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Play 29, Herod; Trial before Annas and Cayphas


1 Sovereigns and friends, may you all be full of goodness

2 With swords and lances to Jesus, they come with that bold traitor

3 Beseeching you, for the reward of your souls, to take good heed to that [play]

4 To kill a thousand Christians, I don’t give a hawthorn fruit (i.e., nothing)

5 Lines 34b–36: It is a great pleasure to me / To drive them into dungeons [for] dragons to gnaw, / And to tear their (Christians’) flesh and bones for their (dragons’) sustenance


Abbreviations: Bev: Medieval Drama, ed. Bevington (1975); PP: Passion Play, ed. Meredith (1990); s.d.: stage direction.

Before 1 This is a suggestive but unclear stage direction. It could be that the Doctors’ pro­cession (or Procession of the Saints) added to the end of Passion 1, opens Pas­sion 2; or it could be that there is a separate procession for Passion 2 such as a liturgical procession or a procession of the actors before they attend their scaf­folds. (See PP, p. 193n1sd; Bev, p. 520n150.)
doctorys wede. Likely the robe, stole, and hat of a scholar.

1–20 Sofreynes and frendys. Possibly not intended for the same audience that the Banns addresses. The use of sofreynes and frendys and the expositor’s name of Contemplacio suggests a similar audience to that of the Mary Play. Separate intro­duc­tions here as with Contemplacio’s speeches in the Mary Play and the Demon’s Prologue in Passion 1 all suggest these plays’ independence from other plays in the manu­script.

6 last yere. Evidently, at some point in this play’s life, Passion 2 followed Passion 1 the following year, or perhaps these plays were always played in alternate years.

21–22 Herod, as with many medieval expositors, must silence the audience at the be­gin­ning of the play.

29–30 his feyth to denye. . . his lawe. These refer to Herod’s faith in Mohammed and Mohammed’s law. The "lawys of Mahownde" stand for any form of "heathen" (even demonic) belief, Judaism included. It is likely that Herod’s adherence to a supposed Islam only makes him more despicable to medieval audiences. An anachronism because Herod of the first century could not have possibly believed in Mohammed, who came six centuries later. It is evident, then, that Islam (to fifteenth-century audiences in Western Europe) was a marker for different types of idolatry and heathen beliefs.

124–25 We payd to thi dyscyple for thee thretty pens, / And, as an ox or an hors, we trewly thee bowth. "The betrayal of Jesus is explicitly represented as an absurd commodifi­cation carried out by the bishops of the old law" (Fewer, "Fygure," p. 32).

151–53 See John 2:19–21.

177, s.d.–178 Meredith remarks that this is the first time the crowd appears, and he esti­mates the size of the crowd to be ten to fifteen (PP, pp. 196–97n178–79).

185–92 As in Towneley Play 21, this newe game (line 188) of wheeling (spinning the blindfolded Jesus around) and pylle (plucking or hitting, line 190) also consists of Jesus’ guessing who hit him in order for them "to test" his prophetic powers (PP, pp. 197–98n89–93).

204 cosynys. Evidently Judeus 1’s kinsman, Malchus of 28.106, s.d.

209 I knowe hym not. Peter’s denial certainly parallels Judas’. But the irony of this denial and the subsequent public swearing is keen considering what Peter says during the Last Supper (27.524–27, 556–59, 28.21–24, 105–06).


Abbreviations: Bev: Medieval Drama, ed. Bevington (1975); Bl: Ludus Coventriae, ed. Block (1922); PP: Passion Play, ed. Meredith (1990); S: N-Town Play, ed. Spector (1991); s.d.: stage direction; s.n.: stage name.

Before 1 MS: large play number 29 written at top of fol. 165 r.
Before 1, s.d. than come ther. So MS, Bl, Bev, PP. S: supplies xal after ther.

1 ff. Passion Play 2 (comprising quires S and T, and different paper than used for Passion Play 1) begins with fol. 164, which has signs of wear. Passion Play 2 may (for a time) have been separated or separately bound from Passion Play 1 and the rest of the manuscript. Like Passion Play 1, this play is written in a mixture of quatrains and octaves.

6 intendyn. MS: d written over t.

9 last. MS: lass last.

13 Mawndé. MS: y mawndé.

15 to. So Bev, PP, S. MS, Bl: toke.

Before 21 MS: top margin of fol. 165v repeats Herodes Rex (from last line of 165r), but in large textura quadrata.

41 MS: lacks capitulum.

43 lawys. MS: aw written over other letters.

47 here. MS: r written over a d.

58, s.n. HEROWDES. MS: Herow, remainder cropped.

97 And ther, was I. So MS, Bl, Bev, PP. S: And that I was.

117, s.d. Cayphas. MS: C.

118, s.n. JUDEUS 1. So PP. MS, Bl, Bev, S: omit s.n.

125 ox. MS: written over other letters.

131 dottryne. So Bl. MS: dottryne or doctryne. Bev, PP, S: doctryne.

157 hod. MS: hed, but e corrected to o above.

166 MS: this line stands alone and lacks capitulum and rhyme brackets.

167–68 A mark resembling an alpha is affixed to couplets (usually rhyming) and stage directions. This same symbol runs from lines 177 to 34.157s.d. The same marks resume in the Assumption Play.

177–78 These two lines rhyme if we overlook the last three interjections in 178.

178 S: supplies s.n. Omnes.
ya. MS: a cropped in final ya.

183, s.d. MS: not underlined.

192, s.d. Jewys. So MS, Bl, Bev, PP, S: supply the before Jewys.

198 werd. So MS, Bl, PP, S. Bev: werld.

After 224 MS: no break between plays.
  [What tyme that processyon is enteryd into the place and the Herowdys takyn his schaf­falde and Pylat and Annas and Cayphas here (their) schaffaldys. Also than come ther an exposytour in doctorys wede (clothing), thus seyng: (see note); (t-note)




CONTEMPLACIO Sofreynes and frendys, ye mut alle be gret with gode!1
Grace, love, and charyté evyr be you among!
The maydenys sone preserve you, that for man deyd on rode.
He that is o God, in Personys Thre, defende you fro your fon.

Be the leve and soferauns of Almythty God,
We intendyn to procede the matere that we lefte the last yere,
Wherefore we beseche yow that youre wyllys be good
To kepe the Passyon in youre mende that shal be shewyd here.

The last yere we shewyd here how oure Lord, for love of man
Cam to the cety of Jherusalem, mekely his deth to take,
And how he made his Mawndé, his body gevyng than
To his apostelys evyr with us, to abydyn for mannys sake.

In that Mawndé, he was betrayd of Judas, that hym solde
To the Jewys for thretty platys to delyvyr hym that nyth.
With swerdys and glevys to Jhesu, they come with the tretour bolde,2
And toke hym amongys his apostelys about mydnyth.

Now wold we procede, how he was browth than
Beforn Annas and Cayphas, and syth beforn Pylate —
And so forth in his Passyon, how mekely he toke it for man
Besekyng you, for mede of youre soulys, to take good hede theratte.3
(see note); (t-note)

the cross
one; foes

By permission
matter; (see note); (t-note)


came; city
Paschal meal; then

Paschal meal; (t-note)
pieces; night
from; midnight

brought then

  [Here the Herowndys shal shewe hymself and speke:














REX HEROWDES Now sees of youre talkyng, and gevyth lordly audyence!
Not o word I charge you that ben here present,
Noon so hardy to presume, in my hey presence,
To onlose hese lyppys ageyn myn intent!
I am Herowde, of Jewys kyng most reverent,
The lawys of Mahownde, my powere shal fortefye,
Reverens to that lord of grace moost excyllent,
For be his powere allthinge doth multyplye.

Gef ony Crystyn be so hardy, his feyth to denye,
Or onys to erre ageyns his lawe,
On gebettys with cheynes, I shal hangyn hym heye
And with wylde hors tho traytorys shal I drawe!
To kylle a thowsand Crystyn, I gyf not an hawe4
To se hem hangyn or brent. To me is very plesauns
To dryvyn hem into doongenys, dragonys to knawe,
And to rend here flesche and bonys, onto here sustenauns!5

Johan the Baptyst crystenyd Cryst, and so he dede many on;
Therfore myself dede hym bryng o dawe!
It is I that ded hym kylle, I telle you everychon!
For and he had go forth, he shuld a dystroyd oure lawe!

Whereas Crystyn apperyth to me is gret grevauns.
It peynyth myn hert of tho tretowrys to here!
For the lawys of Mahownde, I have in governawns,
The which I wele kepe. That lord hath no pere,
For he is God most prudent!
Now I charge you, my lordys that ben here:
Yf any Crystyn doggys here doth apere,
Bryng tho tretorys to my hey powere,
And thei shal have sone jewgement.

MILES 1 My sovereyn lord, heyest of excillens,
In yow all jewgement is termynabyle.
All Crystyn doggys that do not here dyligens,
Ye put hem to peynes that be inportable!
MILES 2 Nothing in you may be more comendable
As to dysstroye tho traytorys that erre
Ageyn oure lawys! That ben most profytable,
Be rythwysnesse, that lawe ye must proferre!

REX HEROWDES Now be gloryous Mahownd, my sovereyn savyour,
These promessys I make, as I am trewe knyth!
Thoo that excede his lawys be ony errour
To the most shamefullest deth, I shal hem dyth!
But o thyng is sore in my gret delyte:
There is on Jhesus of Nazareth, as men me tellyth,
Of that man I desyre to han a sythte,
For with many gret wondrys, oure lawe he fellyth!

The Son of God hymself he callyth;
And Kyng of Jewys, he seyth is he,
And many woundrys of hym befallyth.
My hert desyryth hym for to se!
Serys, yf that he come in this cowntré,
With oure jurresdyccyon, loke ye aspye,
And anon that he be brouth onto me,
And the trewth myself, than shal trye.

MILES 1 Tomorwe my jorné I shal begynne
To seke Jhesus with my dew dilygens.
Yf he come youre provynce withinne,
He shal not askape youre hey presens.

MILES 2 Myn sovereyn, this my councel that ye shal take:
A man that is bothe wyse and stronge,
Thurwe all Galylé, a serge to make.
Yf Jhesu be enteryd youre pepyl among,
Correcte hese dedys that be do wronge.
For his body is undyr youre bayle,
As men talkyn hem among,
That he was born in Galylé.

REX HEROWDES Thanne of these materys, serys, take hede,
For a whyle I wele me rest.
Appetyde requyryth me so indede,
And fesyk tellyth me, it is the best.
cease; give; (see note); (t-note)
one; are
None; high
unloose his lips against
Mohammed; enforce


If any Christian; bold; (see note)
gallows; chains; high
horses those traitors

them hanged; burnt

many [a] one
did bring; to death
did; everyone
if he; should have

Christians; grievance; (t-note)
those; hear
Mohammed; (t-note)

are here
dogs; (t-note)
those traitors; high
judgment soon

judgment; final
dutifully obey
them; unbearable

those traitors
by righteousness; advance

by; (t-note)
promises; true knight
Those; by any
death; condemn
one; troubling
have a sight
wonders; topples

wonders; happen
desires; see
Sirs; country
jurisdiction; watch him
immediately; brought


escape; high


Through; Galilee; search

his deeds

Then; matters, sirs
Physical needs
medical advice

[Here shal a massanger com into the place, rennyng and criyng, “Tydyngys! Tydyngys!” and so rownd abowth the place, “Jhesus of Nazareth is take! Jhesus of Nazareth is take” and forthwith heylyng (hailing) the prynces, thus seyng:






MASSANGER All heyle, my lordys, princes of prestys!
Sere Cayphas and Sere Annas, lordys of the lawe!
Tydyngys I brynge you; reseyve them in youre brestys!
Jhesus of Nazareth is take, therof ye may be fawe!

He shal be browth hedyr to you anon,
I telle you trewly, with a gret rowth
Whan he was take, I was hem among,
And ther, was I ner to kachyd a clowte!

Malcus bar a lanterne and put hym in pres.
Anoon, he had a towche, and of went his ere!
Jhesus had his dyscyple put up his swerd and ces,
And sett Malcus ere ageyn, as hool as it was ere!

So mot Y thee, methowut it was a strawnge syth!
Whan we cam fyrst to hym, he cam us ageyn
And haskyd whom we sowth that tyme of nyth.
We seyd, “Jhesus of Nazareth — We wolde have hym fayn.”

And he seyd, “It is I that am here in youre syth.”
With that word, we ovyrthrowyn bakward everychon,
And some on here bakkys, lyeng upryth!
But standyng upon fote, manly, ther was not on!

Cryst stod on his fete as meke as a lom,
And we loyn stylle lyche ded men tyl he bad us ryse.
Whan we were up, fast handys we leyd hym upon,
But yet methought I was not plesyd with the newe gyse.

Therfore takyth now youre cowncel and avyse you ryth weyl
And beth ryth ware that he make you not amat,
For, be my thryfte, I dare sweryn at this seyl
Ye shal fynde hym a strawnge watt.
high priests

receive; breasts

truly; company
taken; them
nearly given a blow; (t-note)

was pushed forward
blow; off; ear
sword; cease
whole; before

I dare say it seemed bizarre to me
first; up to us
asked; sought; night

were thrown down
flat on their backs
upright; as a man; one

lain; like dead men
we laid hands on him
state of things

well aware; confounded
by my fortune; this time
strange creature

  [Here bryng thei Jhesus beforn Annas and Cayphas, and on (one) shal seyn thus: (t-note)













JUDEUS 1 Lo, lo, lordys — here is the man
That ye sent us fore.
ANNAS Therfore we cone you thanke, than,
And reward ye shal have the more.

Jhesus, thu art welcome hedyr to oure presens!
Ful oftyntymes we han thee besyly do sowth.
We payd to thi dyscyple for thee thretty pens,
And, as an ox or an hors, we trewly thee bowth.

Therfore now art oure, as thu standyst us before.
Sey why thu ast trobelyd us and subvertyd oure lawe!
Thu hast ofte concludyd us, and so thu hast do more,
Wherefore it were ful nedful to bryng thee a dawe.

CAYPHAS What arn thi dysciplys that folwyn thee aboute?
And what is thi dottryne that thu dost preche?
Telle me now somewhath, and bryng us out of doute
That we may to othere men thi prechyng forth teche.

JHESUS Al tymes that I have prechyd, opyn it was don,
In the synagog or in the temple where that all Jewys com.
Aske hem what I have seyd and also what I have don.
Thei con telle thee my wordys, aske hem everychon.

JUDEUS 1 What, thu fela, to whom spekyst thu?
Shalt thu so speke to a bushop?
Thu shalt have on the cheke — I make a vow —
And get therto a knok!

[Here he shal smyte Jhesus on the cheke.

JHESUS Yf I have seyd amys,
Therof wytnesse thu mayst bere.
And yf I have seyd but weyl in this,
Thu dost amys me to dere.

ANNAS Serys, takyth hed now to his man
That he dystroye not oure lawe!
And brynge ye wytnesse agens hym that ye can
So that he may be browt of dawe.

DOCTOR 1 Sere, this I herd hym with his owyn mowth seyn:
“Brekyth down this temple without delay,
And I shal settynt up ageyn
As hool as it was be the thrydde day.”

DOCTOR 2 Ya, ser, and I herd hym seyn also
That he was the Sone of God,
And yet many a fole wenyth so,
I durst leyn theron myn hod!

DOCTOR 3 Ya, ya, and I herd hym preche mech thing
And agens oure lawe every del,
Of wheche it were longe to make rekenyng
To tellyn all at this seel.

CAYPHAS What seyst now, Jhesus? Whi answeryst not?
Heryst not what is seyd agens thee?
Spek man, spek! Spek, thu fop!
Hast thu scorn to speke to me?

Heryst not in how many thyngys thei thee acuse?

Now, I charge thee and conjure be the sonne and the mone
That thu telle us and thu be Goddys Sone!

JHESUS Goddys Sone I am. I sey not nay to thee.
And that ye all shal se at Domysday
Whan the Sone shal come in gret powere and magesté
And deme the qweke and ded as I thee say.

CAYPHAS A! Out! Out! Allas, what is this?
Heryth ye not how he blasfemyth God?
What nedyth us to have more wytness?
Here ye han herd all his owyn word!

Thynk ye not he is worthy to dey?

[Et clamabunt omnes:

OMNES Yys, yys, yys, all we seye! He is worthy to dey! Ya, ya, ya!

ANNAS Takyth hym to yow and betyth hym som del
For hese blasfemyng at this sel.

can; then

have; sought
thirty pence; (see note)
As [if]; bought; (t-note)

you are ours
have troubled
frustrated; done
needful; to death

doctrine; (t-note)

done openly

can; them everyone

take [one] on

anything wrong

but well
too much wrong


witnesses against
brought to death

Sir; say
Break; (see note)
set it
whole; by; third


fool thinks
dare bet my hood; (t-note)

many things
against; bit
which; too long; account



by; (t-note)
if; God’s

see; Doomsday
judge; living; dead

have heard; own

deserves to die; (t-note)

And they all cry out: (see note)

Yes; die; (t-note)

beat; somewhat
his; time
  [Here thei shal bete Jhesus about the hed and the body and spyttyn in his face and pullyn hym down, and settyn hym on a stol (stool) and castyn a cloth ovyr his face. And the fyrst shal seyn:







JUDEUS 1 A, felawys! Beware what ye do to this man,
For he prophecye weyl kan!

JUDEUS 2 That shal be asayd be this batte!

[Et percuciet super caput.

What, thu Jhesus? Ho gaff thee that?

JUDEUS 3 Whar, whar! Now wole I
Wetyn how he can prophecy!
Ho was that?

JUDEUS 4 A! And now wole I a newe game begynne
That we mon pley at, all that arn hereinne!
Whele and pylle — whele and pylle!
Comyth to halle hoso wylle.
Ho was that?

[Here shal the woman come to Jewys and seyn:

ANCILLA 1 What, serys, how take ye on with this man?
Se ye not on of hese dysciplys, how he beheldyth you, than?

[Here shal the tother (the other) woman seyn to Petyr:

ANCILLA 2 A, good man, me semyth be thee —
That thu on of his dysciplys shulde be.
PETRUS A woman! I sey nevyr er this man
Syn that this werd fyrst began!

[Et cantabit gallus

ANCILLA 1 What, thu mayst not sey nay! Thu art on of hese men!
Be thi face wel we may thee ken!

PETRUS Woman, thu seyst amys of me!
I knowe hym not, so mote I thee!

JUDEUS 1 A, fela myn, wel met!
For my cosynys ere thu of smet!

Whan we thi mayster in the yerd toke,
Than all thi felawys hym forsoke.

And now thu mayst not hym forsake,
For thu art of Galylé, I undyrtake.

PETRUS Sere, I knowe hym not, be hym that made me,
And ye wole me beleve for an oth!
I take record of all this companye
That I sey to yow is soth.
can prophesy well

determined by; blow

And they strike him on the head; (t-note)

Who gave you

(see note)
Know; prophesy

may; are
Spin and pluck


sirs; what are you doing
one; then

it seems to me
have seen; before
Since; world; (t-note)

And the cock will crow

one of his

so may I thrive

You struck off my kinsman’s ear; (see note)

When; yard took
Then; fellows forsook him

I would guess

by; (see note)
will; oath
I swear before you all
the truth

  [Et cantabit gallus (And the cock will crow). And than Jhesus shal lokyn on Petyr. And Petyr shal wepyn and than he shal gon out and seyn:



A! Weelaway! Weelaway! Fals hert, why whylt thu not brest?
Syn thi maystyr, so cowardly, thu hast forsake!
Alas, qwher shal I now on erthe rest
Tyl he, of his mercy, to grace wole me take?

I have forsake my mayster and my Lord Jhesu
Thre tymes as he tolde me I shulde do the same
Wherfore I may not have sorwe anow!
I, synful creature, am so mech to blame.

Whan I herd the cok crowyn, he kest on me a loke
As who seyth, “Bethynke thee what I seyd before.”
Alas the tyme that I evyr hym forsoke,
And so wyl I thynkyn from hens evyrmore.


heard; cock; cast; look



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