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Play 46, The Coronation of the Virgin


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 Coronation pageant is given to the Hostelers, or Innholders, in the Register. However, in the Ordo paginarum the ascription to the “Hostilers” is written over an erasure, and the second list which follows in the York Memorandum Book A/Y reveals that it was originally the responsibility of the “Maior etc.,” meaning the Mayor and Council. The York records show that only in 1463 were the Hostelers given the play.1 The play is short and much less dramatic than the spectacular Assumption of the Virgin play. The versification, mainly tetrameter in octaves and quatrains but with some stanzas in tail-rhyme (lines 21–32), is hardly exciting. The Assumption is reenacted, with six angels who will sing some unspecified music, but only after eighty lines. Yet this should rightfully be the climactic pageant in the Marian series that begins with the Virgin’s death, and so it perhaps may have been in its visual spectacle and its music before the affluent Weavers set out to outdo it with their pageant, as likely was the case. The iconography of the Coronation of the Virgin was extremely popular at York and, in spite of the effects of iconoclasm, a considerable number of images remain.2 A common depiction was of the Trinity with Jesus crowning his mother as Queen of Heaven,3 but in the play he seems to be alone with her among the angels of heaven. The recitation of the Five Joys of Mary (lines 113–28) and the following lines to the end of the play are clearly designed for Jesus, though in the extant text in the Register they were broken up into short segments distributed in order among the angels. This may be the way the lines were spoken in c. 1463–70, but the arrangement hardly makes logical sense and cannot have been the original intent of the playwright. An addition to the Coronation pageant, entered in the manuscript following the Last Judgment play, is not included here.4 It dates from the sixteenth century and, as Beadle notes, “does not seem to have been framed with any particular metrical principles in mind.”5

1–36 The scene is in heaven. Jesus speaks concerning his mother to the angels and requests that they “fecche hir hedir” (line 18). The angels then descend.

37–40 Hayle, the doughtir of blissid Anne . . . fendis boste. The story of the Immaculate Conception, in which Mary was conceived without physical intercourse, was a popular one, and Anne frequently appeared in local devotional images (see YA, p. 35).

42–43 oure Saveoure, / The whiche that made mankynde of noght. Referring to the tradition that the Second Person of the Trinity was also the Creator. See, for example, the Holkham Bible Picture Book, fols. 2–3v, in which the Creator has a cross nimbus.

57 The angels have now come before Mary, but it is not clear whether she is emerging from a tomb, as presumably should be the case.

80 s.d. Cantando. The previous line suggests that it is Mary who should sing, but the late stage direction is for the angels, probably played or directed by clerks, at least in earlier times when the Mayor and Council were in control of the play. It is possible that minstrels also played in the pageant, but not necessarily in connection with the singing at this point in the pageant; see REED: York, 1:54, 75, 86, and 94, and Rastall, Minstrels Playing, p. 42. There is no information about the nature of the music, but it can be safely assumed that it would have been derived from the liturgy celebrating the Assumption and Coronation.

101 Come forth with me. Embedded stage direction; Mary is now to step forth onto the heaven stage, and at line 155 she will be crowned Queen of Heaven by Jesus. That this is at a high level on the pageant wagon is specified by line 133: “Full high on highte.”

113–28 As noted above, the listing of Five Joys of the Virgin, culminating in the Ascension of Jesus into heaven, and finally her own Assumption and Coronation.

142–43 In hevene blisse that is so bright / With martiris and with confessouris. The saints, who are translated directly to heaven without having to pass through Purgatory.

157–58 Myne aungellis bright, a songe ye singe / In the honnoure of my modir dere. Another song will be sung, but again it is not specified. An appropriate liturgical piece for the Coronation of Mary must be assumed. This will occur after Jesus’ blessing is conferred on the audience — i.e., a representation of a blessing, surely with appropriate hand gestures.


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).

To right of Scribe B’s craft ascription, in LH: Inholderes.

1 Myne. In Reg, large capital M sketched in.
Reg: at right, above, by later hands: caret and memorandum.

80, s.d. Cantando. Reg: stage direction in red, at left; music not specified.

113–44 Lines here assigned to Jesus, following RB; assigned in Reg to angels, followed by LTS.


Footnote 1 See Dorrell, “Mayor of York”; REED: York, 1:94.

Footnote 2 See YA, pp. 107–11.

Footnote 3 A good example, though damaged and lacking the original head of the Virgin Mary, is the Assumption in the east window of c. 1470 in the church of Holy Trinity, Goodramgate, in York (Inventory of the Historical Monuments, vol. 5, color pl. 58).

Footnote 4 The addition is printed as a “later fragment” in RB, pp. 404–05.

Footnote 5 RB, p. 462.

The Osteleres
































JESUS   Myne aungellis that are bright and schene,
On my message take ye the waye
Unto Marie, my modir clene;
That berde is brighter than the daye,
Grete hir wele haly bedene
An to that semely schall ye saye,
Off hevene I have hir chosen quene
In joie and blisse that laste schall aye.

I wille you saie what I have thoughte
And why that ye schall tille hir wende;
I will hir body to me be brought
To beilde in blisse withouten ende.

Mi flesshe of hir in erthe was tone;
Unkindely thing it were, iwis,
That scho schulde bide be hire allone
And I beilde here so high in blis.

Forthy tille hir than schall ye fare
Full frendlye for to fecche hir hedir;
There is nothyng that I love more
In blisse thanne schall we belde togedir.

I ANGELUS   O, blisful Lorde, nowe moste of myght,
We are redye with all oure myght
Thy bidding to fulfille,
To thi modir, that maiden free,
Chosen cheffe of chastité,
As is thy wille.

II ANGELUS   Off this message we are full fayne;
We are redy with myght and mayne
Bothe be day and be nyght.
Hevene and erthe nowe gladde may be
That frely foode nowe for to see
In whome that thou did light.

III ANGELUS   Lorde Jesu Criste, oure governoure,
We are all boune atte thi bidding:
With joie and blisse and grete honnoure,
We schall thi modir to thee bringe.

IV ANGELUS   Hayle, the doughtir of blissid Anne,
Thee whiche consayved thurgh the Holy Goste,
And thou brought forthe both God and manne,
The whiche felled doune the fendis boste.

V ANGELUS   Haile, roote of risse, that fourthe brought
That blissid floure, oure Saveoure,
The whiche that made mankynde of noght
And brought hym uppe into his toure.

VI ANGELUS   Of thee allone he wolde be borne
Into this worlde of wrecchidnesse
To save mankynde that was forlorne
And bringe thame oute of grete distresse.

I ANGELUS   Thou may be gladde, bothe day and nyght
To se thy Sone oure Saveoure;
He will thee croune nowe, Lady bright,
Thou blissid modir and faire floure.

II ANGELUS   Marie, modir and mayden clene,
Chosen cheffe unto thi childe,
Of hevene and erthe thou arte quene;
Come uppe nowe, Lady, meke and mylde.

III ANGELUS   Thi Sone has sente us aftir thee
To bringe thee nowe unto his blisse;
Ther schall thou belde and blithe be,
Of joie and mirthe schall thou noght misse.

IV ANGELUS   For in his blisse withouten ende
There schall thou alkynne solas see,
Thi liffe in likyng for to lende
With thi dere Sone in Trinité.

MARIA   A, blissid be God, Fadir all weldand,
Hymselffe wottith best what is to doo;
I thanke hym with harte and hande
That thus his blisse wolde take me too.

And you also, his aungellis bright
That fro my Sone to me is sente,
I am redy with all my myght
For to fulfille his comaundement.

V ANGELUS   Go we nowe, thou worthi wight,
Unto thi Sone that is so gente;
We schall thee bringe into his sight
To croune thee quene, thus hase he mente.

VI ANGELUS   Alle hevene and erthe schall worschippe thee
And baynnely be at thi biddinge;
Thy joie schall evere incressid be,
Of solas sere than schall thou synge.


I ANGELUS   Jesu, Lorde and heveneis Kyng,
Here is thi modir thou aftir sente.
We have her brought at thi biddynge;
Take hir to thee as thou haste mente.

MARIA   Jesu, my Sone, loved motte thou be.
I thanke thee hartely in my thought
That this wise ordand is for me,
And to this blisse thou haste me broght.

JESUS   Haile be thou, Marie, maiden bright,
Thou arte my modir and I thy Sone.
With grace and goodnesse arte thou dight,
With me in blisse ay schall thou wonne.

Nowe schall thou have that I thee hight,
Thy tyme is paste of all thi care:
Wirschippe schall the aungellis bright,
Of newe schall thou witte nevere more.

MARIA   Jesu my Sone, loved motte thou be.
I thanke thee hartely in my thoght
That on this wise ordand is for me
And to this blisse thou has me broght.

JESUS   Come forth with me, my modir bright,
Into my blisse we schall assende
To wonne in welthe, thou worthi wight,
That neveremore schall it have ende.

Thi newis, modir, to neven thame nowe,
Are turned to joie, and soth it is
All aungellis bright thei schall thee bowe
And worschippe thee worthely, iwis.
For mekill joie, modir, had thou
Whan Gabriell grette thee wele be this
And tolde thee tristely for to trowe
Thou schulde consayve the kyng of blisse.

Nowe maiden, meke and modir myne,
Itt was full mekill myrthe to thee
That I schuld ligge in wombe of thine
Thurgh gretyng of an aungell free.
The secounde joie, modir, was syne
Withouten payne whan thou bare me.
The thirde aftir my bittir peyne
Fro dede on lyve thou sawe me be.

The fourthe was when I stied uppe right
To hevene unto my Fadir dere.
My modir, when thou saught that sight,
To thee it was a solas seere.
This is the fifte, thou worthy wight,
Of the jois this has no pere;
Nowe schall thou belde in blisse so bright
Forever and ay, I highte thee here.

For thou arte cheffe of chastité,
Off all women thou beris the floure,
Nowe schalle thou, Lady, belde with me
In blisse that schall evere indowre.
Full high on highte in magesté
With all worshippe and all honnoures
Wher we schall evere samen be,
Beldand in oure bigly boures.

Alle kynnys swetnesse is therin
That manne uppon may thynke, or wiffe,
With joie and blisse that nevere schall blynne;
Ther schall thou, Lady, lede thy liffe.

Thou schalte be worshipped with honnoure
In hevene blisse that is so bright
With martiris and with confessouris,
With all virginis, that worthy wight.
Before all othere creatours
I schall thee giffe both grace and might
In hevene and erthe to sende socoure
To all that servis thee day and nyght.

I graunte thame grace with all my myght
Thurgh askyng of thi praier
That to thee call be day or nyght
In what disease so that thei are.

Thou arte my liffe and my lekyng,
Mi modir and my mayden schene.
Ressayve this croune, my dere darlyng,
Ther I am kyng, thou schalte be quene.

Myne aungellis bright, a songe ye singe
In the honnoure of my modir dere,
And here I giffe you my blissing
Haly nowe, all in fere.
shining; (see note); (t-note)

Greet; wholly forthwith



by herself

lovingly; bring; hither


worthy person
(i.e., In whose womb)


(see note)

put down; boast

branch; forth
flower; (see note)

tower (i.e., heaven)


(see note)

dwell; happy

every kind of solace
bliss; live





[The angels] are to sing; (see note); (t-note)




passed; trouble
Worship [you]
annoyance; know (experience)

praised must


(see note)

annoyances; speak

trustfully; believe

(see note); (t-note)


since (when)

From death to life

climbed (went)



bears; flower


commodious bowers

types of sweetness


(see note)
person (i.e., Mary)


liking (desire)

(see note)

Wholly; all together

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