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The Banns (Proclamation)


Lines 7–8: Now listen to us, beloved [people], both rich and poor, / Gentlemen and yeomen of upright (goodly) conduct


Abbreviations: Bev: Medieval Drama, ed. Bevington (1975); Bl: Ludus Coventriae, ed. Block (1922); H: Ludus Coventriae, ed. Halliwell (1841); MED: Middle English Dictionary; S: N-Town Play, ed. Spector (1991); s.d.: stage direction; s.n.: stage name.

A medieval European banns took three basic and public forms: a lord’s proclamation, a marriage announcement, or an advertisement of a play performance. The N-Town Banns, identified as the Proclamation by Spector and Block, is similar to the prologues of the Croxton Play of the Sacrament and The Castle of Perseverance (both texts from East Anglia); all three utilize vexillators (or flag bearers) and proclaim a future performance at a different site. In contrast, the Chester Banns (produced by civic organizations and craft guilds) announced an imminent performance within the city itself. It is likely, then, that the N-Town vexillators were hired by local religious guilds or parishes to travel about neighboring towns to announce the play at another (perhaps central) location. Even though the N-Town Banns may have thus been functional at one time, the main scribe’s various interpolations and revisions rendered it no more than an approximate table of contents for the whole manuscript. By incorporating into the manuscript different plays such as the Mary Plays, the two Passion Plays, and the Assumption of Mary (likely at different times), the main scribe eventually must have realized that he could not revise the Banns to accommodate all of the changes. The Banns, however, reflects the main scribe’s various attempts: renumbering the plays (before eventually giving up), writing new synopses in different stanzaic forms, and ignoring whole plays such as the Assumption. The top of the first folio has a title, “The Plaie called Corpus Christi," in an Elizabethan hand that is much later than the main scribe’s or those of the various revisers. Very likely a misnomer, this title has unfortunately influenced generations of editors and critics. For an overview of the N-Town manuscript’s development, see Spector, S 2:537–41 and 2:548–54.

Most of the Banns is written in thirteener stanzas.

15 myth. The t is an unaspirated stop, not /ð/; so too, in bryth (line 17), ryth (line 19), pyth (line 21), syth (line 29); i.e., /mIht/, not /mIð/, etc. This orthography, representing a basic phonological feature of the poet’s dialect, is found throughout the plays and is sometimes confusing where there are instances in which the -th is pronounced /ð/, thereby indicating a word different from -th /ht/.

20 Lucifer . . . so gay. The reference is to Lucifer, or the brightest angel, the “light-bearer" (Latin lux + ferre). This particular guise of Satan was prevalent in later Christian mythology, deriving from Jerome’s Vulgate translation of the Septuagint’s heosphoros (“bringer of the dawn") in Isaias 14:12–14 — a passage originally meant to refer to the king of Babylon and Satan. Previous writers had made use of the name “Lucifer" as a poetic term for a morning star or, more specifically, for Venus (e.g. Virgil’s Georgics 3.324–25 or Statius’ Thebaid 2.134), but after Jerome the word becomes, to many commentators, the proper name of the Devil.

24 Hese Lordys pere. The language is deliberately feudal, associating the relationship between God and Satan with that between a lord and his vassal, and warning, perhaps, against subversion.

36 blake. Perhaps “black," but a pale color such as yellow or white is more likely. The term could be a scribal error for bleik, meaning “pale" or “white." See Spector, S 2:417: “blake: ‘yellow’; so rendered by E.V. Gordon in Pearl, 27: ‘Blomez blayke and blew and rede’ (Pearl, Oxford: Clarendon, 1953). MED cites Pr 36 [The Banns] under blak adj. 6(b) in the sense, ‘white, but cf. 2/23 (a line that Pr 36 recalls): ‘Red and qwyte, bothe blew and blake.’ Rendering blake as ‘white’ in 2/23 would be redundant since qwyte already appears in that line." Figuratively, the colors could reflect a prelapsarian state: blue would connote constancy and white, innocence. Or, if blake means yellow, the sun or divinity — though yellow, like black, can also imply the infection of perfection by Satan. See Ferguson, Signs and Symbols, p. 275. Such visual punning is attractive here, given that in this play the serpent tempts Adam and Eve under the guise of virtue.

118 Abyacar. Known in Joachim and Anne as the high priest Ysakar. Possibly the scribe was working with two different sources.

153–54 Spector notes that these lines are spoken by Mary in the Marriage of Mary and Joseph, line 324.

183–90 The appearance of quatrains in lines 183–90 further shows the main scribe’s attempts at incorporating the Mary Play into the manuscript.

191–528 Written in thirteener stanzas.

208 The kyngys of Coleyn. The three magi were thought to be buried at Cologne.

259 With which devys as we best may. This suggests that the proclamation is made by the troop of players themselves, who show both concern and pride in the “special efforts" of their productions. The illusion of water was often created by wafting blue cloth, as in productions of the drowning of Pharaoh’s army in the Red Sea. It is interesting to contemplate here that the Flom Jordan (line 258) would itself be represented by a device “as we best may," which could add a certain glamor to the scene, what with the “Holy Gost" (line 260) hovering over and the voice of the father — “this is no nay" (line 263) — speaking from the “blisful tron" of heaven (line 262). The comments here suggest an elaborate staging with multiple playing areas and technical machinery. See Introduction, pp. 12–17.

286 sotylté. A wily stratagem, though the term might also have a more technical meaning of dramatic device of public display. See MED sotilte, n.5, which cites the term as a culinary decoration for the presentation of food.

308–20 Stanzas break from the usual pattern of describing one play per thirteener stanza. Again, this may suggest that the main scribe was incorporating new material into the manuscript. The same may be seen in lines 476–89.

332 lete. “Leave," but with connotations of “abandon," “forsake," “desert," “neglect," or “reject." See MED leten, v.6(a).

368 the which refers to the thirty pence Judas received in payment.

399 pleyn place. This refers to more than a simple playing area. Stokes notes that dedicated spaces which were formerly battle or tournament grounds sometimes later became dramatic places. Citations in MED for pleyn place are from Castle of Perseverence (and N-Town). It is likely that late medieval audiences connected the notion of a tournament ground resolving suits (a plaint) with the idea of a spiritual battlefield presented in a drama (a play).

405 tras. Trace, “travel in a line." The idea is that Christ’s blood went purposefully to Longinus’ eye.

407 that morn. Not the time of the Crucifixion and death, which is supposed to have occurred just before sundown on Good Friday, but the time of the harrowing of hell which is here portrayed both figuratively and literally as a dawn act — bringing light to the souls in hell. This makes Jesus the new light-bearer, bringing light to the infernal realm of the old Lucifer (see note to line 20).

432 “That it is a joy to her (i.e., Mary) to engage in their conversation" (S 2:418).

465 castel. Christ’s appearance to the two apostles on the road to Emmaus is described in Luke 24:13–22, where Emmaus is called simply a village. Emmaus is generally identified as Latrun, the legendary burial place of the “good thief" crucified with Jesus. The alteration from village to castle adds feudal associations but was also a point of fact in the Middle Ages: the construction of the crusader fortress Toron des Chevaliers at Latrun gave rise to an automatic association between Emmaus and castles. In describing the environs of Jerusalem, for example, Mandeville describes the location variously as “þe castel of Emaux" or “þe castel of Cheynay" (Defective Version, ed. Seymour, pp. 39, 52, 54).

477–84 Quatrain and nine lines of a thirteener may show the main scribe’s revision.

495 the cenacle. The upper room in which the apostles met; described in Acts 1:13, Mark 14:15, and Luke 22:12 (S 2:418).

496 vervently. “Fierily," “brilliantly," but also “ardently" or “passionately," given the Holy Spirit’s capacity to pierce men’s hearts (“thyrlyng here brest" with “brennyng fere," line 497).

519 game wel pleyd in good aray. Throughout the proclamation of the banns the vexillators emphasize the spectacle — “as ye shal se" (line 480, etc.). Here the vexillator puns upon the careful preparation of the play but also the costuming, which, like the sets spoken of elsewhere, purports the visual and the emotive impact of the game.

525–26 As Spector notes, a performance time of 6 a.m. on a Sunday means that the main scribe did not intend the play for actual performance on Corpus Christi, which was the third Thursday after Trinity Sunday (S 2:418).

527 N. town. Critics generally concur that “N" in this instance stands for Nomen, with the names of different towns or places to be inserted as appropriate. Whether this indicates an itinerant company of actors or a playbook that was circulated between playing places is hard to judge (S 2:418). The Castle of Perseverence similarly accounts for banns criers’ changing venues and playing times: “At . . . on the grene in ryal aray, . . . Ye manly men of . . . ther Crist save you all!" (lines 134 and 145).


Abbreviations: See Explanatory Notes, above

1, s.n. Vexillator 1. MS: Vexillat, remainder cropped.

14, s.n. VEXILLATOR 2. MS: Vexilla, remainder cropped.

18 angell. So MS. H: angelle. Bev: angell[ys].

26 abyde. So Bl, S. H, Bev: abide. MS: a; page was cropped.

27, s.n. VEXILLATOR 3. MS: Vexilla, remainder cropped.

39 it in no. So MS. Bl, Bev: it no.

44 delyte. So MS. Bl: debyte.

65 Exawmple. So S. MS: Exawple, followed by Bl. Bev: Example.

79, s.n. VEXILLATOR 3. MS: Vexil, remainder cropped.

81 with. MS: several letters canceled before.

92, s.n. VEXILLATOR 1. MS: Vexil, remainder cropped.

119–91 eighte. MS: tende, followed by H, Bl, S. When the Banns start describing the Mary Play, the numbering becomes difficult to follow. The main scribe was attempting to incorporate the new material into the manuscript without making large-scale changes to the Banns, a clear impossibility (S 2:541–43). After this point, I follow Bev’s numbering and spelling.

122 thirteen. MS: xiij, followed by H.

126 than. MS: sertayn than. H reads sertayn than.

144 ninte. MS: xte , altered from ixte. H, Bl, S: xte .

156 had. MS: hadde, with final de canceled.

157 tende. MS: xjde, altered from xde. H, Bl, S: xjde .

170 hellenthe. MS: xij written above hellenthe, which is canceled. H, Bl, S: xij.

179 sertayn. MS: corrected from serteyn. Bev: sertain.

180 agayn. a 2 altered from e. Bev: again.

183 twelfte. MS: xijteij, altered from xijte. H, Bl, S: xiiijte.

186 After this line, 55 mm remains blank on fol. 3v; 36 mm blank on fol. 4r before line 187. These spaces would allow room for the completion of full stanzas describing the twelfth and thirteenth pageants (lines 183–90).

187 thirteente. MS: xv, altered from xiij. H, Bl, S: xv.

189 mydwyvys. MS: final y altered from another letter. Bev: midwivys.

190 After this line, 53 mm left blank.

191 fourteente. MS: xvj, altered from xiiij. H, Bl, S: xvj.

203 Bryng. MS: Now bryng. Bev: Bring.

204 In. So S, Bev. MS: omits, followed by H, Bl.

207 all. S notes “an incomplete letter canc[eled] before" (1.11). H reads alle.

249 merveylyd. So S. MS: meveylyd, followed by H, Bl, Bev.

268 sarteyn. S notes that the a has been altered from an e.

293 undyr. S notes that the n has been blotted.

297 the. So S. MS: omits, followed by H, Bl, Bev.

302 oftetyme. S notes the f is possibly altered from another letter.

320 certan. The e has been smudged.

334, s.n. VEXILLATOR 3. MS: Ve, remainder cropped.

356–57 MS: corrected reversed lines.

365 tresour. MS: s tresour, with s canceled before.

383 The rythful. MS: The ryff rythful.

389 is. MS: corrected from was.

392 dye. MS: e altered from another letter.

413 pagent. MS: page, retained by Bl.

425 thetty-thryd. MS: xxiij, retained by H, Bl. S: xxxiij.

427 ryth. MS: written over the line.

438, s.n. VEXILLATOR 2. MS: Vexil, remainder cropped.

459 byddyth. MS: a letter has been canceled before.

465 castel. MS: c altered from another letter.

471 and. So S. MS: ad, retained by H, Bl. Bev: spakad.

474 know. Bev: knew. S notes that the MS could read “know or knew" (1.19).

493 the. MS: to the, followed by S. H, Bl, Bev retain to.

503 The lack of any provision for an Assumption of the Virgin in the Banns (numbered 41 in the manuscript) again demonstrates how the N-Town manuscript continued to evolve during the process of compilation.

507 brast. So H, Bl. MS: S notes revision to brest, but brast meets the rhyme.

528 After the line, 88 mm left blank at the bottom of fol. 9v.










































































































VEXILLATOR 1 Now gracyous God, groundyd of all goodnesse
As thi grete glorie nevyr begynnyng had,
So thu socour and save all tho that sytt and sese
And lystenyth to oure talkyng with sylens stylle and sad.
For we purpose us pertly stylle in this prese
The pepyl to plese with pleys ful glad.
Now lystenyth us, lovely, bothe more and lesse,
Gentyllys and yemanry of goodly lyff lad.1
This tyde,
We shal you shewe — as that we kan —
How that this werd fyrst began
And how God made bothe molde and man
If that ye wyl abyde.

VEXILLATOR 2 In the fyrst pagent we thenke to play
How God dede make thurowe his owyn myth
Hevyn so clere upon the fyrst day,
And therin he sett angell ful bryth.
Than angell with songe — this is no nay —
Shal worchep God, as it is ryth.
But Lucifer, that angell so gay,
In suche pompe than is he pyth,
And set in so gret pride,
That Goddys sete he gynneth to take.
Hese Lordys pere hymself to make
But than he fallyth, a fend ful blake,
From hevyn, in helle to abyde.

VEXILLATOR 3 In the secunde pagent by Godys myth
We thenke to shewe and pley bedene
In the other sex days by opyn syth
What thenge was wrought; ther shal be sene
How best was made and foule of flyth,
And last was man made, as I wene.
Of mannys o ryb, as I you plyth,
Was woman wrougth mannys make to bene
And put in paradyse.
Ther were flourys bothe blew and blake,
Of all frutys thei myth ther take,
Saff frute of cunnyng thei shulde forsake
And towche it in no wyse.

The serpent toke Eve an appyl to byte,
And Eve toke Adam a mursel of the same.
Whan thei had do thus agens the rewle of ryte,
Than was oure Lord wroth and grevyd al with grame.
Oure Lord gan appose them of ther gret delyte
Both to askuse hem of that synful blame.
And than Almythy God for that gret dyspite
Assigned hem grevous peyn as ye shal se in game
In dede.
Seraphyn, an angell gay,
With brennyng swerd, this is verray,
From paradise bete hem away
In Bybyl as we rede.

VEXILLATOR 1 We purpose to shewe in the thryd pagent
The story of Caym and of hese brother Abelle,
Of here tythyngys now be we bent
In this pagent, the trewth to telle.
How the tythyng of Abel with feyr was brent
And accept to God, yf ye wyl dwelle,
We purpose to shewe as we have ment
And how he was kyllyd of his brother so felle.
And than
How Caym was cursyd in al degré
Of Godys own mowthe ther shal ye se.
Of trewe tythyng this may wel be,
Exawmple to every man.

VEXILLATOR 2 The thryd pagent is now yow tolde.
The fourte pagent of Noe shal be
How God was wroth with man on molde
Because fro synne man dede not fle.
He sent to Noe an angel bolde
A shyp for to makyn and swymmen on the se,
Upon the water both wood and coolde.
And eight sowles ther savyd shulde be,
And one peyre of everich bestys in brynge.
Whan fourty days the flode had flowe,
Than sente Noe out a crowe
And after hym he sent a dowe
That brouth ryth good tydyng.

VEXILLATOR 3 Of Abraham is the fyfte pagent
And of Ysaac his sone so fre,
How that he shulde with fere be brent
And slayn with swerd as ye shal se.
Abraham toke with good atent
His sone Ysaac and knelyd on kne.
His suerd was than ful redy bent
And thouth his chylde ther offered shuld be
Upon an hyll full ryff.
Than God toke tent to his good wyl
And sent an angel ryth sone hym tyl
And bad Abraham a shep to kyl
And savyd his chyldys lyff.

VEXILLATOR 1 The sexte pagent is of Moyses
And of tweyn tabelys that God him took
In the which were wrete, without les,
The lawes of God to lerne and lok,
And how God charged hym be wordys these
The lawes to lerne al of that book.
Moyses than doth nevyr more sese
But prechyth duly — bothe yere and woke —
The lawes as I yow telle.
The Ten Commaundementys alle bedene
In oure play ye shal hem sene —
To alle tho that there wyl bene —
If that ye thenke to duelle.

VEXILLATOR 2 Of the gentyl Jesse rote
The sefnt pagent forsothe shal ben
Out of the which doth sprynge oure bote
As in prophecye we redyn and sen.
Kyngys and prophetys with wordys ful sote
Schull prophesye al of a qwen,
The which shal staunch oure stryff and moote
And wynnyn us welthe withoutyn wen
In hevyn to abyde.
They shal prophecye of a mayde
All fendys of her shal be affrayde.
Her sone shal save us — be not dismayde —
With hese woundys wyde.

VEXILLATOR 3 Of the grete bushop Abyacar
The eighte pagent shal be, without lesyng,
The which comaundyth men to be war
And brynge here douterys to dew wedding.
All that ben thirteen yere and more,
To maryage he byddyth hem bryng.
Wherevyr thei be, he chargyth sore
That thei not fayle for no lettyng,
The lawe byddyth so than.
Than Joachym and Anne so mylde,
Thei brynge forthe Mary, that blyssed chylde.
But she wold not be defylyde
With spot nor wem of man.

In chastyté, that blysful mayde
Avowyd there her lyff to lede.
Than is the busshop sore dysmayde
And wonderyth sore al of this dede.
He knelyd to God as it is sayde
And prayth than for help and rede.
Than seyth an angel, “Be not afrayde
Of this dowte. Take thu no drede,
But for the kynrede of Davyd thu sende.
Lete hem come with here offryng
And in here handys white yerdys brynge.
Loke whose yerde doth floure and sprynge,
And he shal wedde that mayden hende.”

VEXILLATOR 1 In the ninte pagent, sothe to say,
A masangere forthe is sent.
Davydis kynrede, without delay,
They come ful sone with good entent.
Whan Joseph offeryd his yerde that day
Anon ryth forth in present
The ded styk do floure ful gay
And than Joseph to wedlok went,
Ryth as the angel bad.
Than he plyth to his wyff,
In chastyté to ledyn here lyff.
The busshop toke here thre maydonys ryff;
Som comforte there she had.

VEXILLATOR 2 In the tende pagent goth Gabryell
And doth salute oure Lady fre,
Than grett with chylde, as I yow tell,
That blyssed mayde — forsothe is she.
Tho thre maydenys that with her dwelle
Here gret spech, but noon thei se.
Than they suppose that sum angell,
Goddys masangere that it shuld be.
And thus
The Holy Gost in her is lyth
And Goddys Sone in her is pygth.
The aungell doth telle what he shal hyght,
And namyth the chylde Jhesus.

VEXILLATOR 3 In the hellenthe pagent, as I yow telle,
Joseph comyth hom fro fer countré.
Oure Ladyes wombe with chylde doth swelle,
And than Joseph ful hevy is he.
He doth forsake her with hert ful felle.
Out of countré he gynnyth to fle;
He nevyrmore thenkyth with her to dwelle,
And than oure Lady ryth sore wepyth she.
An angell seyd hym ryf:
“God is with thi wyff sertayn.”
Therfore Joseph turne hom agayn.
Than is Joseph in herte ful fayn
And goth ageyn onto his wyff.
VEXILLATOR 1 The twelfte pagent I sey yow bedene
Shal be of Joseph and mylde Mary,
How they were sclawndryd with trey and tene
And to here purgacyon thei must hem hy.

VEXILLATOR 2 In the thirteente pagent shewe we shal
How Joseph went withoute varyauns
For mydwyvys to helpe oure Lady at all
Of childe that she had delyverauns.

VEXILLATOR 3 In the fourteente pagent Cryst shal be born.
Of that joy aungelys shul synge
And telle the shepherdys in that morn
The blysseful byrth of that king.
The shepherdys shal come him befforn
With reverens and with worchepyng
For he shall savyn that was forlorn
And graunt us lyff evyrmore lesting,
This gle in gryth
Is mater of myrth.
Now Cristys byrth
Bryng us to his blys.

VEXILLATOR 1 In the fifteente pagent come kingys thre
With gold, myrre, and frankynsens.
King Herowdys styward hem doth se
And bryngyth all to his presens.
The kyngys of Coleyn with hert ful fre
Tolde King Herownde here dylygens,
That thei south in that countré
A kyng of kyngys from fere thens,
A sterre led hem the way.
The chylde is young and lyth in stall:
He shal be Kyng of Kyngys all.
Before hym we thynk on kne to fall
And worchep hym this day.

VEXILLATOR 2 In the sixteente pagent as wroth as wynde
Is King Herownde — the soth to say —
And cruel knytys and unkende
To sle male chylderyn he sendyth that day.
But Cryst Jhesu thei may not fynde,
For Joseph hath led that childe away
Unto Egypth as we have mende,
As angel to Joseph dyd byd and say
In hyght.
Tho chylderyn that syt in here moderys lap
To sowkyn ful swetly here moderys pap:
The knythtys do sle hem evyn at a swap.
This is a rewly syth.

VEXILLATOR 3 In the sefnteente pagent the knythtys bedene
Shull brynge dede childeryn befor the kyng.
Whan Kyng Herownde that syth hath sene
Ful glad he is of here kyllyng.
Than Kyng Herownde withowtyn wene
Is sett to mete at his lykyng.
In his most pride shal come gret tene
As ye shal se at oure pleyng.
His sorwe shal awake
Whan he is sett at hese most pryde.
Sodeyn, Deth shal thrylle his syde
And kylle his knyttys that with hym byde,
The devyl ther soulys shal take.

VEXILLATOR 1 In the eighteente pagent we must purpose
To shewe whan Cryst was twelve yer of age,
How in the temple he dede appose
And answerd doctoris ryth wyse and sage.
The blyssyd babe, withowte glose,
Overcam olde clerkys with suych langage
That thei merveylyd. Ye shal suppose
How that he cam to suche knowlage.
And in this whyle
Thre days he was oute
Fro his modyr. Without doute,
Wepyng she sowth him rownde aboute,
Jheruselem many a myle.

VEXILLATOR 2 In the nineteente pagent shal Seynt Jhon
Babtyse Cryst — as I yow say —
In the watyr of Flom Jordan
With which devys as we best may.
The Holy Gost shal ovyr hym on;
The Faderys voys shal be herd that day
Out of hevyn that blisful tron.
The Fadyr shal be herd — this is no nay —
And forthwith pleyn
The Holy Gost shal be his gyde
Into desert therin to abyde
Fourty days — a terme ful wide —
And fourty nygthtys to faste sarteyn.

VEXILLATOR 3 In the twentieth pagent, all the develys of helle
They gadere a parlement as ye shal se.
They have gret doute, the trewth to telle,
Of Cryst Jhesu whath he shulde be.
They sende Sathan — that fynde so felle —
Cryst for to tempte in fele degré.
We shal yow shewe, if ye wyl dwelle,
How Cryst was temptyd in synnys thre
Of the devyl, Sathan,
And how Cryst answeryd onto alle
And made the fende awey to falle.
As we best may this shewe we shalle
Thorwe grace of God and man.

VEXILLATOR 1 The twenty-fyrst pagent of a woman shal be,
The which was take in adultryé.
The Pharysewys falsed ther ye shal se,
Cryst to convycte how they were slye.
They conseyvyd this sotylté:
Yf Cryst this woman dede dampne trewly
Ageyn his prechying than dede he
Which was of peté and of mercy.
And if he dede her save,
Than were he agens Moyses lawe
That byddyth with stonys she shulde be slawe.
Thus they thowth undyr ther awe
Cryst Jhesu for to have.

VEXILLATOR 2 The grettest meracle that evyr Jhesus
In erthe wrouth beforn his Passyon
In the twenty-secund pagent we purpose us
To shewe in dede. The declaracyon
That pagent shal be of Lazarus
In whos place and habytacyon
Cryst was logyd, the gospel seyth thus,
And oftetyme toke ther consolacyon.
But yyt
Lazarus, as I yow say,
Was four days ded and beryed in clay.
From deth to lyve the fourth day.
Cryst reysed hym from that pyt.

VEXILLATOR 3 In the twenty-thryd pagent Palme Sunday
In pley we purpose for to shewe —
How childeryn of Ebrew with flourys ful gay
The wey that Cryst went thei gun to strewe.
VEXILLATOR 1 In the twenty-forte pagent, as that we may,
Cryst and his apostelys alle on rewe —
The Mawndé of God ther shal they play
And sone declare it with wordys fewe.
And than
Judas, that fals traytour,
For thretty platys of werdly tresour
Shal betray oure Savyour
To the Jewys, certan.

VEXILLATOR 2 For grevous peyn — this is no les —
In the twenty-fifte pagent, Cryst shal pray
To the Fadyr of Hevyn that peyn for to ses,
His shamful deth to put away.
Judas, that traytour, befor gret pres
Shal kys his mouth and hym betray.
All his dyscyples than do dyscres
And forsake Cryst, the soth to say.
For doute — thei do hem hede —
Hese dyscyplys all everychon
Do renne awey and leve hym alon.
They lete hym stondyn amonge his fon
And ronne away for drede.

VEXILLATOR 3 Than in the twenty-sexte pagent,
To Cayphas Cryst shal be brouth.
Tho Jewys ful redy ther shul be bent,
Cryst to acuse with worde and thouth.
Seynt Petyr doth folwe with good intent
To se with Cryst what shuld be wrouth.
For Crystys dyscyple, whan he is hent,
Thryes he doth swere he knew hym nowth.
A kok shal crowe and crye —
Than doth Petyr gret sorwe make,
For he his lord thus dede forsake.
But God to grace hym sone doth take
Whan he doth ask mercye.

VEXILLATOR 1 In the twenty-sefnt pagent, Sere Pylat
Is sett in sete as hy justyce.
Whan he is set in his astat,
Thre thevys be brout of sinful gyse.
And Cryst — that lovyd nevyr stryff nor bat,
But trewth and goodnesse on every wyse —
As for a thef with ryth gret hatt
Is browth to stondyn at that same syse.
And than as I yow say
The wyff of Pilat goth to rest
Coveryd with clothis al of the best.
Than for to slepe she is ful prest —
Al this we thenke to play.

VEXILLATOR 2 In the twenty-eighte pagent shal Judas —
That was to Cryst a fals traytour —
With wepyng sore evyr crye “alas!”
That evyr he solde oure Savyour.
He shal be sory for his trespas
And brynge agen all his tresour,
All thretty pens to Sere Cayphas.
He shal them brynge with gret dolowre,
For the which Cryst was bowth.
For gret whanhope — as ye shal se —
He hangyth hymself upon a tre.
For he noth trostyth in Godys peté,
To Helle his sowle is browth.

VEXILLATOR 3 In the twenty-ninte pagent, to Pylatus wyff,
In slepe aperyth the devyl of helle
For to savyn Crystys lyff,
The devyl her temptyth, as I yow telle.
Sche sendyth to Pylat, anon ful ryff,
And prayth that Cryst he shuld not qwelle.
Than Pylat is besy and ryth blyff
Cryst for to savyn, he gevyth councelle
For he dede nevyr trespas.
The Jewys do crye fast for to kylle,
The rythful man thei aske to spylle.
A thef thei save with herty wylle
That callyd is Barrabas.

VEXILLATOR 1 In the threttieth pagent, thei bete out Crystys blood
And nayle hym al nakyd upon a rode tre
Between twey thevys. Iwys, they were to wood;
They hyng Cryst Jhesu, gret shame it is to se.
Seven wurdys Cryst spekyth hangyng upon the rode,
The weche ye shal here, all tho that wyl ther be.
Than doth he dye for oure allther good.
His modyr doth se that syth — gret mornyng makyth she —
For sorwe she gynneth to swowne.
Seint Johan evyn ther, as I yow plyth,
Doth chere oure Lady with al his myth,
And to the temple anon forthryth
He ledyth her in that stownde.

VEXILLATOR 2 We purpose to shewe, in oure pleyn place,
In the thretty-first pagent thorwe Godys myth,
How to Crystys herte a spere gan pace
And rent oure Lordys bryst in ruly plyth.
For Longeus, that olde knyth blynd as he was,
A ryth sharpe spere to Crystys herte shal pyth
The blod of his wounde to his eyn shal tras;
And thorwe gret meracle ther hath he syth.
Than in that morn
Cristys soule goth down to helle
And ther ovyrcomyth the fende so felle,
Comfortyth the soulys that therin dwelle,
And savyth that was forlorn.

VEXILLATOR 3 Joseph and Nycodemus, to Cryst trew servaunt,
In the thretty-secund pagent the body thei aske to have.
Pylat ful redyly the body doth hem graunt.
Than thei with reverens do put it in grave
The Jewys more wyckyd than ony geawnt
For Crystys ded body kepers do thei crave.
Pylat sendyth four knytys that be ryth hardaunt
To kepe the blody body in his dede conclave.
And yit, be his owyn myth,
The body that was hevy as led —
Be the Jewys nevyr so qwed —
Aryseth from grave that ther lay ded
And frayth than every knyth.

VEXILLATOR 1 In the thretty-thryd pagent the soule of Cryst Jhesu
Shal brynge all his frendys from helle to paradyse.
The soule goth than to the grave and be ryth gret vertu,
That body — that longe ded hath loyn — to lyf agen doth ryse.
Than doth Cryst Jhesu onto his modyr sew
And comfortyth all her care in temple ther she lyse.
With suche cher and comforth his modyr he doth indew,
That joy it is to her, ther spech for to devyse.
And than,
Oure Lady of Hefne so cler
In herte sche hath ryth glad chere.
Whan her sone thus doth apere,
Her care awey is tan.

VEXILLATOR 2 In the thretty-forte pagent shal Maryes thre
Seke Cryst Jhesu in his grave so coolde.
An aungel hem tellyth that aresyn is he.
And whan that this tale to them is tolde,
To Crystys dyscyplis, with wurdys ful fre,
They telle these tydyngys with brest ful bolde.
Than Petyr and Johan, as ye shal se,
Down rennyn in hast over lond and wolde —
The trewth of this to have.
Whan thei ther comyn, as I yow say,
He is gon from undyr clay.
Than thai wytnesse anoon that day
He lyth not in his grave.

VEXILLATOR 3 Onto Mary Mawdelyn, as we have bent,
Cryst Jhesu shal than apere
In the thretty-fifte pagent.
And she wenyth he be a gardenere
Mary, be name, verament,
Whan Cryst her callyth with spech ful clere,
She fallyth to ground with good entent
To kys his fete with gladsom chere.
But Cryst byddyth her do way.
He byddyth his feet that sche not kys
Tyl he have styed to hefne blys.
To Cristys dyscyplys Mary, iwys,
Than goth, the trewth to say.

VEXILLATOR 1 In the thretty-sexte pagent shal Cleophas
And Sent Luke to a castel go.
Of Crystys deth, as thei forth pas,
They make gret mornyng and be ful wo.
Than Cryst them ovyrtok, as his wyl was,
And walkyd in felachep forth with hem too.
To them he doth expowne, bothe more and las,
All that prophetys spak and of hymself also
That nyth, in fay.
Whan thei be set within the castell,
In brekyng of bred thei know Cryst well.
Than sodeynly, as I yow tell,
Cryste is gon his way.

VEXILLATOR 2 In the thretty-sefnt pagent than purpos we
To Thomas of Ynde Cryst shal apere.
And Thomas, evyn ther as ye shal se,
Shal put his hand in his woundys dere.

VEXILLATOR 3 In the thretty-eighte pagent up stye shal he
Into hefne that is so clere.
All hese apostel ther shul be
And woundere sore and have gret dwere
Of that ferly syth.
Ther shal come aungell tweyn
And comfforte hem, this is certeyn,
And tellyn that he shal comyn ageyn
Evyn by his owyn myth.

VEXILLATOR 1 Than folwyth next, sekyrly,
Of Wyttsunday, that solemne fest
Whych pagent shal be nyne and thretty.
To the apostelys to apere be Crystys hest
In Hierusalem were gaderyd twelve opynly.
To the cenacle, coming from west and est,
The Holy Gost apperyd ful vervently,
With brennyng fere thyrlyng here brest,
Procedyng from hevyn trone.
All maner langage hem spak with tung —
Latyn, Grek, and Ebrew among.
And after thei departyd and taryed not long
Here deth to take ful sone.

VEXILLATOR 2 The fortyeth pagent shal be the last,
And Domysday, that pagent shal hyth.
Who se that pagent may be agast
To grevyn his Lord God, eyther day or nyth.
The erth shal qwake, bothe breke and brast,
Beryelys and gravys shul ope ful tyth.
Ded men shul rysyn, and that ther in hast,
And fast to here ansuere thei shul hem dyth
Beffore Godys face.
But prente wyl this in youre mende:
Whoso to God hath be unkende,
Frenchep ther shal he non fynde,
Ne ther get he no grace.

VEXILLATOR 3 Now have we told yow all bedene
The hool mater that we thynke to play.
Whan that ye come, ther shal ye sene
This game wel pleyd in good aray.
Of Holy Wrytte this game shal bene
And of no fablys be no way.
Now God them save from trey and tene
For us that prayth upon that day,
And qwyte them wel ther mede.
A Sunday next, yf that we may,
At six of the belle we gynne oure play
In N. town, wherfore we pray
That God now be youre spede.

those; cease [talking]

intend; openly; throng
people; plays

as we are able

through; might; (see note)
angels; bright
Then; this is true; (t-note)
brilliant; (see note)
then; placed

God’s seat; attempts
His Lord’s peer; (see note)
fiend; black
dwell; (t-note)

might; (t-note)
six; in full view

beasts were; fowl of flight
One of man’s ribs; promise
mate to be

blue; white; (see note)
Except; knowledge
in no way; (t-note)

done; rule of right
Then; with anger
question; sensual delight; (t-note)
excuse them both
see performed

burning; true
drove them

their offerings; we will turn

fire; burned
acceptable; stay
killed by; cruel

From God’s


fourth; Noah
angry; earth
from; flee

float; sea
souls; should
pair; every beast brought inside
flood; flowed
brought; good news

fifth; (t-note)
should; fire; (t-note)

sword; drawn
thought; should
paid attention to
very soon to him
commanded; kill

sixth; Moses; (t-note)
written; lies
dutifully; week

all together
them see
those; will be there
to stay

seventh; in truth; be
read; see
stop; strife; dispute



bishop; (see note)
lying; (t-note)
their daughters; appropriate

commands strictly
then; (t-note)


Then; very
is puzzled sorely by

then; counsel
marvel. Have no fear
them; their
their hands; rods
rod; bloom

ninth; truth; (t-note)

David’s kindred
Immediately; in plain view
dead stalk flowered
Then; plighted; (see note)
lead their
gave; readily

tenth; (t-note)
Hear; no one; see

alights within her
her is implanted
be called

eleventh; (t-note)


Then; glad

indeed; (see note); (t-note)

slandered; abuse and malice
their; themselves hasten; (t-note)

midwives; (t-note)

(see note); (t-note)

before him

life; lasting
joy in peace



Herod’s steward them
Cologne; noble; (see note)
their mission
far away
showed them


angry as the wind
knights; brutal


Those; their mother’s
suck; their mother’s breast
rueful sight

seventeenth; all together
the dead
Then; without doubt
banquet; pleasure
great pride; harm

Suddenly; pierce
knights; dwell


deceit (verbal tricks)
marveled; understand; (t-note)



John the Baptist

device; (see note)
hover over him
without embellishment
(i.e., Christ’s)

very long time
certainly; (t-note)


fiend so cruel
in many ways


Pharisees’ falsehood
convict; cunning
subtlety; (see note)
did condemn
Then; against Moses’
should be slain
thought; power; (t-note)


hospitality; (t-note)

to life
raised; tomb

(see note)
to show
Israel; bright
road; began

Last Supper

30 pieces of worldly

certainly; (t-note)


pain to cease


fall away
fear; themselves hide
His; everyone

leave him standing; foes; (see note)
run; fear

Then; (t-note)
Those; determined

when; caught
Thrice; not


brought; conduct
in every way
As if he were; haste
assize court


Then; ready

again; (t-note)
30 pence; Sir
bought; (see note)

Because he didn’t trust; mercy

Pilate’s wife

Christ’s life

right away
Then; very quick
righteous; kill; (t-note)
great zeal

thirtieth; Christ’s
two; Truly; too crazed (angry)
hang; see; (t-note)
words; cross
which; hear; those
Then; all our; (t-note)
sight; mourning
begins to swoon
as I promise you
Comfort; might

to show; open staging area; (see note)
heart; did enter
breast in rueful plight
Because; knight
truly; thrust
eyes; travel; (see note)
through; miracle; sight
Then; (see note)


[those] who were lost

body [of Christ]; (t-note)

any giant
knights; very bold
yet, by

By; wicked

frightens then

thirty-third; (t-note)

great power; (t-note)
Then; mother proceed
where she dwells
discern; (see note)


them (the Marys)

running swiftly; woodland

When; came

at once



asked her to desist; (t-note)

ascended; heaven’s bliss
I believe

(see note); (t-note)
Christ’s; travel
fellowship; both of them
expound; less
spoke; (t-note)
night; truly
When; seated
Then suddenly

thirty-seventh; intend; (see note)

precious wounds

marvelous sight
two angels


Then; certainly
by Christ’s command; (t-note)
upper room; (see note)
fierily (ardently); (see note)
fire piercing their
heaven’s throne
spoke in tongues

Their; accept willingly

Doomsday; be called
Whoever sees
break and burst; (t-note)
Tombs; quickly
prepare themselves
imprint well
has been unkind

all prepared; (see note)
by no means
pain; suffering

requite; reward
On; (see note)
6 a.m.; begin
(see note)
motivator (helper); (t-note)

Go To Play 1, Creation of Heaven; Fall of Lucifer