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Play 36, Mortificacio 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.

As the narrative and emotional climax of the Passion story, the Butchers’ pageant opens with Christ on the cross along with the two thieves, but with Pilate in front and center to tell his version of events in his long initial speech. The play comprises both the death of Jesus and his burial, both of which are specified for this pageant in the Ordo paginarum of 1415, though since the verse adopts the long alliterative line, it is highly unlikely to have retained its early fifteenth-century form. Pilate still holds his equivocal position as one who was reluctant to kill Jesus but is compromised ethically in allowing the Crucifixion to proceed, while the high priests put forward their charges against him as vociferously as ever. Pilate is the author of the writing placed above Jesus on the cross, and he refuses to modify it. However, he must bear responsibility in spite of his effort to shift all blame to the high priests. The middle section in which the Virgin Mary and the others come onto stage is more or less consistent with the liturgical drama Planctus Mariae,1 and the death of Jesus and the final Deposition scene are of course closely related to the actual Good Friday rituals performed each year in the churches.2 If the hostile Wycliffite Tretise of Miraclis Pleyinge may be invoked, this pageant could have been the most affecting in the cycle, not unlikely moving members of the audience “to compassion and devocion, wepinge bitere teris.”3 The verse of the Mortificacio Christi is in thirteen-line stanzas.

25–26 Transgressours als / On the crosse schalle be knytte. After mentioning hanging as a punishment for felons (lines 23–24), Pilate speaks of crucifixion and perhaps points upward to the three men on crosses, with Jesus noted as being “on yone hill . . . so hye” (line 34). Depictions of the crucified Christ at York show the central figure, sometimes along with Mary and John and others but never with the two thieves. They are, for example, present in the Speculum humanae salvationis (Wilson and Wilson, Medieval Mirror, p. 188) and the Holkham Bible Picture Book (fol. 32r–32v), where the thieves have their arms tied over the cross-arms of their crosses and only Jesus is nailed to his cross. Also, in the latter example, Jesus’ bloodied body stands in contrast with the thieves, whose clear white skin shows that they have not been tortured in the way he has been. Love reports that “stremes of that holiest blode” ran from all the “grete wondes” in his body (Mirror, pp. 177–78). It is not unusual, as in a panel of painted glass now in All Saints, Pavement (Inventory of the Historical Monuments, vol. 5, pl. 47), to see angels holding chalices to catch the streaming blood — a clear connection between the blood of Christ and the Eucharist.

82 Thou saggard. In late medieval art, Jesus usually hangs with arms upraised in the shape of a V to emphasize the pain, and his body most often is twisted into an S shape with the ribs clearly visible — a way of imagining the Crucifixion that became popular in the twelfth century and developed into more exaggerated forms in the later Middle Ages. See the emphasis in the pageant on the way Jesus’ back is bent (e.g., in line 123). Jesus’ shape approximated that of a harp, literalizing the stretching of the strings of the cithara of the psalms of David, with whom he was identified; in this way Jesus’ act of dying on the cross could be seen as symbolically achieving harmony between this world and heaven just as his own nature united the human and divine. For discussion, see Pickering, Literature and Art, pp. 285–98, and C. Davidson, From Creation to Doom, p. 126.

97–104 To save nowe thiselffe late us see . . . trewelye, ilkone. Reported in the synoptic gospels as a collective mocking of Jesus on the cross by the rulers, chief priests, and others. Love cites this and other similar statements by Jesus’ persecutors as blasphemy (Mirror, p. 178), itself in the Middle Ages considered a deadly sin and deserving of very severe punishment; see Catholic Encyclopaedia, s.v. Blasphemy.

107–17 wipe ye yone writyng away, etc. The argument over the motto placed at the head of Jesus’ cross by Pilate. The objections are only reported in John 19:20–22. The Harleian text of the Northern Passion reports that Pilate’s text was “wretyn in the parchemyne” in Greek, Hebrew, and Latin (1:195, lines 1659–60). St. John reports that words proclaimed “This is the King of the Jews.”

114 Quod scripci, scripci. John 19:22; see also the Northern Passion, 1:197.

118–30 Thou man that of mys here has mente. Jesus’ speech is again based on the Good Friday Improperia or Reproaches. Jesus allowed himself to suffer on the cross thus because of his love for humankind, an emphasis that connects with the theme of Christ as a knight doing battle on the cross for his lady — i.e., the Church. See Woolf, “Theme of Christ the Lover-Knight.”

131–82 The laments of Mary. Mary presumably enters, having been brought onto stage by John, either before Jesus’ speech or at line 131, but there is no rubric in the manuscript to indicate the moment of her arrival. As noted above, this section roughly parallels the liturgical drama Planctus Mariae, but with only two short speeches for Maria Cleophe and none for Mary Jacobi, who is also specified in the Ordo paginarum. Mary’s weeping must be seen within the context of affective piety. The reference to the sword of sorrow derives from the prophecy of Simeon in the York Purification (Play 17, line 441), and here she is so traumatized that she despairs and wishes to die. Jesus has just given her John to serve as a new son in his place. Mary and John are the most frequent figures to appear with the crucified Christ on roods in churches, nearly always the most prominent images at or near the high altar, but they were common in other locations. When John, addressing the Virgin Mary as “modir” (line 161), suggests that they ought to leave the site of the cross, she will object, for she wishes to stay by her Son’s side until he passes away.

183–91 With bittirfull bale have I bought . . . And treste. Christ as sacrifice has taken on himself all of the sins of the world. His sorrow is entirely suffered “for thy sake.” The Golden Legend quotes Cur Deus homo of Anselm of Canterbury: “There is nothing more painful or difficult that a man can do for God’s honor than to suffer death voluntarily and not for debt but of his own free will, and no man can give himself more fully than by surrendering himself to death for God’s honor” (Jacobus de Voragine, 1:208). In this way Jesus is the Great High Priest who sacrifices himself to release humankind from the powers of darkness, though, as conventional in Western tradition, not all members of the race — indeed, only a small minority — will be saved. In contrast to the belief of some early Christians such as Isaac the Syrian who believed that it would be blasphemous to impute to God the eternal condemnation to hell of sinners, the damned are to live in that place of darkness and punishment forever.

192–95 For foxis ther dennys have thei . . . heed for to reste. See Matthew 8:20.

196–99 If thou be Goddis Sone . . . for to spille. Spoken by the bad thief, Gesmas, at Jesus’ left; this is his traditional position. Only Luke (23:39) among the synoptic gospels records a repentant thief; the others say that both thieves reviled Jesus. The thieves’ names appear in the Middle English Gospel of Nicodemus (pp. 63 and 65).

200–08 Manne, stynte of thy steven and be stille . . . to thi bliss. Spoken by the thief on Jesus’ right, Dismas. Following Luke 23:40–41, he rebukes Gesmas and accepts his own punishment with humility. He also proclaims Jesus’ innocence: “Noon ille did hee.”

209–12 to thee schall I saie . . . principall. Jesus’ forgiveness is extended to the thief on his right, who is promised a place with him in paradise “this daye.”

213–15 Heloy! heloy! . . . Lama zabatanye. Heloy, from Mark 15:34, is the Aramaic word for “My God”; in Lama zabatanye (Vulgate: lama sabacthani) Jesus is quoting from the incipit of Psalm 21 (AV 22): “O God, my God, look upon me: why hast thou forsaken me?” The source in Psalm 21 is noticed in the Pepysian Gospel Harmony (p. 99).

222–25 The character identified as Garcio is conventionally named Stephaton; he appears here as a boy, who offers a sponge with vinegar and gall (line 244). Stephaton appears frequently in iconography, as in a window of c. 1339 in the west end of the Minster, where he is dressed as a soldier (French and O’Connor, York Minster: The West Window, p. 79).

248–60 Thi drinke it schalle do me no deere . . . in manus tuas. Jesus’ final speech, beginning with his rejection of the sponge offered by Garcio/Stephaton, but ending with his affirmation that his work is finished and his commendation of his “spirite” to the hands of his Father (“in manus tuas”), echoing Psalm 30:6 (AV 31:5): “Into thy hands I commend my spirit.” This is the moment of his death, confirmed by his mother’s moving six-line lament that follows.

272 Lede we her heyne. Embedded stage direction. Now that Jesus is dead, John and the Marys will leave the scene.

287 Tho caytiffis thou kille with thi knyffe. Pilate orders the soldiers to kill the two thieves, who are not yet dead. That Jesus died first was probably taken as a sign that the thieves were not tortured as Jesus was.

291–99 Ser Longeus, steppe forthe . . . grounde. Longeus, or Longinus, is given the “spere” which he is to thrust into Jesus’ side to create a wound that will, along with those in his feet and hands, serve to be an object of devotion, as in an illumination that has been associated with York and local veneration in Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Lat. litug.f.2, fol. 4v. See also Duffy, Stripping of the Altars, pp. 244–45, fig. 111. Longeus is blind, so another soldier, presumably the Centurion who speaks next, must guide the spear as he pierces the side of Jesus.

300–12 O, maker unmade . . . markid in me. Longeus immediately recognizes that Jesus was God, for, according to the Middle English Gospel of Nicodemus, he is given his sight on account of contact with Jesus’ blood, which “sprent on Longeus eghen there, / And sone he sawe withouten doute” (p. 63, Ms. Add., lines 629–30).

314–16 This weedir is waxen full wan. Compare the words of the Centurion in the Middle English Gospel of Nicodemus: “The sonne at his dede wex alle wanne” (p. 67, MS. Add., line 703). Jesus’ death is marked by an eclipse and other marvels. The expectation would have been that these should be represented by sound and lighting effects; see, for example, Muir, Biblical Drama, p. 136. The Centurion is immediately inspired to believe in Jesus.

341–42 Delyver . . . / And sewe, sir, oure Sabott to saffe. Pilate is depicted as a Jew, which of course he was not. The rush to justice was one reason for the failure to achieve legal fairness. Now the burial must take place quickly. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus will undertake that task.

370 Nowe blemysght and bolned with bloode. Compare Love, Mirror, who describes Jesus’ “lovely face alle defilede with spittynges and blode, and the heres of his berde drawen awey fro his chekes, as the prophete Ysaie speketh in his persone thus, I gaf my body to hem that smyten it, and myn chekes to hem that drowen the her aweye” (p. 185, quoting Isaias 50:6). For discussion of the significance of Jesus’ blood at the Crucifixion, see C. Davidson, History, Religion, and Violence, pp. 180–204.

377 Take we hym doune us betwene. The conventional iconography of the Deposition will pertain as they lovingly remove the nails and lower him to the ground. Love, in his adaptation of the Meditations, describes the process, which requires the use of ladders and pincers to remove the nails. In a painted glass panel formerly in St. Savour’s Church and now in All Saints, Pavement at York, Joseph of Arimathea holds Jesus, whose hands have been released from the cross, while Nicodemus, below, pulls the nail from his feet (Inventory of the Historical Monuments, vol. 5, pl. 48). The holy women and John are not, however, present in the pageant as they are in the glass. In the play the two men perform an act of devotion.

381 Late us halde hym and halse hym with hande. Embedded stage direction. They must hold him more or less as the Virgin (who is not present) does in the Pietà. Because of the length of the play, this action could not have been given much time in performance.

382 A grave have I garte. Presumably a coffer tomb, as in another panel of glass now in All Saints, Pavement (Inventory of the Historical Monuments, vol. 5, pl. 48), where he is laid out. Joseph has a shroud (line 387), and Nicodemus has “oynmentis” to “anoynte” him “With myrre and aloes” (lines 400–03).

406 on knes here I knele. Embedded stage direction. The Burial too is an act of devotion. For extensive kneeling in the Good Friday Depositio rite at Durham, see Sheingorn, Easter Sepulchre in England, pp. 129–30.


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).

The title is written in red ink.

20 myght. Altered in Reg by LH; originally myne.

75 CAYPHAS. Reg: added by JC.

95 brade. Emended (o changed to a) in Reg.

105 pleasaunce. So LTS, RB; Reg: pleasaune.

126 Than I. Reg: inserted by JC at right.

133 thou. So Reg, LTS; RB: he.

155 to. Reg: added in text, interlined.

208 Whan. So RB; Reg, LTS: What.

241 spare. So LTS, RB; Reg: sware.

254 Reg: at right JC has added: for why (canceled).

259 thee. Altered in Reg (from me).

273 Reg: at right, presumably indicative of the exit of Marys: Hic caret.

313 CENTERIO. So Reg; RB: Centurio.

352 NICHODEMUS. So throughout in this edition; Reg has Nichomedis.
I. So LTS, RB; omit Reg.

358 we. So RB; Reg, LTS omit.

395 To. So LTS, RB; Reg: Do.

404 JOSEPH. So RB; Reg: Joshep.

410 mende. So LTS, RB; Reg: wende.


Footnote 1 See Young, Drama of the Medieval Church, 1:503–13.

Footnote 2 See Sheingorn, Easter Sepulchre in England.

Footnote 3 Tretise of Miraclis Pleyinge, p. 98, and, for brief commentary on the affective piety involved, pp. 132–33.

The Bocheres




















































































PILATUS   Sees, seniours, and see what I saie,
Takis tente to my talkyng enteere.
Devoyde all this dynne here this day,
And fallis to my frenschippe in feere.
Sir Pilate, a prince withowten pere,
My name is full nevenly to neven
And domisman full derworth in dede.
Of gentillest Jewry full even
Am I.
Who makis oppressioun
Or dose transgressioun,
Be my discressioun
Shall be demed dewly to dy.

To dye schall I deme thame, to dede,
Tho rebelles that rewles thame unright.
Who that to yone hill wille take heede
May se ther the soth in his sight,
Howe doulfull to dede thei are dight
That liste noght owre lawes for to lere.
Lo, thus be my mayne and my myght
Tho churles schalle I chasteise and cheere
Be lawe.
Ilke feloune false
Shall hynge be the halse,
Transgressours als
On the crosse schalle be knytte for to knawe.

To knawe schall I knytte thame on crosse;
To schende thame with schame schall I shappe,
Ther liffis for to leese is no losse,
Suche tirrauntis with teene for to trappe.
Thus leelly the lawe I unlappe
And punyssh thame pitously.
Of Jesu I holde it unhappe
That he on yone hill hyng so hye
For gilte.
His bloode to spille
Toke ye you till,
Thus was youre wille
Full spitously to spede he were spilte.

CAIPHAS   To spille hym we spake in a speede,
For falsed he folowde in faie,
With fraudes oure folke gan he feede
And laboured to lere thame his laye.

ANNA   Sir Pilate, of pees we youe praye,
Oure lawe was full lyke to be lorne.
He saved noght oure dere Sabott daye,
And that for to scape it were a scorne,
By lawe.

PILATUS   Sirs, before youre sight
With all my myght
I examynde hym right,
And cause non in hym cowthe I knawe.

CAIPHAS   Ye knawe wele the cause, sir, in cace:
It touched treasoune untrewe.
The tribute to take or to trace
Forbadde he, our bale for to brewe.

ANNA   Of japes yitt jangelid yone Jewe,
And cursedly he called hym a kyng.
To deme hym to dede it is diewe,
For treasoune it touches that thyng

CAIPHAS   Yitt principall
And worste of all,
He garte hym call
Goddes Sonne, that foulle motte hyme speede.

PILATUS   He spedis for to spille in space,
So wondirly wrought is youre will;
His bloode schall youre bodis enbrace,
For that have ye taken you till.

ANNA   That forwarde ful fayne to fulfille
Indede schall we dresse us bedene;
Yone losell hym likis full ille,
For turned is his trantis all to teene,
I trowe.

CAYPHAS   He called hym kyng,
Ille joie hym wring.
Ya, late hym hyng,
Full madly on the mone for to mowe.

ANNA   To mowe on the moone has he mente.
We, fye on thee, faitour in faye!
Who trowes thou to thi tales toke tente?
Thou saggard, thiselffe gan thou saie,
The Tempill distroie thee todaye,
Be the thirde day ware done ilka dele,
To rayse it thou schulde thee arraye.
Loo, howe was thi falsed to feele,
Foule falle thee!
For thy presumpcyoune
Thou haste thy warisoune;
Do faste come doune,
And a comely kyng schalle I calle thee.

CAYPHAS   I calle thee a coward to kenne
That mervaylles and mirakills made.
Thou mustered emange many menne,
But, brothell, thou bourded to brade.
Thou saved thame fro sorowes, thai saide:
To save nowe thiselffe late us see;
God Sonne if thou grathely be grayde,
Delyvere thee doune of that tree
If thou be funne
Thou be Goddis Sonne,
We schall be bonne
To trowe on thee trewelye, ilkone.

ANNA   Sir Pilate, youre pleasaunce we praye,
Takis tente to oure talkyng this tide
And wipe ye yone writyng away:
It is not beste it abide.
It sittis youe to sette it aside,
And sette that he saide in his sawe,
As he that was prente full of pride,
“Jewes kyng am I,” comely to knawe,
Full playne.

PILATUS   Quod scripci, scripci.
Yone same wrotte I;
I bide therby,
What gedlyng will grucche there agayne.

JESUS   Thou man that of mys here has mente,
To me tente enteerly thou take.
On roode am I ragged and rente,
Thou synfull sawle, for thy sake.
For thy misse amendis will I make.
My bakke for to bende, here I bide;
This teene for thi traspase I take.
Who couthe thee more kyndynes have kydde
Than I?
Thus for thy goode
I schedde my bloode.
Manne, mende thy moode,
For full bittir thi blisse mon I by.

MARIA   Allas, for my swete Sonne I saie,
That doulfully to dede thus is dight.
Allas, for full lovely thou laye
In my wombe, this worthely wight.
Allas, that I schulde see this sight
Of my Sone so semely to see.
Allas, that this blossome so bright
Untrewly is tugged to this tree,
My lorde, my leyffe,
With full grete greffe
Hyngis as a theffe.
Allas, he did never trespasse.

JESUS   Thou woman, do way of thy wepyng,
For me may thou nothyng amende;
My Fadirs wille to be wirkyng,
For mankynde my body I bende.

MARIA   Allas, that thou likes noght to lende,
Howe schulde I but wepe for thy woo?
To care nowe my comforte is kende.
Allas, why schulde we twynne thus in twoo

JESUS   Womanne, instede of me,
Loo, John thi sone schall bee.
John, see to thi modir free,
For my sake do thou thi devere.

MARIA   Allas, Sone, sorowe and sighte
That me were closed in clay,
A swerde of sorowe me smyte,
To dede I were done this day.

JOHANNES   A, modir, so schall ye noght saie,
I praye youe be pees in this presse,
For with all the myght that I maye
Youre comforte I caste to encresse
Youre sone am I,
Loo, here redy,
And nowe forthy
I praye yowe hense for to speede.

MARIA   My steven for to stede or to steere,
Howe schulde I such sorowe to see:
My Sone that is dereworthy and dere
Thus doulfull a dede for to dye.

JOHANNES   A, dere modir, blynne of this blee;
Youre mournyng it may not amende.

MARIA CLEOPHE   A, Marie, take triste unto thee,
For socoure to thee will he sende
This tyde.

JOHANNES   Fayre modir, faste
Hense latte us caste.

MARIA   To he be paste
Wille I buske here baynly to bide.

JESUS   With bittirfull bale have I bought,
Thus, man, all thi misse for te mende,
On me for to looke lette thou noght
Howe baynly my body I bende.
No wighte in this worlde wolde have wende
What sorowe I suffre for thy sake.
Manne, kaste thee thy kyndynesse be kende,
Trewe tente unto me that thou take
And treste.
For foxis ther dennys have thei,
Birdis hase ther nestis to paye,
But the Sone of Man this daye
Hase noght on his heed for to reste.

LATRO A SINISTRIS   If thou be Goddis Sone so free,
Why hyng thou thus on this hille?
To saffe nowe thyselffe late us see,
And us now, that spedis for to spille.

LATRO A DEXTRIS   Manne, stynte of thy steven and be stille,
For douteles thy God dredis thou noght;
Full wele are we worthy thertill.
Unwisely wrange have we wrought,
Noon ille did hee
Thus for to dye.
Lord, have mynde of me
Whan thou art come to thi bliss.

JESUS   Forsothe, sonne, to thee schall I saie,
Sen thou fro thy foly will falle,
With me schall dwelle nowe this daye
In paradise place principall.
Heloy! heloy!
My God, my God, full free,
Lama zabatanye,
Wharto forsoke thou me,
In care?
And I did nevere ille
This dede for to go tille,
But be it at thi wille.
A, me thirstis sare.

GARCIO   A drinke schalle I dresse thee indede,
A draughte that is full dayntely dight,
Full faste schall I springe for to spede.
I hope I schall holde that I have hight.

CAYPHAS   Sir Pilate, that moste is of myght,
Harke, “Heely” now harde I hym crye;
He wenys that that worthely wight
In haste for to helpe hym in hye
In his nede.

PILATUS   If he do soo,
He schall have woo.

ANNA   He wer oure foo
If he dresse hym to do us that dede.

GARCIO   That dede for to dresse yf he doo,
In sertis he schall rewe it full sore.
Neverethelees, if he like it noght, loo,
Full sone may he covere that care.
Now swete sir, youre wille yf it ware,
A draughte here of drinke have I dreste
To spede for no spence that ye spare,
But baldely ye bib it for the beste
Aysell and galle
Is menged withalle.
Drynke it ye schalle.
Youre lippis, I halde thame fulle drye.

JESUS   Thi drinke it schalle do me no deere,
Wete thou wele, therof will I none.
Nowe, Fadir, that formed alle in fere,
To thy moste myght make I my mone.
Thi wille have I wrought in this wone.
Thus ragged and rente on this roode,
Thus doulffully to dede have thei done.
Forgiffe thame be grace that is goode,
Thai ne wote noght what it was.
My Fadir, here my bone,
For nowe all thyng is done.
My spirite to thee right sone
Comende I in manus tuas.

MARIA   Now, dere Sone, Jesus so jente,
Sen my harte is hevy as leede,
O worde wolde I witte or thou wente.
Allas, nowe my dere Sone is dede.
Full rewfully refte is my rede.
Allas, for my darlyng so dere.

JOHANNES   A modir, ye halde uppe youre heede
And sigh noght with sorowes so seere,
I praye.

MARIA CLEOPHE   It dose hir pyne
To see hym tyne.
Lede we her heyne,
This mornyng helpe hir ne maye.

CAIPHAS   Sir Pilate, parceyve, I you praye,
Oure costemes to kepe wele ye canne.
Tomorne is our dere Sabott daye,
Of mirthe muste us meve ilke a man.
Yone warlous nowe waxis full wan,
And nedis muste thei beried be.
Delyver ther dede, sir, and thane
Shall we sew to oure saide solempnité

PILATE   It schalle be done,
In wordis fone.
Sir knyghtis, go sone
To yone harlottis you hendely take heede.

Tho caytiffis thou kille with thi knyffe;
Delyvere, have done, thei were dede.

MILES   Mi lorde, I schall lenghe so ther liffe
That tho brothelles schall nevere bite brede.

PILATUS   Ser Longeus, steppe forthe in this steede.
This spere, loo, have halde in thy hande,
To Jesus thou rake fourthe I rede
And sted nought but stiffely thou stande
A stounde.
In Jesu side
Schoffe it this tyde;
No lenger bide,
But grathely thou go to the grounde.

LONGEUS LATUS   O, maker unmade, full of myght.
O, Jesu so jentill and jente,
That sodenly has lente me my sight.
Lorde, louyng to thee be it lente.
On rode arte thou ragged and rente
Mankynde for to mende of his mys.
Full spitously spilte is and spente
Thi bloode, Lorde, to bringe us to blis
Full free.
A, mercy my socoure,
Mercy, my treasoure,
Mercy my Savioure,
Thi mercy be markid in me.

CENTERIO   O, wondirfull werkar iwis,
This weedir is waxen full wan,
Trewe token I trowe that it is
That mercy is mente unto man.
Full clerly consayve thus I can
No cause in this corse couthe thei knowe,
Yitt doulfull thei demyd hym than
To lose thus his liffe be ther lawe,
No righte.
Trewly I saie,
Goddis Sone verraye
Was he this daye
That doulfully to dede thus is dight.

JOSEPH [OF ARIMATHEA]   That Lorde lele aylastyng in lande,
Sir Pilate, full preste in this presse,
He save thee be see and be sande,
And all that is derworth on deesse.

PILATUS   Joseph, this is lely no lesse;
To me arte thou welcome iwisse.
Do saie me the soth or thou sesse,
Thy worthyly wille what it is

JOSEPH   To thee I praye,
Giffe me in hye
Jesu bodye
In gree it for to grave al alone.

PILATUS   Joseph, sir, I graunte thee that geste.
I grucche noght to grath hym in grave.
Delyver, have done he were dreste,
And sewe, sir, oure Sabott to saffe.

JOSEPH   With handis and harte that I have
I thanke thee in faith for my frende.
God kepe thee thi comforte to crave,
For wightely my way will I wende
In hye.
To do that dede
He be my speede,
That armys gun sprede,
Mannekynde be his bloode for to bye.

NICHODEMUS   Weill mette, ser; in mynde gune I meffe
For Jesu that juged was unjente.
Ye laboured for license and leve
To berye his body on bente?

JOSEPH   Full myldely that matere I mente,
And that for to do will I dresse.

NICHODEMUS   Both same I wolde that we wente
And lette not for more ne for lesse,
Oure frende was he,
Faithfull and free.

JOSEPH   Therfore go we
To berie that body in hye.

All mankynde may marke in his mynde
To see here this sorowfull sight.
No falsnesse in hym couthe thei fynde
That doulfully to dede thus is dight.

NICHODEMUS   He was a full worthy wight,
Nowe blemysght and bolned with bloode.

JOSEPH   Ya, for that he mustered his myght.
Full falsely thei fellid that foode,
I wyne,
Bothe bakke and side
His woundes wide;
Forthi this tyde
Take we hym doune us betwene.

NICHODEMUS   Betwene us take we hym doune,
And laie hym on lenthe on this lande.

JOSEPH   This reverent and riche of rennoune,
Late us halde hym and halse hym with hande.
A grave have I garte here be ordande
That never was in noote, it is newe.

NICHODEMUS   To this corse it is comely accordande
To dresse hym with dedis full dewe
This stounde

JOSEPH   A sudarye
Loo here have I,
Wynde hym forthy,
And sone schalle we grave hym in grounde.

NICHODEMUS   In grounde late us grave hym and goo;
Do liffely, latte us laie hym allone.
Nowe Saviour of me and of moo,
Thou kepe us in clennesse ilkone.

JOSEPH   To thy mercy nowe make I my moone,
As Saviour be see and be sande,
Thou gyde me that my griffe be al gone;
With lele liffe to lenge in this lande
And esse.

NICHODEMUS   Seere oynementis here have I
Brought for this faire body.
I anoynte thee forthy
With myrre and aloes.

JOSEPH   This dede it is done ilke a dele,
And wroughte is this werke wele iwis.
To thee, Kyng, on knes here I knele
That baynly thou belde me in blisse.

NICHODEMUS   He highte me full hendely to be his
A nyght whan I neghed hym full nere.
Have mynde, Lorde, and mende me of mys,
For done is oure dedis full dere
This tyde.

JOSEPH   This Lorde so goode
That schedde his bloode,
He mende youre moode
And buske on this blis for to bide.
plainly; mention
judge; worthy; deed
(i.e., certainly)

judged; die

rules (controls) themselves

death; put
care (desire); learn
(i.e., punish)

Each felon
also; (see note)
bound; teach

destroy; attempt
lives; lose
malefactors; misery
loyally; reveal


Took upon yourselves


falsehood; faith
teach; lore



none; could

[this] case

seek out
sorrow; stir up



caused; to be called

die; space [of time] (i.e., soon)

(i.e., be on your head)

purpose; eagerly
undertake; forthwith
trickery; misery

moon to make faces

deceiver; faith
trusts; pay attention
sagging one; (see note)
[If] the; were destroyed
were; every way
manifest [itself]



jested too broadly; (t-note)

(see note)
truly; were made to be


trust; truly, each one

good will; (t-note)
at this time
(see note)



What I have written, I have written; (see note)

gadling (scoundrel); grudge

sin; intended; (see note)
attention entirely


suffering; trespasses

I will purchase

(see note)




dear one



distress; given


Son; grief


calm; crowd

voice; stabilize; control


stop (amend); attitude


go away

Until; passed (away)
try; humbly

(see note)
sins; to
(i.e., endured)

attempt to show
dens; (see note)
satisfy [them]


THIEF ON THE LEFT; (see note)
save; let
(i.e., soon will be killed)

cease; speaking; (see note)
you dread not


No evil


(see note)

(see note)




prepare (for); (see note)

shall do as; promised


try; perform; deed


be released from
expense; (t-note)
boldly; drink


harm; (see note)
Know; well
all together
moan (lament)

hear; request

into your hands

gentle (gracious)
know ere

cruelly lost; advisor (supporter)

hold; head
many (painful)

Lead; away; (see note)
[we] may not; (t-note)

customs; well

move every
sorcerer; pale

Hasten; death


in a seemly manner

Those; (see note)

lengthen; lives

place; (see note)
go; advise
delay; boldly
while (space of time)


directly; location

(see note)

amend; sin

weather; dark; (see note)


(i.e., illegally)

death; put

truly everlasting
bold; crowd

worthy; dais




suitable manner

grudge; bury
Hasten, endeavor; (see note)
proceed; save


by; purchase

Well met; was I moved; (t-note)
was judged to be not noble
in a place

together; (t-note)



disfigured; swollen; (see note)

destroyed; (dear) person

(see note)


holy one
hold; embrace; (see note)
cause; ordered; (see note)

properly suitable
[those] acts due [to him]
(i.e., now)



quickly, let us

lament; (t-note)

guide; grief
righteous; (i.e., dwell)




(see note)
readily; shelter

promised; graciously
[my] transgressions; (t-note)

hurry to; abide

Go To Play 37, The Harrowing of Hell