23. The Resurrection
Play 23, THE RESURRECTION: FOOTNOTES
1 The resurrection of the Lord
2 Lines 11–12: Whoever does not quickly want that [which I want], may his bones be hung very high
3 Then the centurion will come riding like a knight
4 Lines 107–09: You should not mention such new matters unless you can show us real proof
5 Lines 156–57: We need not mention this business anymore, / neither evening nor morning
6 Unless his disciples steal his body from us
7 Lines 192–93: Nor shall anyone take him away from here / by any means
8 Then the angels shall sing “Christ is risen” and afterwards Jesus shall say
9 Lines 256–58: The cruel Jews stretched out my limbs / because I could not reach / the bore-hole
10 And before you were torn away from me
11 Lines 439–40: It was for my guilt that he was taken away, / and not at all his own
12 Lines 451–52: Ho! Thief! I think that we are forever destroyed
13 Lines 503–04: I believe that we shall not part friends / before we finish
14 But tell us something just between us (confidentially)
15 Lines 517–18: Our keeping watch, lord, without doubt, / is [or has been] worthless
16 Lines 551–52: It behooves those knights to take back their declarations / that he is missing
17 Here ends the resurrection of the Lord
Play 23, THE RESURRECTION: 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 resurrection of Jesus is a central event for Christianity, and was the subject of some of the earliest Christian drama, developing out of the Easter liturgy with its quem queritis — “whom do you seek?” — trope. Early dramatizations of the Visitatio sephulchri (the visit to the tomb), like the biblical text, focus on the empty tomb. The moment of resurrection was not witnessed, and is not described in any of the gospels; however, that miraculous moment itself has long been an important subject for representation. The visual tradition is divided, particularly in the later Middle Ages: Christus patiens (Christ suffering) displays his wounds and recalls his suffering, much as in lyrical appeals from the cross, whereas Christus triumphans (Christ triumphant) carries a banner aloft as he steps out of the open tomb, often onto a comatose soldier. The first tradition is clearly evident in Jesus’ monologue (lines 230–350, which contains some verbal parallels to the Chester Resurrection pageant — see note below to line 229, s.d.), while the other likely informed performance traditions even where the action is unclear from the text. Like the Harrowing of Hell, the Towneley Resurrection is very closely related to, but different from, its counterpart in York. Again it may preserve some lines that were ultimately edited out of York, all in the same 6-line rime couée stanza that forms the basis of both plays, but its numerous omissions, alterations, and additions from varied sources ultimately make it a very different play.
1 Peasse, I warne you, woldys in wytt. Pilate’s opening monologue (lines 1–36), beginning with this typical initial attention-getting call for peace, has no counterpart in York. The phrase “woldys in wytt,” while plausibly emended by SC to “woldys inwytt” (“wield conscience”), may be translated as “act reasonably” or “keep your wits about you.”
15–16 At Calvarie . . . at morne. While Pilate is present for the crucifixion at Calvary in most plays, the accusation and judgment takes place at his hall, early in the morning a day prior to the current events; in lines 64 and 68, the Centurion more properly refers to the events of “that day,” now past.
35 The devill to hell shall harry hys goost. Pilate is condemning those who would follow the teachings of Jesus, but his wording here recalls the harrowing or despoiling of hell and the devil by the “goost” or spirit of Christ.
41 We left hym ther for man most wyse. This line, midway through an atypical 8-line stanza here, is equivalent to the first line of a regular 6-line stanza in York (38.31) and begins a section that is largely but not entirely parallel to York; the central portion of the Centurion’s speech describing sights and events associated with the crucifixion, for example, while written in the typical 6-line stanza, has no counterpart in the extant York text (see note to lines 51–68 below). While the last line of this stanza (line 44) refers casually and obliquely to the execution of offenders, the overall characterization of Caiaphas in this play is far milder than in others in Towneley. See headnote to play 18, the Buffeting.
44, s.d. Tunc veniet centurio velut miles equitans. The extant York text contains no equivalent stage direction and makes no reference in the dialogue (as in line 75 here) to the centurion’s being on horseback.
51–68 Heven it shoke . . . . slayn that day. See Matthew 27:51–54. These lines, constituting three regular 6-line stanzas, have no parallel in York; the miraculous and portentous events described here, and again in lines 113–24, are not mentioned in the Towneley Crucifixion play, nor in York 36.
59–62 And so I saide . . . . Son of God Jesu. See Matthew 27:54. This scene is not represented in the Towneley Crucifixion, although it is in York 36.313–25.
118–24 The son for wo . . . . both greatt and small. These lines closely parallel not just the York text (38.91–97) but also the Centurion’s speech in the Middle English Gospel of Nicodemus (Hulme, Middle-English Harrowing of Hell, pp. 66 and 68, lines 703–10), which also influenced the York Harrowing play.
138 the vayll rofe in the kyrke. See Matthew 27:51.
142–47 Harlot . . . . hold styll thy clattur. This stanza, for which there is no parallel in York, is followed by what in York constitute the final four lines of a regular 6-line stanza (see 38.115–20). The two missing York lines are attributed to Annas — an attribution that would make sense for the first lines of this particular stanza as well, given that the exclamatory initial epithet seems to disrupt rather than continue Pilate’s speech. The subsequent reference by Caiaphas to “the wenyande” or the unlucky waning moon (line 146; see note to 2.227–29) is typical both of York and of Towneley (although spelled consistently as “wenyand[e]” here and “wanyand” in York).
171 The latter dede is more to drede. That is, the resurrection is more to be feared than the crucifixion and portents described by the Centurion.
213 We shall hym kepe till youre renowne. We shall guard him, to your reknown; York 38.182 has “oure rennowne.” The soldiers immediately go to the tomb of Jesus and then, in lines absent from the York version, take up their places around it — one to each side. As usual, Soldier 1 is in charge (although unsure as to where each soldier should go, line 218), and presumably takes position at the head of the tomb.
220 And I shall fownde his feete to flytt. And I shall go to his feet. When Soldier 3 attempts to take his position at the foot of the tomb, he is stopped by Soldier 4 (line 221) and presumably remains on the side.
227 Have here my hand. Soldier 4 raises his hand in a traditional gesture of oath-taking, just prior to action that effectively violates that oath — the resurrection and departure of Jesus, who likely steps out of a coffin-style tomb, as in most visual representations, and onto one of the soldiers, perhaps the boastful Soldier 4. The soldiers are generally represented as if sleeping at the moment of resurrection, as implied in line 478); Matthew 28:4 states that they are struck dumb with terror and thus appear as dead. Yet while they do not witness the resurrection (see line 472 and note), they do apparently hear the angelic music (see line 539, and the note below to 229, s.d.).
229 This cors I dar warand. That is, in context, I guarantee that this body will remain where it is, securely guarded, or, I dare to guard and protect this body against all who might try to take it (including fiery dragons, line 225). See MED waranten (v.), sense 2.
229, s.d. Tunc cantabunt angeli Christus resurgens et postea dicet Jesus. The traditional Easter antiphon Christus resurgens (Christ is risen) is sung by a single angel in York (38.186, s.d.; only one angel has a speaking role in that version, following Matthew 28), but by two angels in Chester’s Resurrection pageant (as in Luke 24:4 and John 20:12). In Matthew’s account, it is the angel that removes the stone from the tomb (Matthew 28:2); here, the two angels should remove the 'stone' covering from the (conventionally rectangular, coffin-shaped) tomb as they sing (music that the soldiers later recall hearing; see lines 537–40), and Jesus rises out of it. The lengthy monologue by Jesus that follows, partly in the regular 6-line stanza and partly in a 7-line stanza, has no parallel in York; however, as SC point out (p. 605n230–350), much of the section in 7-line stanzas has close parallels to an extant medieval lyric — a speech from the cross known as “Thou Sinful Man that by Me Goes” (see line 248; the lyric as found in Arundel MS 285 is printed in Brown’s Religious Lyrics of the XVth Century, pp. 151–56). In addition, the first and last stanzas here (lines 230–35, 339–50), including a cancelled stanza (see note to line 345–50 below), contain verbal parallels to the equivalent speech in the Chester Resurrection pageant (Chester 18.154–77).
231 Wightly wake and slepe thou noght. See Ephesians 5:14. The metaphor of spiritual sleep is literalized here by the soldiers around the tomb.
240–41 Thou fyle thee noght oft forthy, / Now art thou cleyn. Therefore do not defile yourself again, now that you are clean (of sin, through Jesus’ sacrifice).
264 Two thefys hang thai me betwene. See Matthew 27:38 (and other gospel accounts). In Towneley, alone of the varied Middle English dramatizations, Jesus is not actually represented as crucified between two thieves. See headnote to play 20, the Crucifixion.
305–07 As thou thiself . . . . Luf me agane. The allusion is to Luke 10:27, but effectively combines the commandments both to love God and to love one’s neighbor as one’s self into a single demand.
311–24 If thou thy lyfe in syn . . . . Aske none he wold. These lines assert the power of God’s mercy and grace against sin, and specifically the sin of despair — a refusal to recognize the possibility of divine forgiveness — as exemplified by Judas. See notes to 22.334–36 and 27.107–13, and the admonishments against wanhope or despair in the Conspiracy play (17.531) and in Thomas of India (25.248, 251, and 568).
325 Lo how I hold myn armes on brede. This line betrays its origin as a lyrical complaint from the cross; however, an actor playing Jesus could replicate the gesture in performance. On gestic writing, see Epp, “Visible Words.”
345–50 That ilk veray brede . . . . shall he never. This stanza has been crossed out in red, like the cancelled stanza in the play of John the Baptist, but not bracketed or framed in black (see 15.193–200 and note). Here the cancellation makes more sense as a reaction to doctrinal concerns, given the explicit reference to transubstantiation “in wordys fyfe” — that is, hoc est enim corpus meum (“for this is my body”), the formula used at the consecration of the Eucharist, derived from Matthew 26:26 and Luke 22:19 (both of which lack the word enim). The rest of the stanza refers in part to John 6:51. The three Marys enter, likely through the crowd, immediately following this stanza. Jesus withdraws at the same, appearing to Mary Magdalene only at line 580 (as a gardener; see note below), while the two angels sit on the tomb (see line 391; John 20:12).
351 Alas, to dy with doyll am I dyght. That is, misery is killing me.
353–54 I drope, I dare, for seyng of sight / That I can se. That is, she continues to cower and tremble with fear at the sight that she has seen, of Jesus dying on the cross.
364 woundys wete. This phrase, used again at line 442, refers to bloody, but not necessarily fresh wounds; see MED wet (adj.), sense 6d).
393–94 Certys the sothe is not to hyde / The gravestone is put besyde. That is, the truth is clearly evident; the gravestone has been laid aside. However, the three Marys do not yet realize the significance — the truth — of what they see, neither of the stone nor of the angels just mentioned; York 38.229–30 more simply states “Sistirs, sertis, it is noght to hide: / The hevy stone is putte beside.”
400 whome have ye soght. This line translates the quem quaeritis trope that gave rise to dramatic embellishment of the Easter liturgy.
407 The sudary here se ye may. As in the Lazarus play (see 16.99–102 and note), “sudary” here likely refers to the cloth wound around Jesus’ head rather than to a larger winding-cloth. John 20:7 refers to a head-cloth being left behind along with other linen cloths in the empty tomb, but Jesus is conventionally shown as wearing the winding-cloth draped over him at the resurrection.
442 woundys wete. See line 364 and note above.
460 The fals tratur that here was lentt. That is, the false traitor that was buried here — “to lend” means to abide or dwell in a place; see MED lenden (v.), sense 3.
469–70 Wytt Sir Pilate of this enfray, / We mon be slone. If Sir Pilate finds out about this affray, we must be slain.
472 I sagh myself when that he yede. Soldier 2 here claims to have seen the event that according to lines 449–52 he knew nothing about; he is clearly lying, as Soldier 1 immediately affirms (lines 473–74).
527 Sir, ther was none that durst do bot small. That is, no one dared to do even the slightest thing.
545 I pray you, Cayphas, ye us wys / Of this enfray. That is, please advise us as to what to do about this affray.
579 The blyssyng of Mahowne be with you nyght and day. Pilate’s final line here is, unusually, yoked to a 7- rather than 6-line stanza that otherwise does not relate to him in any way; neither the line nor the scene with Mary Magdalene that follows has any counterpart in the extant York version of the episode, which ends with a three-stanza speech by Pilate asserting that “Thus schall the sothe be bought and solde, / And treasoune schall for trewthe be tolde” (York 38.450–51). However, see the note to lines 642–59 below.
580 garthynere. See John 20:15. In artistic representations of the scene Jesus is usually depicted wearing a large gardener’s hat, as is likely the case here.
594–95 Unto myn endyng day / The better shuld I be. That is, until my death I would be better off (if I could bear his body with me).
604–05 A he was to me . . . / No longer dwell I may. While there is no special punctuation in the MS, Mary clearly breaks off the first of these lines in a relatively naturalistic manner, unusual for the period; the rhetorical figure is known as aposiopesis or praecisio.
607 Rabony. See John 20:16; the Aramaic title Rabboni is related to the Hebrew rabbi and means “master” or “teacher.”
613 neghe thou not me. The often-quoted Latin phrase from John 20:17 is noli me tangere — that is, “do not touch me” (although the original Greek would better translate as “stop clinging to me”).
619–20 To peasse now ar thay boght / That prysond were in pyne. These lines allude to the harrowing of hell; see play 22.
630–32 And say that I shall be . . . . in Galylé. See Mark 14:28.
635–36 Fro thay here that message / Thay will be all mery. That is, they will all be merry from the moment that they hear that message. Jesus withdraws either during or immediately following these lines, the rest of Mary Magdalene’s speech being addressed to the audience.
642–59 Mi blys . . . . youre mys. The three final stanzas of the play are in the regular 6-line stanzas borrowed from York, and may well derive from the original play; the extant York pageant that dramatizes the appearance to Mary Magdalene (in 8-line stanzas) ends with a speech by Jesus that is similar in content to his final speech in this play (lines 623–32). The final word here, “mys,” typically alliterated with “amende,” can in this context refer to wrongs and misdeeds (that is, what is amiss) or to any sort of loss or disadvantage (what is missing) and so serves as a general blessing directed at the audience.
Play 23, THE RESURRECTION: 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).
1–2 Peasse I warne . . . els go sytt. MS: the first two lines are written in a formal variant of the main Anglicana hand.
4 mekill. So EP, SC. MS is missing most of this word, the line having been written in the cropped margin; the final word of the line is written below the rest.
72 What. MS: tha is crossed out before this word.
80 you. MS: uncancelled g before this word, likely anticipating the following word (grace).
154 as now he redys. So SC, following York 38.123. MS: as now redys.
186 thre. So EP. MS: iij.
190 shall ordan if. MS: shall if. SC emend to shall ordayne if, following York 38.159 (a spelling not otherwise found in Towneley; see for example line 184).
204 For if thei do. MS: For if ther do; compare York 38.173: For and thei do.
228 thre. So EP, MS: iij.
292 fyve. So EP, MS: v.
294 seven. SC: vii. MS: ix. Emendation is necessary for rhyme, and supported by at least one lyrical source (see SC, p. 606n294) although the total number of wounds given in different texts varies wildly.
345–50 That ilk veray . . . . shall he never. MS: this stanza has been crossed out in red; see Explanatory Note.
449 Is he. So SC, following York 38.291. MS: he is.
453 Soldier 3 (speech heading). MS: the speech heading gives the M in Miles an extra minim but no i (as is the case for the speech heading at line 483).
485 say. So SC, following York 38.326. MS: assay.
517 wakyng. So SC, following York 38.358. MS: walkyng.
563 Ten thowsand. So EP. MS: X ml.
569 Ten thowsand pounds. So EP. MS: X ml li.
637 This Lord was slayn, alas forthy. MS: in the upper right hand corner above this line a later hand has written al and the beginnings of a third letter, likely a.