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1 Wisdom is more splendid than the sun (Wisdom 7:29)

2 I am black, but beautiful O ye daughters of Jerusalem (Canticles 1:4)

3Nigra . . . Salomonis”: I am black, but beautiful, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, as the tents of Cedar, as the curtains of Solomon (Canticles 1:4)

4 Lines 169–70: Because I am dark, look not upon me, / For the sun of Jove has discolored me (Compare Canticles 1:5)

5 And he who created me rested in my tabernacle (Ecclesiasticus 24:11–12)

6 You are completely beautiful, etc. (Canticles 4:7)

7 Lines 377–78: I shall make it appear to him that perfection is sin, / And prove virtue to be wickedness

8 Why do you stand the whole day here in idleness? (Matthew 20:6)

9 To abandon the job that properly belongs to him

10 Truth does not collect damage because of wealth

11 Lines 996–97: Greater than the sea is your breach, your contrition; what can comfort you? / She weeps sore in the night, and her tears are on her cheeks (Lamentations 2:13 and 1:2)

12 Line 1065, s.d.: What can I render to the Lord for all that he has given me? I will take the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord (Psalm 115:12–13)

13 Lines 1084–85: You have ravished my heart, my sister, my spouse, / With one glance of your eyes (Canticles 4:9)

14 Lines 1120–21: Be not conformed to this world, / But be transformed by the renewing of your spiritual senses (Romans 12:2)

15 Lines 1128–29: Be renewed in the spirit of your mind, / And put on the new man, created in God’s likeness (Ephesians 4:23–24)

16 Lines 1136–37: I would put away the old man with his deeds, / And clothe yourself like a new man in the knowledge of God (Colossians 3:9)

17 Lines 1144–45: The Lord is good to all, / And his tender mercies are over all his works (Psalm 144:9)

18 Being justified by faith, we have peace with God (Romans 5:1)

19 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7)

20 Lines 1156–57: To you who fear the Lord / Shall the sun of righteousness arise (Malachias 4:2)


ABBREVIATIONS: CA: Gower, Confessio Amantis; CT: Chaucer, Canterbury Tales; D: Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Digby 133; MED: Middle English Dictionary; M: Macro Manuscript, Washington DC; OED: Oxford English Dictionary; s.d. : stage direction; Tilley: Tilley, Dictionary of Proverbs in England; Whiting: Whiting, Proverbs, Sentences, and Proverbial Phrases.

1, s.d. Wisdom’s elaborate costume is composed almost entirely of elements whose use was restricted to royalty by sumptuary laws, and the orb and scepter which he holds confirm his identification as a regal figure. Contemporary art would also identify Wisdom as Christ in majesty, an equation for which there is ample scriptural tradition (see, for example, Isaias 11:1–2, 1 Corinthians 1:24, or Luke 11:49). Wisdom’s description of the Crucifixion at the end of the play (lines 1096–1107) confirms his identification with Christ.

16, s.d. chappelet. M: chappetelot, Eccles’ emendation. Anima’s costume is symbolic of the dual nature of man’s soul, at once divine and sinful. Her furred white garment, representing the soul’s eternal and divine nature, is covered with a black mantle indicating its fallen state; a coronet or small crown indicates her nobility.

17 Hanc amavi et exquisivi. The passage is from the Wisdom of Solomon, one of the “deuterocanonical” books of the Bible, which differ from the “canonical” books in that they do not occur in the Hebrew Bible. Anima cites the first line of the passage in Latin, but her speech continues to translate the text: “Hanc amavi et exquisivi a iuventute mea, et quaesivi sponsam mihi adsumere et amator factus sum formae illius” [Her have I loved, and have sought her out from my youth, and have desired to take for my spouse, and I became a lover of her beauty]. The playwright is clearly not concerned by the (unequivocally) female Anima speaking a passage directed in its scriptural source to a female lover.

25 Of. M: Off. Here, as elsewhere, I have transcribed ff as f to avoid confusion between the of/off prepositions.

63–64 This sentiment echoes the spiritual belief of St. Bonaventure in The Mind’s Road to God, as well as in the anonymous Cloud of Unknowing, wherein God is only knowable through experience, and that experience cannot be put into words.

103–06 Wisdom describes the creation of man in God’s image as it appears in Genesis 1:27 and following, prior to Adam’s offence, as described in Genesis 3:6–19.

111 The “original sin” of which Wisdom speaks describes the fallen state of man following Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Although all men and women have not individually committed the sin of Adam and Eve, their sin and expulsion is directly responsible for man’s fallen state. As Paul ex-plained the doctrine, “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sin-ners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous” (Romans 5:19).

124 the sacramentys sevyn. Although Wisdom refers to the seven sacraments, he only specifically mentions baptism. The others are eucharist, confession, confirmation, marriage, ordination of priests, and extreme unction (also called anointing of the sick).

134 Although the character of Anima is clearly feminine and is portrayed as the bride of Wisdom/Christ, the sources (especially those in Latin) are ambiguous about the soul’s gender, and occasional masculine pronouns slip into the text, especially when the soul is presented in its regal capacity. See also lines 147 and, especially, 289 and 1125. “He” sometimes, however, designates either male or female (e.g., Pride of Life, line 68).

178 The association of the soul’s three faculties with the Trinity derives from St. Augustine’s treatise De Trinitate (Book xv, chapter 23), in which Mind, Understanding, and Will are associated respectively with the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

183–212 Mind is showing off here with elaborate word-play on his name. He is mindful of the frailty of his mind, but it is his mind which leads him to God, whom he asks to be mindful of him.

269–74 The equation of God and charity (divine love) is a commonplace of medieval theology. Although repeated by virtually all writers, the most frequently cited source for the idea is St. Augustine’s De doctrina christiana, though the initial source is likely such passages as “Deus caritas est” (God is love) in 1 John 4.8.

276 The “tabernacle” is the human body which has been created in God’s image (“lyknes,” line 274). God “rests” in man as an indication of the divine nature of his soul.

294 The traditional three enemies of Mankind, the World, the Flesh, and the Devil, appear in several other plays as well, notably in the Digby play of Mary Magdalene and The Castle of Perseverance. Though the idea — a sort of evil parallel to the Trinity — was widespread, it may derive ultimately from the Meditations attributed to St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Chapter 12, “De tribus inimicis hominis, carne, mundo, et diabolo” (“On the Three Enemies of Man, the Flesh, the World, and the Devil”). See also Wenzel, “Three Enemies of Man.”

321 The story of the oil of mercy is apocryphal, and its primary source is the Gospel of Nichodemus, which also tells the story of the Harrowing of Hell. According to the apocryphal account, immediately following the expulsion from the Garden of Eden, Adam is given a promise that at the end of his life he would receive the oil of mercy. At the age of 130, Adam asks his third son Seth, an obedient son born long after the killing of Abel, to go to Paradise for the promised oil of mercy. Seth travels to Paradise, where the archangel Michael allows him a vision of Paradise. Incorporated into the vision is the image of a child, whom Michael identifies as the coming Christ, who is the promised oil of mercy. For the full text, see Kim, Gospel of Nichodemus, pp. 37–38 (Latin); or James, Apocryphal New Testament, pp. 126–28 (English translation).

324, s.d. Lucifer is “disguised”: his devil’s costume “without” covers a gallant’s flamboyant clothing “within,” so that his costume change at line 408 simply involves removing the devil’s attire. The description here suggests that the gallant’s dress may be at least partially visible beneath the devil costume. Beside this stage direction a hand different from that of the text has marked a cross in the left margin; such marginal crosses also appear at twenty-six other places in the text, eleven of them opposite stage directions. John Marshall has suggested that they may have been a production aid, perhaps indicating significant changes of stage-picture. See Marshall, “Marginal Staging Marks.”

325 “Out, harrow” is a frequent cry of the devils in the biblical plays, generally signifying anger and frustration, though it is also the reaction of the poor widow and her daughters to the fox’s capture of Chaunteclere in Chaucer’s Nun’s Priest’s Tale (CT VII[B2]4570).

327–28 My place to restore, / God hath made man! The plays commonly assert the proposition that mankind was created to fill the gap left when Satan and his horde of angels fell. E.g., York Cycle 7.23–24, 37.13–16; and N-Town 11.48 ff. (Parliament of Heaven). See also Gower, CA 8.30–36 and Cursor Mundi 514–16. The idea figures prominently in St. Augustine’s Enchiridion, ch. 29.

341–42 Lucifer’s “wyly . . . knowynge,” that is worldly knowledge, is a direct contrast to a very different kind of knowledge, the wisdom represented by Christ.

343 compleccyons. Elemental humors of the body (melancholy, bile, choler, phlegm) through which humankind is especially vulnerable.

380, s.d. See note to line 324, s.d.; although the stage direction indicates that Lucifer goes offstage to remove his devil costume, there is no practical reason why he must do so. Perhaps he simply steps behind a curtain in order to deposit his now superfluous attire.

381–92 As Riggio has pointed out, these opening speeches of the returning Mights indicate a clear differentiation of intellect: Mind, representing higher reason and therefore the most intellectual, is concerned with studying God’s doctrine; Understanding, representing lower worldly reason, will follow God’s law; and Will, representing sense and passion, will offer God praise. See Riggio, Play of Wisdom, pp. 229–30.

394 Lucifer’s first attack on the three Mights is based on a quotation from Scripture, hinting at the way he will twist theological arguments to his own purpose.

401 Again, Lucifer refers to a scriptural passage which the audience (and the three Mights) would undoubtedly recognize (Ecclesiastes 3:1–3).

413 Mertha. Martha, the sister of Mary and Lazarus. See Luke 10:38–42. During the Middle Ages, she was regarded as typifying the active life. See Aquinas, Catena Aurea, Luke 10:38–42.

414 Maria. Maria is the contemplative sister of Martha, who typifies the active life. (See Luke 10:38–42.) The activities of Martha please God greatly (line 413) but Maria pleases God more, since the “Contemplatyff lyff ys sett befor” (line 417). This Mary was traditionally identified with Mary Magdalene. See the Digby Mary Magdalene play.

428 How one reads Lucifer’s arguments in favor of the “mixed life” is crucial in the context of interpreting the play as a whole. A life which combined contemplation with living in the world (as opposed to a strictly cloistered life) was often held up as an ideal, as the mode of life which Christ himself led (lines 419–28). If the three Mights, as their arguments would suggest, are presented as cloistered monks, Lucifer’s arguments could be seen as more effective than advice to abandon contemplation entirely. Much of the argument is derived from Walter Hilton’s fourteenth-century treatise On the Mixed Life, and David Bevington has suggested that the playwright is in fact arguing in favor of the mixed life despite presenting the case in the voice of Lucifer, since Lucifer’s arguments represent a substantial distortion of Hilton’s explanation (Macro Plays, p. xiii).

431 ff. Lucifer’s success at seducing Mind through logical argument is signaled by Mind’s admission that Lucifer has “reason” (line 445).

433 Lucifer’s warning against the difficulties of the contemplative life echoes the advice given by Thomas à Kempis, De imitatione Christi, Book 1, chapter 19.4: “Numquam sis ex toto otiosus, sed aut legens, aut scribens, aut orans, aut meditans, aut aliquid utilitatis pro communi laborans” (Never be completely idle, but either reading or writing, or praying or meditating, or at some useful work for the common good).

445 me seme ye have reson. Lucifer’s arguments against the contemplative life and his rejection of “harde lyvynge, and goynge wyth dyscyplyne dew” (line 434, as well as Mind’s defense of the contemplative life, line 446) imply that the three Mights are dressed as contemplatives.

451–56 Lucifer’s seduction of Understanding is centered on the offer of power and authority as well as their outward signs, that is, fine clothing. Lucifer appeals to Understanding’s five wits as a source of “delectacyon,” as well as the “dominacyon” or power inherent in those who dress well and present an authoritative aspect.

468 Lucifer’s twisted discussion of what best pleases God may be the catalyst for Wisdom’s concluding sermon on the Nine Virtues, lines 998–1065.

473–76 What synne ys in met? In ale? In wyn? / Wat synne ys in ryches? In clothynge fyne? / All thynge Gode ordenyde to man to inclyne. / Leve your nyse chastyté, and take a wyff! Lucifer offers Will the physical pleasures of the senses, good food and drink, wealth, and sex. Since Will is not much given to logical argument, he falls easily.

479 Wisdom has already warned against basing conclusions solely on the informa-tion of the five senses (lines 295–300).

488 Riggio (Play of Wisdom, p. 243) suggests that “thes prechors” might well refer to members of the audience. This would certainly accord with Lucifer’s other interactions with the audience (lines 433–40, 490, and possibly 518).

490 The line could be directed at a clerical member of the audience.

492 sett my soule on a mery pynne. The phrase is proverbial, and appears in other plays, such as Henry Medwall’s Nature (lines 865 and 1084). See Whiting, P215, and Tilley, P335. A “pynne” is a peg, perhaps of a musical instrument, and the phrase means to “direct one’s thoughts towards pleasure.”

494 Throughout his conversation with the three Mights, Lucifer has been directly subverting the arguments of Wisdom which opened the play; here he concludes by redefining the “clene soull” (which Wisdom had identified as “Godys restynge place,” line 193) as “mery.”

510 Change that syde aray. Lucifer advises Mind to change his long gown (“syde aray”), presumably for a shorter, more fashionable coat. A primary focus of anti-fashion satire in the fifteenth century was the short coat which provided little protection from the elements but displayed the wearer’s attributes to advantage. So in Mankind, Newguise disapproves of Mankind’s practical “syde gown” and recommends replacing it with a “jakett” (lines 671–72).

511 The meaning here is a bit unclear, signaled by the very different readings in the two manuscripts (“and it hap” in Digby, “hanip” in Macro). “La plu joly” would seem to be the name of a song. The Digby reading might mean “if it happen [to the tune of . . .].”

513–15 The idea figures prominently in St. Augustine’s Enchiridion 29, entitled “The Restored Part of Humanity Shall, in Accordance with the Promises of God, Succeed to the Place Which the Rebellious Angels Lost.”

522 Resone I have made both deff and dumme. Lucifer has perverted reason, making it “deff and dumme.” As he gloats about his success in the seduction of the three Mights, he indicates precisely the three sins to which they will be subject: Mind will be governed by Pride, the principal sin of the intellect; Understanding by Avarice or Covetousness, the principal sin of worldliness; and Will by Lechery, the principal sin of the physical body.

530–31 Covetousness is the sin to which Humanum Genus (“Mankind”) succumbs at the end of his life in Castle of Perseverance (lines 2700 ff.).

542 Wyll clenness ys in mankyn. M: Wyll clennes ys mankyn. Neither Davis nor Bevington emend. Coldeway suggests “Wyll in clenness ys mankyn,” but the Wisdom-playwright would not be likely to use such inverted diction.

549, s.d. The naughty boy whom Lucifer carries off with him might be a plant by the acting company or a mischievous and annoying child in the audience. Although several editions of the play gloss “boy” as “young man,” it would be important for the victim to be small enough to be picked up and carried with relative ease. Lucifer’s abduction of an annoying child is intended as a warning to the audience of his power over them.

550–61 Each of the Mights indicates that his new relationship to Lucifer is displayed physically by new (and fashionable) clothes.

551 Wyppe, wyrre, care awey! The interjections here (and at 762 and 890) are clear enough in their general sense, though their exact meaning is uncertain. They may well simply be expressions of pleasure or, in the latter two cases, of alarm.

601 Simony, the buying or selling of church offices for profit, was a substantial problem in the Middle Ages, when many churchmen held temporal administrative positions in addition to their spiritual positions within the church. Dante’s Inferno condemned the simoniacs to the eighth circle of Hell. A fourteenth-century poem “The Simonie,” linking simony and covetousness or greed, is found in Dean, Medieval English Political Writings, pp. 193–212.

602–03 This definition of falseness as wisdom is, of course, the inversion on which the play turns: true wisdom (that is oneness with Christ) has been perverted into worldly wisdom (that is falseness and deceit).

616–18 Several three-part drinking songs survive in the Fayrfax and Ritson manu-scripts (British Library MS Add. 5465 and 5665 respectively, both edited by John Stevens in Early Tudor Songs and Carols). The Powers identify their parts: Will is the treble or top part, Understanding the mean or middle part, and Mind the tenor or lower part.

632–35 Mind presents, in effect, a definition of Maintenance, the character he will adopt in the first dance. Described by Bevington as “the chief legal abuse of the age,” Maintenance involved the support or “maintaining” of a large body of liveried retainers for the specific purpose of interfering in legal proceedings. Maintenance represented a defiance of the central authority of the law, and both Richard III and Henry VII passed legislation intended to restrict its abuse. See Bevington, Tudor Drama and Politics, p. 30. The closest modern equivalent would likely be “graft” or “obstruction of justice.”

636–43 Whereas Mind’s perversion of the legal system was aimed at gaining power and authority (“myghty lordeschyppe,” line 629) in support of his sin of Pride, Understanding will use the courts for financial gain to satisfy his sin of Avarice. His methods will include simony (the selling of ecclesiastical offices, see note to line 601) and bribery.

684 A marginal note at this point reads “va . . .” which is completed at line 784 with “. . . cat” (also in the margin). The word “vacat” (“it may be omitted”) in the same hand as the playtext clearly indicates that the scribe envisioned more than one performance, with the possibility of omitting the dances (and thus eliminating the need for eighteen dancers). Such an omission might anticipate a smaller venue, a less costly performance, or a performance intended for touring. The initial direction (“va . . .”) also appears in the Digby manuscript; the closing direction would presumably have appeared in the section of the manuscript which is now lost.

691, s.d. The dancers are “dysgysed” (masked) and are dressed in the “sute” or livery of Mind. Their costuming is based on images of power and authority: red beards, lions rampant (standing upright, usually upon one hind leg, in a position of attack), and carrying clubs or batonlike weapons. Each of the Mights is followed by six named dancers costumed identically (or, in the case of Lechery, in two gendered groups of three), and these followers associate their leader directly with one of the three traditional enemies of mankind: the World, the Flesh, and the Devil. Mind/Maintenance is followed by representatives of the Devil’s sins, Pride, Envy, and Wrath (line 752).

696 discorde. M dycorde; reading from D.

697 Lovedays defined periods of time during which lawsuits and other legal matters might be settled out of court as well as the agreements made on such occasions. See Bennett, “Mediaeval Loveday.”

706 “Madame Regent” is likely to be the name of the dance which the trumpets play, but it is unknown. Very little dance music survives from late fifteenth-century England, although a recently discovered manuscript in the Derbyshire Record Office associated with the Gresley family gives the tenors for eight dances over which the players would improvise one or more parts. See Fallows, “Gresley Dance Collection.” One possible reconstruction of these dances can be found online at .

717 Cloaked Collusion, one of the Vices in John Skelton’s Magnyfycence (printed around 1530), says that he himself bears “two faces in a hood” (line 710).

720 The inquest or jury of Holborn; the district of Holborn was well known as the legal quarter of London, housing not only the law schools and the Inns of Court but also the Fleet Prison.

723, s.d. Understanding/Perjury’s dancers wear “hattys of Meyntenance,” that is, they are liveried indicating their allegiance to a patron. His followers each represent qualities used to gain advantage in a legal suit and thus to accumulate wealth through fraud.

730 evyll endyrecte. So D. M reads entyrecte, which Eccles glosses as “ointment.” I have followed D here, as does Riggio, who trans­lates “evil twist.”

740 This sounds like a proverb, though it is not recorded as such. It might be a variant of the proverb “There goes the hare away,” Whiting H120 and Tilley H157. Whiting discusses the use of proverbs in the play in Proverbs in the Earlier English Drama, pp. 75–77.

751, s.d. There seems to be no ambiguity about Will/Lechery’s dancers: they are six women, three of them cross-dressed as gallants. Although it is frequently claimed that women did not appear on the stage in England until after the Restoration, there is clear evidence of female performers in the Middle Ages. See Brown and Parolin, Women Players in England, where a number of the essays assume the existence of female performers prior to 1500. Also, these women are dancers rather than actors, and records of female dancers are common in the fifteenth century. The meaning of “conregent” is not clear. The base meaning would seem to be “ruling together” (as the OED gives it) or “having the same author­ity,” so it likely indicates that they wear the same livery. A hornpipe is a wind instrument constructed at least partially of animal horn, thus representing here an image of cuckoldry. Animal horns were used in the construction of several kinds of instruments, including bagpipes, fipple flutes (like recorders), and pibcorns.

758 “Bete,” or “Betty,” would seem to be a generic name for a loose woman.

762 The exact meaning of the interjection is uncertain, and it may simply be an expression of surprise (see also 551 and 890).

764 ff. The dance degenerates into a fight between the three Mights, symbolic of the discord and lack of order into which they have fallen after their seduction by Lucifer.

775, s.d. It is Wyll’s six dancers who leave (the “dumb show”), not the three Mights.

783 by the bon. A relatively mild oath, a less offensive variant of “By God’s bones.” It may also have a phallic overtone, since Wyll has now become Lechery.

788 Westminster Hall (just north of Westminster Abbey, near the present site of the Houses of Parliament) was the venue for three of the most important courts: King’s Bench, Common Pleas, and Chancery. In the moral interlude Hick Scorner (c. 1514), Imagination claims: “And yet I can imagine things subtle / For to get money plenty. / In Westminster Hall every term I am” (Lancashire, Two Tudor Interludes, lines 215–17).

792–93 The area around St. Paul’s was a center for the conduct of business, both com­mercial and legal, centering on the parvise, the enclosed and covered area at the west door. Writing during Elizabeth I’s reign, William Harrison notes that “[t]he time hath been that our lawyers did sit in Paul’s upon stools against the pillars and walls to get clients” (Description of England, p. 174).

803 engrose. M: engose, Eccles’ emendation.

808 nether. M: nther, Riggio’s emendation.

818 A noble was worth 6 s. 8 d, or one third of a pound.

831 St. Audrey was the common anglicization of the Anglo-Saxon St. Etheldreda, founder (in 673) and patron saint of the cathedral at Ely; the London resi­dence of the bishop of Ely was on Ely Place, just at the east end of the district of Hol­born, next to a church dedicated to St. Etheldreda.

833 N. likely stands for nomen (name) and the performer would insert the last name of someone local or a member of the audience.

849–50 Having a person arrested in one county (shire) while indicting him in another county at the same time was an effective means of guaranteeing his conviction. Since he would have been required to be present at both hearings, his absence at one would ensure his conviction at the second.

852 The Marshalsea Court was held before the king’s steward and knight-marshal, and dealt primarily with cases involving members of the royal household as well as with cases involving trespass in the vicinity of royal property.

853 The High Court of the Admiralty was given jurisdiction under Edward III over a variety of acts committed at sea, including piracy and ownership of wrecks. Its jurisdiction seems to have expanded quickly to include a variety of civil dis­putes, since legislation was found to be necessary under both Richard II and Henry IV to restrain the spread of the High Court’s actions.

854 A writ of praemunire facias (“you shall warn”; the manuscript reading is incorrect) required the sheriff to summon someone accused of pursuing a suit in a foreign country which should be pursued in an English court.

857 the crose and the pyll. From the French la croix et la pile, the phrase refers to the two sides of a coin, exactly equivalent to “heads and tails.”

870 The frequent use of the word “mery” following the fall of the Mights gives it a strong association with their sinful, revelous state.

890 whowe. The exact meaning of the interjection is uncertain, and it may simply be an expression of disbelief, like “whoa” (see also 551 and 762).

900 dysvyguryde. M: dyvyguryde, Eccles’ emendation. At line 697 the M scribe ap­pears to have misread D’s discorde as dycorde, and it is possible that he has made the same mistake here, though without this page of D it is not possible to tell.

907 A rechace is the call that is sounded to muster the hounds for a hunt; the “sounds” of the three Mights have called the Devil.

911, s.d. The manuscript reads “vi small boys” but this is likely a scribal error for “vii,” since Wisdom explicitly connects them (line 979) with the Seven Deadly Sins. Riggio, following the events of the Mights’ masque dances, suggests that Anima is to be taken as the seventh devil in the same way that each of the Mights becomes a seventh along with his six dancers. The equation of Anima with one of the Seven Deadly Sins would, however, be theologically inappropriate.

934 dysyrvynge. M: dysyrynge, Eccles’ emendation. This may be another case of M mis­reading an “I” if D’s reading was dysyrvinge.

972–74 very contrycyon. Wisdom outlines the traditional form of penance, defined as con­trition, or sorrow of heart; confession to an appropriate ecclesiastical authority; and satisfaction or restitution. This explanation appears in a wide variety of sources, among them Hilton’s Scale of Perfection (see Appendix 1).

985 your charter. The playwright’s image of a formal charter which the penitent soul receives through confession likely comes from Hilton’s Scale of Perfection (see Appendix 1).

988 comfort. M: mercy, Eccles’ emendation.

999 The Nine Points (Novem Virtutes) are described in several fifteenth-century texts in both Latin and English, and in both prose and verse. The English versions are not as close to Wisdom as the Latin prose text printed in Appendix 1, pp. 89–90. In general, the nine points involve a personal and emotional commit­ment to God, rather than a formal or public involvement. As such, they are in line with the tenets of devotio moderna as seen in such texts as Thomas à Kempis’ De imitatione Christi (c. 1418).

1018 thryve. M: prywe, Eccles’ emendation.

1024 kyngys. The texts of the Novem Virtutes read “knights” at this point, and, while “kyngys” could be an error for “knyghtys,” it is also possible that the play­wright changed the text deliberately since references to royalty are more im­portant in Wisdom than references to mere nobility.

1043–45 Upon thy nakyde feet and bare / Tyll the blode folwude . . . Ande aftyr eche stepe yt sene were. Compare the bloody feet of the poor plowman’s pitiable wife in “Piers the Plowman’s Crede,” line 436, as she walks barefoot across icy terrain; there the emotive force of the image provokes compassion in the audience.

1065, s.d. The crowns which Anima, the Five Wits, and the three Mights now wear are more elaborate than the “chappelets” they wore at their first appearance.

1096–1107 In these lines, possibly the most extraordinary passage in the whole play, Wisdom (now explicitly equated with Christ) explains to Anima how his five senses, perfect in their lack of sin, are able to make atonement for her where her sinful senses fail. This explanation revolves around an emotional descrip­tion of the pains which the crucifixion brought to each of Christ’s senses, the images clearly drawn from the fifteenth-century devotional mode of affective piety, best exemplified by Nicholas Love's Mirror of the Blessed Life of Jesus Christ. Love explains the principle of imagining one’s self in the place of Christ: “For to him that wolde serche the passion of oure lorde with alle his herte & alle his inwarde affeccione, there shuld come many deuout felynges & stirynges that he neuer supposede before. Of the whech he shuld fele a newe compassion & a newe loue, & haue newe gostly confortes, thorh the whech he shold perceyue him self turnede as it were in to a newe astate of soule, in the which astate thoo forseide gostly felynges, shold seme to him as a nerneste & partie of the blisse & joy to come” (p. 160).

1107 dovehous. The “dovehouse” image seems to have been traditional; Eccles gives examples of it in the Ayenbite of Inwit, the Orologium, Richard Rolle’s Medi­tiations on the Passion, and The Book of Margery Kempe.

1108 plesere. M: plesynge, Eccles’ emendation (for the rhyme with line 1106).

1123 Each of the Mights is returned to a state of grace through one of the theological virtues; Mind through “gostly felynge,” that is faith, Understanding through hope (line 1127), and Will through love or charity (line 1135).

1137 This line is not in the manuscript, but there is no doubt that a line is missing from the stanza, and since the stanzas of the other three Mights and Anima each give a Latin couplet at this point, this would be the appropriate place for the missing line. The line immediately following in Colossians (3:9) does not fit, since it does not rhyme with “foly” in the next line; however, the line as quoted by Hilton in Scale of Perfection, Book 2, Chapter 31 does rhyme, and has been inserted here (following Eccles and Riggio). See Appendix 1.

1156 There is no change of speaker indicated in the manuscript at this point, though there is a line drawn across the page, which in almost all cases the scribe uses to indicate either a change of speaker or the beginning of a stage direction. Riggio has pro­posed that the scribe has drawn the usual line, but has forgotten to note the new speaker; she points out that it would be odd for Anima to offer the final blessing, noting that in the other Macro moralities the concluding benediction is given by “the figure representing divine authority: God the Father in [The Castle of] Perseverance and Mercy in Mankind” (Play of Wisdom, p. 307).

1159 Our. M: on, Eccles’ emendation.


  Fyrst enteryde Wysdome in a Ryche purpull clothe of golde, wyth a mantyll of the same ermynnyde wythin, havynge about his neke a ryall hood furred wyth Ermyn, upon hys hede a cheveler [wig] wyth browys [eye-brows], a berde of golde of Sypres [Cyprus] Curlyde, a Ryche Imperyall Crown therupon, sett wyth precyus stonys and perlys. In his leyfte honde, a balle of golde wyth a cros theruppon, and in hys Ryght honde a Regall schepter [scepter], thus seyng:




WYDSOM   Yff ye wyll wet the propyrté
   Ande the resun of my nayme imperyall,
I am clepyde of hem that in erthe be
   Everlastynge Wysdom, to my noble egalle,
   Wyche name accordyt best in especyall,
     And most to me ys convenyent.
   Allethow eche persone of the Trinyté be wysdom eternall,
     And all thre on everlastynge wysdome togedyr present,

Nevertheles, forasmoche as wysdom ys propyrly
   Applyede to the Sune be resune,
And also yt fallyt to hym specyally
   Bycause of hys hye generacyon,
   Therfor the belovyde Sone hathe this sygnyficacyon,
     Custummaly Wysdom, now Gode, now man,
   Spous of the chyrche and very patrone,
     Wyffe of eche chose soule — thus Wysdom begane.
If; know the meaning; (see note)
called by those
equal to my nobility
suits me best
Although; is
in; [are] present

Attributed; Son; reason


  Here entrethe Anima as a mayde, in a wyght [white] clothe of gold gyedly purfyled [handsomely bordered] with menyver [fur], a mantyll of blake theruppeon, a cheveler [wig] lyke to Wysdom, wyth a ryche chappelet [coronet] lasyde [fastened] behynde [at the back] hangynge down wyth to [two] knottys of golde and syde tasselys, knelynge down to Wysdom, thus seyng: (see note)






























[ANIMA]   “Hanc amavi et exquisivi” —
   Fro my yougthe thys have I soute,
To have to my spouse most specyally
   For a lover of your schappe am I wroute.
   Above all hele and bewty that ever was sought,
     I have lovyde Wysdom as for my lyght,
   For alle goodnes wyth hym ys broughte.
     In wysdom I was made all bewty bryghte!

Of your name the hye felycyté
   No creature knowyt full exposycyon.
WYSDAM   “Sapiencia specialior est sole.”1
   I am foundon lyghte wythout comparyson,
   Of sterrys above all the dysposicyon,
     Forsothe of lyght the very bryghtnes,
   Meroure of the dyvyne domynacyon,
     And the image of hys goodnes.

Wysdom ys better than all worldly precyosnes,
   And all that may dysyryde be
Ys not in comparyschon to my lyknes.
   The lengthe of the yerys in my ryght syde be,
   Ande in my lefte syde ryches, joy, and prosperyté.
     Lo, this ys the worthynes of my name!
   ANIMA   A, soveren Wysdom! Yff your benygnyté
     Wolde speke of love, that wer a game!

WYSDOM   Of my love to speke, yt ys myrable.
   Beholde now, Soull, wyth joyfull mynde,
How lovely I am, how amyable
   To be halsyde and kyssyde of mankynde.
   To all clene soulys I am full hende
     And ever present wer that they be.
   I love my lovers wythoutyn ende
     That ther love have stedfast in me.

The prerogatyff of my love ys so grett
   That wo tastyt therof the lest droppe sure
All lustys and lykyngys worldly shall lett;
   They shall seme to hym fylthe and ordure.
   They that of the hevy burthen of synne hathe cure,
     My love dyschargethe and puryfyethe clene.
   It strengtheth the mynde, the soull makyt pure,
     And gevyt wysdom to hem that perfyghte bene.
     Wo takyt me to spouse may veryly wene,
       Yff above all thynge ye love me specyally,
     That rest and tranquyllyté he shall sene,
       And dey in sekyrnes of joy perpetuall.

The hey worthynes of my love
   Angell nor man can tell playnly;
Yt may be felt from experyens above,
   But not spoke ne tolde as yt ys veryly.
   The godly love no creature can specyfye.
     What wrech is that lovyth not this love,
   That lovyt hys lovers ever so tendyrly,
     That hys syght from them never can remove?

ANIMA   O worthy spouse and soveren father,
   O swet amyke, our joy, our blys!
To your love wo dothe repeyer,
   All felycyté yn that creature ys.
   Wat may I geve you ageyn for this,
     O Creator, lover of your creature?
   Though be our freelté we do amys,
     Your grett mercy ever sparyth reddure.

A, soveren Wysdom, sanctus sanctorum!
   Wat may I geve to your most plesaunce?
WYSDOM   “Fili, prebe michi cor tuum!”
   I aske not ellys of all thi substance;
   Thy clene hert, thi meke obeysance,
     Geve me that and I am contente.
ANIMA   A, soveren joy, my hertys affyance!
     The fervoure of my love to you I present,

That mekyt my herte, your love so fervent.
   Teche me the scolys of your dyvynyté.
WYSDOM   Dysyer not to savour in cunnynge to excellent,
   But drede and conforme your wyll to me,
   For yt ys the heelfull dyscyplyne that in wysdam may be,
     The drede of God, that ys begynnynge —
   The wedys of synne yt makyt to flee,
     And swete vertuus herbys in the soull sprynge.

ANIMA   O endles Wysdom, how may I have knowynge
   Of thi Godhede incomprehensyble?
WYSDOM   By knowynge of yoursylff ye may have felynge
   Wat Gode ys in your soule sensyble.
   The more knowynge of your selff passyble,
     The more veryly ye shall God knowe.
   ANIMA   O soveren Auctoure most credyble,
     Your lessun I attende as I owe,

I that represent here the soull of man.
   Wat ys a soull, wyll ye declare?
WYSDOM   Yt ys the ymage of Gode that all began,
   And not only ymage, but hys lyknes ye are.
   Of all creaturys the fayrest ye ware
     Into the tyme of Adamys offence.
ANIMA   Lord, sythe we, thy soulys, yet nowt wer ther,
     Wy of the fyrst man bye we the vyolence?

WYSDOM   For every creature that hath ben or shall
   Was in natur of the fyrst man, Adame,
Of hym takynge the fylthe of synne orygynall,
   For of hym all creaturys cam.
   Than by hym of reson ye have blame,
     And be made the brondys of helle.
   Wen ye be bore fyrst of your dame,
     Ye may in no wyse in hevyn dwell,

For ye be dysvyguryde be hys synne,
   Ande dammyde to derknes from Godys syghte.
ANIMA   How dothe grace than ageyn begynne?
   Wat reformythe the soull to hys fyrste lyght?
WYSDOM   Wysdam, that was Gode and man ryght,
     Made a fulle sethe to the Fadyr of hevyn
   By the dredfull dethe to hym was dyght,
     Of wyche dethe spronge the sacramentys sevyn,

Wyche sacramentys all synne wasche awey.
   Fyrst baptem clensythe synne orygynall,
And reformyt the soull in feythe verray true
   To the gloryus lyknes of Gode eternall
   Ande makyt yt as fayer and as celestyall
     As yt never dyffoulyde had be,
   Ande ys Crystys own specyall,
     Hys restynge place, hys plesant see.

ANIMA   In a soule watt thyngys be,
   By wyche he hathe his very knowynge?
WYSDOM   Tweyn partyes. The on, sensualyté,
   Wyche ys clepyde the flechly felynge.
   The fyve outewarde wyttys to hym be servynge;
     Wan they be not reulyde ordynatly,
   The sensualyté than, wythoute lesynge,
     Ys made the ymage of synne then of his foly.

The other parte, that ys clepyde resone,
   Ande that ys the ymage of Gode propyrly,
For by that the soull of Gode hath cognycyon,
   And be that hym servyt and lovevyt duly.
   Be the neyther parte of reson he knowyt dyscretly
     All erthely thyngys, how they shall be usyde,
   What suffysyth to hys myghtys bodely,
     Ande wat nedyt not to be refusyde.

Thes tweyn do signyfye
   Your dysgysynge and your aray,
Blake and wyght, foull and fayer, vereyly,
   Every soull here — this ys no nay;
   Blake, by sterynge of synne that cummyth all day,
     Wyche felynge cummythe of sensualyté,
   And wyght, be knowenge of reson veray
     Of the blyssyede infenyt Deyté.

Thus a soule ys both foulle and fayer:
   Foull as a best, be felynge of synne,
Fayer as angell, of hevyn the ayer,
   By knowynge of Gode by hys reson wythin.
ANIMA   Than may I sey thus and begynne
     With fyve prudent vyrgyns of my reme —
   Thow be the fyve wyttys of my soull wythinne —
     “Nigra sum sed formosa, filia Jerusalem.”2

[SOUL] Her have I loved and sought (Wisdom 8:2); (see note)
From; sought

appearance; created

(see note)
has full understanding



If; kindness


ready at hand

who tastes
desires; leave
[need of] cure

Who; understand

die; certainty


spiritual experience; (see note)
spoken of; truly

who; turn

because of our frailty

holy of holies
What; greatest pleasure

Son, give me your heart (Proverbs 23:26)


makes meek
too complex


weeds; causes

some sense
[Of] what
[which is] possible

(see note)

Why; pay for

(see note)

Then because of him reasonably
When; born; mother

disfigured by

[which] was ordained
(see note)


defiled; been

true knowledge; (see note)
Two parts; sense
called; fleshly
ruled properly
because of

because of that; loves
By; lower; individually
ought to be
bodily needs

white; truly



Those; senses

  Her enteryd fyve vyrgynes wyth kertyllys [overskirts] and mantelys wyth chevelers [wigs] and chapelettys [coronets], and syng: “Nigra sum sed formosa, filia Jerusalem, sicut tabernacula cedar et sicut pelles Salomonis.”3

































ANIMA   The doughters of Jerusalem me not lak,
   For this dyrke schadow I bere of humanyté
That, as the tabernacull of Cedar wythout, yt ys blake,
   Ande wythine as the skyn of Salamone, full of bewty.
   “Quod fusca sum, nolite considerare me,
     Quia decoloravit me sol Jovis.”4
WISDOM    Thus all the soulys that in this lyff be
     Stondynge in grace, be lyke to thys.

A, quinque prudentes — your wyttys fyve —
   Kepe you clene, and ye shall never deface,
Ye Goddys ymage never shall ryve,
   For the clene soull ys Godys restynge place.
   Thre myghtys every Cresten soull has,
     Wyche bethe applyede to the Trinyté.
MYNDE   All thre here, lo, byfor your face:
WYLL        Wyll,
UNDYRSTONDYNGE     And Undyrstondynge, we thre!

WYSDAM   Ye thre declare than thys,
   Your sygnyfycacyon and your propyrté.
MENDE   I am Mynde, that in the soule ys
   The veray fygure of the Deyté.
   Wen in myselff I have mynde and se
     The benefyttys of Gode and hys worthynes,
   How holl I was mayde, how fayere, how fre,
     How gloryus, how jentyll to hys lyknes,

Thys insyght bryngyt to my mynde
   Wat grates I ough to God ageyn,
That thus hathe ordenyde wythout ende
   Me in hys blys ever for to regne.
   Than myn insuffycyens ys to me peyn,
     That I have not werof to yelde my dett,
   Thynkynge myselff creature most veyne.
     Than for sorow my bren I knett.

Wen in my mynde I brynge togedyr
   The yerys and dayes of my synfullnes,
The unstabullnes of my mynde hedyr and thedyr,
   My oreble fallynge and freellnes,
   Myselff ryght nought than I confes;
     For by myselff I may not ryse
   Wythout specyall grace of Godys goodnes.
     Thus, mynde makyt me myselff to dyspyse.

I seke and fynde nowere comforte,
   But only in Gode, my Creature;
Than onto hym I do resorte
   Ande say, “Have mynde of me, my Savour!”
   Thus mynde to mynde bryngyth that favoure;
     Thus, by mynde of me, Gode I kan know.
   Goode mynde, of Gode yt ys the fygure,
     Ande thys mynde to have, all Crysten ow.

WYLL   And I of the soull am the wyll.
   Of the Godhede lyknes and a fygure;
Wyth goode wyll no man may spyll,
   Nor wythout goode wyll of blys be sure.
   Wat soule wyll gret mede recure,
     He must grett wyll have in thought or dede,
   Vertuusly sett wyth consyens pure,
     For in wyll stondyt only mannys dede.

Wyll for dede oft ys take;
   Therfor the wyll must weell be dysposyde.
Than ther begynnyt all grace to wake,
   Yff wyth synne yt be not anosyde.
   Therfor the wyll must be wele apposyde,
     Or that yt to the mevynge geve consent;
   The lybrary of reson must be unclosyde,
     Ande aftyr hys domys to take entent.

Our wyll in Gode must be only sett,
   And for Gode to do wylfully;
Wan gode wyll resythe, God ys in us knett,
   Ande he performyt the dede veryly.
   Of hym cummyth all wyll sett perfyghtly,
     For of ourselff we have ryght nought
   But syne, wrechydnes, and foly.
     He ys begynner and gronde of wyll and thought.

Than this goode wyll seyde before
   Ys behovefulle to yche creature,
Iff he cast hym to restore
   The soule that he hath take of cure,
   Wyche of God ys the fygure,
     As longe as the fygure ys kept fayer,
   Ande ordenyde ever to endure
nobr>     In blys, of wyche ys he the veray hayer.

UNDYRSTONDYNGE   The thyrde parte of the soule ys undyrstondynge.
   For by understondyng I beholde wat Gode ys
In hymselff, begynnyng wythout begynnynge,
   Ande ende wythout ende, that shall never mys.
   Incomprehensyble in hymselff he ys;
     Hys werkys in me I kan not comprehende,
   How shulde I holly hym than, that wrought all this?
     Thus, by knowynge of me, to knowynge of Gode I assende.

I know in angelys he ys desyderable,
   For hym to beholde thei dysyer soverenly;
In hys seyntys, most dylectable,
   For in hymm thei joy assyduly;
   In creaturys hys werkys ben most wondyrly,
     For all ys made by hys myght,
   By hys wysdom governyde most soverenly,
     And his benygnyté inspyryt all soullys wyth lyght.

Of all creaturys he ys lovyde sovereyn,
   For he ys Gode of yche creature,
And they be his peple that ever shall reynge,
   In wom he dwellyt as his tempull sure.
   Wan I of thys knowynge make reporture,
     Ande se the love he hathe for me wrought,
   Yt bryngyt me to love that Prynce most pure,
     For, for love, that Lorde made man of nought.

Thys ys that love wyche ys clepyde charyté;
   For Gode ys charyté, as autors tellys,
Ande woo ys in charyté, in Gode dwellyt he,
   Ande Gode, that is charyté, in hym dwellys.
   Thus, undyrstondynge of Gode compellys
     To cum to charyté — than have hys lyknes, lo!
   Blyssyde ys that soull that this speche spellys:
     “Et qui creavit me requievit in tabernaculo meo.”5

WYSDOM   Lo, thes thre myghtys in on soule be:
   Mynde, Wyll, and Undyrstondynge.
By Mynde, of Gode the Fadyr knowyng have ye;
   By Undyrstondynge, of Gode the Sone ye have knowynge;
   By Wyll, wyche turnyt into love brennynge,
     Gode the Holy Gost, that clepyde ys Love,
   Not thre Godys, but on Gode in beynge.
     Thus eche clene soule ys symylytude of Gode above.

By Mynde, feythe in the Father have we;
   Hoppe in our Lorde Jhesu by Undyrstondynge;
Ande be Wyll, in the Holy Gost, charyté.
   Lo, thes thre pryncypall vertus of you thre sprynge.
   Thys the clene soule stondyth as a kynge;
     Ande above all this ye have free wyll.
   Of that be ware befor all thynge,
     For yff that perverte, all this dothe spylle.

Ye have thre enmyes, of hem beware:
   The Worlde, the Flesche, and the Fende.
Your fyve wyttys from hem ye spare,
   That the sensualyté they brynge not to mynde.
   Nothynge shulde offende Gode in no kynde,
     Ande yff ther do, se that the nether parte of resone
   In no wys therto lende;
     Than the over parte shall have fre domynacyon.

Wan suggestyon to the Mynde doth apere,
   Undyrstondynge, delyght not ye therin!
Consent not, Wyll, yll lessons to lere!
   Ande than suche steryngys by no syn;
   Thei do but purge the soule wer ys such contraversye.
     Thus in me, Wysdom, your werkys begynne;
   Fyght, and ye shall have the crown of glory,
     That ys everlastynge joy to be parteners therinne!

ANIMA   Soveren Lorde, I am bounde to thee!
   Wan I was nought, thou made me thus gloryus,
Wan I perysschede thorow synne, thou savyde me,
   Wen I was in grett perell, thou kept me, Cristus,
   Wen I erryde, thou reducyde me, Jhesus,
     Wen I was ignorant, thou taut me truthe,
   Wen I synnyde, thou corecte me thus,
     Wen I was hevy, thou comfortede me by ruthe.

Wan I stonde in grace, thou holdyste me that tyde,
   Wen I fall, thou reysyst me myghtyly,
Wen I go wyll, thou art my gyde,
   Wen I cum, thou receyvyste me most lovynly.
   Thou hast anoyntyde me with the oyll of mercy,
     Thy benefyttys, Lorde, be innumerable.
   Werfor, laude endeles to thee I crye,
     Recomendynge me to thin endles powre durable.
[find] no flaw in me
Because of; dark

five prudent ones
be disfigured
tear apart

are associated with; (see note)

meaning; nature
(see note)

whole; noble

What gratitude I owe

nothing; pay my debt
brows I knit


horrible failure and frailty
[to be] utterly worthless

Be mindful

by my own mind


be lost

What; obtain a great reward

in will alone stands man’s deed

deed; understood
be well-disposed [in virtue]

Before; action

judgments; advice

When; rises; entwined

nothing at all

appropriate to each
taken into his care





among; desirable
above all else



When; declaration

(see note)

compels [us]

(see note)


pure; image


Thus the pure

go astray; perish

Devil; (see note)
senses; protect

see; lower
Then the higher; full control


evil; learn
impulses be


wandered; led me back

sad; with pity

lifted me up
go astray
(see note)


  Here in the goynge out, the fyve wyttys [senses] synge: “Tota pulcra es, et cetera,”6 they goyng befor, Anima next, and her folowynge, Wysdom, and aftyr hym, Mynde, Wyll, and Undyrstondynge, all thre in wight [white] cloth of golde, cheveleryde [wigged] and crestyde [crowned] in sute [in the same manner]. And aftyr the songe, entreth Lucyfer in a devellys aray wythout, and wythin as a prowde galonte [fashionable man], seynge thus on thys wyse: (see note)










































































LUCYFER   Out, harow, I rore!
For envy I lore.
My place to restore,
   God hath made man!
All cum thei not thore,
Woode and they wore,
I shall tempte hem so sorre,
   For I am he that syn begane!

I was a angell of lyghte,
Lucyfeer I hyght,
Presumynge in Goddys syght,
   Werfor I am lowest in hell!
In reformynge of my place ys dyght
Man, whom I have in most dyspyght,
Ever castynge me wyth hem for to fyght,
   In that hevynly place he shulde not dwell.

I am as wyly now as than,
The knowynge that I hade, yet I can;
I know all compleccyons of man,
   Werto he ys most dysposyde.
Ande therin I tempte hym ay-whan;
I marre hys myndys to ther wan,
That whoo ys hym that God hym began!
   Many a holy man wyth me ys mosyde!

Of Gode, man ys the fygure,
Hys symylytude, hys pyctoure,
Gloryosest of ony creature
   That ever was wrought.
Wyche I wyll dysvygure
Be my fals conjecture!
Yff he tende my reporture,
   I shall brynge hym to nought!

In the Soule ben thre partyes, iwys:
Mynde, Wyll, Undyrstondynge of blys —
Fygure of the Godhede — I know wele thys!
   And the flesche of man that ys so changeable,
That wyll I tempte, as I gees;
Thou that I pervert, synne noon is
But yff the Soule consent to mys,
   For in the Wyll of the Soule the dedys ben damnable.

To the Mynde of the Soule I shall mak suggestyun,
Ande brynge hys Undyrstondynge to dylectacyon,
So that hys Wyll make confyrmacyon.
   Than am I sekyr inowe
That dede shall sew of damnacyon!
Than of the Soull the Devll hath dominacyon.
I wyll go make hys examynacyon,
   To all the devllys of helle I make a vowe!

But, for to tempte man in my lyknes,
Yt wolde brynge hym to grett feerfullnes!
I wyll change me into bryghtnes,
   And so hym to begyle.
Sen I shall schew hym perfyghtnes,
And vertu, prove yt wykkydnes.7
Thus undyr colors, all thynge perverse.
   I shall never rest tyll the Soule I defyle!

Her Lucyfer devoydyth, and cummyth in ageyn as a goodly galont.

MYNDE   My mynde ys ever on Jhesu
That enduyde us wyth vertu;
Hys doctrine to sue
   Ever I purpose.
UNDYRSTONDYNGE   My undyrstondynge ys in trew,
That wyth feyth us dyd renew.
Hys laws to pursew
   Ys swetter to me than savoure of the rose.

WYLL   And my wyll ys hys wyll, veraly,
That made us hys creaturys so specyally,
Yeldynge unto hym laude and glory
   For his goodnes.
LUCYFER   Ye fonnyde fathers, founders of foly,
Vt quid hic statis tota die ociosi?8
Ye wyll perysche or ye yt aspye;
   The Devyll hath acumberyde you expres!

Mynde, Mynde, ser, have in mynde thys!
MYNDE   He ys not ydyll that wyth Gode ys.
LUCYFER   No, ser, I prove well yis!
   Thys ys my suggestyun:
All thynge hat dew tymes —
Prayer, fastynge, labour — all thes;
Wan tyme ys not kept, that dede is amys.
   The more pleynerly to your informacyon.

[To a member of the audience.]

Here ys a man that lyvyt wordly,
Hathe wyffe, chylderne, and servantys besy,
And other chargys that I not specyfye!
   Ys yt leeffull to this man
To leve hys labour usyde truly?9
Hys chargys perysche, that Gode gaff duly,
Ande geve hym to preyer and es of body?
   Woso do thus, wyth God ys not than!

Mertha plesyde Gode grettly thore.
MYNDE   Ye, but Maria plesyde hymm moche more!
LUCYFER   Yet the lest hade blys for evermore —
   Ys not this anow?
MYNDE   Contemplatyff lyff ys sett befor.
LUCYFER   I may not beleve that in my lore,
For God hymselff, wan he was man borre,
   Wat lyff lede he? Answer thou now!

Was he ever in contemplacyon?
MYNDE   I suppos not, be my relacyon.
LUCYFER   And all hys lyff was informacyon
   Ande example to man!
Sumtyme wyth synners he had conversacyon,
Sumtyme with holy also comunycacyon,
Sumtyme he laboryde, preyde; sumtyme tribulacyon.
   Thys was vita mixta, that Gode here began,

And that lyff shulde ye here sewe.
MYNDE   I kan not beleve thys ys trewe.
LUCYFER   Contemplatyff lyff for to sewe,
   Yt ys grett drede, and se cause why:
They must fast, wake, and prey ever new,
Use harde lyvynge, and goynge wyth dyscyplyne dew,
Kepe sylence, wepe, and surphettys eschewe;
   Ande yff they fayll of thys, they offende Gode hyghly.

Wan they have wastyde be feyntnes,
Than febyll ther wyttys and fallyn to fondnes,
Sum into dyspeyer and sum into madnes.
   Wet yt well, God ys not plesyde wyth thys!
Leve, leve such syngler besynes!
Be in the worlde! Use thyngys nesesse!
The comyn ys best expres.
   Who clymyt hye, hys fall gret ys!

MYNDE   Truly, me seme ye have reson.
LUCYFER   Aplye you then to this conclusyun.
MYNDE   I kan make no replicacyon,
   Your resons be grete!
I kan not forgett this informacyon.
LUCYFER   Thynke theruppon, yt ys your salvacyon!
Now, and Undyrstondynge wolde have delectacyon,
   All syngler devocyons he wolde lett.

Your fyve wyttys abrode lett sprede!
Se how comly to man ys precyus wede;
Wat worschype yt ys to be manfull in dede.
   That bryngyt in dominacyon!
Of the symple, what profyght yt to tak hede?
Beholde how ryches dystroyt nede!
It makyt man fayer, hym wele for to fede
   And of lust and lykynge commyth generacyon!

Undyrstondynge, tender ye this informacyon?
UNDYRSTONDYNGE   In thys I fele in manere of dylectacyon!
LUCYFER   A ha, ser! Then ther make a pawsacyon!
   Se and beholde the worlde aboute!
Lytyll thynge suffysyt to salvacyon.
All maner synnys dystroyt contryscyon,
They that dyspeyer mercy have grett compunccyon!
   Gode plesyde best wyth goode wyll, no dowte!

Therfor, Wyll, I rede you inclyne.
Leve your stodyes, thow ben dyvyn —
Your prayers, your penance, of ipocryttys the syne —
   Ande lede a comun lyff!
What synne ys in met? In ale? In wyn?
Wat synne ys in ryches? In clothynge fyne?
All thynge Gode ordenyde to man to inclyne.
   Leve your nyse chastyté, and take a wyff!

Better ys fayer frut than foull pollucyon!
What seyth sensualité to this conclusyon?
WYLL   As the fyve wyttys gyff informacyon,
   Yt semyth your resons be goode.
LUCYFER   The Wyll of the Soule hathe fre dominacyon,
Dyspute not to moche in this wyth reson,
Yet the nethyr parte to this taketh sum instruccyon,
   And so shulde the over parte, but he were woode.

WYLL   Me seme, as ye sey, in body and soule,
Man may be in the worlde, and be ryght goode.
LUCYFER   Ya, ser, by Sent Powle!
But trust not thes prechors, for they be not goode,
For they flatere and lye as they wore wood —
   Ther ys a wolffe in a lombys skyn!
WYLL   Ya, I woll no more row ageyn the floode.
   I woll sett my soule on a mery pynne!

LUCYFER   Be my trouthe, than do ye wyslye!
Gode lovyt a clene soull and a mery!
Acorde you thre togedyr by,
   And ye may not mysfare.
MYNDE   To this suggestyon agre we!
UNDYRSTONDYNGE   Delyght therin I have truly!
WYLL   And I consent therto frelye!
LUCYFER   A, ser! All mery than, awey care!

Go in the worlde, se that aboute!
Geet goode frely, cast no doute!
To the ryche ye se men lowly lought!
   Geve to your body that ys nede,
Ande ever be mery! Let revell route!
MYNDE   Ya, ellys I beschrew my snoute!
UNDYRSTONDYNGE   And yff I care, cache I the goute!
WYLL   And yff I spare, the Devyll me spede!

LUCYFER   Go your wey than, and do wysly.
Change that syde aray!
MYNDE                    I yt defye!
UNDYRSTONDYNGE   We woll be fresche, and it hap La plu joly!
   Farwell, penance!
MYNDE               To worschyppys I wyll my mynde aplye!
UNDYRSTONDYNGE   Myn undyrstondynge in worschyppys and glory!
WYLLE   And I in lustys of lechery,
   As was sumtyme gyse of Fraunce!
     Wyth “Wy, wyppe!
     Farwell,” quod I, “the Devyll ys uppe!”


LUCYFER   Of my dysyere now have I summe!
Wer onys brought into custume,
Then farwell, consyens, he wer clumme
   I shulde have all my wyll!
Resone I have made both deff and dumme,
Grace ys out and put arome,
Wethyr I wyll have, he shall cum,
   So, at the last, I shall hym spyll!

I shall now stere his mynde
To that syne made me a fende,
Pryde, wyche ys ageyn kynde,
   And of synnys hede.
So to covetyse he shall wende,
For that enduryth to the last ende,
And onto lechery, and I may hymm rende!
   Than am I seker the Soule ys dede!

That Soule Gode made incomparable,
To hys lyknes most amyable,
I shall make yt most reprovable,
   Evyn lyke to a fende of hell.
At hys deth I shall apere informable,
Schewynge hym all hys synnys abhomynable,
Prevynge his Soule dampnable,
   So wyth dyspeyer I shall hym quell.

Wyll clennes ys in mankyn,
Verely, the Soule God ys wythin,
Ande wen yt ys in dedly synne,
   Yt ys veryly the Develys place.
Thus by colours and false gynne
Many a soule to hell I wynn;
Wyde to go, I may not blyne,
   Wyth this fals boy — God gyff hym evell grace!

Her he takyt a schrewede boy wyth hym and goth hys wey, cryenge.

MYNDE   Lo, me here in a newe aray!
Wyppe, wyrre, care awey!
   Farwell, perfeccyon!
Me semyt myselff most lykly, ay!
It ys but honest, no pryde, no nay.
I wyll be freshest by my fay,
   For that acordyt wyth my complexccyon.

UNDYRSTONDYNGE   Ande have here me as fresche as you!
All mery, mery and glade now!
I have get goode, God wott how!
   For joy I sprynge, I sckyppe!
Goode makyt on mery, to God a vowe!
Farewell, consyens, I know not you!
I am at eas, hade I inowe.
   Truthe on syde I lett hym slyppe.

WYLL   Lo, here on as jolye as ye!
I am so lykynge, me seme I fle!
I have atastyde lust! Farwell, chastité!
   My hert ys evermore lyght!
I am full of felycyté!
My delyght ys all in bewté.
Ther ys no joy but that in me.
   A woman me semyth a hevynly syght!

MYNDE   Ande thes ben my synglere solace:
Kynde, fortune, and grace.
Kynde, nobley of kynrede me gevyn hase,
   Ande that makyt me soleyn.
Fortune in worldys worschyppe me doth lace;
Grace gevyt curryus eloquens, and that mase
   That alle oncunnynge I dysdeyn!

UNDYRSTONDYNGE   And my joy ys especyall
To hurde uppe ryches for fer to fall,
To se yt, to handyll it, to tell yt all —
   And streightly to spare!
To be holde ryche and reyall
I bost, I avaunt wer I shall.
Ryches makyt a man equall
   To hem sumtyme hys sovereyngys were.

WYLL   To me ys joy most laudable
Fresche dysgysynge to seme amyable,
Spekynge wordys delectable
   Perteynynge onto love!
It ys joy of joys inestymable
To halse, to kys the affyable!
A lover ys son perceyvable
   Be the smylynge on me wan yt doth remove!

MYNDE   To avaunte thus, me semeth no schame,
For galontys now be in most fame.
Curtely personys men hem proclame.
   Moche we be sett bye!
UNDYRSTONDYNGE   The ryche covetouse, wo dare blame
Off govell and symony thow he bere the name?
To be fals, men report yt game!
   Yt ys clepyde wysdom! “Ware that,” quod Ser Wyly!

WYLL   Ande of lechory to make avaunte,
Men fors it no more than drynke ataunt.
Thes thyngys be now so conversant,
   We seme yt no schame.
MYNDE   Curyous aray I wyll ever hante!
UNDYRSTONDYNGE   Ande I falsnes, to be passante!
WYLL   Ande I in lust my flesche to daunte!
   No man dyspyes thes — they be but game!

MYNDE   I rejoys of thes, now let us synge!
UNDYRSTONDYNGE   Ande yff I spar, evell joy me wrynge!
WYLL   Have at, quod I! Lo, howe I sprynge!
   Lust makyth me wondyr wylde!
MYNDE   A tenour to you bothe I brynge.
UNDYRSTONDYNGE   And I a mene for ony kynge!
WYLL   And but a trebull I outwrynge,
   The Devell hym spede that myrth exyled!

Et cantent.

MYNDE   How be this trow ye nowe?
UNDYRSTONDYNGE   At the best, to God a vowe!
WYLL   As mery as the byrde on bow,
   I take no thought!
MYNDE   The welfare of this worlde ys in us, I avowe!
UNDYRSTONDYNGE   Lett eche man tell hys condycyons howe.
WYLL   Begynne ye, ande have at yow!
   For I am aschamyde of ryght nought.

MYNDE   Thys ys a cause of my worschyppe:
I serve myghty lordeschyppe,
Ande am in grett tenderschyppe;
   Therfor moche folke me dredys.
Men sew to my frendeschyppe
For meyntnance of her shendeschyppe.
I support hem by lordeschyppe
   For, to get good, this a grett spede ys!

UNDYRSTONDYNGE   And I use joroury,
Enbrace questys of perjury,
Choppe and chonge with symonye,
   And take large geftys!
Be the cause never so try,
I preve yt fals — I swere, I lye! —
Wyth a quest of myn affye.
   The redy wey this now to thryfte ys!

WYLL   And wat trow ye be me?
More than I take, spende I threys thre!
Sumtyme I geff, sumtyme they me,
   Ande am ever fresche and gay!
Few placys now ther be
But onclennes we shall ther see.
It ys holde but a nysyté,
   Lust ys now cumun as the way!

MYNDE   Law procedyth not for meyntnance.
UNDYRSTONDYNGE   Trouthe recurythe not for habundance.10
WYLL   And lust ys in so grett usance,
   We fors yt nought.
MYNDE   In us the worlde hath most affyance.
UNDYRSTONDYNGE   Non thre be in so grett aqueynttance.
WYLL   Few ther be outhe of our allyance;
   Wyll the worlde ys thus, take we no thought!

MYNDE   Thought? Nay, therageyn stryve I!
UNDYRSTONDYNGE   We have that nedyt us, so thryve I!
WYLL   And yff that I care, never wyve I!
   Lett hem care that hathe for to sewe!
MYNDE   Wo lordschyppe shall sew must yt bye!
UNDYRSTONDYNGE   Wo wyll have law must have monye!
WYLL   Ther povert ys the malewrye,
   Thow right be, he shall never renewe.

MYNDE   Wronge ys born upe boldly,
Thow all the worlde know yt opynly;
Mayntnance ys now so myghty,
   Ande all is for mede!
UNDYRSTONDYNGE   The lawe ys so coloryde falsly
By sleyttys and by perjury,
Brybys be so gredy,
   That to the pore trouth is take ryght non hede!

WYLL   Wo gett or loose, ye be ay wynnande!
Mayntnance and perjury now stande:
Thei wer never so moche reynande
   Seth Gode was bore!
MYNDE   Ande lechery was never more usande
Of lernyde and lewyde in this lande!
UNDYRSTONDYNGE   So we thre be now in hande!
WYLL   Ya, and most usyde everywere!

MYNDE   Now wyll we thre do make a dance
Of thow that longe to our retenance,
Cummynge in by contenance,
   This were a dysporte!
UNDYRSTONDYNGE   Therto I geve acordance
Of thow that ben of myn affyance.
WYLL   Let se betyme, ye, Meyntnance!
   Clepe in fyrst your resorte!
(see note)
frown (lour)
(see note)

If they do not all come there
Mad; were
them most sorely

was called

hold in greatest contempt
devoting myself
[So that] in

crafty; (see note)
knowledge; still
(see note)
confuse; weakness
woe; created


By; trickery
If; listens to my speech

parts, indeed

Though; pervert [it], [it] is no sin
Unless; sin


certain enough
result in

[I will] pervert all things under false pretenses

exits; gallant; (see note)

(see note)
the true God


(see note)
before; notice
overwhelmed you surely


things have appropriate; (see note)

When; action is wrong
obviously for

lives worldly
I will not

[To let] his dependents
Whoever does

there; (see note)
(see note)
when; born as man

by what I can say

holy [men]

the mixed life; (see note)


follow; (see note)
very difficult; see the reason
continually; (see note)

[become] feeble; foolishness
curious behavior
ordinary; certainly

it seems to me; (see note)

if; pleasure; (see note)
special; leave

fine clothing
What honor
leads to
to pay attention

himself; feed
from desire; pleasure; procreation

a sort of pleasure

All kinds of; contrition
is pleased; (see note)

advise you to listen
studies, those that are
hypocrites the sign

food; (see note)



senses; (see note)

higher; unless; insane

It seems to me

St. Paul
(see note)
were mad
lamb’s; (see note)
mood; (see note)

loves; (see note)

look around
see; bow down low
run riot
may I catch

long garment; (see note)

The most beautiful; (see note)

riches; (see note)

Why, quickly

They leave

Were it once; habit
[if] he were silent

(see note)
at a distance
Wherever I want him


against nature
turn; (see note)

if I may lead him


with information


While innocence; (see note)
deceit; strategy

Far; cease

mischievous; (see note)

garment; (see note)
Quick, hurry; (see note)

handsome, yes
the truth; denying
suits; temperament

here is

goods; knows

Goods; one

would be; if I had enough
let it slip aside

happy, it seems to me I fly

seems to me

particular pleasures
nobility of kindred
subtle; causes

hoard; fear of a
frugally; save
brag wherever I want

those who once were his superiors

clothing; friendly

embrace; lover
soon apparent
when it arouses passion

boast; it seems to me
We are highly regarded
usury; accusation; (see note)
call it sport; (see note)
called; Beware of; Wily

consider; in excess
We consider it
Elaborate clothing; use
despises; sport

refrain; hurt
Go on; dance
(see note)
middle part [good enough] for
unless an upper part I squeeze out

And they sing

I haven’t a care

Go ahead
nothing at all

the reason for

many people fear me
seek; (see note)
support; shameful behavior

goods; very successful

bear false witness; (see note)
jury of inquiry
Bargain and trade

jury I have bought

what do you think of

[give] to me

trivial thing

because of bribery

so well known
While; we have no care

against that
what we need
I’ll never marry
who need to sue
Who; sue; pay for
poverty; misfortune
Though his cause be right; recover


Unjust Support

Who; always winning
Unjust Support
in control
Since; born
being practiced
By; uneducated

(see note)
those; belong; retinues
with masks

those; company
Let’s see immediately
Call; retinue

  Here entur six dysgysed in the sute [livery] of Mynde, wyth rede berdys, and lyouns rampaunt on here crestys [badges], and yche a warder [staff] in hys honde; her [their] mynstrallys, trumpes [trumpets]. Eche answere for hys name. (see note)







MYNDE   Let se, cum in Indignacyon and Sturdynes!
Males also, and Hastynes!
Wreche and Dyscorde expres!
   And the sevente am I, Mayntennance!
Seven ys a numbyr of discorde and inperfyghtnes;
Lo, here ys a yomandrye wyth loveday to dres!
Ande the Devle hade swore yt, they wolde ber up falsnes,
   Ande maynten yt at the best. This ys the Devllys dance!

Ande here menstrellys be convenyent,
For trumpys shulde blow to the jugemente!
Off batell also yt ys on instrumente,
   Gevynge comfort to fyght.
Therfor they be expedyente
To thes meny of Mayntement.
Blow! Lett see Madam Regent,
   Ande daunce, ye laddys, your hertys be lyght!

[They dance.]

Lo, that other spare, thes meny wyll spende!
UNDYRSTONDYNGE   Ya, wo ys hym shall hem offende!
WYLL   Wo wyll not to hem condescende,
   He shall have threttys!
MYNDE   They spyll that law wolde amende!
UNDYRSTONDYNGE   Yit Mayntnance no man dare reprehende.
WYLL   Thes meny thre synnys comprehende:
   Pryde, Invy, and Wrathe in hys hestys!

UNDYRSTONDYNGE   Now wyll I than begyn my traces.
Jorour in on hoode beer to facys:
Fayer speche and falsehede in on space ys!
   Is it not ruthe?
The quest of Holborn cum into this placys,
Ageyn the ryght ever ther rechase ys;
Of wom they holde not, harde hys grace ys.
   Many a tyme have dammyde truthe.
Malice; Rashness
Vengeance; for certain
Unjust Support
imperfection; (see note)
yeomanry to decorate (dress) a loveday; (see note)
If; commanded

trumpets; at a
in a fight
this retinue of Unjust Support
(see note)

that which others save, this retinue
destroy those whom

This retinue; comprises
Envy; demands

my dance
one; bears two; (see note)
a pity
inquest (jury); (see note)
Against; judicial review
Whomever they rule against
they have condemned

  Here entrethe six jorours in a sute [matching livery], gownyde, wyth hodys [hoods] about her nekys, hattys of Meyntenance therupon, vyseryde [masked] diversly; here [their] myn­strell, a bagpype. (see note)







UNDYRSTONDYNGE   Let se, fyrst Wronge and Sleyght!
Dobullnes and Falsnes, schew your myght!
Now Raveyn and Dyscheyit!
   Now holde you here togydyr!
This menys consyens ys so streytt
That they report as mede yevyt beyght!
Here ys the quest of Holborn, an evyll endyrecte.
   They daunce all the londe, hydyr and thedyr!
     And I, Perjury, your founder!
     Now dance on, us all! The worlde doth on us wondyr!

[They dance.]

Lo, here ys a meyné love wellfare!
MYNDE   Ye, they spende that tru men spare!
WYLL   Have they a brybe, have they no care
   Wo hath wronge or ryght!
MYNDE   They fors not to swere and starre.
WYLL   Though all be false, les and mare.
UNDYRSTONDYNGE   Wyche wey to the woode wyll the hare?
   They knewe, and they at rest sett als tyghte!
     Some seme hem wyse
     For the fadyr of us, Covetyse.

WYLL   Now Meyntnance and Perjury
Hathe schewyde the trace of ther cumpeny,
Ye shall se a sprynge of Lechery,
   That to me attende!
Here forme ys of the stewys clene rebaldry!
They wene sey soth wen that they lye!
Of the comyn they synge, eche wyke by and by!
   They may sey wyth tenker, I trow, ‘Lat amende!’

Plunder and Deceit

retinue’s; limited
they report being bought as earnings
a crooked (dishonest) evil; (see note)

all of us

retinue [that] loves
that which; save

think nothing of

(see note)
know; sit tight [and wait]
seem to them

Unjust Support

Their; brothel’s pure
think they tell the truth
Regularly; each week continually
tinker; Get it fixed

  Here entreth six women in sut [matching liveries], thre dysgysyde as galontes [gallants] and thre as matrones, wyth wondyrfull vysurs [masks] conregent [similar]; here [their] myn­strell, an hornepype. (see note)































WYLL   Cum slepers, Rekleshede and Idyllnes,
All in, all — Surfet and Gredynes,
For the flesche, Spousebreche and Mastres,
   Wyth jentyll Fornycacyon.
Your mynstrell a hornepype mete
That foull ys in hymselff but to the erys swete.
Thre fortherers of love: “Hem shrew I!” quod Bete.
   Thys dance of this damesellys ys thorow this regyn.

[They dance.]

MYNDE   Ye may not endure wythout my meyntenance.
UNDYRSTONDYNGE   That ys bought wyth a brybe of our substance.
WYLL   Whow, breydest thou us of thin aqueyntance?
   I sett thee at nought!
MYNDE   On that worde I woll tak vengeaunce!
Wer vycys be gederyde, ever ys sum myschance.
Hurle hens thes harlottys! Here gyse ys of France.
   They shall abey bytterly, by hym that all wrought!

UNDYRSTONDYNGE   Ill spede thee ande thou spare!
Thi longe body bare
To bett I not spare.
   Have thee ageyn!
WYLL   Holde me not! Let me go! Ware!
I dynge, I dasche! Ther, go ther!
Dompe devys, can ye not dare?
   I tell yow, outwarde, on and tweyn!


MYNDE   Now I schrew yow thus dansaunde!
UNDERSTONDYNGE   Ye, and evyll be thou thryvande!
WYLL   No more let us be stryvande.
   Nowe all at on!
MYNDE   Here was a meny onthryvande!
UNDYRSTONDYNGE   To the Devll be they dryvande.
WYLL   He that ys yll wyvande,
   Wo hys hym, by the bon!

MYNDE   Leve then this dalyance
Ande set we a ordenance
Off better chevesaunce
   How we may thryve.
UNDYRSTONDYNGE   At Westmyster, wythout varyance,
The nex terme shall me sore avaunce,
For retornys, for enbraces, for recordaunce.
   Lyghtlyer to get goode kan no man on lyve!

MYNDE   Ande at the parvyse I wyll be
A Powlys betwyn to ande thre,
Wyth a menye folowynge me,
   Entret, juge-partynge, and to-supporte.
WYLL   Ande ever the latter, the lever me.
Wen I com lat to the cyté
I walke all lanys and weys to myn affynyté.
   And I spede no ther, to the stews I resort.

MYNDE   Ther gettys thou nouhte, but spendys.
WYLL   Yis, sumtyme I take amendys
Of hem that nought offendys,
   I engrose upe here purs.
MYNDE   And I arest ther no drede ys,
Preve forfett ther no mede ys,
Ande take to me that nede ys.
   I reke not thow they curs.

UNDYRSTONDYNGE   Thow they curs, nether the wers I fare.
Thys day I endyght them I herde of never are.
To-morow I wyll aquyt them, yff nede were.
   Thys lede I my lyff.
WYLL   Ye, but of us thre I have lest care.
Met and drynke and ease, I aske no mare,
And a praty wench, to se here bare!
   I reke but lytyll be sche mayde or wyffe.

MYNDE   Thys on a soper
I wyll be seen rycher,
Set a noble wyth goode chere
   Redyly to spende.
UNDYRSTONDYNGE   And I tweyn, be this feer,
To moque at a goode dyner.
I hoope of a goode yer,
   For ever I trost Gode wyll send.

WYLL   And best we have wyne,
Ande a cosyn of myn
Wyth us for to dyne.
   Thre nobles wyll I spende frely.
MYNDE   We shall acorde well and fyne.
UNDYRSTONDYNGE   Nay, I wyll not passe schylyngys nyne.
WYLL   No, thou was never but a swyn.
   I woll be holdyn jentyll, by Sent Audre of Ely!

Ande now in my mynde I have
My cosyn Jenet N., so Gode me save.
Sche mornyth wyth a chorle, a very knave,
   And never kan be mery.
I pley me ther wen I lyst rave;
Than the chorle wyll here dysprave.
How myght make hym thys to lawe,
   I wolde onys have hym in the wyrry.

MYNDE   For thys I kan a remedye:
I shall rebuk hym thus so dyspytuusly
That of hys lyff he shall wery
   And quak for very fere.
Ande yff he wyll not leve therby,
On hys bodye he shall abye
Tyll he leve that jelousy.
   Nay, suche chorlys I kan lere!

UNDYRSTONDYNGE   Nay, I kan better hym quytte:
Arest hym fyrst to pes for fyght,
Than in another schere hym endyght,
   He ne shall wete by wom ne howe!
Have hym in the Marschalsi seyn aryght,
Than to the Amralté, for they wyll byght,
A prevenire facias than have as tyght,
   Ande thou shalt hurle hym so that he shall have inow.

WYLL   Wat and thes wrongys be espyede?
UNDYRSTONDYNGE   Wyth the crose and the pyll I shall wrye yt,
That ther shall never man dyscrey yt
   That may me appeyere.
MYNDE   Ther ys no craft but we may trye it.
UNDYRSTONDYNGE   Mede stoppyt, be yt never so allyede.
WYLL   Wyth you tweyn wo ys replyede,
   He may sey he hathe a schrewde seyer.

MYNDE   Thou woldyst have wondyr of sleyghtys that be.
UNDYRSTONDYNGE   Thys make sume ryche and summe never thé.
WYLL   They must nedys grett goodys gett thee!
   Now go we to the wyne!
MYNDE   In treuthe I grante, have at wyth thee!
UNDYRSTONDYNGE   Ande for a peny or to, I wyll not fle.
WYLL   Mery, mery, all mery than be we!
   Who that us tarythe, curs have he and myn!

[Enter Wisdom.]

WYSDOM   O thou Mynde, remembyr thee!
   Turne thi weys, thou gost amyse.
Se what thi ende ys, thou myght not fle.
   Dethe to every creature certen ys.
They that lyve well, they shall have blys;
   Thay that endyn yll, they goo to hell!
I am Wysdom, sent to tell you thys.
   Se in what stat thou doyst indwell.

MYNDE   To my mynde yt cummyth from farre
   That doutles man shall dey!
Ande thes weys we go, we erre.
   Undyrstondynge, wat do ye sey?
UNDYRSTONDYNGE   I sey, man, holde forthe thi wey!
     The lyff we lede ys sekyr ynowe.
   I wyll no undyrstondynge shall lett my pley.
     Wyll, frende, how seyst thou?
WYLL   I wyll not thynke theron, to Gode a vowe!
        We be yit but tender of age.
     Schulde we leve this lyve? Ya, whowe?
        We may amende wen we be sage.

WYSDOM   Thus many on unabylythe hym to grace;
   They wyll not loke, but slumber and wynke.
They take not drede before ther face,
   Howe horryble ther synnys stynke.
   Wen they be on the pyttys brynke,
     Than shall they trymbull and quake for drede.
   Yit Mynde, I sey, you bethynke
     In what perell ye be now! Take hede!

Se howe ye have dysvyguryde your soule!
   Beholde yourselff; loke veryly in mynde!
Every one in
Adultery; Mistress

I curse him; (see note)
these; region


Whoa, reproach; (see note)

(see note)
Where; assembled
Throw out; Their manner

if you delay

To beat I will
Have at
beat; strike
Dumb show; shut up
forward, one and two

They [the dancers] leave; (see note)

curse; dancing
may you thrive evilly
as one
a useless retinue
badly married
Woe is; bone; (see note)


Westminster; question; (see note)
next [law] period; greatly advance
writ payments; bribery; false testimony
More easily; goods

church door; (see note)
At St. Paul’s; two
jury-bribery (judge-bribery); illegal support
the better for
When; late [at night]
street; with my companions
If I succeed not; brothels

have done nothing wrong
take possession of; (see note)
Take forfeit; reward
care not though

Though; (see note)
indict those I’ve never heard of before

pretty; see her
I don’t care

[I’ll put] this [coin]; supper

Put forth; (see note)

two [nobles]; company
enjoy ourselves

Three gold coins

spend more than
anything but
considered noble, by St. Audrey; (see note)

(see note)
suffers; churl, a true

want to
Then the churl; slander her
How I can take him to court over this
then; by the throat


pay for it

churls; teach

keep the peace for fighting; (see note)
county indict him
whom nor
appear in the Knight-Marshal’s court; (see note)
Lord Admiral’s court; be severe; (see note)
A writ of praemunire facias; tightly; (see note)
harass; enough

What if; noticed
heads and tails; conceal; (see note)
So that; perceive
So that I might have to appear before the court

Bribery stops [the law]; well-connected
whoever you reply to
clever lawyer

at the tricks

(see note)

See; you dwell in

It seems to me

stay on your path
secure enough

life; how; (see note)
change when; aged

one makes himself unfit for

When; the edge of the pit


(see note)
truly into your mind

  Here Anima apperythe in the most horrybull wyse [manner], foulere than a fende.



MYNDE   Out! I tremble for drede, by Sent Powle!
   Thys ys fouler than ony fend.
WYSDOM   Wy art thou creature so onkynde,
   Thus to defoule Godys own place
That was made so gloryus wythout ende?
   Thou hast made the Devylls rechace.
As many dedly synnys as ye have usyde,
   So many devllys in your soule be.
Beholde wat ys therin reclusyde!
   Alas, man, of thi Soule have pyté!
St. Paul
Why; unnatural

called up the Devil; (see note)

what; hidden

  Here rennyt out from undyr the horrybyll mantyll of the Soull six small boys in the lyknes of devyllys and so retorne ageyn. (see note)

















WYSDAM   What have I do? Why lovyste thou not me?
   Why cherysyste thi enmye? Why hatyst thou thi frende?
Myght I have don ony more for thee?
   But love may brynge drede to mynde.

Thou hast made thee a bronde of hell
   Whom I made the ymage of lyght.
Yff the Devll myght, he wolde thee qwell
But that mercy expellyt hys myght.
Wy doyst thou, Soule, me all dyspyght?
   Why gevyst thou myn enmy that I have wrought?
Why werkyst thou hys consell; by myn settys lyght?
   Why hatyst thou vertu? Why lovyst that ys nought?

MYNDE   A, lorde, now I brynge to mynde
   My horryble synnys and myn offens,
I se how I have defoulyde the noble kynde
   That was lyke to thee by intellygens.
   Undyrstondynge, I schew to your presens
     Our lyff wyche that ys most synfull.
   Sek you remedye, do your dylygens
     To clense the Soull wyche ys this foull.

UNDYRSTONDYNGE   By you, Mynde, I have very knowenge
   That grettly Gode we have offendyde;
Endles peyn worthyi be our dysyrvynge
   Wyche be ourselff never may be amendyde
   Wythout Gode, in whom all ys comprehendyde.
     Therfor to hym let us resort —
   He lefte up them that be descendyde.
     He ys resurreccyon and lyve; to hem, Wyll, resort!

WYLL   My wyll was full gove to syne,
   By wyche the Soule ys so abhomynable.
I wyll retorne to Gode and new begynne
   Ande in hym gronde my wyll stable,
   That of hys mercy he wyll me able
     To have the giffte of hys specyall grace,
   How hys seke Soule may be recurable
     At the jugment before hys face.

ANIMA   Than wyth you thre the Soule dothe crye,
   “Mercy, Gode!” Why change I nowte,
I that thus horryble in synne lye,
   Sythe Mynde, Wyll, and Undyrstondynge be brought
   To have knowynge they ill wrought?
     What ys that shall make me clene?
   Put yt, Lorde, into my thowte!
     Thi olde mercy let me remene.

WYSDOM   Thow the soule mynde take
   Ande undyrstondynge of hys synnys allwey,
Beynge in wyll, yt forsake,
   Yit thes do not only synnys awey,
   But very contrycyon, who that have may,
     That ys purger and clenser of synne.
   A tere of the ey, wyth sorow veray,
     That rubbyt and waschyt the Soule wythin.

All the penance that may be wrought,
   Ne all the preyer that seyde be kan,
Wythout sorowe of hert relesyt nought.
   That in especyall reformyth man
   Ande makyt hym as clene as when he begane.
     Go seke this medsyne, Soull. That beseke
   Wyth veray feythe, and be ye sekyr than
     The vengeaunce of Gode ys made full meke.

By Undyrstondynge have very contrycyon,
   Wyth Mynde of your synne confessyon make,
Wyth Wyll yeldynge du satysfaccyon.
   Than your soule be clene, I undyrtake.
ANIMA   I wepe for sorowe, Lorde! I begyn awake,
     I that this longe hath slumberyde in syne.

Hic recedunt demones.

WYSDOM   Lo, how contrycyon avoydyth the devllys blake!
Dedly synne ys non you wythin!

For Gode ye have offendyde hyghly
   Ande your modyr, Holy Chyrche so mylde,
Therfor Gode ye must aske mercy,
   By Holy Chyrch to be reconsylyde,
   Trustynge verely ye shall never be revylyde
     Yff ye have your charter of pardon by confessyon.
   Now have ye forgeffnes that were fylyde.
     Go prey your modyr Chyrche of her proteccyon.

ANIMA   O Fadyr of mercy ande of comfort,
   Wyth wepynge ey and hert contryte
To our modyr, Holy Chyrche, I wyll resort,
   My lyff pleyn schewenge to here syght.
   Wyth Mynde, Undyrstondynge, and Wyll ryght,
     Wyche of my Soull the partyes be,
   To the domys of the Chyrche we shall us dyght,
     Wyth veray contricyon thus compleynnyng we.
do you cherish your enemy


Unless; drives away
Why; injure
give; that which
pay no attention to mine
that which is nothing

see; defiled; nature
because of

so foul

true knowledge

(see note)
by ourselves

lifts; have fallen


sick; curable

not at all

did ill



forsake it (sin)
alone [take]

tear; eye; true
scrubs and washes

remits nothing
in particular

seek; medicine
true; certain

true; (see note)

will be; promise

Here the demons exit

drives out

[of] God

truly; reviled
(see note)

(see note)

My life openly displayed

judgement; put

  Here they go out, and in the goynge the Soule syngyth in the most lamentabull wyse [manner], wyth drawte notys [long drawn-out notes] as yt ys songyn in the passyon wyke [Easter Week]:














ANIMA   Magna velud mare contricio, contricio tua: quis consoletur tui?
Plorans ploravit in nocte, et lacrime ejus in maxillis ejus.11

WYSDOM   Thus seth Gode mankynde tyll
   The nyne poyntys ples hym all other before.
“Gyff a peny in thy lyve wyth goode wyll
   To the pore, and that plesythe Gode more
   Than mouyntenys into golde tramposyde wore
     Ande aftyr thy dethe for thee dysposyde.”
   Ande all the goodys thou hast in store
     Shulde not profyght so moche wan thi body ys closyde.

The secunde poynt, Gode sethe thus,
   “Wepe on tere for my love hertyly,
Or for the passyon of me, Jhesus,
   Ande that plesyt me more specyally
   Than yff thou wepte for thi frendys or goodys worldly
     As moche water as the se conteynys.”
   Lo, contrycyon ys a soveren remedy
     That dystroythe synnys, that relessyt peynys.

The thyrde, Gode sethe, “Suffyr pacyenly for my love
   Of thi neybure a worde of repreve,
Ande that to mercy mor dothe me move
   Than thou dyscyplynyde thi body wyth peynys greve
   Wyth as many roddys as myght grow or thryve
     In the space of a days jornyé.”
   Lo, who suffyryth most for Gode ys most leve,
     Slandyr, repreve, ony adversyté.

The fourte, Gode sethe, “Wake on ouyr for the love of me,
   And that to me ys more plesaunce
Than yff thou sent twelve kyngys free
   To my sepulkyr wyth grett puysschaunce
   For my dethe to take vengeaunce.”
     Lo, wakynge ys a holy thynge.
   Ther yt ys hade wyth goode usance,
     Many gracys of yt doth sprynge.

The fyfte, Gode sethe, “Have pyté and compassyon
   Of thi neybur wyche ys seke and nedy,
And that to me ys more dylectacyon
   Than thou fastyde forty yer by and by
   Thre days in the weke, as streytly
     As thou cowdys in water and brede.”
   Lo, pyté God plesyth grettly,
     Ande yt ys a vertu soveren, as clerkys rede.

The sixte, Gode seth on this wyse,
   “Refreyn thy speche for my reverens,
Lett not thy tonge thy eveyn-Crysten dyspyse,
   Ande than plesyst thou more myn excellens
   Than yff thou laberyde wyth grett dylygens
     Upon thy nakyde feet and bare
   Tyll the blode folwude for peyn and vyolens
     Ande aftyr eche stepe yt sene were.”

The sevente, Cryst seth in this maner,
   “Thy neybur to evyll ne sterre not thou,
But all thynge torne into vertu chere,
   And than more plesyst thou me now
   Then yf a thousende tymys thou renne thorow
     A busche of thornys that scharpe were
   Tyll thi nakyde body were all rough
     Ande evyn rent to the bonys bare.”

The eyghte, Gode sethe this man till,
   “Oftyn pray and aske of me,
And that plesythe me more onto my wyll
   Than yf my modyr and all sentys preyde for thee.”

The nynte, God sethe, “Love me soverenly,
   Ande that to me more plesant ys
Than yf thou went upon a pyler of tre
   That wer sett full of scharpe prykkys
   So that thou cut thi flesche into the smale partys.”
     Lo, Gode ys plesyde more wyth the dedys of charyté
   Than all the peynys man may suffer iwys.
     Remembyr thes poyntys, man, in thi felycité!

saith; to
(see note)

mountains; converted
spent for your sake

when; buried


sets [the soul] free from pains

neighbor; reproof

grievous pains
(see note)

Keep a vigil one hour

noble; (see note)

keeping vigil
done properly



fellow-Christians slander

(see note)

virtuous behavior

run through


to man

above all else

wooden pillar
little pieces

pains; indeed

  Here entrethe Anima, wyth the Fyve Wyttys [Senses] goynge before, Mynde on the on [one] syde and Undyrstondynge on the other syde and Wyll folowyng, all in here fyrst clothynge, her chapplettys [coronets] and crestys [badges], and all havyng on crownys, syngynge in here [their] commynge in: “Quid retribuam Domino pro omnibus que retribuit mihi? Calicem salutaris accipiam et nomen Domini invocabo.”12 (see note)




















ANIMA   O meke Jhesu, to thee I crye!
   O swet Jhesu, my delectacyon!
O Jhesu, the sune of Vyrgyne Marye,
   Full of mercy and compassyon!
   My soule ys waschede by thy passyon
     Fro the synnys cummynge by sensualyté.
   A, be thee I have a new resurreccyon.
     The lyght of grace I fele in me.

In tweyn myghtes of my soule I thee offendyde:
   The on by my inwarde wyttys, thow ben gostly;
The other by my outwarde wyttys comprehendyde,
   Tho be the fyve wyttys bodyly,
   Wyth the wyche tweyn myghtys mercy I crye.
     My modyr, Holy Chyrche, hath gove me grace,
   Whom ye fyrst toke to your mercy,
     Yet of myselff I may not satysfye my trespas.

Magna est misericordia tua!
   Wyth full feyth of foryevenes to thee, Lorde, I come.
WYSDOM   Vulnerasti cor meum, soror mea, sponsa,
    In uno ictu oculorum tuorum.13

Ye have wondyde my hert, syster, spouse dere,
   In the tweyn syghtys of your ey,
By the recognycyon ye have clere,
   Ande by the hye love ye have godly.
   It perrysschyt my hert to here you crye,
     Now ye have forsake synne and be contryte.
   Ye were never so leve to me verelye.
     Now be ye reformyde to your bewtys bryght.

Ande ther your fyve wyttys offendyde has,
   Ande to mak asythe be impotent,
My fyve wyttys, that never dyde trespas
   Hathe made asythe to the Father suffycyent.
   Wyth my syght I se the people vyolent,
     I herde hem vengeaunce onto me call,
   I smelte the stenche of caren here present,
     I tastyde the drynke mengylde wyth gall.

By touchynge I felte peyns smerte,
   My handys sprede abrode to halse thi swyre,
My fete naylyde to abyde wyth thee, swet herte,
   My hert clovyn for thi love most dere.
   Myn hede bowhede down to kys thee here,
     My body full of holys as a dovehous.
   In thys ye be reformyde, Soule, my plesere,
     Ande now ye be the very temple of Jhesus.

Fyrst ye were reformyde by baptyme of ygnorans
   And clensyde from the synnys orygynall.
Ande now ye be reformyde by the sakyrment of penance
   Ande clensyde from the synnys actuall.
   Now ye be fayrest, Crystys own specyall!
     Dysfygure you never to the lyknes of the fende!
   Now ye have receyvyde the crownnys victoryall
     To regne in blys wythoutyn ende.

MYNDE   Have mynde, Soule, wat Gode hath do,
   Reformyde you in feyth veryly.
Nolite conformari huic seculo
   Sed reformamini in novitate spiritus sensus vestri:14
   Conforme you not to this pompyus glory
     But reforme in gostly felynge.
   Ye that were dammyde by synn endelesly,
     Mercy hathe reformyde you ande crownyde as a kynge.

UNDYRSTONDYNGE   Take understondynge, Soule, now ye
   Wyth contynuall hope in Godys behest.
Renovamini spiritu mentis vestre
   Et induite novum hominem, qui secundum Deum creatus est:15
   Ye be reformyde in felynge, not only as a best,
     But also in the over parte of your reasun,
   Be wyche ye have lyknes of Gode mest
     Ande of that mercyfull very cognycyon.

WYLL   Now the Soule yn charyté reformyde ys,
   Wyche charyté ys Gode verely.
Exspoliantem veterem hominem cum actibus suis:
   Et induite novum qui renovatur in agnicionem dei.16
   Spoyll you of your olde synnys and foly
     Ande be renuyde in Godys knowynge ageyn,
   That enduyde wyth grace so specyally,
     Conservynge in peyn, ever in blys for to reyn.

ANIMA   Then wyth you thre I may sey this
   Of Our Lorde, soveren person, Jhesus:
Suavis est Dominus universis,
   Et miseraciones ejus super omnia opera ejus.17
   O thou hye soveren Wysdam, my joy, Cristus,
     Hevyn, erthe, and eche creature
   Yelde you reverens, for grace pleyntuus
     Ye geff to mann, ever to induyr.

Now wyth Sent Powle we may sey thus
   That be reformyde thorow feyth in Jhesum,
We have peas and acorde betwyx Gode and us,
   Justificati ex fide pacem habemus ad Deum.18
   Now to Salamonys conclusyon I com:
     Timor Domini inicium sapiencie.19
[WISDOM]   Vobis qui timetis Deum
     Orietur sol justicie.20

The tru son of ryghtusnes,
   Wyche that ys Our Lorde Jhesu,
Shall sprynge in hem that drede hys meknes.
   Nowe ye mut every soule renewe
   In grace, and vycys to eschew.
     Ande so to ende wyth perfeccyon,
   That the doctryne of Wysdom we may sew:
     Sapiencia Patris, graunt that for hys passyon!


through thee

two powers
one; those which are spiritual

Those; senses
two powers

on my own

Your mercy is great

two glances
acknowledgment; clearly


dear; truly
returned; beauty

senses; have
atonement are
senses; (see note)


embrace thy neck


as full of holes; (see note)
restored; (see note)

restored by baptism


Do not disfigure yourself
crowns of victory

what; done
Restored; truly

spiritual; (see note)

true knowledge


(see note)
Divest yourself
restored; knowledge
That is endowed

give; last

St. Paul



(see note)

(see note)


The Wisdom of the Father

Go To Appendix 1: Sources