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Play 43, Pentecost


1 Lines 13–14: The Lord commanded us to teach to the people, and to testify / that he will be judge of the living and the dead.

2 Lines 37–38: Whereas the Paraclete will come / to teach you all things.

3 Then the angel shall sing “Come Holy Spirit”

4 Lines 137–38: Come, Holy Spirit, / visit the souls of your own [people].

5 Lines 196–96: And it shall come to pass, in the last days, saith the Lord, / I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh.


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.

Pentecost, or Whitsunday, is one of the major feasts of the Church year, along with Christmas and Easter. There are eleven apostles, all noted as present in the Ordo paginarum, along with the Virgin Mary and two angels. Mention is made of the dove of the Holy Spirit descending upon the disciples and Mary, and this would require a mechanical bird of some sort, as reported elsewhere in both British and Continental sources.1 On the whole the effect in this regard might not have had the spectacular effect of the indoor Pentecost ceremony with the dove suspended from the roof of the church or cathedral such as St. Paul’s in London and with incense filling the air inside.2 But there is singing nevertheless. The two angels in the York play will sing Veni creator spiritus antiphonally, as Rastall observes.3 The play was produced by the Potters, and appears in twelve-line stanzas. The Latin passages are sometimes extra-metrical, but are included in the numbering throughout in this edition.

5–12 we are leved alyve, ellevyn . . . seere. Peter is concerned about the uneven number of apostles, to which no selection has yet been made to replace Judas in order to make up the original number of twelve. As a prime number, eleven has no divisible parts. Twelve, on the other hand, would enable the disciples to go out two by two, as Jesus suggested (see Mark 6:7), or by threes, fours, or even sixes, that is, “settis in parties seere” (line 12). As a superabundant number twelve is ideal for various kinds of missions, which is Peter’s central concern as they go forth in groups into the wider world to testify to the risen Christ, who will return at the Last Day to judge the living and the dead.

13–14 Nobis precepit Dominus . . . mortuorum. Compare Acts 10:42, but quoted from the York Missal, 1:154. On this and other liturgical connections in this pageant, see King, York Mystery Cycle, pp. 167–68.

30 He saide he schulde sette haly kirke. Pentecost was regarded as the historical moment at which the Church was established.

37–38 Cum venerit paraclitus / Docebit vos omnia. Compare John 14:26, contained within the Gospel for Whitsunday (York Breviary, 1:487).

41, 45 Nisi ego abiero . . . Et cum assumptus fuero. Antiphon in the vigil liturgy of Pentecost, and also sung at the Ascension; adapted from John 16:7–8.

76 Howe that thes mobbardis maddis nowe. The unconverted Jews begin their accusations thus with the charge that Jesus’ followers are mad. As caricatures, they are not the pious Jews of Acts 2:5, for they have been identified by the first line spoken (line 75) as followers of Mahound. This distorts the biblical story and adds a distinctly anti-Semitic twist. Further, they will be a threat to the lives of the apostles.

98 s.d. Veni creator spiritus. Pentecost hymn. Translation in Dutka, Music, pp. 119–20, but a portion of the text and translation appear below at lines 137–40. For York music, see Hymni, fols. 32v–33r. Having the angels sing the hymn “betwene them two” is affirmed by line 136. Very possibly the hymn may have been introduced by the loud sound of “a mighty wind” noted in Acts 2:2; such a sound effect could have been produced in a number of ways. The Stanzaic Life describes it as a “sowene dyn” (loud sound) and as occurring suddenly (p. 342).

105 Als lange as ye his pase pursue. The disciples and indeed all Christians are to follow in Jesus’ steps; see 1 Peter 2:21.

113–18 I myght noght loke, so was it light . . . itt sente. Peter comments on the intense light, for which a special effect would have been needed. Likely techniques to represent the “tongues as it were of fire” (Acts 2:3), perhaps utilizing both mirrors and flame, have been discussed by Butterworth, Theatre of Fire, pp. 55–78. Dublin’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral apparently used “little threads” which were “employed about the Holy Spirit on the feast of Pentecost” (Fletcher, Drama, Performance, and Polity, pp. 78–79). It is possible that the effect at York might have used strings soaked in “burning spirit” that could safely be lighted to show flame coming down, as upon Mary and the apostles in the Paris Resurrection (Meredith and Tailby, Staging, p. 107). One would assume that the “tonges of fir” noted in the Stanzaic Life (p. 342) and other sources would need to be represented somehow.

119ff. Through most of the remainder of the pageant the scribe changes to a system of numbering for the apostles. The second apostle is John, while the third is James. The fourth and fifth cannot be identified.

128 langage nedis us none to lere. They have received the gift of languages, both speaking knowledge and comprehension; see Acts 2:4 and 6. This will be a source of wonderment to the Jews, who serve as hostile observers (lines 157–67).

149, 151 Tristicia implevit cor vestrum . . . Sed convertetur in gaudium. Adapted from John 16:20, an Easter season gospel lesson. The tristia to gaudium theme is strongly presented in the post-Crucifixion pageants.

165–66 Butt thei are drounken . . . / Of muste or wyne. See Acts 2:13, when some of those standing about come to such a conclusion concerning the apostles. The Vulgate specifically refers to mustus, or “new wine.” See also line 185 for Peter’s answer to the charge.

188 A gentill Jewe. Joel, whose prophecy is invoked.

195–96 Et erit in novissimus diebus . . . carnem. Acts 2:17, quoting Joel 2:28. As King notes, this passage is designated for Mass on the Saturday in Whitsun week (York Mystery Cycle, p. 168, citing the York Missal, 1:161).

216 I may no lenger with you lende. John is now leaving and saying farewell to his adoptive mother, as Peter has directed all the apostles to do (lines 212–13). James also will graciously take his leave (lines 225–26).


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).

1 PETRUS. Reg: speech tag omitted by Scribe B; Deus added (canceled) and Petrus inserted, both by later hands.
Brethir. Reg: strapwork initial B sketched in.

13–14 Latin quotations, written in red, are extra-metrical but are numbered in this edition; judex interlined in Reg.

15 Reg: at right, JC has written: Nota a newe clause mayd for the eleccion of an apostle to make the nomber of twelve.

22 Reg: the line is imperfect (word or words missing).

37 Reg adds at right: III APOSTOLUS. So LTS; RB omits.

45 cum. So RB; Reg, LTS: dum.

98, s.d. Angelus tunc cantare. Reg: stage direction in red ink by Scribe B; Veni creator spiritus a later addition, possibly by JC.

99 MARIA. Reg: added by LH at right.

106 he. So RB; Reg, LTS: ne.

135 singing. This edition; Reg, LTS, RB: sigging.
LH in right margin in Reg identifies I Apostolus as Petrus.

152 we. So RB; Reg, LTS: he.

175 Reg: in left margin, added by JC: De novo facto (deleted).

179 Reg: at left, by JC: Hic de novo facto (deleted).

197 Reg: by LH, at left: Nota.

216 Following four lines missing in Reg.

227 Reg: in left margin, by LH: Hic caret.

228 In JC’s hand in Reg: loquela de novo facta.
Below, in Reg, JC has added to the text of the pageant:
That with his grace ye may endewe
And bryng yowe to his companye.


Footnote 1 See C. Davidson, Festivals and Plays, pp. 125–26.

Footnote 2 See Young, Drama of the Medieval Church, 1:489.

Footnote 3 See Rastall, Minstrels Playing, p. 38, and Heaven Singing, p. 330.

The Potteres














































PETRUS   Brethir, takes tente unto my steven,
Thanne schall ye stabily undirstande
Oure maistir hende is hente to hevyn
To reste there on his Fadirs right hande.
And we are leved alyve, ellevyn,
To lere his lawes lely in lande.
Or we begynne us muste be even
Ellis are owre werkis noght to warande.
For parfite noumbre it is none,
Off elleven for to lere,
Twelve may be asoundir tone
And settis in parties seere.
Nobis precepit Dominus predicare populo et testificare
quia prope est judex vivorum et mortuorum.1

Oure Lord comaunded us, more and lesse,
To rewle us right aftir his rede;
He badde us preche and bere wittenesse
That he schulde deme bothe quike and dede.
To hym all prophettis prevys expresse
All tho that trowis in his Godhede,
Off synnes thei schall have forgiffenesse;
So schall we say mekill rede.
And senne we on this wise
Schall his counsaile discrie,
Itt nedis we us avise
That we saye noght serely.

JOHANNES   Serely he saide that we schulde wende
In all this worlde his will to wirke,
And be his counsaile to be kende
He saide he schulde sette haly kirke.
But firste he saide he schulde doune sende
His sande, that we schuld noght be irke,
His Haly Gaste on us to lende
And make us to melle of materes mirke.
Us menis he saide us thus
Whan that he fared us froo:
Cum venerit paraclitus
Docebit vos omnia.2

JACOBUS   Ya, certaynely, he saide us soo,
And mekill more thanne we of mene:
Nisi ego abiero,
Thus tolde he oftetymes us betwene.
He saide forsoth, “But if I goo
The Holy Goste schall not be sene
Et cum assumptus fuero;
Thanne schall I sende you comforte clene.”
Thus tolde he holy howe
That oure dedis schulde be dight.
So schall we trewly trowe
He will holde that he us highte.

IV APOSTOLUS   He highte us fro harme for to hyde
And holde in hele both hede and hende
Whanne we take that he talde that tyde,
Fro all oure foois it schall us fende.
But thus in bayle behoves us bide
To tyme that sande till us be sende.
The Jewis besettis us in ilke a side
That we may nowdir walke nor wende.

V APOSTOLUS   We dare noght walke for drede
Or comforte come us till;
Itt is moste for oure spede
Here to be stokyn still.

MARIA   Brethir, what mene ye you emelle
To make mournyng at ilk a mele?
My Sone that of all welthe is well,
He will you wisse to wirke full wele.
For the tente day is this to telle
Sen he saide we schull favoure fele.
Levys wele that lange schall it not dwell,
And therfore drede you nevere a dele,
But prayes with harte and hende
That we his helpe may have;
Thanne schall it sone be sende,
The sande that schall us save.

I DOCTOR   Harke, maistir, for Mahoundes peyne,
Howe that thes mobbardis maddis nowe;
Ther maistir that oure men have slayne
Hase garte thame on his trifullis trowe.

II DOCTOR   The lurdayne sais he leffis agayne;
That mater may thei nevere avowe,
For as thei herde his prechyng pleyne,
He was away, thai wiste noght howe.

I DOCTOR   They wiste noght whenne he wente;
Therfore fully thei faile
And sais tham schall be sente
Grete helpe thurgh his counsaille.

II DOCTOR   He myghte nowdir sende clothe nor clowte;
He was nevere but a wrecche alway.
But samme oure men and make a schowte,
So schall we beste yone foolis flaye.

I DOCTOR   Nay, nay, than will thei dye for doute.
I rede we make noght mekill dray
But warly wayte when thai come oute
And marre thame thanne, if that we may.

II DOCTOR   Now, certis, I assente thertille,
Yitt wolde I noght thei wiste;
Yone carles than schall we kill
But thei liffe als us liste.

   Angelus tunc cantare Veni creator spiritus.3

MARIA   Honnoure and blisse be ever nowe
With worschippe in this worlde alwaye
To my soverayne Sone, Jesu,
Oure Lorde allone that laste schall ay.
Nowe may we triste his talis ar trewe
Be dedis that here is done this day.
Als lange as ye his pase pursue
The fende he fendis yow for to flay.
For his high Hali Gaste
He lattis here on you lende,
Mirthis and trewthe to taste
And all misse to amende.

PETRUS   All mys to mende nowe have we myght,
This is the mirthe oure maistir of mente;
I myght noght loke, so was it light,
A, loved be that Lorde that itt us lente.
Now hase he holden that he us highte,
His Holy Goste here have we hente,
Like to the sonne itt semed in sight,
And sodenly thanne was itt sente.

II APOSTOLUS   Hitt was sente for oure sele,
Hitt giffis us happe and hele;
Methynke slike forse I fele,
I myght felle folke full feele.

III APOSTOLUS   We have force for to fighte in felde
And favour of all folke in feere,
With wisdome in this worlde to welde,
Be knowing of all clergye clere.

IV APOSTOLUS   We have bewteis to be oure belde
And langage nedis us none to lere
That Lorde us awe yappely to yelde
That us has yemed unto this yere.

V APOSTOLUS   This is the yere of grace
That musteris us emang,
As aungellis in this place
That sais thus in ther sange.

I APOSTOLUS   In thare singing saide thei thus
And tolde ther talis betwene them two,
Veni creator spiritus,
mentes tuorum visita.4
Thei praied the Spirite come till us
And mende oure myndis with mirthis ma,
That lered thei of oure Lorde Jesus,
For he saide that itt schulde be swa.

II APOSTOLUS   He saide he schulde us sende
His Holy Goste fro hevyn
Oure myndis with mirthe to mende:
Nowe is all ordand evyn.

III APOSTOLUS   Even als he saide schulde to us come,
So has bene schewid unto oure sight,
Tristicia implevit cor vestrum,
Firste sorowe in herte he us hight;
Sed convertetur in gaudium;
Sen saide he that we schulde be light.
Nowe that he saide us, all and summe,
Is mefid emange us thurgh his myght.

IV APOSTOLUS   His myght with mayne and mode
May comforte all mankynde.

I DOCTOR   Harke, man, for Mahoundes bloode,
Ther men maddis oute of mynde.

Thei make carpyng of ilke contré
And leris langage of ilk a lande.

II DOCTOR   They speke oure speche als wele as we
And in ilke a steede it undirstande.

I DOCTOR   And alle are noght of Galilee
That takis this hardinesse on hande.
Butt thei are drounken, all these menghe,
Of muste or wyne, I wolle warande.

II DOCTOR   Nowe certis this was wele saide,
That makis ther mynde to marre;
Yone faitours schall be flaied
Or that thei flitte aught ferre.

IV APOSTOLUS   Harke, brethir, waites wele aboute,
For in oure fayre we fynde no frende.
The Jewes with strengh are sterne and stoute
And scharpely schapes them us to schende.

I APOSTOLUS   Oure maistir has putte alle perellis oute
And fellid the falsed of the fende.
Undo youre dores and haves no doute,
For to yone warlowes will we wende.

II APOSTOLUS   To wende have we no drede,
Nought for to do oure dette,
For to nevyn that is nede
Shall none on lyve us lette.

PETRUS   Ye Jewez that in Jerusalem dwelle,
Youre tales are false, that schall ye fynde.
That we are dronken we here you telle
Because ye hope we have bene pynnyd.
A prophette preved, his name is Johell,
A gentill Jewe of youre awne kynde,
He spekis thus in his speciall spell
And of this matere makis he mynde.
Be poyntis of prophicie
He tolde full ferre before,
This may ye noght denye,
For thus his wordis wore:
Et erit in novissimus diebus, dicit dominus,
effundam de spiritu meo super omnem carnem.5

III APOSTOLUS   Loo, losellis, loo, thus may ye lere
Howe youre elders wrotte alway.
The Holy Goste have we tane here
As youre awne prophettis prechid ay.

IV APOSTOLUS   Hitt is the myght of oure maistir dere,
All dedis that here are done this daye:
He giffis us myght and playne power
To conclude all that ye can saie.

I DOCTOR   There men hase mekill myght
Thurgh happe thei here have tone.

II DOCTOR   Wende we oute of ther sight
And latte them even allone.

I APOSTOLUS   Nowe, brethir myne, sen we all meffe
To teche the feithe to foo and frende,
Oure tarying may turne us to mischeffe,
Wherfore I counsaille that we wende
Untille Oure Lady and take oure leve.

II APOSTOLUS   Sertis so woll we with wordis hende.
Mi Lady, takis it noght to greve;
I may no lenger with you lende.
. . .

MARIA   Nowe, Petir, sen itt schall be soo
That ye have diverse gatis to gang,
Ther schall none dere you for to doo
Whils my Sone musteris you emang.
Butt John and Jamys, my cosyns twoo,
Loke that ye lenge not fro me lange.

JOHANNES   Lady, youre wille in wele and woo,
Itt schall be wroght, ellis wirke we wrang.

JACOBUS   Lady, we bothe are boune
Atte youre biddyng to be.

MARIA   The blissing of my Sone
Be boith with you and me.
Brethren; pay attention; speech; (t-note)
gracious; received into

left alive, eleven; (see note)
teach; faithfully
Before; an even [number]
Or; matter
apart taken
(see note); (t-note)

rule (control); advice
living and dead
prove explicitly
those; believes

great counsel; (t-note)


establish holy Church; (see note)

messenger; oppressed

be concerned with; obscure
We remember
went away from
(see note); (t-note)

(i.e., have known)
Unless I go away; (see note)

And after I have ascended; (see note); (t-note)


well-being; head; hand
told; time
foes; defend



tenth; count
Relieve; long [in time]



fools (villains) rave; (see note)

made; lies trust

rascal; lives
know not

to them

piece of cloth

gather; shout

riot (disturbance)

churls (peasants)
Unless; live; wish

(see note); (t-note)


be everlasting
believe; stories (narratives)
As long; steps; (see note)
[From] the fiend; prevents; flee; (t-note)
Holy Ghost
allows; to give
sin (error)


it was so; (see note)

kept; promised

spiritual health; (see note)
It gives; good fortune; health
such power
many; overcome

all together
wield (use)
By knowledge; clearly

virtues; protection
learn; (see note)
ought readily; yield up
guarded; year

manifests; among



joys more

come to pass

been shown
Sorrow will fill your heart; (see note)
But will be converted into joy; (see note)
Then; without care; (t-note)
told; some
occurred among

(i.e., strength of will)

are insane

talk; every country
have learned

place; understand it

presumptuous action
drunk; company of men; (see note)
new wine; warrant

deceivers; punished
Before; flee; any farther

affair (matter)


perils; (t-note)
destroyed; falsehood

warlocks; go

if for; debt (obligation)
say; needful
alive; prevent

proved; Joel
own tribe; (see note)
he brings to mind


(see note)

wretches; learn; (t-note)


taken (received)


go forth

remain; (see note); (t-note)

[four lines missing, see textual note]

ways; go

linger; long

or else; wrong



Go To Play 44, The Death of Mary