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Play 39, The Appearance of Christ to Mary Magdalen


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 Ordo paginarum indicates that in this play Mary Magdalen again appeared with her ointment or spice jar, as she had in the previous pageant, and confirms that its subject was her meeting with Jesus in the garden — the hortulanus scene. The play is a continuation of the Carpenters’ drama but also initiates the post-Resurrection appearances, however abbreviated in the York cycle. In depictions in the visual arts in the late Middle Ages, Jesus may appear in this scene with a spade in hand like a gardener, hence accounting for the Magdalen’s failure to recognize him. In other instances, such as the miniature in York Minster Library MS. XVI.K.6, fol. 91r, he is holding a cross staff, and his red wounds are very visible. The Magdalen typically has long blond hair. While it was presented by the Winedrawers in the fifteenth century, there is some confusion about the sponsorship of this pageant and the following Peregrinus in later years.1

1–27 The pageant begins with Magdalen’s long lament, despairing at having lost Jesus. In spite of the angel’s message to the holy women, she fears he cannot be found. Keeping in mind that, as noted above, the Magdalen is a composite figure in biblical interpretation of the time (see Malvern, Venus in Sackcloth, pp. 16–29), her role as a weeper seems to have been established in the scene at Simon’s house, where she wept for her own sins, but her weeping, both at the tomb and at her unexpected meeting with the resurrected Jesus, is reported in John 20:11–15. In lines 38–41ff. she asks if the gardener has borne Jesus away.

62–63 Marie, of mournyng amende thy moode / And beholde my woundes wyde. Jesus reveals himself to the Magdalen. The wounds are proof of his identity.

68–69 Trowe it wele, it turnes to goode / Whanne men in erthe ther flessh schall hyde. The evil deed is actually a good thing. Line 69 seems to be a reference to the Last Judgment, when those who have lived in pursuit of spiritual goals will be rewarded and the others will want to hide.

70–71 A, Rabony . . . this day. Magdalen recognizes Jesus. The iconography here is widespread, with the Magdalen dropping down on her knees and either folding her hands or, more commonly, reaching out with her hands toward Jesus, as in the Biblia Pauperum (p. 108).

72 touche me noght. See John 20:17: noli me tangere, in the Vulgate rendering. This is a curious episode, since later Jesus will confirm his identity to St. Thomas by having him place his hand in his side wound. Some believe that Jesus’ response to the Magdalen reflects Middle Eastern anti-feminism and an apparent prohibition against touch between the sexes. Love could not believe that there would have been no touching between two who loved each other so much; he even speculated that she would have kissed Jesus’ hands and feet before the end of this meeting (Mirror, p. 200).

81 Thi woundes thai are nowe wette. The freshness of Jesus’ wounds is frequently insisted upon, and is a sign of life since after the heart stops at death wounds do not actually bleed. See also lines 111–13, below, for the statement that Jesus’ wounds “hath made thi body wete.”

82–85 Negh me noght . . . I stigh noght yette. This explanation for repulsing the Magdalen’s touch has long puzzled scholars; see note to line 72, above.

94–109 Jesus speaks of his armor, symbolically referring to his effort as a lover-knight on the cross. The concept of the Christian warrior derives from St. Paul’s injunction in Ephesians 6:11 ff. to “put you on the armor of God,” with Jesus providing the example to be followed.

142 To Galilé schall thou wende. Jesus sends the Magdalen to report the news about her meeting with him, and insists (line 146) that she should give a complete account.


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 attribution by JC: Sledmen; in another hand: Palmers. Also barely legible and canceled handwriting by JC that was noted by RB, indicating connection to the following Peregrinus play.

67 unride. So RB; Reg, LTS: unrude.

85 Reg: at left, by a LH: Hic deficit.


Footnote 1 See RB, pp. 454–55, and Meredith, “John Clerke’s Hand,” pp. 260–61.

The Wynedrawers






























MARIA   Allas, in this worlde was nevere no wight
Walkand with so mekill woo.
Thou dredfull Dede, drawen hythir and dight
And marre me as thou haste done moo.
In lame is it loken, all my light,
Forthy on grounde onglad I goo.
Jesus of Nazareth he hight,
The false Jewes slewe hym me froo.

Mi witte is waste nowe in wede;
I walowe, I walke, nowe woo is me,
For laide nowe is that lufsome in lede:
The Jewes hym nayled untill a tree.
My doulfull herte is evere in drede,
To grounde nowe gone is all my glee;
I sporne ther I was wonte to spede.
Nowe helpe me, God, in persones three.

Thou lufsome lede in ilke a lande,
As thou schope both day and nyght,
Sonne and mone both bright schynand,
Thou graunte me grace to have a sight
Of my Lorde, or ellis his sande.

JESUS   Thou wilfull woman in this waye,
Why wepis thou soo als thou wolde wede,
Als thou on felde woulde falle doune faie?
Do way, and do no more that dede.
Whome sekist thou this longe daye?
Say me the sothe, als Criste thee rede.

MARIA   Mi Lorde Jesu and God verray
That suffered for synnes his sides bleede.

JESUS   I schall thee saie, will thou me here,
The soth of hym that thou hast sought.
Withowten drede, thou faithfull fere,
He is full nere that mankynde bought.

MARIA   Sir, I wolde loke both ferre and nere
To fynde my Lorde, I se hym noght.

JESUS   Womane, wepe noght, but mend thy chere;
I wotte wele whedir that he was brought.

MARIA   Swete sir, yf thou hym bare awaye,
Saie me the sothe and thedir me leede
Where thou hym didde; withouten delay
I schall hym seke agayne goode speede.

Therfore, goode gardener, saie thou me,
I praye thee for the prophetis sake
Of thez tythyngis that I aske thee.
For it wolde do my sorowe to slake
Wher Goddis body founden myght be
That Joseph of the crosse gonne take.
Might I hym fange unto my fee,
Of all my woo he wolde me wrake.

JESUS   What wolde thou doo with that body bare
That beried was with balefull chere?
Thou may noght salve hym of his sare,
His peynes were so sadde and seere.
But he schall cover mankynde of care,
That clowded was he schall make clere,
And the folke wele for to fare
That fyled were all in feere.

MARIA   A, myght I evere with that man mete
The whiche that is so mekill of myght,
Drye schulde I wype that nowe is wete:
I am but sorowe of worldly sight.

JESUS   Marie, of mournyng amende thy moode
And beholde my woundes wyde.
Thus for mannys synnes I schedde my bloode
And all this bittir bale gonne bide.
Thus was I rased on the roode
With spere and nayles that were unride.
Trowe it wele, it turnes to goode
Whanne men in erthe ther flessh schall hyde.

MARIA   A, Rabony, I have thee sought,
Mi maistir dere, full faste this day.

JESUS   Goo awaye, Marie, and touche me noght,
But take goode kepe what I schall saie.
I ame hee that all thyng wroght
That thou callis thi Lorde and God verraye.
With bittir dede I mankynde boght,
And I am resen as thou se may.

And therfore, Marie, speke nowe with me
And latte thou nowe be thy grette.

MARIA   Mi Lorde Jesu, I knowe nowe thee;
Thi woundes thai are nowe wette.

JESUS   Negh me noght, my love, latte be,
Marie, my doughtir swete;
To my Fadir in Trinité
Forthe I stigh noght yette.

MARIA   A, mercy, comely conquerour,
Thurgh thi myght thou haste overcome dede.
Mercy, Jesu, man and Saveour:
Thi love is swetter thanne the mede.
Mercy, myghty confortour,
For are I was full wille of rede.
Welcome, Lorde, all myn honnoure,
Mi joie, my luffe, in ilke a stede.

JESUS   Marie, in thyne harte thou write
Myne armoure riche and goode:
Myne actone covered all with white
Als cors of man behewede
With stuffe goode and parfite
Of maydenes flessh and bloode;
Whan thei ganne thirle and smyte
Mi heede for hawberke stoode.

Mi plates wer spredde all on brede
That was my body uppon a tree;
Myne helme covered all with manhede,
The strengh therof may no man see;
The croune of thorne that garte me blede,
Itt bemenes my dignité.
Mi diademe sais, withouten drede,
That dede schall I nevere be.

MARIA   A, blessid body that bale wolde beete,
Dere haste thou bought mankynne.
Thy woundes hath made thi body wete
With bloode that was thee withinne.
Nayled thou was thurgh hande and feete,
And all was for oure synne.
Full grissely muste we caitiffis grete,
Of bale howe schulde I blynne?

To se this ferly foode
Thus ruffully dight,
Rugged and rente on a roode,
This is a rewfull sight,
And all is for oure goode
And nothyng for his plight.
Spilte thus is his bloode
For ilke a synfull wight.

JESUS   To my God and my Fadir dere,
To hym als swithe I schall assende,
For I schall nowe noght longe dwelle here;
I have done als my Fadir me kende,
And therfore loke that ilke man lere
Howe that in erthe ther liffe may mende.
All that me loves I schall drawe nere
Mi Fadirs blisse that nevere schall ende.

MARIA   Alle for joie me likes to synge,
Myne herte is gladder thanne the glee,
And all for joie of thy risyng
That suffered dede upponne a tree.
Of luffe nowe is thou crouned kyng,
Is none so trewe levand more free.
Thy love passis all erthely thyng.
Lorde, blissed motte thou evere bee.

JESUS   To Galilé schall thou wende,
Marie, my doghtir dere,
Unto my brethir hende;
Ther thei are all in fere.
Telle thame ilke worde to ende
That thou spake with me here.
My blissing on thee lende,
And all that we leffe here.
person; (see note)
Walking; great woe
put an end to; to others
earth; locked (shut up)
is named

decayed; madness

loved one; lead (i.e., coffin)

stumble where

shaped (created)
sun; moon; shining

also; messenger

[go] mad
As if; dead


very (true)




Tell; thither lead me
did [put him]


take; keeping

deliver; from cares

defiled; altogether

full of grief

(see note)

suffering did endure

monstrous; (t-note)
(see note)
be concealed

Rabbi (teacher); (see note)

(see note)

death; purchased

stop; weeping

fresh; (see note)

Touch; (see note)

go up; (t-note)


sweeter; mead (honey drink)

ere; (i.e., at a loss)

(see note)

body (i.e., skin); colored

did pierce
military tunic, esp. neck armor

plates [of armor]; outspread

hidden; manhood

made; bleed

misery; relieve

sorrowfully; wretches weep

wondrous man
Pulled violently

every; person

swiftly (soon)


(i.e., overjoyed)



(see note)

brethren courteous
all together
(i.e., tell them everything)


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