Play 43, Pentecost
Play 43, PENTECOST: FOOTNOTES
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.
Play 43, PENTECOST: EXPLANATORY NOTES
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).
Play 43, PENTECOST: TEXTUAL NOTES
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.
Play 43, PENTECOST: EXPLANATORY NOTE FOOTNOTES
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.
Go To Play 44, The Death of Mary