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Play 13, Visit to Elizabeth


1 They were called high priests, for their services

2 Lines 82–83: My soul magnifies the Lord / And my spirit rejoiced in God my Savior. (See Luke 1:46–47)

3 Lines 86–87: Because he has regarded the humility of his handmaid, / For behold from henceforth all generations will call me blessed. (See Luke 1:48)

4 Lines 90–91: Because he who is mighty has done great things for me: / And holy is his name. (See Luke 1:49)

5 Lines 94–95: And his mercy is from generation to generations, / To those fearing him. (See Luke 1:50)

6 Yea, the mercy of him is from that generation into the generation of peace

7 Lines 98–99: He has made power in his arm / He has scattered the proud in the mind of his heart. (See Luke 1:51)

8 The proud to despair, in the thought of their hearts alone

9 Lines 102–03: He has put down the mighty from their seat / And exalted the humble. (See Luke 1:52)

10 Lines 106–07: He has filled the hungry with good things / And the rich he sent away empty. (See Luke 1:53)

11 Lines 110–11: He has received Israel his servant, / That recalled his mercy. (See Luke 1:54)

12 Lines 114–15: As he spoke to our fathers, / to Abraham and to his seed for ever. (See Luke 1:55)

13 Lines 152–55: The angel said, "Hail, full of grace. The Lord is with thee. / Blessed art thou among women." / Elizabeth said, "Blessed be / The fruit of thy womb." Thus the church added Mary and Jesus here


Abbreviations: MP: Mary Play, ed. Mere­dith (1987); s.d.: stage direction.

1–22 A quatrain followed by two octaves and a couplet.

5 A, Godys sake! Is she with childe, sche? Joseph believes now as the true husband. Rather than suggest that Zachary has been cuckolded, he shares in the joy of Mary and Elizabeth and provides reassuring guidance for the long fifty-two mile journey. Mary worries about the trip (lines 13–20), but her husband provides reassurance with purpose and affection.

15–16 I am schamfast of the pepyl to be seyne / And namely of men. Mary's fear of being seen in public by "men" reflects already the fabliaux mentality of men that she has been exposed to even by her husband, whom most she trusts.

17 Pylgrymagys and helpyngys wolde be go in hast. Mary is wary of public attention and knows that pilgrims, who may or may not be honest, will be crowding the roads. Those who are helpyngys may be performing charitable acts or providing spiritual aid, though given the lecherous disposition of her detractors, they may be more like Autolycus in Shakespeare's Winter's Tale or the Canon and his Yeoman in Chau­cer, "helping themselves," who snatch up whatever trifles or gossip they may.

22, s.d.–42 As Joseph and Mary travel about the place, Contemplacio, acting as chorus, fills the audience in on Elizabeth's story.

23–42 Two octaves followed by a quatrain.

26 clepyd summi sacerdotes. I.e., "called high priests," or as the next line calls them, "prynce[s] of prestys."

31–36 Compare Luke 1:5–13 on the angel's visit to the barren Elizabeth.

41 Meredith notes that this is the beginning of "Deus sit in principio," a common prayer to bless any new endeavor (MP, p. 118n1452).

43 A, a, wyff . . . I am wery. Joseph graciously steps aside so that the pregnant women may share their thoughts on the mystery they are a part of.

43–74 Written in octaves.

51–66 Compare Luke 1:41–45 on the meeting of Mary and Elizabeth.

64 the wurde of God shulde profyte in thee. Editorial decisions about capitalization can be fraught with difficulty. Here, for example, capitalizing wurde would help make clear what seems to be an immediate reference being made to Jesus or logos, the Word of God (see John 1:1). But capitalizing would also obscure the pri­mary reference being made, which is to God's promise, his assur­ance of re­demp­tion, a reading that draws particular strength from the economic import of profyte. Since it is this latter use that is closer to the poet's Lucan source (1:45), I have maintained lower case on wurde.

75–117 A seven-line stanza followed by quatrains.

82–126 The playwright provides here the Magnificat and doxology, which constitutes the high point of the Visitation. (See Luke 1:46–55.) Rastall observes: "The Mag­ni­ficat and doxology are said in pairs of lines antiphonally, the Latin by Mary and its translation by Elizabeth: the whole Latin text is in larger, more formal script, while the translation is in the normal text script. The [speech markers] make it clear that the Latin is heard, and Mary also states her intention to ‘begynne' the ‘holy psalme' (line 81). Although ‘begin' in this context, as a translation of inci­piat, might imply singing, it evidently does not do so here, for in line 127 Mary states that the psalm has been said between them" (Minstrels Playing, p. 102).

82–85 Lines 84–85 do not translate the Latin in lines 82–83.

118–30 A five-line stanza followed by two quatrains.

127–30 Rastall (Minstrels Playing, p. 81) points out that here, as with the Ave, the Mag­nificat is said, not sung. See, further, note to line 129, below.

127 prophesye. Twycross notes that this means "to speak with divine inspiration," not "to foretell the future." She also concludes that Mary's function in the Visitation emphasizes her role as a prophet ("Kissing Cousins," pp. 120–30).

129 Evyr to be songe and also to be seyn. The line makes clear Rastall's point that there are distinctions to be made between which lines are spoken and which are to be sung. Such distinctions are often indicated by stage directions within the text or, as in the "Mary Play," added in marginal directions. But there are many in­stances in which the manuscript leaves such distinctions unmarked, which puts the burden of such decisions on the director of specific productions.

131–32 Compare Luke 1:56: "Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house."

131-49 Two octaves followed by a triplet.

150–85 An octave followed by five quatrains, followed by an octave.

152–53 See line 53.

154–55 Meredith remarks that the division of the Ave Maria here is similar to that found in the Lay Folks' Catechism (MP, p. 121n1567–68). Compare 11.227–28.

166–69 Compare Luke 1:67 ff. On Zachary regaining his speech and glorifying God.

184–85 Meredith notes that Contemplacio could be referring to the beginning of his speech (lines 1569–70) or to Ave as a greeting, suggesting that the Mary Play has gone full circle (MP, p. 121n1595).

185 An antiphon sung for a procession for the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (MP, p. 121n1596). See Dutka, Index of Songs, p. 21, for the complete lyrics.


Abbreviations: Bl: Ludus Coventriae, ed. Block (1922); H: Ludus Coventriae, ed. Halliwell (1841); MP: Mary Play, ed. Mere­dith (1987); S: N-Town Play, ed. Spector (1991); s.n.: stage name.

1, s.n. MS: speaker's name is in textura quadrata.

8–11 MS: large play number 13 in right margin.

8 I. MS: oi I.

11 wole. MS: wyl wole.

13 Goth. So MS, Bl, MP. S: Good.

19 I cast. So MS, Bl. H: reast. MP: i-cast. S: icast.

25 let. So MS, Bl. MP: lot. S: lot to apere.

26 weryn. So MP. MS, Bl: weryd. S: were.

29 woman. MS: wyff woman.

34 He, seinge. So S, MP. MS, Bl: Hese juge.

35 lippis. MS: above the line.
lo. MS: to lo.

37 tolde. MS: gab tolde.

74 cosyn. MS: two letters canceled before.

77 of incensynge. MS: of written above the line.

82–124 MS: the Latin verses are in textura quadrata.

88 handmayde, ye. Bl, MP: maydaydeze. S: hand-may ye. MS: It is apparent that a reviser added the de in different ink, making the previous version hand-may ye.

89 So. So MS, Bl, MP. S: Lo.

101 in the. So S. MS, H, MP, Bl: and the.

142 Why. MS: letter (h?) canceled before word.

144 vesytacyon. So S, MP. Bl: vesytacion.

147–49 MS: a triplet, but written in the bottom margin with the note si placet, indi­cating an alternative conclusion to the play. See Meredith, MP, Appendix 3 and pp. 134–37 and Spector (2:466n13/147–185a). At this point, I have chosen the manuscript's alternative ending for the play at the bottom of fol. 73v.

Contemplacio then concludes with his speech, lines 150–85. Spector con­siders Contemplacio's speech part of the alternative ending because it is squeezed into the rest of the folio (S 2:137). Below is the conclusion that Block and Spector have chosen but Meredith places in an appendix.

JOSEPH Of your dissese thynkys no greff!
Thank God of all adversyté,
For he wyl chastyse and repreff
Tho that he lovyth most hertylé.
Mary, I hold best that we go hens.
We have for hom withowt fayl.

MARIA Al redy, husbond, without defens.
I wyl werke be your counsayl.
Cosyn, be your leve and your lycens,
For homward now us must travayl.
Of this refreschynge in your presens,
God yeld yow that most may avayl.

ELIZABETH Now, cosynes, bothe God yow spede
And wete yow wele withowtyn mo.
Your presens comfortyth me, indede,
And therfore now am I ryght wo
That ye, my frendys and my kynrede,
Thus sone now shul parte me fro.
But I pray God, he mote yow lede
In every place wherso ye go.
misfortune; grief

Those; heartily


by; permission
spiritual refreshment
give you help

both of you
grant you weal without end


shall; from me
may lead you

          [Here Mary and Elizabet partyn and Elizabeth goth to Zakarie and seyth:

Gode husbond, ryse up, I beseke yow
And go we to the temple now fast
To wurchep God with that we mow
And thank hym bothe — this is my cast
Of the tyme that is comynge now.
For now is cum mercy, and venjauns is past.
God wyl be born for mannys prow
To brynge us to blysse that ever shal last.
beg you


man's good

153–185 MS: Latin words, proper names, and verses in lines 153–55, 171–72, and 185 are in textura quadrata.

163 That. S: That held.

181 deliberacyon. MS: deliberaco with cropped edge.

After 185 MS: no break between plays.









































MARIA But husbond, of oo thyng I pray yow most mekely:
I have knowyng that oure cosyn Elyzabeth with childe is.
That it plese yow to go to her hastyly,
If owught we myth comforte her, it wore to me blys.

JOSEPH A, Godys sake! Is she with childe, sche?
Than wole her husbond Zakarye be mery!
In montana they dwelle, fer hens, so mot Y thee,
In the cety of Juda, I knowe it veryly.
It is hens, I trowe, myles two and fyfty.
We are lyke to be wery, or we come at that same.
I wole with a good wyl, blyssyd wyff Mary.
Now go we forthe, than, in Goddys name.

MARIA Goth, husbond, thow it be to yow peyne.
This jurny I pray yow, lete us go fast,
For I am schamfast of the pepyl to be seyne
And namely of men, therof I am agast.
Pylgrymagys and helpyngys wolde be go in hast.
The more the body is peynyd, the more is the mede.
Say ye youre devocyonys, and I shal myn, I cast.
Now, in this jurny, God mote us spede.

JOSEPH Amen, amen, and evyrmore.
Lo, wyff, lo, how starkly I go before.

[Et sic transient circa placeam.

CONTEMPLACIO Sovereynes, undyrstondyth that Kynge Davyd here
Ordeyned foure and twenty prestys of grett devocyon
In the temple of God aftere here let apere.
Thei weryn clepyd summi sacerdotes, for here mynistracyon.1
And on was prynce of prestys, havynge dominacyon
Amonge which was an old prest clepyd Zakarye,
And he had an old woman to his wyff of holy conversacyon
Whiche hyth Elizabeth, that nevyr had childe, verylye.

In hese mynistracyon, the howre of incense,
The aungel Gabryel apperyd hym to
That hese wyff shulde conseyve: he gaff hym intelligence.
He, seinge hese unwurthynes and age, not belevyd so;
The plage of dompnesse hise lippis lappyd, lo.
Thei wenten hom, and his wyff was conseyvenge.
This concepcyon Gabryel tolde oure Lady to,
And, in soth, sone aftere, that sage sche was sekynge,

And of here tweyners metyng
Here gynnyth the proces.
Now God, be oure begynnynge,
And of my tonge, I wole ses.

JOSEPH A, a, wyff, in feyth, I am wery!
Therfore, I wole sytt downe and rest me ryght here.
Lo, wyff, here is the hous of Zakary!
Wole ye, I clepe Elyzabeth to yow to apere.
MARIA Nay, husbond, and it plese yow, I shal go ner.
Now, the blyssyd Trynité be in this hous!
A, cosyn Elizabeth, swete modyr, what cher?
Ye grow grett! A, my God, how ye be gracyous!

ELIZABETH Anon as I herd of yow, this holy gretynge,
Mekest mayden and the Modyr of God, Mary,
Be youre breth, the Holy Gost us was inspyrynge.
That the childe in my body enjoyd gretly,
And turnyd down on his knes to oure God reverently!
Whom ye bere in youre body, this veryly I ken.
Fulfyllyd with the Holy Gost, thus lowde I cry:
Blyssyd be thu amonge all women!

And blyssyd be the frute of thi wombe, also.
Thu wurthyest virgyne and wyff that evyr was wrought,
How is it that the Modyr of God me shulde come to,
That wrecche of all wrecchis, a whyght wers than nought?
And thu art blyssyd that belevyd veryly in thi thought,
That the wurde of God shulde profyte in thee.
But how this blyssydnes abought was brought,
I cannot thynk nyn say how it myght be.

MARIA To the preysynge of God, cosyn, this seyd mut be.
Whan I sat in my lytyl hous, onto God praynge,
Gabryel come and seyde to me, “Ave!”
Ther I conceyvyd God at my consentynge —
Parfyte God and parfyte man, at onys beynge.
Than the aungel seyd onto me
That it was sex monethys syn youre conseyvynge.
This cawsyth my comynge, cosyn, yow to comforte and se.

ELIZABETH Blyssyd be ye, cosyn, for youre hedyrcomynge.
How I conseyvyd, I shal to yow say:
The aungel apperyd the howre of incensynge
Seynge I shulde conseyve, and hym thought nay.
Sethe, for his mystrost, he hath be dowm alway.
And thus of my concepcyon, I have tolde yow sum.
MARIA For this holy psalme, I begynne here this day:

Magnificat anima mea Dominum
Et exultavit spiritus meus in Deo salutari meo.2
ELIZABETH Be the Holy Gost, with joye, Goddys Son is in thee cum
That thi spyryte so injouyid the helth of thi God so.

MARIA Quia respexit humilitatem ancille sue,
Ecce enim ex hoc beatam me dicent omnes generaciones.3
ELIZABETH For he beheld the lownes of hese handmayde, ye,
So ferforthe for that, all generacyonys blysse yow in pes.

MARIA Quia fecit mihi magna qui potens est,
Et sanctum nomen eius.4
ELIZABETH For grett thyngys he made and also myghtyest
And ryght holy is the name of hym in us.

MARIA Et misericordia eius a progenie in progenies
Timentibus eum.5
ELIZABETH Ya, the mercy of hym fro that kynde into the kynde of pes,6
For all that hym drede, now is he cum.

MARIA Fecit potenciam in brachio suo,
Disspersit superbos mente cordis sui. 7
ELIZABETH The pore in his ryght arme, he hath mad so
The prowde to dyspeyre, in the thought of here hertys only.8

MARIA Deposuit potentes de sede,
Et exaltauit humiles.9
ELIZABETH The prowde men fro hey setys put he,
And the lowly upon heyth in the sete of pes.

MARIA Esurientes implevit bonis,
Et diuites dimisit inanes.10
ELIZABETH Alle the pore and the nedy he fulfyllyth with his goodys,
And the ryche, he fellyth to voydnes.

MARIA Suscepit Israel puerum suum
Recordatus est misericordie sue.11
ELIZABETH Israel, for his childe, uptoke he to cum
On his mercy to thynk, for hese that be.

MARIA Sicut locutus est ad patres nostros,
Abraham et semini eius in secula.12
ELIZABETH As he spak here to oure forfaderys in clos,
Abraham and to all hese sed of hym in this werd, sa.

MARIA Gloria Patri et Filio
Et Spiritui Sancto.
ELIZABETH Preysyng be to the Fadyr in Hevyn, lo;
The same to the Son, here be so;
The Holy Gost, also to ken.

MARIA Sicut erat in principio et nunc et semper,
Et in secula seculorum, amen.
ELIZABETH As it was in the begynnynge, and now is, and shal be forevyr,
And in this werd, in all good werkys to abydyn then.

MARIA This psalme of prophesye seyd betwen us tweyn.
In hefne, it is wretyn with aungellys hond
Evyr to be songe and also to be seyn
Everyday amonge us at oure evesong.

But, cosyn Elyzabeth, I shal yow here kepe
And this thre monethis abyde here now
Tyl ye han childe to wasche, skore, and swepe,
And in all that, I may to comforte yow.
ELIZABETH A, ye Modyr of God, ye shewe us here how
We shulde be meke, that wrecchis here be.
All hefne and herthe wurchepp yow mow
That are trone and tabernakyl of the hygh Trinité!

JOSEPH A, how do ye? How do ye, fadyr Zacharye?
We falle fast in age, withowte oth!
Why shake ye so your hed? Have ye the palsye?
Why speke ye not, sere? I trowe ye are not wroth.
ELIZABETH Nay, wys fadyr Joseph, therto he were ful loth.
It is the vesytacyon of God: he may not speke veryly.
Lete us thank God, therffor, both
He shal remedy it whan it plesyth his mercy.

Come, I pray yow specialy.
Iwys, ye are welcome, Mary.
For this comfortabelest comynge, good God, gramercy.

CONTEMPLACIO Lystenyth, sovereynys, here is conclusyon:
How the Ave was made, here is lernyd us.
The aungel seyd: “Ave, gratia plena! Dominus tecum.
Benedicta tu in mulieribus.”
Elizabeth seyd: “Et benedictus
Fructus uentris tui.” Thus the chirch addyd “Maria” and “Jhesus” here.13
Who seyth oure Ladyes Sawtere dayly for a yer thus,
He hath pardon, ten thousand and eyte hundryd yer.

Than ferther to oure matere for to procede,
Mary, with Elizabeth abod ther stylle
Thre monthys fully, as we rede,
Thankynge God with hertly wylle.

A, Lord God, what hous was this on
That these childeryn and here moderys to
As Mary and Elizabeth, Jhesus and John,
And Joseph and Zakarye, also!

And evyr oure Lady abod stylle thus
Tyl Johan was of his modyr born.
And than Zakarye spak, iwus,
That had be dowm, and his spech lorn.

He and Elizabeth prophesyed as thus:
They mad Benedictus them beforn
And so Magnificat and Benedictus
Fyrst in that place ther made worn.

Whan all was don, oure Lady fre
Toke her leve than aftere this,
At Elizabeth and at Zakarie
And kyssyd Johan and gan hym blys.

Now, most mekely, we thank you of youre pacyens
And beseke you of youre good supportacyon.
If here hath be seyd ore don any inconvenyens,
We asygne it to youre good deliberacyon.
Besekynge to Crystys precious Passyon,
Conserve and rewarde youre hedyrcomynge.
With Ave we begunne, and Ave is oure conclusyon:
Ave regina celorum” to Oure Lady we synge.
one; (see note); (t-note)


(see note)
mountains; far; may I prosper; (t-note)
I think
before; that place
will; (t-note)

although; (t-note)

ashamed; seen; (see note)
almsgivings; haste; (see note)
I intend; (t-note)
may God help us

see; boldly

And they travel around the playing place; (see note)

(see note)
appear; (t-note)
(see note); (t-note)
conduct; (t-note)
Who was called

During his service, at the time of incensing; (see note)

gave; news
did not believe; (t-note)
muteness; were sealed; (t-note)

wise woman

meeting of the two
the story
(see note)
will cease

truly; (see note)
will; (see note)

If you want, I’ll call
if it


As soon as; (see note)

knelt down
truly I know
Filled; loudly


(see note)
nor say



Perfect; at once being
six months since

coming here; (see note)

at [the] service hour; (t-note)
(Zacharias) thought
Since; dumb (mute)

(see note); (t-note)

By; come; (see note)
spirit rejoiced in

lowness; (t-note)
So much that; bless; (t-note)


power; made

high seats
high; seat; peace

strikes down to nothingness

he raised up and encouraged
his [own]

forefathers in secret
seed; world, so

Glory be to the Father and to the Son; (see note)
And to the Holy Spirit


As it was in the beginning and now and forever,
And into the age of ages, amen


two; (see note)
angel’s handwriting
read; (see note)
evensong (vespers)

(see note)
months; (see note)
have; wash, scour

heaven and earth; may


think; angry; (t-note)
both of us

most comforting

(see note)
(see note)
(see note)


their two mothers; (t-note)

(see note)

then; indeed
become mute; lost

were first done


began to bless him


entrust; (t-note)

Hail; (see note)
Hail, queen of heaven; (see note); (t-note)


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