17. The Conspiracy
Play 17, THE CONSPIRACY: FOOTNOTES
1 Here begins the conspiracy etc.
2 Lines 12–13: Sirs, follow my commands, / to prevent the breaking of your bones
3 Lines 58–60: He is so virtuous in his actions / that no living person can accuse him / of any fault to us
4 Then Judas comes
5 Then Saint John says
6 Then John and Peter shall proceed to the city and a man should meet them etc.
7 Then John and Peter prepare the meal
8 Then they eat, and Judas extends his hand into the dish with Jesus
9 Here he will wash the feet of the disciples
10 And putting water into a basin he comes to Peter (see John 13:5–6)
11 Lines 416–17: Unless I wash you, you shall fail / to share in heaven’s bliss with me (see John 13:8)
12 Then he shall pray and say
13 And he shall return to his disciples
14 Lines 530–31: The fiend heartily assails you / To make you fall into despair
15 And again he prays
16 And he shall return to his disciples
17 And for the third time he shall pray
18 You are discovered, whatever this might portend
19 Here ends the capture of Jesus
Play 17, THE CONSPIRACY: 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).
Much like the Towneley manuscript as a whole, the Conspiracy pageant has been cobbled together from several disparate sources; even the difference between its incipit (“The Conspiracy etc.”) and explicit (“The Capture of Jesus”) seems to point to different origins. The sections written in quatrains (see note to line 432 below) and in couplets appear to have once been separate plays with notable overlap in subject, written in different dialects; while the rest, including the opening and middle sections written in the distinctive 13-line 'bob and wheel' stanza and in a variety of other forms, appears to form a complete play on its own (for further discussion and reconstruction, see Epp, “The Towneley Conspiracy”). The extant whole is as interesting as it is inconsistent. Two different characterizations of Pilate have become one, while any trace of the institution of the Eucharist — the central event for a Corpus Christi cycle such as that of York, but also for the Church more generally — has disappeared. As it stands, unlike most of the others in the Towneley collection, the play clearly requires a place-and-scaffold staging, with separate areas for Pilate’s palace, the room used for the Last Supper, and Mount Olivet (with a view to heaven), as well as undifferentiated space in between.
5 this burnyshyd brande. Pilate brandishes a sword, as the same character does in the plays of the Scourging (see 19.4) and the Dice (21.51–52), and as Caesar Augustus and Herod do in other plays (see 7.b.5 and 12.155 and notes); see also line 599. He is likely standing at this point, but is seated by line 24.
36–39 all fals indytars . . . . to my sight. All of those listed here were traditionally associated with falsehood. Outriders delivered summonses and collected taxes, but could abuse that power, while “juror” was long considered synonymous with false witness and slander (see OED (n.), sense 2), and questmongers were involved in judicial inquiries but reputed to initiate lawsuits for personal profit. Interestingly, these lines are repeated almost verbatim in another opening speech assigned to Pilate, in the same stanza form (19.23–26; see also 27.270–71).
42–43 So can I well consider / The trowth I most displeas you. I can so easily realize the truth that I must displease you. That is, I can see through your lies and corruption.
78 Caiaphas (speech heading). Caiaphas and Annas (his father-in-law, according to John 18:13) have apparently been onstage from the beginning, effectively exemplifying Pilate’s “fals indytars” (see line 36 and note). In the biblical accounts, Pilate is not involved in the arrest or any prior conspiracy, which is arranged by the chief priests under Caiaphas (see Matthew 26:3–16).
120 legys agans oure law. That is, he makes allegations against our law; see MED leggen (v.1), sense 2a, which cites a similar phrase from the York play of Herod and the Magi (“legge agayne oure lay,” York 16.203).
122–25 dom and defe . . . . he makys theym hayll. See also lines 741–43, where the healing of the deaf and dumb (based on Mark 7:31–37) is associated with the healing of Lazarus. None of the Towneley plays other than the misplaced Lazarus play represents the public ministry of Jesus or the associated miracles.
126–27 And for sich warkys as he is went / Of ilk welth he may avayll. That is, for such works as he has gone about doing, he can profit from the wealth. The suggestion seems to be that he is paid for his miraculous work; however, “wealth” can refer to blessings, general well-being, or even a local populace.
150 the loth Lazare of Betany. Virtually the same line appears in the Harrowing of Hell play; see 22.170 and note.
166–67 have here my hand, / And ilk man beyldys hym as his brother. That is, I swear what I say to be true: every man defends him as if he were a brother. The first of these lines requires a raised hand as a gesture of oath-taking.
176–77 For bot if that losell lere oure lore / And leyf his gawdys he were as goode. For unless that scoundrel learns our doctrine and leaves his tricks he is as good (as slain — line 173).
180 oure tempyll. Pilate ahistorically identifies himself here as Jewish.
186 The dwill he hang you high to dry. Virtually the same phrase is used by Herod in the Magi play (10.455; see also 2.13).
191 suffer over oure Sabote day. In Matthew 26:5 the chief priests and elders advise that Jesus should not be arrested during the festival of Passover (not over the Sabbath) to avoid a public outcry; Jesus is traditionally thought to have celebrated the Passover with his disciples on a Thursday, killed the next day, and buried before sundown — the beginning of the Sabbath.
210 all youre counsell will I ken. I know all your council’s will — that is, all that the council wishes to do (as clarified in the next line).
240 Not els bot if ye will hym by. That is, I have nothing else to do here unless you want to “buy” Jesus.
257 hym that ye have boght. This line reverses the traditional phrase referring to Jesus as “him that you/us bought” (see the note to 10.366).
258–61 Yei, and then . . . . youre meneye. Yes, and then we may be so bold as to separate him from his followers and hold him here in confinement as one of your retinue.
264 thryrty pennys. According to Matthew 26:15, Judas was paid thirty pieces of silver for his betrayal; John 12:4–6 asserts that Judas was a thief, upset that the feet of Jesus were anointed (by Mary of Bethany in John’s gospel, but by an unnamed woman at the house of Simon the Leper in Mark 14:3–5, as related in lines 274–305; see also Matthew 26:6–9) using ointment that could have been sold for “three hundred pence” (according to early English translations, echoed in line 295). These details gave rise to the tradition — outlined in lines 298–305 — that Judas practiced a sort of reverse tithe, stealing the tenth part of the common purse, and felt aggrieved that he had lost thirty pence by not selling that ointment. This tradition also informs the York and Chester plays, and such works as the Northern Passion, which is often cited as an important influence both on York and on several of the Towneley plays. See also the headnote to the The Hanging of Judas, included as an appendix to this edition.
307 Sen he wate thee with sich a wrast. Since he inflicted such a trick on you. A closely similar line is spoken by one of Herod’s counselors in York 16.243 (see MED weiten (v.), and wreste (n.), sense 1c).
325 Now ar we even for onys and ay. This is Judas’ last line prior to the Last Supper; the lack of reference to him in the lines that follow suggests that he leaves Pilate’s hall to join the other disciples immediately after speaking.
330 We shall hym have and that in hy. This line, joined by concatenation to the last line of the previous 12-line stanza, begins an 8-line stanza that is followed in the MS by a long series of couplets and one of two sections in quatrains (the other being the closing section, lines 676–779; see also the note to lines 588–89 below). Omitting these sections, such that line 337 is followed by lines 624–75 (with slight rearrangement — see note to lines 624–36 below), leaves intact what appears to be a coherent pageant (for further discussion, see Epp, “The Towneley Conspiracy”).
342–43 a man / Beryng water in a can. See Mark 14:13, Luke 22:10. While the stage direction after line 357 is ambiguous (see note below), the man they follow and the man to whom they are to speak are evidently not the same person in the gospel accounts, or according to lines 344–48 (which lines are taken almost verbatim from the Northern Passion; see Foster, “The Mystery Plays and the Northern Passion,” p. 170).
351 A lytyll whyle to ese me. While “ese” could mean the same as its modern equivalent, “ease” here means “to accommodate” or “to provide hospitality” (see MED esen (v.), senses 1 and 2); see also the similar use of the adverb “esely” in the play of Judgment 27.625, meaning “hospitably.”
357, s.d. Tunc pergent Iohannes et Petrus ad ciuitatem . . . This apparent stage direction, based on Mark 14:16, is likely related to reading rather than staging (perhaps a reader’s comment in the exemplar treated as or assumed to be a stage direction by the Towneley scribe), visual representation of a “city” being unnecessary to the action of the play. The number of apparent stage directions in this section is highly unusual, yet few if any would be useful to actual performance, relative to the dialogue itself (see the note to the stage direction following line 407 below).
361 Householder. The speech heading here translates the manuscript’s Paterfamilias (on whose role see Luke 22:11) — literally “father of the family” but used to refer to the head of the household.
366–68 Lo, here a chambre . . . . I shal warand fare strewed. That is, here is a chamber that I guarantee to be well-strewn with rushes, in which you can have your feast. Rushes, traditionally used as a floor covering, were ceremonially strewn on church floors in England as late as the nineteenth century (a custom since revived in some parts of the country).
375, s.d. Tunc comedent et Judas porrigit manum in discum cum Jesu. Jesus immediately (line 376) draws attention to this act, which as in gospel accounts he then uses to reveal his betrayer; see lines 394–95 and Matthew 26:23, Mark 14:20.
382 is it oght I. That is, is it I, in any respect, that would betray you? See Matthew 26:22, Mark 14:19.
393[a] we two Jamys. This is the only line assigned to the apostle James. It may indicate that two actors should speak in unison; however, a single actor could well speak for or represent both James, son of Zebedee (and brother to John; see also line 516), and James, son of Alphaeus — that is, only one actor is needed here along with the other seven named. Three other biblical disciples (see Matthew 10:2–4) are either unrepresented or silent, including Matthew, Bartholomew, and Thomas (the central character in Thomas of India and the first to speak in the Ascension play; see also the note to 16.15).
404–05 thou shall thryse apon a thraw / Forsake me or the cok craw. That is, you shall forsake me in an instant before the cock crows three times; see Matthew 26:34. This prediction (of an action that does not occur in any of the Towneley plays, but see York 29.86–169) is repeated in lines 450–53, part of the section in quatrains; these sections very likely have their origins as separate plays, imperfectly joined with another in longer stanzas (see note to line 330 above).
407, s.d. Hic lavet pedes discipulorum. The direction, based (like the next) on John 13:5–6, appears to be a reader’s comment rather than anything related to performance; see the note to the stage direction following line 357 above. While it is clearly placed in the MS, written in red like all apparent stage directions in this play, the designated action clearly does not belong here, as the next lines of dialogue refer to preparation for the foot-washing. Indeed, it is unclear whether Jesus should actually wash anyone’s feet but Peter’s, given the lack of any dialogue to this effect; at line 435, following John 13:14, he tells them to wash each other’s feet, which they could potentially do during the dialogue that follows.
420 Ye ar clene bot not all. See John 13:10. Inclusion here of this line implies that Judas has not left immediately after being revealed as traitor; compare John 13:26–30. He is again in Pilate’s hall by line 602.
432 Now wote ye . . . . This line begins a passage in quatrains that, with the exception of lines 624–75, continues to the end of the extant play; it likely once formed a separate play, as mentioned in the headnote (for further discussion, see Epp, “The Towneley Conspiracy”).
444–47 For when the hyrd . . . . thus can say. See Matthew 26:31, Zacharias 13:7.
453 Thou shall deny me tymes thre. See John 13:38. Peter’s denial is not dramatized in any of the Towneley plays; see the headnote to play 18, the Buffeting, and the note to 25.77–78.
456–513 Now loke . . . . on oure way. This lengthy speech in quatrains closely follows John 14 in its entirety.
504 the prynce of this warld. That is, Satan; see John 14:30.
515 Olyvete. See Matthew 26:30, which specifies also that the disciples depart after a hymn, the singing of which (while not specified in the text, as can occur with extra-textual music) could mark the ostensible travel time to the next stage area. Mount Olivet, or the Mount of Olives, was the site of Gethsemane (see Matthew 26:36). The stage action that follows appears to require a multilevel staging, with Peter, James, and John at some distance from the other disciples (see lines 516–17, following Matthew 26:36–37 and Mark 14:32–33), but “beneath” (line 520) the area where Jesus prays.
535, s.d. Et iterum orabit. While such action is not indicated by this or any other stage direction, Jesus must here return to the area in which he has been praying.
552 The Trinity (speech heading). In Luke 22:43 an angel appears to Jesus to give him strength. The apparent presence here of the Trinity (MS: Trinitas) in addition to Jesus — the Son — is theologically awkward at best, but may indicate staging: the Trinity was often represented as a “Throne of Grace” figure with God the Father (here as sole actor) holding a crucifix (indicating the “bytter passyon” that the Son is about to endure — see line 548), on which is perched a dove representing the Holy Ghost.
572–76 Sen thou art man . . . . with his underlowte. These lines refer to the Harrowing of Hell, represented in play 22.
577 Wytt ye well. The shift from “thou” (line 572) to “ye” may indicate that God addresses the audience rather than Jesus in these, his final lines.
580 Slepe ye now and take youre rest. Jesus has evidently returned to address the three sleeping disciples. The scene shifts abruptly after this quatrain to Pilate’s hall, the disciples and Jesus presumably remaining in place.
588–89 For I am governowre of the law; / My name it is Pilate. This (re- )introduction of Pilate as a character suggests that this section was once part of a separate play, written in quatrains and unrelated to the longer stanzas that currently open the play (see note to line 330 above) as well as to the section in couplets (lines 338–431); Pilate’s call for peace at line 584, which now functions to draw attention back from Mount Olivet to Pilate’s hall, further suggests that this quatrain may once have been an opening speech.
599 With this I bere in hy. As at line 5 (see note above) Pilate brandishes his sword.
619 spende and spede. This proverbial expression means “expend yourselves and prosper” — “spend” can refer to exhaustion or bloodshed as well as simple expenditure of energy.
624 Malchus. Malchus is named as a servant of the high priest in John 18:10. See also note to lines 324–36 below.
624–36 Sir . . . . thay be light. This stanza appears to be misplaced, given the reference in line 628 to “Crist that prophett” a full stanza before Soldier 2 explains that “Men call hym Crist” (line 642). In the hypothetical reconstruction of the Conspiracy play with quatrains and couplets eliminated (see the headnote, and the note to 330 above), this stanza (reattributed to Soldier 2 rather than, uniquely, to Malchus miles — “Malchus the soldier” — as in the MS) follows rather than precedes the next two concatenated stanzas, and immediately precedes what becomes Pilate’s closing speech (lines 663–75).
637 pall. The term refers to fine clothing, possibly in royal purple; see note to 16.145.
656 thre knyghtys. The proposed reconstruction of the Conspiracy play (see the headnote, and the note to 330 above) that excludes the couplets and quatrains requires only two soldiers; this line could originally have read “two knyghtys.”
663 Now, curtes kasers of Kamys kyn. Now, courteous kaisers of Cain’s kin. In the Judgment play, Jesus addresses “ye cursid catyfs of Kames kyn” (27.648). A K spelling for this name is also used in the parallel line from the York Doomsday pageant (“Kaymes,” see York 47.317), but not in the Towneley or York plays of Cain and Abel.
707 byd hym do thee right. Bid him make you right — that is, heal you. Peter here cuts off Malchus’ ear with a sword; see John 18:10.
715 In nomine patris. Jesus (the Son) here uses only the first part of the usual Trinitarian formula (involving the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; see for example 15.185–90 and note).
741–43 From dede to lyfe . . . . salfyd from sare. See the note to lines 122–25, above.
742 Sen stalkyd stylly bi the see-swoghe. That is, he then walked silently on the rushing sea. This line apparently refers to Jesus’ walking on the Sea of Galilee (see for example John 6:16–21) and contrasts Jesus’ stillness with the storm, a swoghe or sough (MED swough, (n.1)) being a rushing sound as of wind or water. However, this event happens before rather than after the raising of Lazarus in John’s gospel (the sole source for the Lazarus episode; see John 11), contrary to what these lines imply.
766 He has the rewll of holy kyrk. Caiaphas was likely commonly costumed much as a medieval archbishop would be.
772 Step furth in the wenyande. The “waniand” or waning moon was considered unlucky; the phrase is a common mild curse. See MED waning(e (ger.), sense 3c. See 9.585 and note to 2.227–29.
778–79 Till thou com . . . shall no man. Malchus does not appear in the Buffeting play involving “Syr Cayphas,” which follows in the MS sequence.
Play 17, THE CONSPIRACY: TEXTUAL NOTES
[SC’s edition of this play includes an unusual number of inadvertent formatting errors, such as speech headings included as part of the dialogue and lines joined to the wrong stanza, correctly placed here but otherwise unnoted; MS as usual marks some rhymes but no stanza divisions.]
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 Incipit Conspiracio etc. So SC. MS has c with an abbreviation mark after conspiracio.
9 onys. So EP, SC. MS: ony; the rest of the word has been cropped with the edge of the page.
22 worthy. So EP, SC. MS: wor; the rest of word is cropped.
34 And. MS: another hand has faintly written what appears to be a th in the margin just before this word.
36 indytars. So EP, SC. MS: indydytars.
76 spech. So SC. MS: shech.
77 And overcom everylkone. MS: a space has been left just prior to this line (where two lines are normally written as one), evidently for the missing twelfth line of a regular 13-line stanza, but just prior to a group of (likewise regular) twelve-line stanzas.
113 Wherfor. MS: the r1 is inserted above the line.
124 harmes. So EP, SC. MS: hames.
142 be there. MS: the word þer is crossed out between these words.
147 rightwysnes. So SC. MS: rightwytnes.
171 his. MS: the malformed s is written in darker ink over a smudge.
200 Go. MS: a T is crossed out before this, at the beginning of the line.
224 twenty. So EP. MS: xx.
264 thryrty. MS: xxx.
302 thre. So EP. MS: iij.
337 so. MS: the s is overwritten (as are several other words and letters on this page, due to faded ink) and disfigured.
368 warand fare strewed. So EP. SC: warand it fare strewed. The word it is barely visible in MS, having apparently been erased.
368, s.d. Johannes et Petrus. MS: the entire stage direction is written in red, like others here, but with the s of Johannes and the r of Petrus overwritten in black.
374 Commys. MS: the abbreviation sign for ys is overwritten with an e.
375, s.d. Judas porrigit manum in discum cum Jhesu. MS: the entire stage direction is written in red but with the first three of these words and the h (with abbreviation mark) of Ihu overwritten in black.
379 shall me betray. So EP, SC. MS: shall betray.
380 Lord, whoever that be may. MS: Dere master, is it oght I? (see line 382) written previous to this line, but crossed out in red.
386 am I oght. So SC. MS: am oght with a faint line in between.
388 is it oght I. So SC. MS: is oght I.
392 hight. MS: t inserted above the line.
410 Peter (speech heading). MS: Petrus written in red over an erasure.
503 speake. So EP, SC. MS: spke, with ea inserted above the line (with a caret mark below) in a different hand.
521 fowndyng. So SC. MS: fowdyng.
538 If this. So EP, SC. MS: If in left margin before This in the same hand.
562 With hym to dwell withoutten dome. MS: in the bottom margin below this line a later hand has written Indenture; toward the left margin are two parallel rows of four dots.
570 stevend. SC: steuend. MS: steuen.
584 carles. So EP, SC. MS: cales, with r inserted above the line (with a caret mark below) in a different hand.
618 both brede. MS: le (anticipating lengthe, later in this line) is crossed out between these words.
619 spende. MS: the p is overwritten and disfigured.
669 myghtfull. So SC. MS: myghfull.
740 It was tyll us greatt woghe. MS: above this line, vertically in the top margin, a later hand has written what appears to be Spigart.
756 Wold ye all assent to me. MS: an uncancelled red rule divides this line (and the three that follow) from the previous speech, but tercius — the beginning of a speech heading for an otherwise non-existent Soldier 3 — has been crossed out to the right of that line.