei badde we schulde hym hyng
On heghte that men myght see.

II MILES   We woote wele so ther wordes wore,
But sir, that dede will do us dere.

I MILES   It may not mende for to moote more:
This harlotte muste be hanged here.

II MILES   The mortaise is made fitte therfore.

III MILES   Feste on youre fyngeres than, in feere.

IV MILES   I wene it wolle nevere come thore
We foure rayse it noght right to-yere.

I MILES   Say, man, whi carpis thou soo?
Thy liftyng was but light.

II MILES   He menes ther muste be moo
To heve hym uppe on hight.

III MILES   Now, certis, I hope it schall noght nede
To calle to us more companye.
Methynke we foure schulde do this dede
And bere hym to yone hille on high.

I MILES   It muste be done, withouten drede,
No more, but loke ye be redy.
And this parte schalle I lifte and leede;
On lenghe he schalle no lenger lie.
Therfore nowe makis you boune:
Late bere hym to yone hill.

IV MILES   Thanne will I bere here doune
And tente his tase untill.

II MILES   We twoo schall see tille aythir side,
For ellis this werke wille wrie all wrang.

III MILES   We are redy.

IV MILES                        Gode sirs, abide,
And late me first his fete up fang.

II MILES   Why tente ye so to tales this tyde?

I MILES   Lifte uppe!

IV MILES                  Latte see!

II MILES                                    Owe, lifte alang!

III MILES   Fro all this harme he schulde hym hyde
And he war God.

IV MILES         The devill hym hang!

I MILES   For grete harme have I hente:
My schuldir is in soundre.

II MILES   And sertis I am nere schente,
So lange have I borne undir.

III MILES   This crosse and I in twoo muste twynne
Ellis brekis my bakke in sondre sone.

IV MILES   Laye downe agayne and leve youre dynne.
This dede for us will nevere be done.

I MILES   Assaie, sirs, latte se yf any gynne
May helpe hym uppe, withouten hone,
For here schulde wight men worschippe wynne,
And noght with gaudis al day to gone.

II MILES   More wighter men than we
Full fewe I hope ye fynde.

III MILES   This bargayne will noght bee,
For certis me wantis wynde.

IV MILES   So wille of werke nevere we wore,
I hope this carle some cautellis caste.

II MILES   My bourdeyne satte me wondir soore,
Unto the hill I myght noght laste.

I MILES   Lifte uppe, and sone he schall be thore;
Therfore feste on youre fyngeres faste.

III MILES   Owe, lifte!

I MILES                       We, loo!

IV MILES                                    A litill more.

II MILES   Holde thanne!

I MILES                           Howe nowe!

II MILES                                              The werste is paste.

III MILES   He weyes a wikkid weght.

II MILES   So may we all foure saie,
Or he was heved on heght
And raysed in this array.

IV MILES   He made us stande as any stones,
So boustous was he for to bere.

I MILES   Nowe raise hym nemely for the nonys
And sette hym be this mortas heere,
And latte hym falle in alle at ones,
For certis that payne schall have no pere.

III MILES   Heve uppe!

IV MILES                       Latte doune, so all his bones
Are asoundre nowe on sides seere.

I MILES   This fallyng was more felle
Than all the harmes he hadde.
Nowe may a man wele telle
The leste lith of this ladde.

III MILES   Methynkith this crosse will noght abide,
Ne stande stille in this morteyse yitt.

IV MILES   Att the firste tyme was it made overe wyde,
That makis it wave, thou may wele witte.

I MILES   Itt schall be sette on ilke a side
So that it schall no forther flitte;
Goode wegges schall we take this tyde
And feste the foote, thanne is all fitte.

II MILES   Here are wegges arraied
For that, both grete and smale.

III MILES   Where are oure hameres laide
That we schulde wirke withall?

IV MILES   We have them here even atte oure hande.

II MILES   Gyffe me this wegge: I schall it in dryve.

IV MILES   Here is anodir yitt ordande.

III MILES   Do take it me hidir belyve.

I MILES   Laye on thanne faste.

III MILES                                 Yis, I warrande.
I thryng thame same, so motte I thryve.
Nowe will this crosse full stabely stande;
All yf he rave thei will noght ryve.

I MILES   Say, sir, howe likis thou nowe
This werke that we have wrought?

IV MILES   We praye youe sais us howe
Ye fele, or faynte ye ought?

JESUS   Al men that walkis by waye or strete,
Takes tente ye schalle no travayle tyne.
Byholdes myn heede, myn handis, and my feete,
And fully feele nowe, or ye fyne,
Yf any mournyng may be meete
Or myscheve mesured unto myne.
My Fadir, that alle bales may bete,
Forgiffis thes men that dois me pyne.
What thai wirke wotte thai noght.
Therfore, my Fadir, I crave
Latte nevere ther synnys be sought,
But see their saules to save.

I MILES   We, harke, he jangelis like a jay.

II MILES   Methynke he patris like a py.

III MILES   He has ben doand all this day
And made grete meuyng of mercy.

IV MILES   Es this the same that gune us say
That he was Goddis Sone almyghty?

I MILES   Therfore he felis full felle affraye,
And demyd this day for to dye.

II MILES   Vath, qui destruit templum.

III MILES   His sawes wer so, certayne.

IV MILES   And sirs, he saide to some
He myght rayse it agayne.

I MILES   To mustir that he hadde no myght,
For all the kautelles that he couthe kaste,
All yf he wer in worde so wight,
For all his force nowe he is feste.
Als Pilate demed is done and dight;
Therfore I rede that we go reste.

II MILES   This race mon be rehersed right
Thurgh the worlde both este and weste.

III MILES   Yaa, late hym hynge here stille
And make mowes on the mone.

IV MILES   Thanne may we wende at wille.

I MILES   Nay, goode sirs, noght so sone,

For certis us nedis anodir note.
This kirtill wolde I of you crave.

II MILES   Nay, nay, sir, we will loke be lotte
Whilke of us foure fallis it to have.

III MILES   I rede we drawe cutte for this coote,
Loo, se howe sone, alle sidis to save.

IV MILES   The schorte cutte schall wynne, that wele ye woote,
Whedir itt falle to knyght or knave.

I MILES   Felowes, ye thar noght flyte,
For this mantell is myne.

II MILES   Goo we thanne hense tyte;
This travayle here we tyne, etc.
in [length of] time; draw out
leaders of (authorities on)
judgment; fool

(see note)
(i.e., he ought to)




necessarily; noon


set (secured); taught
sorrow; people


(see note)

matter; speak of


strong (determined)

(i.e., We already know how)

everything is

bored; ought

(i.e., then fastened); cross

practices; punished

cool (extinguish)


(see note)

bade; obedient
Adam’s guilt

above all beseech
because of me
fiend themselves defend



warlock; worse; mad
doleful deed

ceased; sayings (words); invented

babbling soon

quickly; prepared

Behold; (see note)

(see note)

Ere; fastened

bears himself

bore hole

head; heed

involve [ourselves]
hold back


endure; torment

bore hole

short nail; securely; (see note)

process; leave off

(see note)

think; measurement

abide; misery

(i.e., drilled in the wrong spot)

complain; Fasten


snail; (t-note)


dare; promise
fastened firmly

our time; well spent

jest; suffering; assuage


Let; marvel
pull violently; (see note)
sinews pull apart

appropriately; tie

Fasten; ready
no matter; horrible


cease; happiness


fault; found

bound; (see note)

Ere; bore holes

sinews; veins

babbling; sorrow



deed (act); harm

(i.e., change anything); argue

mortise; suitable; (see note)

Fasten; together

this year

say you

more [men]
heave; high

never fear
[Say] no more; look
Let us bear

pay attention; toes

to either
go awry

feet lift up

pay attention; tales (stories)

If he were

out of joint

(i.e., at the end of my strength)

break; asunder

(i.e., complaints)

Try (make an effort); mechanism
strong; obtain
jests; spend



(i.e., deficient)
believe; churl; spells [has] cast






heavy (awkward); carry

nimbly; nonce


painful; (see note)

(i.e., the smallest part of his body)

(i.e., be secure)
(i.e., it wobbles); (t-note)

make fast


Give it to me quickly


press; together; might
Even if; split (break apart)


(see note)
Pay attention; suffering; lose
experience; before you pass away

sorrows; cure
cause; pain

(i.e., visited upon them)

patters; magpie

doing [so]
much referring to


[this] very evil assault
is judged

Vah, thou that destroyest the Temple of God; (see note)

perform; power
spells; cast
As; judged

make faces at the moon

(i.e., there is another matter)

by lot

straws; coat; (see note)
(i.e., everyone’s interests to preserve)

need not argue
garment with open sides

effort; waste

Go To Play 36, Mortificacio Christi