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Play 31, Satan and Pilate's Wife; Second Trial before Pilate


1 And they all cry in a great voice


Abbreviations: MED: Middle English Dictionary; PP: Passion Play, ed. Meredith (1990); S: N-Town Play, ed. Spector (1991); s.d.: stage direction.

Before 1, s.d. in the most orryble wyse. In order to scare the audience, Satan may be wearing an horrific mask, setting off firecrackers in his arse, and poking audience members with a pitchfork. The "whyte clothe" may suggest Jesus' innocence or priesthood (PP, p. 203n486sd). The same costume for Jesus is used in York Play 31 and Chester Play 16.

1–37 Satan's dense, alliterative cant (typical of dramatic tyrants) recalls Herod's rag­ing speeches from the plays of the Magi (18.1–20) and the Slaughter of the Innocents (20.9–56). It attempts to "out-Herod Herod."

7 bras. According to Spector, molten copper was used for torture (S 2:510).

33–37 A five-line stanza with a triplet in the middle, possibly the remnant of a thirteener.

38–41 A quatrain that begins with a triplet, possibly the end of a thirteener at some earlier time.

45 my game is lorne! Kolve notes: "In short, the whole of human history can be understood as a game in which the opponents are the Triune God and Satan, and it is in such terms that Satan . . . realizes that if Christ is killed, he will have lost" (Play Called Corpus Christi, p. 204).

57, s.d. This begins as a dumb show, "he shal no dene make," but ends with "a rewly noyse," possibly screeching or moaning (MED).

126–30 A five-line stanza.

155 Artyse. This is the name given to Pilate's personal servant.

159–60 In the minds of the medieval European writers, there is a clear relationship between the Jews' "bloodguilt" for Jesus' death and the destruction of Jerusalem. See Siege of Jerusalem, lines 637–896 and 1237–40.

170, s.d. This direction is true to fifteenth-century English judicial practice.

177–78 The release of Barabas may also have been all too familiar for an East Anglian audience of the fifteenth century. Maddern has observed that in East Anglia, between 1422 and 1442, 84% of those tried were acquitted (Violence and Social Order, pp. 50–52).

179 Dysmas and Jesmas. Spector notes that the non-biblical Dysmas and Gestas are so named in the Gospel of Nicodemus (S 2:513).

200 thre naylys. Not scriptural, but could be inferred from John 20:25–27 when Thomas asks to see the resurrected Jesus' hands and side. It is very likely that the tradition of the three nails is based largely upon typological associations. Jaco­bus de Voragine's Golden Legend cites Bernard, who describes the three fruits of the Passion: remission of sins, the granting of peace, and the manifestation of glory (trans. Ryan, 1:207).

204 ful mete. This means the nails are long enough to go through both his feet.


Abbreviations: 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.

2 dynt. MS: dyth dynt.

4–7 MS: large play number 31 in right margin.

6 ful. So PP, S. MS, Bl: fu.

13 me sore. MS: myn hert me sore.

19 cowde. So PP, S. MS, Bl: cownde.

83 knowyst. MS: h knowyst.

94–103 MS: these are one five-line stanza with a triplet in the middle followed by a quatrain that begins with a triplet, possibly partial thirteeners. A reviser reversed lines 99 and 100, which makes less prosodic sense.
94 MS: no capitulum.

98 MS: letters canceled before shall.

99 MS: no capitulum.

105, s.n. OMNES. MS: omitted.

112, s.d. Populus. MS: omnes first written, then canceled.

127 not me to. MS: not spekyst not to me to me to, me to written above the line.
MS: superfluous capitulum.

133, 135 MS: rubricated m used instead of capitula.

143 cowncel. So PP, S. MS, Bl: cownce.

170, s.d. syttyth. So Bl, S. MS: sytty, remainder cropped.

172 dost. MS: he dost.

174 shal he. So PP, S. MS, Bl: he shal.

178, s.d. MS: in right margin and not rubricated.

186, s.n. DOCTOR. MS: Doct, remainder cropped.

After 212 MS: no break between plays.
  [Here enteryth Satan into the place in the most orryble wyse. And qwyl (while) that he pleyth, thei shal don (put) on Jhesus clothis and overest (over all) a whyte clothe and ledyn hym abowth the place and than to Pylat, be (by) the tyme that hese wyf hath pleyd. (see note)













SATHAN Thus I reyne as a rochand with a rynggyng rowth,
As a devyl most dowty, dred is my dynt!
Many a thowsand develys, to me do thei lowth,
Brennyng in flamys as fyre out of flynt!
Hoso serve me, Sathan, to sorwe is he sent
With dragonys in doungenys and develys ful derke.
In bras and in bronston, the brethellys be brent
That wone in this werd, my wyl for to werke.

With myschef on moolde here membrys I merke
That japyn with Jhesus that Judas solde.
Be he nevyr so crafty nor conyng clerke,
I harry them to helle, as tretour bolde.

But ther is o thyng that grevyth me sore.
Of a prophete that Jhesu men calle.
He peynyth me every day, more and more
With his holy meraclis and werkys alle!

I had hym onys in a temptacyon
With glotenye, with covetyse, and veynglorye!
I hasayd hym be all weys that I cowde don,
And uttyrly he refusyd hem and gan me defye!

That rebuke that he gaf me shal not be unqwyt!
Somwhat I have begonne and more shal be do!
For all his barfot goyng, fro me shal he not skyp,
But my derk dongeon I shal bryngyn hym to!

I have do made redy his cros that he shal dye upon,
And thre nayles to takke hym, with that he shal not styrte!
Be he nevyr so holy, he shal not fro me gon,
But with a sharpe spere, he shal be smet to the herte!

And sythyn he shal come to helle, be he nevyr so stowte.
And yet, I am aferd and he come, he wole do some wrake!
Therfore, I shal go warnyn helle that thei loke abowte,
That thei make redy chenys to bynd hym within lake.

Helle! Helle! Make redy, for here shal come a gest!
Hedyr shal come Jhesus, that is clepyd Goddys Sone!
And he shal ben here be the oure of none,
And with thee here, he shal wone
And han ful shrewyd rest.

[Here shal a devyl spekyn in helle:

DEMON Out upon thee, we conjure thee
That nevyr in helle we may hym se!
For and he onys in helle be,
He shal oure power brest!

SATHAN A! A! Than have I go to ferre!
But som wyle help, I have a shrewde torne.
My game is wers than I wend here!
I may seyn my game is lorne!

Lo, a wyle yet have I kast
If I myth Jhesus lyf save.
Helle gatys shal be sperd fast
And kepe stylle all tho I have.

To Pylatys wyff I wele now go,
And sche is aslepe, abed ful fast.
And byd her withowtyn wordys mo
To Pylat that sche send in hast.

I shal asay, and this wol be,
To bryng Pylat in belef.
Withinne a whyle ye shal se
How my craft I wole go pref.
regent; noisy gang; (see note)
powerful; blow; (t-note)
devils; bow
Burning; flames; (t-note)
Whoso; sorrow
dungeons; devils; (t-note)
brass; brimstone; wretches; (see note)
live in this world

earth; limbs I afflict
fool with
cunning scholar

one; (t-note)

miracles; works

gluttony; covetise
tested; by; could do; (t-note)
them; defied me

gave; unanswered
barefoot; escape

tack; escape
from me go
struck to the heart

since; strong
if; vengeance
warn; be alert
chains; [the] pit

guest; (see note)
Here; called
by the hour of 3 p.m.
have; terrible

(see note)
if he once

Then; gone too far
Unless some trick; things will turn bad
plot is worse; thought
say; is lost; (see note)

wile; contrived
might Jesus’ life
Hell’s gates; locked up tight
secure; those

Pilate’s wife I will
asleep, fast asleep
more words
in haste

try; will
To convince

  [Here shal the devyl gon to Pylatys Wyf. The corteyn (curtain) drawyn as she lyth in bedde, and he shal no dene (noise) make, but she shal, sone after that he is come in, mak­yn a rewly (pitiable) noyse, coming and rennyng of the schaffald. And her shert and her kyrtyl (gown) in her hand, and sche shal come beforn Pylat leke (like) a mad woman, seyng thus: (see note)






UXOR PILATY Pylat! I charge thee that thu take hede!
Deme not Jhesu, but be his frende!
Yf thu jewge hym to be dede,
Thu art dampnyd withowtyn ende!

A fend aperyd me beforn
As I lay in my bed slepyng fast.
Sethyn the tyme that I was born
Was I nevyr so sore agast!

As wylde fyre and thondyr blast,
He cam cryeng onto me.
He seyd, “Thei that bete Jhesus or bownd hym fast —
Withowtyn end dampnyd shal be!”

Therfore, a wey herein thu se
And lete Jhesu from thee clere pace.
The Jewys, thei wole begyle thee
And put on thee all the trespace.

PYLAT Gramercy, myn wyf, forevyr ye be trewe.
Youre cowncel is good, and evyr hath be.
Now to youre chawmer, ye do sewe,
And all shal be weyl, dame, as ye shal se.

condemn him to death

fiend appeared


wildfire; thunder
came crying


see a way
openly escape
will beguile

Many thanks
counsel; has been
chamber; go
well; see












[Here the Jewys bryng Jhesus agen to Pylat.

DOCTOR 1 Sere Pylat, good tydandys thu here of me!
Of Herowd the kyng, thu hast good wyl.
And Jhesus he sendyth agen to thee,
And byddyth thee chese hym to save or spylle.

DOCTOR 2 Ya, ser, all the poer lyth now in thee,
And thu knowyst oure feyth, he hath ner schent!
Thu knowyst what myschef therof may be.
We charge thee to gyf hym jwgement!

PYLAT Serys, trewly ye be to blame,
Jhesus thus to bete, dyspoyle or bynde
Or put hym to so great schame,
For no defawth in hym I fynde.

Ne Herowdys nother — to whom I sent yow —
Defawte in hym cowde fynde ryth non,
But sent hym agen to me be yow,
As ye knowe wel everychon.

Therfore, undyrstande what I shal say.
Ye knowe the custom is in this londe
Of youre Pasche day that is ner honde:
What theff or tretore be in bonde,
For worchep of that day, shal go fre away.

Without any price.
Now than me thynkyth, it wore ryth
To lete Jhesus now go qwyte
And do to hym no mo dyspyte.
Serys, this is myn avyse.

I wolde wete what ye say.

[Here alle thei shul cryen:

OMNES Nay, nay, nay!

DOCTOR 1 Delyvere us the theff Barabas
That for mansclawth presonde was!

PYLAT What shal I, than, with Jhesu do?
Whethyr shal he abyde or go?

DOCTOR 2 Jhesus shal on the cros be don!
Crucifigatur, we crye echon.

PYLAT Serys, what hath Jhesus don amys?

[Populus clamabit:

OMNES Crucifigatur, we sey at onys!

PYLAT Serys, syn algatys ye wolyn so
Puttyn Jhesu to wo and peyn,
Jhesus, a wyle with me shal go.
I wole hym examyne betwyx us tweyn.

Sir; tidings; hear

choose; kill

sir; power lies
faith; nearly ruined; (t-note)

give; judgment

Sirs, truly
beat, strip, or bind


Nor; neither
find no fault
again; by you
As everyone of you knows

understand; (t-note)

Passover; nearly here
thief; traitor; imprisoned
In honor; (t-note)

ransom; (t-note)
then; right
no more insult



murder imprisoned


Crucify him; everyone

Sirs; wrong

The people cry out; (t-note)

Crucify him; all together

since no matter what

just the two of us

  [Here Pylat takyth Jhesu and ledyth hym into the cowncel hous and seyth:






Jhesus, what seyst now, lete se?
This matere now, thu undyrstonde.
In pes thu myth be for me,
But for thi pepyl of thi londe.

Busshoppys and prestys of the lawe:
Thei love thee not as thu mayst se,
And the comon pepyl agens thee drawe.
In pes, thu myth a be for me,

This I telle thee pleyn.
What seyst, Jhesus? Whi spekyst not me to?
Knowyst not I have power on the cros thee to do?
And also I have power to lete thee forth go.
What kanst thu here to seyn?

JHESUS On me poer thu hast ryth non,
But that my Fadyr hath grawntyd beforn.

I cam, my Faderys wyl to fulfylle,
That mankynd shuld not spylle.

He that hath betrayd me to thee at this tyme,
His trespas is more than is thine.

DOCTOR 1 Ye pryncys and maysterys! Takyth hed and se
How Pylat in this matere is favorabyl,
And thus oure lawys dystroyed myth be,
And to us alle unrecurabyl.

safety; might be as far as I’m concerned
If not for your people

Bishops; priests
turn against you
safety; might have been

plainly; (see note)
to put

can you say here

Power over me; none
Only; Father

Father’s; (t-note)

to you; (t-note)

princes; leaders; heed and see
disposed to show good will
If; might

  [Here Pylat letyth Jhesus alone and goth into the Jewys and seyth:




PYLAT Serys, what wole ye now with Jhesu do?
I can fynde in hym but good.
It is my cowncel ye lete hym go:
It is rewthe to spylle his blood.

CAYPHAS Pylat, me thynkyth thu dost gret wrong
Agens oure lawe thus to fortefye
And the pepyl here is so strong
Bryngyng thee lawful testymonye.

ANNAS Ya, and thu lete Jhesu fro us pace!
This we welyn upholdyn alle:
Thu shalt answere for his trespace,
And tretour to the emperour we shal thee kalle!

PYLAT Now, than, syn ye wolne non other weye
But in alwyse that Jhesus must deye —

Artyse! Bryng me watyr, I pray thee,
And what I wole do, ye shal se.

[Hic unus afferet aquam.

As I wasche with watyr, my handys clene
So gyltles of hese deth I mut ben.

DOCTOR 1 The blod of hym mut ben on us
And on oure chyldyr aftyr us!
Sirs; will
counsel; (t-note)
a shame

Against; enforce

from; escape
will maintain

traitor; call

then, since you want no
in any case

(see note)

Here one brings water

guiltless; his death; may be

may be; (see note)

  [Et clamabunt (And they will cry) “Ya! Ya! Ya!” Than Pylat goth agen to Jhesu and bryngyith hym, thus seyng:


PYLAT Lo, serys, I bryng hym here to youre presens
That ye may knowe I fynde in hym non offens.

DOCTOR 2 Dylyvere hym! Delyvere hym, and lete us go
On the crosse that he were do!

PYLAT Serys, wolde ye youre kyng I shulde on the cros don?
DOCTOR 3 Sere, we seyn that we have no kyng but the emperour alon!

PYLAT Serys, syn algatys it must be so.
We must syt and oure offyce do.

Brynge forth to the barre that arn to be dempt,
And thei shal have here jugement.
no offense

Hand him over

Sirs; put
Sir; say

in any case

bar; are; sentenced

  [Here thei shal brynge Barabas to the barre, and Jhesu, and tweye thewys (two thieves) in here shertys bare leggyd, and Jhesus standing at the barre betwyx them. And Annas and Cayphas shal gon into the cowncelle house qwan (when) Pylat syttyth. (see note); (t-note)



PYLAT Barabas, hold up thi hond,
For here at thi delyveré dost thu stond.

[And he halt up his honde.

Serys, qwhat sey ye of Barabas, thef and tretour bold?
Shal he go fre, or shal he be kept in holde?

DOCTOR 1 Sere, for the solennyté of oure Pasche day,
Be oure lawe, he shal go fre away!

PYLAT Barabas, than I dymysse thee
And geve thee lycens to go fre

[Et curret.

Dysmas and Jesmas, theras ye stondys,
The lawe comawndyth you to hald up youre hondys.

Sere, what sey ye of these thevys tweyn?
DOCTOR 2 Sere, thi ben both gylty, we seyn.

PYLAT And what sey ye of Jhesu of Nazareth?
DOCTOR 1 Sere, we sey he shal be put to deth.

PYLAT And kone ye put agens hym no trespas?
DOCTOR 2 Sere, we wyl all that he shal be put upon the crosse!

release; (t-note)

prison; (t-note)

solemnity; Passover

then; (see note)

And he runs off; (t-note)

stand; (see note)
hold; hands

Sir; thieves two
Sir; are; guilty; say


can; against
Sir; all insist; (t-note)

  [Et clamabunt omnes voce magna dicentes:1 “Ya! Ya! Ya!”





PYLAT Jhesu, thin owyn pepyl han dysprevyd
Al that I have for thee seyd or mevyd.

I charge you all at the begynnyng
As ye wole answere me beforn
That ther be no man shal towch youre kyng
But yf he be knyght or jentylman born.

Fyrst, his clothis ye shal of don
And maken hym nakyd for to be.
Bynde hym to a pelere, as sore as ye mon,
Than skorge hym with qwyppys that al men may se.

Whan he is betyn, crowne hym for youre kyng
And than to the cros ye shal hym bryng;

And to the crosse thu shalt be fest;
And on thre naylys, thi body shal rest.

On shal thorwe thi ryth hand go,
Anothyr thorwe thi lefte hand also.

The thred shal be smet thour bothe thi feet
Whech nayl therto be mad ful mete.

And yet, thu shalt not hange alone,
But on eyther syde of thee shal be on:

Dysmas, now I deme thee
That on hese ryth hand thu shalt be;

And Jesmas, on the left hand hangyd shal ben
On the Mownth of Calverye that men may sen.
your; have refuted
put forward

will answer; before

clothes; remove

pillar, as hard as you can
Then scourge; whips

When; beaten

three nails; (see note)

One; through; right

third; struck through
Which nail; made the right size; (see note)

either; one

sentence you
his right

shall be hanged
Mount; see

  [Here Pylat shal rysyn and gon to his schaffalde, and the busshoppys with hym. And the Jewys shul crye for joy with a gret voys and arryn (harass) hym and pullyn of (off) his clothis and byndyn hym to a pelere (pillar) and skorgyn hym on (one) seyng thus:

JUDEUS 1 Doth gladly oure kyng!
For this is your fyrst begynnyng!

just the beginning; (t-note)

Go To Play 32, Procession to Calvary; Crucifixion