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Play 41, Doubting Thomas


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 Scriveners’ pageant is unique in that it exists in two copies, one in the Register (the copy text for this edition) and the other, a guild copy, in the damaged Sykes Manuscript (ed. Cawley, “Sykes MS”). Problems with the Register copy are noted by Beadle,1 who also provides a full collation of the two manuscripts in the footnotes to his text of the play. The story of Thomas that is dramatized is closely related to the Emmaus play, and in the liturgical Peregrinus drama the section on his doubts was attached more or less as an epilogue to the main action. However, the biblical account in John 20:19–31 states that the appearance to Thomas took place one week later, and this reading was hence specified as the gospel for the first Sunday after Easter, known as Quasi modo Sunday (so known from the incipit of the Introit at Mass).2 The pageant begins with the revelation of Jesus to the disciples, who are in the midst of eating a meal, as reported in Mark 16:14, prior to the appearance to Thomas, at first as what appears to be an apparition that will be taken for a ghost. Jesus’ appearances and disappearances would have involved some clever effects, one would assume, since the Bible refers to his ability to enter rooms when “the doors were shut” (John 20:19). The play is written in six-line stanzas throughout.

5–12 The disciples’ fear of the Jews, here blamed for executing Jesus, is based on John 20:19.

29 Itt was vanyté in oure thought. At first the disciples tend to dismiss the apparition as the result of collective hallucination or overheated imagination, forming mental images without basis in sense perception. In spite of the miraculous radiance that accompanies Jesus, they remain skeptical until his third appearance in the pageant. The radiance about him, like his sudden appearances and disappearances, would necessarily have involved stage effects. Evidence from iconography suggests that Jesus would hold a vexillum as a sign that he is the risen Christ.

35 Itt is a sperite. James’ view is that Jesus is a spirit, or ghost, confirmed by John (line 37). Their fear at this point seems justified, since it was believed that a spirit or ghost could indeed be the devil in the guise of a known person. Jesus accuses them of being “madmen,” with thoughts distraught and at variance with reality (line 43).

50 Behalde and se myn handis and feete. These wounds, and the one at his heart, are offered as proof. All five wounds were primary objects of devotion; see Gray, “Five Wounds of Our Lord”; Duffy, Stripping of the Altars, pp. 243–56, figs. 98–99; and YA, pp. 77–78. Jesus will allow his wounds to be touched physically to prove that he is not a ghost.

63–66 Bringe nowe forthe unto me here / Some of youre mette . . . to ete. This is the second proof of his physical reality. The rapidity of James’ producing the honeycomb and roast fish indicates that these were on hand, probably on the table at which the disciples were eating.

75 ye schall wanhope forgete. They have been in despair, which is the “sickness unto death,” and now they must turn aside from it and revive their hope.

93–96 Whome that ye bynde bounden schall be . . . in hevene. The power of the keys, given to St. Peter (Matthew 16:19); the power to forgive sins or to withhold absolution (“whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven”). The clergy’s power (“posté”), derived from the apostles, to forgive sin is the underpinning of the doctrine of Penance.

97 Thomas comes into the acting area, mourning and in despair following the suffering and death of his Master. He approaches the other disciples at lines 125–26. He will dismiss their report of seeing Jesus as tricks “Of fooles unwise” (line 136) or thereafter as “some sperit” or ghost (line 149).

158–62 Till that I see his body bare . . . in his syde. See John 20:25. Touching the holy wounds was to be the ultimate proof that will cure his scepticism.

175 Beholde my woundis are bledand. Thomas will not only touch the wounds but will have direct contact with Jesus’ “blessid blode” (line 184), which was believed to have miraculous powers. Relics of his blood, as at Bruges, Westminster, or Hailes, were the objects of veneration and pilgrimage. Thomas calls it “blode of price” for its great value (line 182).

181 Mi Lorde, my God. Thomas’ speech translates the motto, taken from the Vulgate, on a window which shows the subject in the church of All Saints, North Street: Dominus meus et deus meus (John 20:28). Love says that Thomas “reverently” kneeled “don with bothe joy and drede” and “touchede hees wondes as he badde and seide, My Lorde and my God” (Mirror, p. 208).

193–98 My brethir . . . menghe. Jesus’ admonition to the disciples to go forth and preach to all countries concludes the pageant.


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).

For a complete collation with the Sykes MS, see RB.

1 to . . . wer. Compare Sykes: the . . . are.

5 ne. Compare Sykes: sens.

8 Compare Sykes: And wyth owr lyvys owr lath we lyff so long.

9 Compare Sykes: Sens that thes Jewys wroght this wrong.

25 oure. RB, after Sykes: owr; Reg, LTS: youre.

27–28 Lineation as in RB.

40 So it us. This edition, following Sykes: So yt us; LTS: Dois us; RB: So is us.

44 Reg has extraneous v to right of line.

46 may. So LTS, RB, following Sykes; Reg: nay.

56 Felys. So Sykes, RB; Reg, LTS: Folous.

66 ete. Reg: corrected (crudely overwritten) by LH.

71 here we thee. Compare Sykes: we wolde ye.

83 remenaunte sone. Compare Sykes: remland unto.

85 rayst. So Sykes, RB; Reg, LTS: dreste.

90 Releffe. So Reg, LTS; RB, following Sykes: Resave.

109 Wan was his . . . wonderus. So RB, following Sykes; LTS: Whan lo! as his wondis . . . wondis; Reg: Whan lo as wonderus . . . wondis.

110 skelpis. Compare Sykes: swapis.

121 So wofull wightis. So Sykes, RB; Reg, LTS: A blistfull sight.

133 JOHANNES. Added LTS, following Sykes.

135 a trayne. So Sykes, RB; Reg, LTS: attrayne.

167 no syne. So RB, following Sykes; Reg, LTS: sen ye.
to. So RB, following Sykes.

179 more mistrowand. So Reg, RB; LTS, following Sykes: more so mystrowand.

183 Line supplied by LTS from Sykes; Reg omits.

189 wight. Written over erasure in Reg.

190 thou. So Reg, LTS; RB, following Sykes: they.


Footnote 1 RB, p. 457.

Footnote 2 York Missal, 1:139.

The Escreveneres








































PETRUS   Allas, to woo that we wer wrought!
Hadde never no men so mekill thought
Sen that oure Lorde to dede was brought
With Jewes fell.
Oute of this steede ne durst we noght,
But here ay dwelle.

JOHANNES   Here have we dwelte with peynes strang.
Of oure liffe us lothis, we leve to lange,
For sen the Jewes wrought us that wrong
Oure Lorde to sloo,
Durste we nevere come thame emang,
Ne hense to goo.

JACOBUS   The wikkid Jewes hatis us full ille
And bittir paynes wolde putte us till;
Therfore I rede that we dwelle stille
Here ther we lende,
Unto that Criste oure Lorde us wille
Some socoure sende.

DEUS   Pees and reste be with yowe.

PETRUS   A, brethir dere, what may we trowe,
What was this sight that we saughe nowe
Shynand so bright,
And vanysshed thus and we ne wote how,
Oute of oure sight?

JOHANNES   Oute of oure sight nowe is it soghte;
Itt makith us madde, the light it broght.
What may it be?

JACOBUS         Sertis I wotte noght
But sekirly
Itt was vanyté in oure thought,
Nought ellis trowe I it be.

DEUS   Pees unto yowe evermore myght be,
Drede you noght, for I am hee.

PETRUS   On Goddis name, benedicité,
What may this mene?

JACOBUS   Itt is a sperite, forsothe thynketh me,
That dose us tene.

JOHANNES   A sperite it is, that trowe I right,
All thus appered here to oure sight;
Itt makis us madde of mayne and myght,
So it us flaied,
Yone is the same that broughte the light
That us affraied.

DEUS   What thynke ye, madmen, in youre thought?
What mournyng in youre hertis is brought?
I ame Criste, ne drede you noght,
Her may ye se
The same body that has you bought
Uppon a tre.

That I am comen you here to mete,
Behalde and se myn handis and feete,
And grathely gropes my woundes wete
Al that here is;
Thus was I dight youre balis to beete
And bring to blis.

For yowe thusgatis thanne have I gone;
Felys me grathely everilkone,
And se that I have flessh and bone.
Gropes me nowe,
For so ne has sperite none,
That schall ye trowe.

To garre you kenne and knowe me clere,
I schall you schewe ensaumpillis sere;
Bringe nowe forthe unto me here
Some of youre mette,
If ye amange you all in fere
Have ought to ete.

JACOBUS   Thou luffand Lorde that laste schall ay,
Loo, here is mette that thou ete may:
A hony kombe the soth to saye,
Roste fecche thertill;
To ete therof here we thee praie
With full goode will.

DEUS   Nowe sen ye have broughte me this mete,
To make youre trouthe stedfast and grete
And for ye schall wanhope forgete
And trowe in me,
With youe than here wol I ete,
That ye schalle see.

Nowe have I done, ye have sene howe,
Boldely etyng here with youe,
Stedfastly loke that ye trowe
Yitt in me efte,
And takis the remenaunte sone to you
That her is lefte.

For youe thus was I revyn and rayst;
Therfore some of my peyne ye taste
And spekis now nowhare my worde waste,
That schall ye lere;
And unto you the Holy Goste
Releffe you here.

Beis now trewe and trowes in me,
And here I graunte youe in youre poste:
Whome that ye bynde bounden schall be
Right at youre stevene,
And whome that ye lesid losed schal be
Evermore in hevene.

THOMAS   Allas for sight and sorowes sadde,
Mornyng makis me mased and madde;
On grounde nowe may I gang ungladde,
Bothe even and morne.
That hende that I my helpe of hadde
His liffe has lorne.

Lorne I have that lovely light
That was my maistir moste of myght;
So doulfully as he was dight
Was never no man.
Such woo was wrought of that worthy wighte
With wondis wan.

Wan was his wondis and wonderus wette,
With skelpis sore was he swongen, that swette,
All naked nailed thurgh hande and feete.
Allas, for pyne,
That bliste, that beste my bale myght bete,
His liffe schulde tyne.

Allas, for sorowe myselffe I schende
When I thynke hartely on that hende;
I fande hym ay a faithfull frende,
Trulie to telle.
To my brethir nowe will I wende
Wherso thei dwell.

So wofull wightis was nevere none;
Oure joie and comforte is all gone,
Of mournyng may we make oure mone
In ilka lande.
God blisse you, brether, bloode and bone,
Same ther ye stande.

PETRUS   Welcome, Thomas, where has thou bene?
Wete thou wele withouten wene,
Jesu oure Lorde than have we sene
On grounde her gang.

THOMAS   What saie ye, men? Allas, for tene,
I trowe ye mang.

JOHANNES   Thomas, trewly it is noght to layne:
Jesu oure Lorde is resen agayne.

THOMAS   Do waie, thes tales is but a trayne
Of fooles unwise.
He that was so fully slayne,
Howe schulde he rise?

JACOBUS   Thomas, trewly he is on lyve
That tholede the Jewes his flessh to riffe;
He lete us fele his woundes fyve,
Oure Lorde verray.

THOMAS   That trowe I nought, so motte I thryve,
Whatso ye saie.

PETRUS   Thomas, we saugh his woundes wette,
Howe he was nayled thurgh hande and feete;
Hony and fisshe with us he eette,
That body free.

THOMAS   I laye my liff it was some sperit
Ye wende wer hee.

JOHANNES   Nay, Thomas, thou haste misgone,
Forwhy he bad us everilkon
To grope hym grathely, bloode and bone
And flessh to feele.
Such thyngis, Thomas, hase sperite none,
That wote ye wele.

THOMAS   What, leve felawes, late be youre fare.
Till that I see his body bare
And sithen my fyngir putte in thare
Within his hyde
And fele the wounde the spere did schere
Right in his syde,

Are schalle I trowe no tales betwene.

JACOBUS   Thomas, that wounde have we seene.

THOMAS   Ya, ye wotte nevere what ye mene,
Youre witte it wantis;
Ye muste thynke no syne me thus to tene
And tule with trantis.

DEUS   Pees, brethir, be unto you,
And Thomas, tente to me takis thou:
Putte forthe thy fyngir to me nowe,
Myn handis thou see,
Howe I was nayled for mannys prowe
Uppon a tree.

Beholde my woundis are bledand,
Here in my side putte in thi hande
And fele my woundis and undirstande
That this is I,
And be no more mistrowand
But trowe trewly.

THOMAS   Mi Lorde, my God, full wele is me,
A, blode of price, blessid mote thou be.
Mankynd in erth, behold and see
This blessid blode.
Mercy nowe, Lorde, ax I thee,
With mayne and mode.

DEUS   Thomas, for thou haste sene this sight
That I am resen as I thee hight,
Therfore thou trowes it, but ilka wight,
Blissed be thou evere,
That trowis haly in my rising right
And saw it nevere.

My brethir, fonde nowe forthe in fere,
Overe all in ilke a contré clere;
My rising both ferre and nere
And preche it schall ye.
And my blissyng I giffe you here
And my menghe.

Since; death
place; dare [go]; (see note); (t-note)

we (find) loathsome; live too long; (t-note)

where we dwell

know not

(i.e., gone); (t-note)


illusion; (see note)
else trust


Praise God (or: Bless you)

ghost; (see note)

frightened; (t-note)

frightened us

hearts; (t-note)


(see note)
directly touch

put [to death] your misery; relieve

in that manner
Touch; everyone; (t-note)

Examine (i.e., Touch)

cause; to know; with certainty
examples many
(see note)
eat; (t-note)

loving; always (forever)

Roast fish
beg; (t-note)

despair; (see note)

Still; hereafter
leftovers soon; (t-note)

torn; wounded; (t-note)

Relieve (Assist); (t-note)

Be; believe
bind bound; (see note)
loosened absolved

(see note)
Mourning; distraught

courteous one

dolefully; put [to death]


blows (lashes); dear one; (t-note)

blessed one; misery; defeat



brethren; go


every nation


Know; doubt

here walking

are confused

conceal; (t-note)

trick; (t-note)

suffered; tear (wound)

mistook for him



leave (cease); matter (argument)
(see note)

shear (cut)


sin; be roused; (t-note)
assail; deceptions



bleeding; (see note)

unbelieving; (t-note)

(see note)
[high] value

(i.e., supernatural power)

believes wholly

go forth; company; (see note)
every country

people (household)

Go To Play 42, The Ascension