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Play 11, Parliament of Heaven; Salutation and Conception


1 Lines 48a–c: Because of the misery of the needy / And the groans of the poor / Now will I arise. (See Vulgate Psalm 11:6)

2 My Truth and my Mercy will be with him. (See Vulgate Psalm 88:25)

3 That the righteousness of God has no limits

4 Thus, two deaths must occur to cherish you four

5 I, Truth, have searched the earth inside and out

6 For God is the only one who may do that

7 He shall be great, the Son of the Highest, chosen of nature

8 Not taking shape as first one member and then another

9 Angels singing this sequence: "Hail Mary, full of grace; the Lord be with you, fair virgin"


Abbreviations: CT: Chaucer, Canterbury Tales; MP: Mary Play, ed. Mere­dith (1987); S: N-Town Play, ed. Spector (1991); s.d.: stage direction; s.n.: stage name.

In octaves, except for Latin lines 48a–c and seven quatrains (lines 185–88, 213–20, 293–96, 313–20, and 329–32).

1–32 Meredith notes that Contemplacio’s speech was divided between two speakers at line 1084: "In the manuscript an older arrangement shows through in Con­templacio’s speech in the 1us before l. 1060 and the 2 to the left of l. 1076, both in red. It seems that the speech was originally divided between two speakers repre­senting either the prophets and patriarchs or the angels and archangels" (MP, p. 106n1060–91). See Fletcher, "‘Contemplacio’ Prologue," pp. 111–12.
1 Fowre thowsand, sex undryd, foure. None of the early calculations of time between Creation and the Nativity fit the play’s assertion of 4604 years. See Spector (S 2:452–53) for an excellent summary of scholarship on the date. Pollard notes that there are nearly two hundred medieval computations of the interval. The Book of Adam and Eve says 5500 years from the fall to the redemption; Jacobus de Voragine’s Golden Legend, Meditationes, and Love’s Mirrour all say that the patriarchs spent 5000 years in hell before Christ released them. Meredith (MP, p. 106n1060) observes that 4604 years likely derives from the Charter of the Abbey of the Holy Ghost 1.345.
1 ff. This play could be played for Trinity Day as well as the appropriate saints’ days or other feasts such as the Feast of the Annunciation (March 25).

8 Compare Isaias 30:18: "The Lord waiteth that he may have mercy on you."

9–10 Compare Isaias 64:1: "O that thou wouldst rend the heavens, and wouldst come down!"

25–27 Compare Jeremias 9:1: "Who will give water to my head, and a foundation of tears to my eyes? I will weep day and night for the slain daughter of my people." See also 45:3: "Woe is me, wretch that I am, for the Lord hath added sorrow to my sorrow: I am wearied with my groans, and I find no rest." Meredith says that Rolle’s Charter of the Abbey of the Holy Ghost may be the source for this and the quotations from Jeremias.

29 As gret as the se. Lamentations 2:13: "To what shall I compare thee . . . O daugh­ter of Jerusalem . . . for great as the sea is thy destination: who shall heal thee?" Woolf notes that this is an antiphon for Holy Thursday (English Mystery Plays, p. 166).

30 Compare Lamentations 5:16: "The crown is fallen from our head: woe to us, because we have sinned."

32 Gracyous Lord, gracyous Lord, gracyous Lord. The triple address could be em­blematic of God’s Trinitarian qualities. N.b. the three repetitions of "mercy" in line 40, also addressed to God.

33, s.n. VIRTUTES. Also called the Powers. Evidently, the playwright is not following the more familiar Pseudo-Dionysian nine orders (three rows of three ranks of an­gels) since the Virtutes here claim to be in the first rank with angels and arch­angels. Keck notes that even though Pseudo-Dionysius’ version (popularized by Gregory the Great) was widespread, there was still little agreement in the details regarding the specific angelic ranks and rows: "As long as a reading did not violate one of the central tenets concerning the place and purpose of the angels . . . a reading could be both valid and devotionally useful. . . . For medieval Christians, angelic exegesis thus was also something of an exercise of the aes­thetic or poetic sensibility" (Angels and Angelology, p. 69).

41 aungel . . . thu made so gloryous. That is, Lucifer. See the note to the Banns, line 20, and more generally Play 1 on his fall from heaven.

48 the place. Possibly an evocative pun, as the playing area is called "the place." Com­pare Banns, line 399. The restorative allusion is to God’s creation of hu­man­kind to replace the gap left by the fallen angels. See Gower’s Confessio Amantis 8.1–32. Compare lines 196 and 203, in which Mary is designated as the means toward restoration.

49–51 In the manuscript of the Latin text, a large rubricated couplet, in a different un­cial-like font, is bracketed, with a third line to the right of the bracket. These lines are a rough translation of the Latin verses inserted after line 48. The trip­let is based on Vulgate Psalm 11:6: "‘by reason of the misery of the needy, and the groans of the poor, now will I arise,’ saith the Lord." The passage func­tions as a different voice like the voice of God from some nondiegetic space. I have followed Block and Spector in not numbering the lines, which are part of the play but outside the dramatic action.

57–188 Meredith explains that the debate of the four Daughters of God comes from an Annunciation sermon of St. Bernard (MP, p. 108n1119–1250). It is a popular motif in medi­eval literature and art. In another East Anglian play, The Castle of Perseverance, the four Daughters of God debate the justice of salvation for a fallen mankind (lines 3129–3394). In Piers Plowman (in the Palm Sunday dream vision) the four Daughters of God discuss the necessity of the incarnation and weigh the mercy and righteousness of salvation and eternal punishment (18.110–214) (Langland, Vision of Piers Plowman, pp. 223–26). See also Diller, "From Syn­thesis to Compromise."

65 Compare Vulgate Psalm 116:2: "The truth of the Lord remaineth forever."

71 Compare Vulgate Psalm 50:8: "For behold thou hast loved truth: the uncertain and hidden things of thy wisdom thou hast made manifest to me."

73–74 Compare 2 Corinthians 1:3–4: "Blessed be the God and Father . . . of mercies. . . . Who comforteth us in all our tribulation."

83–85 Compare Vulgate Psalm 88:29: "I will keep my mercy for him forever: and my covenant faithful to him."

91–96 Compare Vulgate Psalm 10:8: "For the Lord is just and hath loved justice: his countenance hath beheld righteousness"; and Deuteronomy 32:18: "Thou hast forsaken the God that begot thee, and hast forgotten the Lord that created thee."

97 Compare Genesis 3:5, on the serpent presumptuously encouraging Eve to eat of the fruit so that her eyes might be opened to be as gods "knowing good and evil."

100 Compare Vulgate Psalm 110:3: "His work is praise and magnificence and his justice continueth forever and ever."

107 Compare Vulgate Psalm 144:9: "The Lord is sweet to all, and his tender mercies are ever all his works."

112 Compare Vulgate Psalm 102:17: "But the mercy of the Lord is from eternity and unto eternity upon them that fear him."

137 Compare Jeremias 29:11: "For I know the thoughts that I think towards you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of affliction, to give you an end and patience."

178 that wede. As Coletti suggests, this could be a reference to Mary’s cloth-making or knitting ("Devotional Iconography," pp. 252–53), especially as Mary’s craft applies to the weaving for Filius of a human body in her womb. See the Prologue to Chaucer’s Second Nun’s Tale, where Mary "in blood and flessh to clothe and wynde. . . . Withinne the cloistre blisful of thy [Mary’s] sydes" (CT VIII[G]42–43) did knit for the Son his human weeds.

187–88 Misericordia et Veritas obviauerunt sibi / Justitia et Pax osculate sunt. Vulgate Psalm 84:11, the passage that gave rise in Christian exegesis to the concept of the four Daughters of God, who are prominent especially in the Parliament of Heaven section of this play.

189–96 Compare Luke 1:26–28 on the Annunciation.

193 se. A dramatic gesture in a relatively static, tableau-like play. Pater addresses the sight-lines of both Filius and the audience as he focuses attention from his heavenly perspective toward not only "the cyté Nazareth" (line 191) where Jesus will be born, but toward the scriptural foundation of the forthcoming event in the "hous of Davyd" (line 194), or, rather, in Mary, whom he names (lines 195–96): Mary, that crucial "place" through whom all — both the fallen world and the order of angels (line 204) — shall be restored (line 196). The speech makes one ponder what the set might be toward which God’s "behold" is ad­dressed, as if the word (se) effects the manifestation itself, like "God said, ‘Let there be light, and light was made,’" a gesture that sets up Filius’ energized response (lines 197–204), along with Spiritus Sanctus’ descriptive overview of the Salutation and Conception sequence that follows.

197–210 Say . . . Hyge thee! . . . Sey her. In this amazing moment we see the Trinity in conversation with itself. Filius is so eager to be born of Mary that he urges Pater to say the Word so that he might be born. See note to line 193, above, where God effects events through his pronouncements. I have glossed Sey her (line 203) as "Tell her," though there is, as well, a theological implication in the agency of God’s Word as it declares the glories that will ensue. See Vulgate Psalm 18:1, where the heavens declare (enarrant) the glory of God while the firmament de­clares (adnuntiat) the work of his hands. Spiritus Sanctus also defers to Pater by asking him to telle her that God’s Word will be carried out by the Holy Gost (line 206): Sey her, to us is nothynge impossyble (line 210). It is an exciting moment as aspects of the Trinity worry in their eagerness that each might get there before the other has done what must be done. It is remarkable to find a passage in which the Trinity trialogues with such intensity of passionate glad­ness. See lines 171–72, where Filius declares that "A counsel of the Trinité must be had — / Which of us shal man restore?" whereupon Pater praises his wisdom.
197 withowte wo. Meredith astutely remarks that in Latin, this phrase would literally be, "a-ve" (MP, p. 113n1259). See also line 219.

206–12 Compare Luke 1:34–37, on the commission to visit Elizabeth.

216a Ave, gratia plena, Dominus tecum. The line is rubricated and written in a larger, uncial-like script. In the manuscript, Maria is crossed out after Ave, whereby the phrase corresponds to the trans­lation in line 217. See Luke 1:28, the source for the famous salutation. Rastall observes: "This offertory would be very suitable for a greeting sung by an archangel, who would have to be played by a professional singer. The lack of any indication of singing would however suggest that the line was spoken in the Mary Play, whatever might have been the case later" (Minstrels Playing, p. 101).

219–20 This idea of Eva turned around to become Ave is common in early Christian and medieval liturgy and in carols, and reflects, in essence, the happy fall, as one inversion supplants another.

225 kepyng. See St. Bonaventure on the perpetual need of God’s sustaining grace — Deus conservantur (Bonaventure, II Sententiae d.37.a.1.q.2 and conclusio in Opera Omnia).

237–50 Compare Luke 1:30–37 on the angel’s reassurance of Mary and provision of signs of confirmation.

242 clepyd of kende. This is the only detail in lines 241–44 that is without precedence in Gabriel’s pronouncement to Mary in Luke 1:31–33. It could be variously interpreted as "so-called because of his descent," "naturally named," or, more theologically, "chosen of nature." This last possibility would add an emphasis on Jesus’ humanity that is missing from the biblical source but dwelled upon at some length in N-Town.

249–52 Compare Luke 1:29 on troubled Mary pondering the words in her heart.

252 schadu. See MED shadwen, v.2(a, b). The shadow of the Holy Spirit falling upon the Virgin signifies her impregnation and Christ’s incarnation. The penumbra also implies divine protection. See also MED shadwen, v.3. If the immaculateness of the insemination is to be the focus of attention, a beam of light is the usual metaphor, light which can pass through glass without breaking it. See Play 21, lines 97–98, below, and the Wakefield Annunciation play, lines 35–38, as an example of this trope. The N-Town playwright gives dramatic realization to the idea in the elaborate staging of the triple beam of light descending upon Mary following line 292.

253 Holy Gost. As Meredith observes, this is a striking translation for the sanctam of Luke 1:35 (MP, p. 115n1300–22). For his part, Spector omits Gost altogether (see textual note to this line). While it is possible that Gost has been mistakenly transferred from line 251 and that we ought, therefore, to emend this line to read Holy One or simply Holy, there is a certain theological impact to retaining the manuscript reading. In Trinitarian terms, the birth of the Son is the birth of the Holy Ghost (so, too, of the Father). The iconographic representation of the Annunciation/Conception inevitably presents a sequence of the Trinity directed at Mary’s right ear and her womb. Thus the Biblia Pauperum (pl. a), for instance, shows first the descent of a dove (sign of the Holy Spirit), then of a Christ-child "diving" toward her, then an image of a cloud/sun breathing (or speaking) the other two into motion (a sign of the Father).

260 They thynkyth longe to here what ye wyl seyn. That Mary must give "assent" (line 264) to the conception is a detail from the extra-biblical traditions, here derived directly from Love’s Mirrour (see S 2:458).

281 persevere. The author is emphatic in elevating Mary’s role in God’s scheme as "preserver" of all mankind through the instrumentality of her body. The com­fort of all creatures (line 284) is dependent upon her obedient, handmaidenly cooperation.

287–88 Compare Luke 1:38: "And Mary said: Behold the handmaid of the Lord: be it done to me according to thy word."

289-92 Gramercy. Gabryel’s gratitude reflects the heartfelt thanks of the whole divine community that recognizes its own fulfillment in Mary.
289–320 Meredith observes that the repeated thanks and farewells are a feature of several devotional sequences in the Mass, especially the Mass for Mary on Christmas Day (MP, p. 115n1352–55).

292 lanterne of lyght. The phrase configures a host of biblical metaphors brought into focus here. See John 9:5 on Christ as the light of the world. But Mary is the lan­tern, the container of that light, God’s chosen vessel. She presents the light as it alights in her. Compare the hymn to the Virgin in the Prologue of Chau­cer’s Prioress’s Tale (CT VII[B2]470–72), as she speaks of the Holy Ghost "alight­ing" in Mary, thereby "lighting" (also, lifting and thus making "lighter") her heart.

292, s.d. Here the Holy Gost discendit with thre bemys to our Lady. These are likely theatrical representations of light beams, possibly done as rods painted gold, or perhaps with ribbons. Kahrl and Nelson cite a St. Anne’s Guild Play from Lincoln that included a gilded mask with beams. See Lancashire, Dramatic Texts and Records of Britain, pp. 170–71. But what is perhaps most remarkable is that each of the three persons of God perform the rite of insemination, together. See Meredith, "Carved and Spoken Words," pp. 380–83, where he discusses similar attitudes toward Mary and the conception of Jesus figured in the pew carvings of South Walsham Church, which seems to suggest common "discourse communities whose thinking and seeing echo that of a play" (p. 383). Although there is no stage direction saying so, this moment of the descent of three beams of light into Mary’s bosom may well have been accompanied by music. As John Stevens explains: "The principle never varies: the singing symbolizes the irruption of God’s truth and God’s order into the darkness and chaos of this earthly life. It is not, of course, the only symbol. A shining light is often a token of divine intervention: ‘here the holy gost discendit.’" Stevens goes on to compare the Appearance of Our Lady to Thomas, in the York Cycle, where angels sing the Veni de Libano sponsa while Thomas arises to see the Virgin borne aloft by angels in a bright light ("Music in Mediaeval Drama," p. 85).

293–306 The impregnation of Mary is presented in remarkably erotic terms, as Mary describes her physical sensations to the watchful Gabriel and tells him how now I fele in my body (line 293, a line she repeats at the end of the passage, line 306, there­by creating a frame) the carnalyté (line 295) of the babe within. The event has not taken place fyrst o membyr and sythe another (line 297), which, given the three beams of light that God used to enter her bosom, might imply three "mem­bers" of the Trinity which come as one, not one after the other. Member has a sexual connotation in Middle English, as it still does have. Part of the mira­cle here is that this triple member that enters simultaneously causes her no peyne in flesche and bon (line 300), but only an all-surpassing pleasure: I cannot telle what joy, what blysse (line 305) that permeates her whole body. As she thanks Gabriel for his watchful attendance upon this moment (line 307), she seems to be fully aware of the hypostasis within, as she terms it, Parfyte God and parfyte man (line 294). For this miracle that she feels within her body she thanks God on his throne for youre Son — now my son (line 304), a supremely emotive and myster­ious prerogatyff (line 304 — "election," "privilege," "preeminent precedent"). See notes to line 304.

304 youre Son — now my son. The line between Jesus’ divinity and humanity is often blurred in Christian writings. The N-Town-poet, however, seems at pains to make distinctions in the matter to tease out the possibilities of the various cor­res­pond­ing relationships. I have called attention to this through the capitali­zations of Christ-references here and elsewhere.
prerogatyff. A legal/theological term defining God’s sovereign jurisdiction, with­out restriction or interference, over his whole domain. N-Town’s Mary is a model of two women saints whose intellectual superiority enables them to com­prehend fully the dignity (worth) of God’s ordinations. This sense is reflected in Gabriel’s repeated designating of Mary as "trone of the Trinyté" (line 333), i.e., the place of prerogative.

315 pleynge fere. Gabriel sees in the mother the child’s playmate. But he also foresees in her one of the principal dramatis personae: the greatest of all dramas, the Passion play, where she will be his "pleynge fere" indeed.

340 Enjonyd hefne and erth. The phrase looks forward to the singing of the angels, prompt­ing them (hefne) to join in the singing of the Ave Maria (perhaps with erth stand­ing for the audience?). At the same time, the phrase looks backward to the events of the play, marking the whole as a joining of heaven and earth, God and man.

340, s.d. Angeli cantando. Here, as in all the known Shepherds’ plays, a heavenly host sings the "Ave Maria." See John Stevens, "Music in Mediaeval Drama," p. 84. In the Visit to Elizabeth Play (13.69), however, when Mary greets Elizabeth, the Ave is spoken ("seyde"), not sung. See Dutka, Index of Songs, p. 21, for the complete lyrics here.


Abbreviations: Bl: Ludus Coventriae, ed. Block (1922); Da: Corpus Christi Play, ed. Davies (1972); MP: Mary Play, ed. Mere­dith (1987); S: N-Town Play, ed. Spector (1991); s.d.: stage direction; s.n.: stage name.

1–32 On the possible previous division of this speech between the two speakers, see the explanatory note to these lines.
1–4 MS: large play number 11 in right margin.
1 Above the line is 1us (primus) in a different hand.

10 into. MS: into to.

13 thrysté. So S, MP. MS: thryste. Da: thirsty.

17 To the left of the line is 2, written in a different hand.
of. that written above the line in a different hand.

20 sobbe for syknes and sorwe. MS: reviser altered to Sobbe bothe eve and morewe.

35 made. MS: d or de has been corrected. So MP, Bl. S: mad.

36 prayerys. MS: sory prayerys.

42 hath. MS: hadh hath.

45 grete. So Bl, MP. MS: grete or grett. S: grett.

48a–c These Latin lines written in textura quadrata to set off the divine voice speaking.

49 For the. MS: ffor the written in right margin in another hand.

63 resstore. MS: second s written over another letter.

93 sees. So Bl, MP. S: sese. MS: final se in darker ink, possibly corrected.

Before 105 MS: top left corner, fol. 60v marked 60.

111 First worde, erne (?) has been canceled.

133 MS: unnecessary capitulum.

141 Trewth. MS: r written over incomplete h (?). Browne: Terrewth.

153 withowt. MS: with inne and with owt.

156 to that. H: that to.

160 I. So S. MS: I I.

163 Hes. MS: he has been corrected to hes; the s is added in a different hand.

166 Pesys avyse. MS: reviser altered to by hys avyse.

174 was. MS: letter canceled before word.

183 yow lede. MS: procede yow lede.

213, s.n. MS: written in decorative hand.

216a MS: Ave Maria. S.
MS: written in textura quadrata.

217 MS: no capitulum; of of.

229 herynge. MS: thynge altered to herynge.

244 non. So S, MP. Bl: no.

245, s.n. MARIA. MS: Speech marker written to the right of the line.

253 Gost. So MS, Bl, M. S omits on the claim that it has been deleted, but there is no evidence in the MS that this is the case. MP (p. 115n1300–22) sug­gests a possible emendation to one.

276 rescu. MS: canceled and then rewritten in another hand.

281 persevere. MS: second e corrected over y.

289 my. MS: written above the line.

291 of. MS: of of.

292, s.d. entre. A prompt note (?) written by another hand below the stage direction.

293 MS: stanza lacks capitulum.

317, s.n. MS: lacks rubrication.

329, s.n. MS: lacks rubrication.

337 Thorwe. So S. MS: Thour, followed by Bl, M.

340 Enjonyd. So H, Bl, MP. S: enjouyd.

340, s.d. serena. So H, MP, S. MS, Bl: sesena.
MS: the stage direction is followed by: And than Mary seyth. The line has been deleted to accommodate Joseph’s Doubt.
After 340,.s.d. MS: remainder of 66r (138 mm.) and all of 66v blank, except for scribbles.


























































CONTEMPLACIO Fowre thowsand, sex undryd, foure yere, I telle,
Man, for his offens and fowle foly
Hath loyn yerys in the peynes of helle,
And were wurthy to ly therin endlesly,
But thanne shulde perysche youre grete mercye.
Good Lord, have on man pyté!
Have mende of the prayour seyd by Ysaie:
“Lete mercy meke thin hyest magesté.”

Wolde God, thu woldyst breke thin hefne myghtye
And com down here into erth
And levyn yerys thre and threttye,
Thyn famyt folke with thi fode to fede.
To staunche thi thrysté, lete thi syde blede,
For erste wole not be mad redempcyon.
Cum vesyte us in this tyme of nede!
Of thi careful creaturys have compassyon!

A, woo to us wrecchis of wrecchis be!
For God hath haddyd sorwe to sorwe.
I prey thee, Lord, thi sowlys com se!
How thei ly and sobbe for syknes and sorwe!
With thi blyssyd blood from balys hem borwe,
Thy careful creaturys cryenge in captyvyté!
A, tary not, gracyous Lord, tyl it be tomorwe!
The devyl hath dysceyved hem be his iniquité!

“A,” quod Jeremye, “Who shal gyff wellys to myn eynes
That I may wepe bothe day and nyght
To se oure bretheryn in so longe peynes?”
Here myschevys amende may thi mech myght.
As gret as the se, Lord, was Adamys contryssyon ryght.
From oure hed is falle the crowne.
Man is comeryd in synne — I crye to thi syght:
Gracyous Lord, gracyous Lord, gracyous Lord, come down!

VIRTUES Lord, plesyth it thin hygh domynacyon,
On man that thu made to have pyté,
Patryarchys and prophetys han made supplycacyon.
Oure offyse is to presente here prayerys to thee —
Aungelys, archaungelys, we thre
That ben in the fyrst ierarchie
For man to thin hy magesté:
Mercy, mercy, mercy we crye!

The aungel, Lord, thu made so gloryous
Whos synne hath mad hym a devyl in helle,
He mevyd man to be so contraryous.
Man repentyd, and he, in his obstynacye, doth dwelle.
Hese grete males, good Lord, repelle
And take man onto thi grace!
Lete thi mercy make hym with aungelys dwelle
Of Locyfere to restore the place.

PATER Propter miseriam inopum
Et gemitum pauperum
Nunc exurgam.

For the wretchydnes of the nedy
And the porys lamentacyon
Now shal I ryse that am almyghty.
Tyme is come of reconsyliacyon:
My prophetys with prayers have made supplicacyon;
My contryte creaturys crye all for comforte.
All myn aungellys in hefne, withowte cessacyon,
They crye that grace to man myght exorte.

VERITAS Lord, I am thi dowtere Trewth.
Thu wylt se I be not lore.
Thyn unkynde creaturys to save were rewthe.
The offens of man hath grevyd thee sore.
Whan Adam had synnyd, thu seydest thore
That he shulde deye and go to helle.
And now, to blysse hym to resstore —
Twey contraryes mow not togedyr dwelle.

Thy trewthe, Lord, shal leste withowtyn ende.
I may in no wyse fro thee go.
That wretche that was to thee so unkende,
He may not have to meche wo!
He dyspysyd thee and plesyd thi fo!
Thu art his creatour, and he is thi creature.
Thu hast lovyd Trewthe, it is seyd evyrmo.
Therfore in peynes lete hym evyrmore endure!

MISERICORDIA O, Fadyr of Mercy and God of Comforte
That counsell us in eche trybulacyon,
Lete youre dowtere Mercy to yow resorte
And on man that is myschevyd have compassyon.
Hym grevyth ful gretly his transgressyon.
All hefne and erthe crye for mercy!
Me semyth ther shuld be non excepcyon,
Ther prayers ben offeryd so specyally.

Threwth seyth she hath evyr be, than.
I graunt it wel, she hath be so.
And thu seyst endlesly that Mercy thu hast kept for man.
Than, mercyabyl Lorde, kepe us bothe to.
Thu seyst: “Veritas mea et Misericordia mea cum ipso.”2
Suffyr not thi sowlys, than, in sorwe to slepe.
That helle hownde that hatyth thee, byddyth hym ho!
Thi love, man, no lengere lete hym kepe.

JUSTICIA Mercy, me merveylyth what yow movyth!
Ye know wel I am youre systere Ryghtwysnes!
God is ryghtful, and ryghtffulnes lovyth!
Man offendyd hym that is endles;
Therfor, his endles punchement may nevyr sees.
Also, he forsoke his makere that made hym of clay,
And the devyl to his mayster he ches!
Shulde he be savyd? Nay, nay, nay!

As wyse as is God, he wold a be!
This was the abhomynabyl presumpcyon!
It is seyd ye know wel this of me,
That the ryghtwysnes of God hath no diffynicyon.3
Therffore, late this be oure conclusyon:
He that sore synnyd ly stylle in sorwe.
He may nevyr make aseyth be reson:
Whoo myght thanne thens hym borwe?

MISERICORDIA Systyr Ryghtwysnes! Ye are to vengeabyl!
Endles synne, God endles may restore!
Above all hese werkys, God is mercyabyl!
Thow he forsook God be synne, be feyth he forsook hym neverthemore.
And thow he presumyd nevyr so sore,
Ye must consyder the frelnes of mankende.
Lerne and ye lyst — this is Goddys lore:
The mercy of God is withowtyn ende.

PAX To spare youre speches, systerys, it syt.
It is not onest in Vertuys to ben dyscencyon!
The pes of God overcomyth all wytt.
Thow Trewth and Ryght sey grett resoun,
Yett Mercy seyth best to my pleson.
For yf mannys sowle shulde abyde in helle,
Betwen God and man evyr shulde be dyvysyon.
And than myght not I, Pes, dwelle.

Therefore, mesemyth best ye thus acorde;
Than hefne and erthe, ye shul qweme:
Putt bothe youre sentens in oure Lorde.
And in his hygh wysdam, lete hym deme.
This is most syttynge, me shulde seme.
And lete se how we fowre may all abyde.
That mannys sowle, it shulde perysche, it wore sweme,
Or that ony of us fro othere shulde dyvyde.

VERITAS In trowthe hereto I consente;
I wole prey oure Lorde it may so be.
JUSTICIA I, Ryghtwysnes, am wele contente,
For in hym is very equyté.
MISERICORDIA And I, Mercy, fro this counsel wole not fle
Tyl Wysdam hath seyd I shal ses.
PAX Here is God now; here is unyté:
Hefne and erth is plesyd with Pes.

FILIUS I thynke the thoughtys of Pes and nowth of wykkydnes.
This I deme, to ses youre contraversy:
If Adam had not deyd, peryschyd had Ryghtwysnes,
And also Trewth had be lost therby.
Trewth and Ryght wolde chastyse foly
Yiff another deth come not, Mercy shulde perysch,
Than Pes were exyled fynyaly.
So, tweyn dethis must be yow fowre to cherysch.4

But he that shal deye, ye must knawe,
That in hym may ben non iniquyté,
That helle may holde hym be no lawe,
But that he may pas at hese lyberté.
Qwere swyche on his, prevyde and se
And hes deth, for mannys deth, shal be redempcyon.
All hefne and erth seke now ye.
Plesyth it yow, this conclusyon?

VERITAS I, Trowthe, have sowte the erthe withowt and withinne,5
And, in sothe, ther kan non be fownde
That is of o day byrth withowte synne
Nor to that deth wole be bownde.
MISERICORDIA I, Mercy, have ronne the hevynly regyon rownde,
And there is non of that charyté
That, for man, wole suffre a deddly wounde.
I cannott wete how this shal be.

JUSTICIA Sure, I can fynde non sufficyent,
For servauntys unprofytable we be ech on.
Hese love nedyth to be ful ardent
That, for man, to helle wolde gon.
PAX That God may do is non but on.6
Therfore this is Pesys avyse:
He that gaff this counsell, lete hym geve the comforte alon
For the conclusyon in hym of all these lyse.

FILIUS It peyneth me, that man I mad,
That is to seyn, peyne I must suffre fore.
A counsel of the Trinité must be had —
Which of us shal man restore?
PATER In youre wysdam, Son, man was mad thore,
And in wysdam was his temptacyon.
Therfor some sapyens, ye must ordeyn herefore
And se how of man may be salvacyon.

FILIUS Fadyr, he that shal do this must be both God and man!
Lete me se how I may were that wede.
And syth in my wysdam, he began,
I am redy to do this dede.
SPIRITUS SANCTUS I, the Holy Gost, of yow tweyn do procede.
This charge I wole take on me.
I, Love, to youre lover shal yow lede.
This is the assent of oure unyté.

MISERICORDIA Now is the loveday mad of us fowre fynialy!
Now may we leve in pes, as we were wonte.
Misericordia et Veritas obviauerunt sibi
Justicia et Pax osculate sunt.

[Et hic osculabunt pariter omnes

PATER From us, god aungel Gabryel, thu shalt be sende
Into the countré of Galylé.
The name of the cyté Nazareth is kende
To a mayd weddyd to a man is she,
Of whom the name is Joseph, se,
Of the hous of Davyd bore.
The name of the mayd fre
Is Mary, that shal al restore.

FILIUS Say that she is withowte wo and ful of grace,
And that I, the Son of the Godhed, of her shal be bore.
Hyge thee! Thu were there apace
Ellys we shal be there thee beffore!
I have so grett hast to be man thore
In that mekest and purest virgyne.
Sey her, she shal restore
Of yow aungellys, the grett ruyne.

SPIRITUS SANCTUS And if she aske thee how it myth be,
Telle her I, the Holy Gost, shal werke al this.
Sche shal be savyd thorwe oure unyté.
In tokyn, her bareyn cosyn Elyzabeth is
Qwyk with childe, in her grett age, iwys.
Sey her, to us is nothynge impossyble.
Her body shal be so fulfylt with blys
That she shal sone thynke this sownde credyble.

GABRYEL In thyn hey inbassett, Lord, I shal go!
It shal be do with a thought.
Beholde now, Lord, I go hereto:
I take my flyth and byde nowth.

Ave, gratia plena, Dominus tecum!

Heyl, ful of grace, God is with thee!
Amonge all women blyssyd art thu.
Here, this name Eva is turnyd Ave,
That is to say, withowte sorwe ar we now!

Thow sorwe in yow hath no place,
Yett of joy, Lady, ye nede more.
Therefore, I adde and sey, “Ful of grace,”
For so ful of grace was nevyr non bore.
Yett who hath grace, he nedyth kepyng sore.
Therfore, I sey, God is with thee,
Which shal kepe yow endlesly thore!
So amonge all women, blyssyd are ye!

MARIA A, mercy, God! This is a mervelyous herynge!
In the aungelys wordys, I am trobelyd here.
I thynk how may be this gretynge?
Aungelys dayly to me doth aper,
But not in the lyknes of man, that is my fer.
And also thus hyghly to comendyd be
And am most unwurthy — I cannot answere.
Grett shamfastnes and grett dred is in me!

GABRYEL Mary, in this take ye no drede,
For at God, grace fownde have ye!
Ye shal conceyve in youre wombe, indede,
A childe, the Sone of the Trynyté!
His name of yow, Jhesu, clepyd shal be.
He shal be grett, the Son of the Hyest, clepyd of kende.7
And of his fadyr Davyd, the Lord shal geve hym the se,
Reynyng in the hous of Jacob, of which regne shal be non ende.

MARIA Aungel, I sey to yow,
In what manere of wyse shal this be?
For knowyng of man I have non now.
I have evyrmore kept and shal my virginyté.
I dowte not the wordys ye han seyd to me,
But I aske how it shal be do.
GABRYEL The Holy Gost shal come fro above to thee,
And the vertu of hym hyest shal schadu thee so.

Therfore, that Holy Gost of thee shal be bore.
He shal be clepyd the Son of God sage.
And se Elyzabeth, your cosyn, thore?
She hath conseyvid a son in hyre age.
This is the sexte monyth of her passage,
Of her that clepyd was bareyn.
Nothynge is impossyble to Goddys usage;
They thynkyth longe to here what ye wyl seyn.
4604 years, I say; (see note); (t-note)
lain years; pains
deserved to lie
then; perish

keep in mind; Isaiah
temper; (see note)

break open; (see note)
live 33 years
Your famished; food
satisfy your thirsty; (t-note)
otherwise will; made
Come visit
On thy wretched

wretches of wretches born; (t-note)
added sorrow
souls come see
suffering redeem them
deceived them by

give; eyes; (see note)

see; pains
Their sins; great
sea; Adam’s; (see note)
head; fallen; (see note)
engulfed; before you
(see note)

your great; (see note)

have made; (t-note)
role; their; (t-note)
are; hierarchy

(see note)
Whose; made; (t-note)
moved; rebellious

His; malice; (t-note)

(see note)


needy; (see note); (t-note)

angels; heaven

daughter Truth; (see note)
see; I am not lost
would be calamitous
offence; grieved you greatly
said there
(i.e., heaven); (t-note)
Two contradictions may

last; (see note)
too much

said evermore; (see note)

(see note)
daughter; approach
distresses in
heaven; earth
It seems to me; no objection
Their; are; forcefully

Truth; always been, then
(see note)
Then, merciful; two

then; sorrow
[God] bids him stop
no longer lets him [the fiend] keep [you]

I marvel at what moves you
righteous; righteousness; (see note)

punishment; cease; (t-note)
master; chose

he (man) would have been; (see note)

(see note)
make atonement by
then thereafter redeem him

too vengeful; (t-note)

his works; (see note)
though; so greatly
frailty of mankind
Learn; if it pleases you; teaching; (t-note)
(see note)

it is fitting
honest; be dissenting
peace; reason
Though; argue well
then; Peace, exist

it seems to me; agree
Then heaven; shall unite
judgments to
high wisdom; judge
fitting, it seems to me
let us see; four; get along
any; separate

will not turn away; (t-note)
said; cease
Heaven; earth; pleased; Peace

(see note)
judge; cease; argument
If; perish
exiled forever

die; know
be no sin
leave as he pleases
Where such a one is, search
If his
heaven; earth
Does it please you

truly; can none
one; born
will; (t-note)
much love

imagine; (t-note)

worthless; each one

Peace’s advice; (t-note)
gave; give
remains in him

for [him (i.e., man)]

wisdom; call up

wear that clothing; (see note)
since; he (man)

you two

lead you; (t-note)

reconciliation day made
live; peace; accustomed
Mercy and Truth have met each other; (see note)
Justice and Peace have kissed (Vulgate Psalm 84:11)

And here they kiss each other

good; sent; (see note)
is called

behold (see); (see note)

woe; (see note)
Hurry; quickly
Or else
haste; there

great fall

(see note)
through; unity
As a sign, her barren cousin
Pregnant; indeed
Tell her
filled; bliss
soon; message (communication)

On; high embassy; (t-note)


(see note); (t-note)


(see note)


never born
protection greatly; (see note)

uphold; there

speech; (t-note)
By; troubled here
wonder; greeting

(see note)

(see note)

what way
intercourse with

have said; (see note)

power; overshadow; (see note)

born; (see note); (t-note)

conceived; old age
sixth; pregnancy
was called barren
hear; will say; (see note)

  [Here the aungel makyth a lytyl restyng, and Mary beholdyth hym and the aungel seyth:







Mary, come of and haste thee,
And take hede in thyn entent
Whow the Holy Gost — blyssyd he be —
Abydyth thin answere and thin assent!
Thorwe wyse werke of Dyvinyté,
The Secunde Persone, verament,
Is mad man by fraternyté
Withinne thiself, in place present.

Ferthermore, take hede this space,
Whow all the blyssyd spyrytys of vertu
That are in hefne byffore Goddys face,
And all the gode levers and trew
That are here in this erthely place.
Thyn owyn kynrede, the sothe ho knew
And the chosyn sowlys, this tyme of grace
That are in helle and byde rescu.

As Adam, Abraham, and Davyd in fere
And many othere of good reputacyon,
That thin answere desyre to here,
And thin assent to the Incarnacyon,
In which thu standyst, as persevere,
Of all mankende savacyon!
Gyff me myn answere, now Lady dere,
To all these creaturys comfortacyon!

MARIA With all mekenes, I clyne to this acorde,
Bowynge down my face with all benyngnyté.
So here the handmayden of oure Lorde.
Aftyr thi worde, be it don to me.
GABRYEL Gramercy, my Lady fre!
Gramercy of youre answere on hyght;
Gramercy of youre gret humylyté;
Gramercy, ye lanterne of lyght!
come on
Awaits you
made; being man
right here

at this time
How; spirits

good and true believers

Your; who knew the truth
await; (t-note)



as preserver; (see note); (t-note)

creatures’ comfort

here [is]; (see note)

Many thanks; (see note); (t-note)

of; (see note)

  [Here the Holy Gost discendit with thre bemys to our Lady, the Sone of the Godhed nest with thre bemys to the Holy Gost, the Fadyr godly with thre bemys to the Sone. And so entre all thre to her bosom, and Mary seyth: (see note); (t-note)











MARIA A, now I fele in my body be
Parfyte God and parfyte man,
Havyng al schapp of chyldly carnalyté
Evyn al at onys, thus God began.

Nott takynge fyrst o membyr and sythe another8
But parfyte childhod ye have anon.
Of your handmayden, now ye have mad youre modyr
Withowte peyne in flesche and bon.
Thus conceyved nevyr woman non
That evyr was beynge in this lyff.
O, myn hyest Fadyr in youre tron
It is worthy, youre Son — now my son — have a prerogatyff.

I cannot telle what joy, what blysse
Now I fele in my body!
Aungel Gabryel, I thank yow for thys.
Most mekely recomende me to my Faderys mercy.
To have be the Modyr of God, ful lytyl wend I.
Now, myn cosyn Elyzabeth, fayn wold I se,
How sche hath conseyvid as ye dede specyfy.
Now, blyssyd be the hygh Trynyté!

GABRYEL Fareweyl, turtyl, Goddys dowtere dere!
Farewel, Goddys mother, I thee honowre!
Farewel, Goddys sustyr, and his pleynge fere!
Farewel, Goddys chawmere and his bowre!

MARIA Farewel, Gabryel, specyalye!
Farewel, Goddys masangere expresse!
I thank yow for youre traveyl hye.
Gramercy of youre grett goodness,

And namely of youre comfortabyl massage,
For I undyrstande by inspyracyon
That ye knowe by syngulere prevylage
Most of my sonys Incarnacyon.
I pray yow take it into usage
Be a custom ocupacyon
To vesyte me ofte be mene passage.
Youre presence is my comfortacyon.

GABRYEL At your wyl, Lady, so shal it be.
The gentyllest of blood and hyest of kynrede
That reynyth in erth in ony degré
Be pryncypal incheson of the Godhede.

I commend me onto yow, thu trone of the Trinyté!
O, mekest mayde, now the modyr of Jhesu,
Qwen of Hefne, Lady of Erth, and Empres of Helle, be ye!
Socour to all synful, that wole to yow sew.
Thorwe youre body beryth the babe, our blysse shal renew.
To yow, Modyr of Mercy, most mekely I recomende,
And as I began I ende, with an Ave new,
Enjonyd hefne and erth, with that I ascende.
(see note); (t-note)
shape of a child’s flesh

made; mother
flesh and bone
has ever lived
highest; throne
(see note)

become; mother; think
gladly would I see

turtledove; daughter

sister; companion; (see note)
chamber; bower

high mission
Many thanks for

inspiring message

what; special privilege
By; regular
during the pregnancy

highest; kin
on Earth; every

Through; (t-note)

Joined; (see note); (t-note)

  [Angeli cantando istam sequenciam: “Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum virgo serena.”9; (see note); (t-note)

Go To Play 12, Joseph's Doubt