18. The Buffeting
Play 18, THE BUFFETING: FOOTNOTES
1 Here begins the buffeting
2 Lines 51–53: He shall not excuse himself, / I guarantee it to you, / by means of any plea
3 Lines 59–62: May he have much misfortune / who has made us work so hard / at walking / that I can continue only with difficulty
4 Lines 207–08: And everyone who is silent / appears herein to grant consent
5 Lines 255–56: Before your death becomes known
6 Lines 310–11: And we wish to do that / because by law we can
7 Lines 389–90: But it is not lawful for us to put any man to death (John 18:31)
8 Lines 519–20: Have this; carry it, villain, / for soon we shall make a fool of him [Christ]
9 Here ends the buffeting
Play 18, THE BUFFETING: EXPLANATORY NOTES
ABBREVIATIONS: Chester: The Chester Mystery Cycle, ed. Lumiansky and Mills (1974); CT: The Canterbury Tales, ed. Benson (1987); DSL: Dictionary of the Scots Language; Elliott: The Apocryphal New Testament, ed. Elliott; EP: The Towneley plays, ed. England and Pollard (1897); MED: Middle English Dictionary; MS: Huntington MS HM 1 (“the Towneley manuscript”); N-Town: The N-Town Plays, ed. Sugano (2007); OED: Oxford English Dictionary; REED: Records of Early English Drama; SC: The Towneley Plays, eds. Stevens and Cawley (1994); s.d.: stage direction; Whiting: Whiting, Proverbs, Sentences, and Proverbial Phrases; York: The York Corpus Christi Plays, ed. Davidson (2011).
The last of the plays here written entirely in the 13-line 'bob and wheel' stanza is also the only English play that deals with the buffeting of Jesus to the exclusion of Peter’s denial, those events being intertwined in all four gospel accounts. John 18:13–28 uniquely specifies the involvement of Annas, but to the exclusion of his son-in-law Caiaphas, whose subsequent meeting with Jesus (see John 18:24) is not actually described. In this play, in contrast to the York version (and indeed to the Towneley Conspiracy), relative to the volatile Caiaphas, Annas is the voice of reason and obedience to the law, although he orders the actual beating. Whereas John 18:22 mentions only a single blow, both Matthew 26:67–68 and Mark 14:65 have Jesus spat upon (see 19.81) and repeatedly beaten; Luke 22:63–64 supplies an influential detail in having Jesus beaten and mocked but then explicitly blindfolded and told to identify his attackers through “prophecy” (line 595) — a version of blind man’s buff(et) (see note to line 498 below). Also, as in many visual representations of the buffeting, Jesus is seated on a footstool, which here is explicitly called a “buffit” (line 507). For his part, Jesus speaks only once (lines 363–68), suffering silently.
1 Do io, furth io. “Yo” is an interjection used to drive animals forward; see 2.1, 25 and note. At this point, Torturer 1 is apparently driving Jesus in front of him, but will later be ahead (see line 64), likely pulling Jesus behind him through the crowd (and onto the stage area representing the high priests’ hall) by means of the rope that binds him, as occurs in many late medieval representations of the Passion, both narrative and visual; see line 621 and note to 19.75.
16–21 We have had . . . . Hetys worth a hangyng. That is, we have suffered heart pains (with all the walking we have done to get you here), but at last our hearts need yearn no longer, as you will have two or three beatings equivalent to a hanging. The term “heat” can refer to an intense, violent action (as in the heat of battle) or personal injury (see MED hete (n.1), sense 6 and hete (n.2)), and specifically, in this case, an intense buffeting or beating.
31Fare wordys can thou paynt. The word “paint” in this context means “set forth” — that is, to speak or write — but can imply false eloquence or flattery.
38–39 As good that thou had / Halden still thi clater. That is, you might as well have held your tongue and kept silent.
44–46 At the last . . . . we dyd never yll. These lines invert the standard doctrine that Christ, though guiltless, dies to save sinners.
55 Els falys his countenance. Or else his countenance falls — that is, he looks dismayed (not merely tired).
58 drynk. The use of “drink” to indicate suffering stems from biblical references to the cup of suffering; see for example Luke 22:42, where Jesus in Gethsemane asks that the cup be taken from him (an expression not used in the Conspiracy play here).
64 I shall walk in before. In leading the way into the high priests’ hall, Torturer 1 would also lead the bound Jesus (see note to line 1 above).
85–87 Myn een were not lowked . . . . Sen morowe. That is, I have not slept since (yesterday) morning.
92 Can ye hym oght apeche. That is, can you bring any charges against him? In the Conspiracy play, in contrast, Caiaphas and Annas are Jesus’ chief accusers, making some of the same charges as they hear in this play. See note to lines 166–69 below.
105–08 I hard hym say . . . . On the thrid day. See Matthew 26:61, Mark 14:58.
116 He lyes for the quetstone. The whetstone served as an emblematic reward for lying. Proverbial. See Whiting W216. See also MED whet-ston (n.), sense d.
130 I tell you before syr. That is, I speak openly; he repeats this phrase at line 170.
137–38 He settys not a fle wyng / Bi Syr Cesar full even. That is, he does not care about or is disrespectful of Caesar; see Luke 23:2, and line 329. To “not set a fly wing” is proverbial; see Whiting F356.
141–42 excusyd with his sotelté / A woman in avowtré. The story of the woman taken in adultery, based on John 8:3–11, is dramatized in York 24, Chester 12, and N-Town 24.
151 If he abowte wave. That is, if he is allowed to move about freely.
166–69 For ye two . . . . this losell heder. These lines imply that the torturers have brought Jesus to Annas and Caiaphas of their own volition, in contrast to the Conspiracy play, in which they are sent by Pilate, and to the gospel accounts, in which they are sent by the high priests themselves.
174–75 opposed if he wore, / He shuld be fon waryd. If he were to be prosecuted, he would be found accursed. They have accused Jesus, but have no power to prosecute; Caiaphas therefore begins his “examynyng” (line 186).
181–82 I shall thryng out the rottyn / Be we have all talkyd. By the time we have talked, I shall drive out the rotten — that is, whatever is keeping me from remembering what I have forgotten (line 180).
200 This is a great skorne. Caiaphas is upset by Jesus’ silence; in John’s account it is Jesus’ apparently scornful response to Annas’ questioning that provokes a blow from a servant (John 18:22).
202 wolfys-hede and out-horne. These two terms refer to raising an outcry in pursuit of an outlaw. The term “outhorn” can refer to the horn blown to raise the alarm, but here, like “wolf’s-head,” it refers to the cry of pursuit itself. The same phrase (here slightly emended) is used in the Judgment play (27.812, also in a 13-line 'bob and wheel' stanza).
217 Sir Sybré. The use of this particular name may relate to the term sibred, which refers to kinship or consanguinity (see MED sibred (n.), sense 1); Caiaphas has just sarcastically questioned Jesus regarding his parentage (lines 211–12) and social class (“lorde of name,” line 214), and will go on to refer to him as a foundling (line 220).
239–43 Therfor I shall thee name . . . . For a fatur. Therefore I will give you the title “King Copyn” in our game, as you shall regret; thus I shall introduce (or invest) you as a traitor. The name itself is obscure: SC suggest that it might signify “coxcomb” and thus Christ as king of fools (p. 558n241); it might also derive from the verb copen meaning to dress in a cope (MED copen (v.1)), garb that Caiaphas as mock-archbishop would likely be wearing (see 17.766), or even to Jesus’ seamless garment (see John 19:23, and the play of the Dice). The most likely meanings, however, derive from the verb coupen meaning either “pay the penalty” (MED coupen (v.4)) or “come to blows” (MED coupen (v.1)).
246 Wemé. This interjection, expressing anger, impatience, or surprise takes many forms in these plays; see 2.150 and note.
267 yit may ye be dayde. Yet may you be summoned to court. Annas repeatedly argues in the next stanzas that they must themselves at least appear to uphold the law or suffer the consequences.
306 All soft may men go far. That is, gentle moderation brings success.
342–44 Bot he that forsake . . . . his nek shall crak. I shall wring the neck of anyone who refuses respect (that is, Jesus).
352–60 Bot I shall do . . . . To dam. Annas uses the same verb, “ruse,” in two contrasting ways, stating that he will do as the law requires even if “the people” (line 353) praise Jesus (see MED rosen (v.), sense 2; see also line 49), while pointing out that others boast (sense 1a) that they will condemn him.
363–68 So thou says . . . . clowdys from abone. See Matthew 26:64.
401–03 Men of temporall lawes . . . . may not we. These and other lines reflect both the distinction between Jewish religious law and Roman law that informs the biblical Passion accounts (see John 18:31, quoted at lines 389–90), and a distinction between ecclesiastic and civic law in the Middle Ages.
433 he cam bot late. That is, he came in after the others. Jesus is not within striking distance, having apparently been led in by a rope (see line 64) and therefore standing at some distance behind his captors. Lines 599–600 further indicate that the buffeting itself takes place at some distance from Caiaphas; Caiaphas and Annas may be seated on a high dais above the others.
449–50 Els myght I have made up wark / Of yond harlot and mare. Or else I would have made short work of that scoundrel and sorcerer. The word “mare” (as in “nightmare”) in this context refers back to Jesus as a sorcerer (see“his soceres,” line 124). See MED mare (n.2), sense b.
482–83 I red not we mete / If that lad skap. That is, you had better not see me if Jesus escapes.
492 Sayn us lord with thy ryng. Caiaphas is represented here (as in medieval art more generally) as a parody of the Christian bishop who wore a ring on the hand used to give his blessing; kissing the bishop’s ring after such a blessing was a conventional sign of respect.
498 A new play of Yoyll. The 'game' that they play, striking a blindfolded person who must try to identify his attackers, while based on the gospel accounts (see headnote to the play, above) resembles hot cockles or blind man’s buff (or buffet). The association here with Yuletide, or the Christmas season, December through January, might indicate that this play, like the Shepherds plays and possibly others in this collection, were intended for (individual) performance in that season. The prologue to the second part of The Return to Parnassus refers to this Cambridge Yuletide play as “a Christmas toy indeede, as good a conceit as [stanging] hotcockles, or blindeman buffe” (Pilgrimage to Parnassus, p. 78; see OED hot cockles (n.)).
500 Fraword, a stoyll. Froward, whose name is synonymous with “perverse” (see MED froward (adj.), sense 1) has had no lines to this point, but is often assumed to come onstage with the other torturers at the beginning of the play, to allow for a visual consistency in a supposed sequential production, given that the Conspiracy play ends with Jesus being led away by two soldiers and one other character, Malchus, while the Scourging includes three torturers (see SC p. 555n1). Froward refers to his being in service to one or both of the torturers (line 555), and apparently leaves with them at the end of the play (see lines 623–24), but such a character seems unlikely to be silent or unnoticed if onstage at the outset.
502–03 Now els were it doyll / And unnett. That is, it would be (more) painful and difficult for him to be handled another way, rather than allowing him to sit on a stool.
507 Go fetche us a light buffit. A buffet is a footstool (MED (n.1)), but the term also puns on buffet as blow (n.2) in this context.
512–14 If he stode . . . . in a croft. In response to Froward’s questioning complaint that Jesus should not be allowed to sit on a stool, Torturer 1 states sarcastically that, if Jesus stood on top of the stool (“up on loft,” line 512), they could not easily reach to hit him, but would hop and dance like fighting cocks.
518 As fell I the dew. SC transcribe this line as fell i[n] the dew, and offer several tentative readings (p. 561n518); however, one can read the line as written, with fell meaning “to make fall” — that is, you can show fine skill as easily as I can make the dew fall. Falling dew is frequently associated with divine blessing in Hebrew scripture.
519 Have this; bere it, shrew. Froward grudgingly gives a stool to one of the torturers, but apparently does not bring it to him, letting him do the work of carrying it.
521–24 Com syr . . . . Youre sete is arayde. Torturer 2 sarcastically treats Jesus as “a lorde of reknowne” with his use of “syr” and “ye” (rather than the usual “thou”), which gets picked up by Torturer 1 in the following line with a pun on “crown.”
548 thou was ever curst. That is, froward, or perverse — see the note to line 500, above.
559 Thou shalbe cald to pervyce. That is, given your tendency to argue everything, you shall be called to a disputation at the Inns of Court. The “parvis” was named for the enclosed courtyard in front of a church (see MED parvis(e (n.)) where such disputations were originally held.
571–72 Cryst curs myght he have / That last bond his heade. Torturer 2 has put the blindfold around Jesus’ head and tied it, while Froward asks questions (and possibly interferes as well); Froward now curses him, but obliquely, and with audacious anachronism: this is, after all, Christ’s head that is being bound.
575 thus. The lines that follow repeatedly use the deictic or demonstrative adverb “thus,” among other means, to indicate the blows with which Jesus is struck — thus building stage directions into the lines themselves. Froward joins in the beating by line 590.
586–87 hym refe / All his fonde talys. That is, to silence him. But of course — aside from his brief speech at lines 363–68 — Jesus is already silent throughout this play (see Isaiah 53:7).
591 And knop out the skalys. And knock out the scalls — that is, knock any scabs or dandruff off his head (see SC p. 563n591 for a more extensive discussion of this variously-interpreted line).
619 Com furth, old crate. The word “crate” may be a misreading for “trate” (see 12.570, “trattys”), referring to a hag or old woman (see MED trot (n.2)).
621 We shall lede thee a trott. Torturer 1 leads Jesus out, pulling him by the rope with which he is bound; see notes to line 1, above, and to 19.75.
643 With this dagger so keyn. Vice figures in morality plays commonly play with daggers; Caiaphas has likely been playing with one since the outset.
Play 18, THE BUFFETING: TEXTUAL NOTES
ABBREVIATIONS: EP: The Towneley Plays, ed. England and Pollard (EETS, 1897); Facs: The Towneley Cycle: A Facsimile of Huntington MS HM 1, ed. Cawley and Stevens; MED: Middle English Dictionary; MS: Huntington MS HM 1 (base text); SC: The Towneley Plays, ed. Stevens and Cawley (EETS, 1994); s.d.: stage direction; Surtees: The Towneley Mysteries, ed. Raine; York: The York Corpus Christi Plays, ed. Davidson (2011).
Before 1 MS: in the top margin above the decorated initial a seventeenth-century hand has written Thomas Hargreaues (see note to 20.553–71 below); to the right of that, above the main title, is written g holy and just below that holynes and godlynes ys the, among other less decipherable scribbles.
8 trespast. So SC. MS: trespass.
12 beyn. So EP, SC. MS: this word has been inserted above the line in a later hand.
20 two. So EP. MS: ij.
106 Oure tempyll so gay. This line is repeated at the beginning of the next line in the MS, but crossed out in red, with small black crosses in the left margin and above gay (as the last cancelled word).
119 wyles. So EP, SC. MS: lyes.
131 kyng. So SC. MS: prophete, accidentally copying line 159.
146 foure. MS: iiij.
202 wolfys-hede and out-horne. MS: wols hede and out horne. See 27.812 and Explanatory Notes for both lines.
205 ethe. MS: written above the line in the hand of the main scribe.
307 lawes ar not myrk. MS: all but the first letters of the first and last of these words are heavily overwritten; several other words on this same page are overwritten due to faded ink.
309 wordys. MS has wodys before this word, with the w crossed out.
326 renyd. So SC. EP: reuyd.
366 I. So SC. EP: I do. MS: do, with d crossed out, likely anticipating downe at the end of the same line.
391 ye. MS: before this word is the first stroke of a w (likely anticipating wote).
455 knokys. MS: knygh (repeated from the previous line) is heavily crossed out before this word.
488 sytt ye and see it. So SC, emended for rhyme. MS: see ye and sytt.
499 full. MS: before this word is another letter, likely the first stroke of a w.
500 Fraword. MS: Frawrord.
547 thi. MS: inserted above line in the hand of the main scribe.
554 thurst. So EP. SC, MS: thrust.
611 Knokyd. So EP, SC. MS: knokyp.
621–22 MS: the speech headings for Torturer 2 and Froward have each been placed a line early, then crossed out and underlined with dots, the correct speech heading then being added in each case.
634 All had bene qwytt than. MS: Bot he deme the sothe tha (anticipating line 636) is written and crossed out at the beginning of this line, with a faint cross written in the left margin.