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Play 34, Burial; Guarding of the Sepulcher


1 Because truly the Son of God was he (compare Matthew 28:54)

2 That would be neither to your honor or advantage

3 And a hundred? Fie on a hundred and a hundred [more] as well

4 Then Pilate, Cayphas, Annas, and all the knights will go to the sepulcher and say


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

4 Loosely translated in the following line. Compare Matthew 27:54, Mark 15:39, and Luke 23:47.

57 Baramathie. As Meredith notes, possibly from the Latin, "ab Aramathie" (PP, p. 214n1099). Could also be from the Hebrew "bar," meaning "son of."

82 no ned his bonys to breke. See John 19:33, where the Evangelist is mindful of the Passover Feast (Exodus 12:46 and Numbers 9:12), where no bone of the Paschal meal is to be broken. John, with the unique reference to the Agnus Dei (John 1:29), looks upon this moment of the Crucifixion as a step toward the Eucharist's displacing the Passover Feast.

114–51 N-Town is the only English version that mentions rewards for Nicodemus' and Joseph of Arimathea's good deeds. It is possible that these lines reflect the work of local religious guilds, e.g., to bury the dead.

154–57 The loving courtesy of Mary's "farewell gentle princes" quatrain reflects the queen-of-courtesy tone of Pearl and some of the Marian lyrics of the fourteenth century, but is unusual in drama. Mary's beautiful and moving farewell to Joseph and Nicodemus serves as a farewell to her son as well, as her benediction turns attention toward the new day, a day in which Adam and Eve and the patriarchs recover bliss, but also in which the true value of Mary will be honored. See also 35.121–36.

182–84 Meredith observes that the knights' names, except for Affraunt, agree with the list in Reynes' Commonplace Book (1470–1500) (p. 257). Arfaxat is from Genesis 10:22, but the other names are from romances (PP, p. 217n1224–26). See Spec­tor's note to 34.182–205, which traces the names and behavior to the Nor­thern Passion and MS Ashmole 61, as cited by Horstmann ("Nachträge zu den Le­gen­den"). Spector cites parallels between Northern Passion and lines 34, 194–97, 200–05, 214–25, and 302–25.

209, s.d. Meredith notes that, in spite of the stage direction, the knights should not leave the playing place (PP, p.218n1251sd), but it could very well be that the tomb is outside or at the edge of the playing place, and above ground. Note that in 36.157–58, the stone covering the tomb seems to be atop the grave. (See note below.)

219 Jakke and Gylle. Common forms for John or James and Gillian, such common names that they stand for any or every boy and girl (OED, MED).


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.

5–8 MS: large play number 34 written in right margin.

37, s.n. ARIMATHEA. MS: Ara . . . m, remainder lost in a hole and cropped.

41 goon. MS: god goon.

73, s.n. JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA. MS: Joseph ab, remainder cropped.

76 request. MS: resquest. First written as rest, then corrected.

106 maydonys. So PP, S. MS, Bl: mayndonys.

113 MS: written to right of line 110, not metrical.

121, s.d. he. MS: omitted, but added for clarity by PP and S. PP further notes that Mary's sudden appearance in this stage direction attests to the incor­poration of several source materials (p. 216n1163sd).

146, s.n. MS: Nichodem, remainder cropped.

157, s.d. MS: to the left of this stage direction are Nota ("Note") and Incipit hic ("Be­gin here") in the hand of a reviser. It is possible that this section was per­formed at some later point as a Resurrection play (PP, p. 216–17n1200).
Cayphas. MS: Go Cayphas.

165 ageyn. So PP, S. MS, Bl: agey.

166–97 MS: scribe compressed two lines on each line, probably to accommodate a new quire which begins with the next folio.

182 MS: Nota hic written at left of the line by a reviser.

194 MS: no capitulum.

199–35.297 MS: sometimes the knights as speakers' names are denoted by a number (e.g., ius Miles), sometimes by their names, and sometimes both. The main scribe's scheme (i.e., Arfaxat, as Knight 1; Ameraunt, as Knight 2; Cos­dram, as Knight 3; and Affraunt, as Knight 4) actually causes problems. A reviser decided that it would make more sense if Ameraunt were Knight 1 and Arfaxat were Knight 2. I am following the reviser's assig­nations.

202 honderyd. MS: written as C each time.

209, s.d. MS: letter canceled before out.

214, s.n. MS: reviser has written jus before s.n.

216, s.n. MS: reviser has written ijus before s.n.
216 MS: this line has replaced So mote I the I wole be at the h.

220, s.n. MS: reviser has written iijus before s.n., Affraunt 4.

222, s.n. MS: reviser has written iiijus before s.n.
222 MS: So mote I the I wole be at the h between lines 215 and 216.

Before 225 MS: catchword Syr pilat at bottom of fol. 189v.

226 MS: Nota written by a reviser to the left of the line, possibly to denote the new quire V, or possibly a prompt note for Pylat.

231 graffe. MS: a letter has been canceled before.

After 231 Capital V at the bottom of fol. 190r in a different hand. Pilatus written faint­ly below and to the right in a different hand.

254, s.n. MS: Pilatus, possibly corrected from Pilatas.

256 This. So MS, Bl, PP. S: Ther.

262–301 MS: two lines are written as one, but the stanzas should be short-lined octaves.

268, s.d. seyn. MS: n cropped.

270, s.n. AFFRAUNT. MS: Affraunt 4.
270 grownnde. MS: tyde grownnde.

274 lefft. MS: second f written over a t.

278, s.n. COSDRAM. MS: Cosdram 3.

286, s.n. AMERAUNT. MS: Ameraunt ius altered to ijus by reviser (?).

293 MS: above schapyn schonde, a reviser has written sle fre and bonde.

294, s.n. ARFAXAT. MS: Arfaxat 2us altered to 1us by reviser (?).

296 wete. MS: letters are obscured.

302–25 MS: three lines are compressed into one. In addition, these lines are written as short-lined sestets, an unusual stanzaic form in the MS.
302, s.n. AMERAUNT. MS: ius Miles.
302 MS: has capitulum, as have lines 308, 314, and 320.

308, s.n. ARFAXAT. MS: ijus Miles.

314, s.n. COSDRAM. MS: 3us Miles.

320, s.n. AFFRAUNT. MS: 4us Miles.

After 325 MS: no break between plays.





















CENTURIO In trewth now I knowe with ful opyn syght
That Goddys dere sone is naylid on tre.
These wundyrful tokenys aprevyn ful right
Quod vere Filius Dei erat iste.1
ALIUS MILES 2 The very childe of God I suppose that he be,
And so it semyth wele be his wundyrful werk.
The erth sore qwakyth, and that agresyth me!
With myst and grett wedyr, it is woundyr dyrk!

ALIUS MILES 3 Such merveylis shewe may non erthely man!
The eyr is ryght derke that fyrst was ryght clere!
The erthqwave is grett! The clowdys waxe whan!
Those tokenys preve hym a lorde without any pere!
CENTURIO His fadyr is pereles kyng of most empere,
Bothe lorde of this world and kynge of hevyn hyghe!
Yit, out of all synne to brynge us owt of daungere,
He soferyth his dere sone for us all to dye.

NICHODEMUS Alas, alas! What syght is this?
To se the Lorde and Kynge of Blys
That nevyr synnyd ne ded amys
Thus naylid upon a rode!
Alas, Jewys, what have ye wrought?
A ye wyckyd wytys? What was youre thought?
Why have ye bobbyd and thus betyn owth
All his blyssyd blood?

CENTURYO A, now trewly telle wel I kan
That this was Goddys owyn sone.
I knowe he is both God and man
Be this wark that here is done.

Ther was nevyr man, but God that cowde make this werk
That evyr was of woman born.
Were he nevyr so great a clerk,
It passeth hem all thow thei had sworn.

Hese lawe was trewe, I dare wel saye,
That he tawth us here amonge.
Therfore I rede ye turne youre faye
And amende that ye han do wronge.

JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA O good Lord Jhesu, that deyst now here on rode:
Have mercy on me and forgyf me my mys.
I wold thee worchep here with my good
That I may come to thi blysse.

To Pylat now wole I goon
And aske the body of my Lord Jhesu
To bery that now wold I soon
In my grave that is so new.

Heyl, Sere Pylat, that syttyth in sete!
Heyl, justyce of Jewys, men do thee calle!
Heyl with helthe, I do thee grete.
I pray thee of a bone whatso befalle.

To bery Jhesusis body I wole thee pray,
That he were out of mennys syth.
For tomorwyn shal be oure holyday
Than wole no man hym bery, I thee plyth.
And yf we lete hym hange ther stylle,
Some wolde seyn therof anow;
The pepyl therof wold seyn ful ylle:
That nother shuld be youre worchep nor prow.2

PYLAT Sere Joseph of Baramathie, I graunt thee
With Jhesuis body do thin intent,
But fyrst I wole wete that he ded be
As it was his jugement.

Sere knytys, I comawnd yow that ye go
In hast with Josepht of Baramathie
And loke ye take good hede therto
That Jhesu surely ded be.

Se that this comawndement ye fulfylle
Without wordys ony mo
And than lete Joseph do his wylle,
What that he wyl with Jhesu do.

fully prove
(see note)
earth; terrifies
bad weather; very

marvels; no earthly man
air; dark
earthquake; grow dark
prove; peer
the greatest empire

sinned nor did wrong
Have; wits
struck; beaten out

truly; well; can
God’s own

By; work


them; though

advise; faith
have done

dies; on the cross; (t-note)
forgive; sins
will; goods

will I go; (t-note)

bury; will

sits on the throne

a boon

bury Jesus’; will
men’s sight
tomorrow; holiday
Then will; bury; assure
say plenty about it
would speak ill

Arimathea; (see note)
Jesus’; your
will know; dead


is surely dead

any more

  [Here come to (two) knytys beforn Pylat atonys (at once) thus seyng:




MILES 1 Sere, we shal do oure dylygens
With Joseph, goyng to Calverye.
Be we out of thi presens,
Sone, the trewth we shal aspye.

JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA Gramercy, Pylat, of youre jentylnesse
That ye han grawntyd me my lyst.
Anythyng in my province,
Ye shal have at youre request.

PYLAT Sere, all your lest ye shal have
With Jhesuis body, do youre intent
Whethyr ye bery hym in pyt or grave.
The powere I grawnt yow here present.

Though we are out
Soon; truth; see

have granted; wish


  [The to (two) knygtys go with Joseph to Jhesus and stand and heldyn (look) hym in the face.



MILES 2 Methynkyth Jhesu is sewre anow;
It is no ned his bonys to breke.
He is ded — how thinkyth yow?
He shal nevyr go nor speke.

MILES 1 We wyl be sure, or than we go
Of a thyng I am bethowth.
Yondyr is a blynd knyth I shal go to,
And sone awhyle here shal be wrowth.
safe enough
There is no need; (see note)

I am mindful of one thing
soon; working

  [Here the knyth goth to blynde Longeys and seyth:









Heyl, Sere Longeys, thu gentyl knyth!
Thee I prey now ryth hertyly
That thu wylt wend with me ful wyth.
It shal be for thi prow, veryly.

LONGEUS Sere, at youre comauwndement, with yow wyl I wende.
In what place ye wyl me have,
For I trost ye be my frend.
Lede me forth, sere, oure Sabath you save.

MILES 1 Lo, Sere Longeys, here is a spere,
Both long and brood and sharp anow.
Heve it up fast that it wore there,
For here is game! Show, man, show!

LONGEUS O good Lord! How may this be
That I may se so bryth now?
This thretty wyntyr I myth not se,
And now I may se I wote nevyr how!
But ho is this that hangyth here now?
I trowe it be the maydonys sone,
And that he is now — I knowe wel how
The Jewys to hym this velany han don.

[Here he fallyth down on his knes.

Now, good Lord, forgyf me that,
That I to thee now don have,
For I dede I wyst not what.
The Jewys, of myn ignorans, dede me rave.
Mercy, mercy, mercy, I crye!
Sir; knight
I ask you
come with me quickly

sir; Sabbath; observe

broad-headed; enough
Heave; were
fun; Thrust (Shove)

For thirty winters; might
don’t know how
maiden’s son; (t-note)

villainy have done

have done
I did not know what I did
out of my; made me foolish

  [Than Joseph doth set up the lederys (ladders), and Nychodemus comyth to help hym.



NICHODEMUS Joseph ab Aramathy, blyssyd thu be,
For thu dost a fol good dede.
I prey thee — lete me help thee
That I may be partenere of thi mede.

JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA Nychodemus, welcome indede!
I pray yow ye wole help therto.
He wole aqwyte us ryth weyl oure mede,
And I have lysens for to do.
of; (see note)

partner; reward

reward us well
license to do so

  [Here Joseph and Nychodomus takyn Cryst of the cros, on on o ledyr (one on one ladder) and the tother on another leddyr. And qwan (when) he is had down, Joseph leyth hym in oure Ladys lappe, seyng the knytys (knights) turnyng hem, and Joseph seyth: (t-note)











JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA Lo, Mary, modyr good and trewe,
Here is thi son, blody and bloo,
For hym myn hert ful sore doth rewe.
Kysse hym now onys eer he go.

MARIA A! Mercy! Mercy, myn owyn son so dere!
Thi blody face now I must kysse;
Thi face is pale, withowtyn chere.
Of meche joy now shal I mysse!
Ther was nevyr modyr that sey this —
So her sone dyspoyled with so gret wo,
And my dere chylde nevyr dede amys!
A, mercy, Father of Hefne, it shulde be so.

JOSEPH Mary, youre sone, ye take to me
Into his grave it shal be browth.
MARIA Joseph, blyssyd evyr mot thu be
For the good dede that ye han wrowth.

[Here thei shal leyn Cryst in his grave.

JOSEPH I gyf thee this syndony that I have bowth
To wynde thee in whyl it is new.
NICHODEMUS Here is an onyment that I have browth
To anoynt withall myn Lord Jhesu.

JOSEPH Now Jhesu is withinne his grave
Wheche I ordeyn somtyme for me.
On thee, Lord, I vowche it save:
I knowe my mede ful gret shal be.

NICHODEMUS Now lete us leyn on this ston ageyn,
And Jhesu in this tombe stylle shal be.
And we wyl walke hom ful pleyn,
The day passyth fast, I se.
Farewel, Joseph, and wel ye be!
No lengere teryeng here we make.
JOSEPH Sere, Almythy God be with thee;
Into his blysse he mote you take.

MARIA Farewel, ye jentyl princys kende.
In joye evyr mote ye be.
The blysse of hefne withowtyn ende
I knowe, veryly, that ye shal se.

once before

without spirit
mother; has seen this
did wrong

it (the body); brought
deed; have done

give; shroud; bought
ointment; brought

ordered once for myself



longer tarrying

kind; (see note)

  [Here the princys shal do reverens to oure Lady and gon here (their) way and leve the Maryes at the sepulcre. Cayphas goth to Pylat, seyng thus:

























CAYPHAS Herk, Sere Pylat, lyst to me!
I shal thee telle tydyngys new
Of o thyng we must ware be
Er ellys here after, we myth it rewe.

Thu wotyst weyl that Jhesu,
He seyd to us with wordys pleyn,
He seyd we shuld fynd it trew —
The thryd day, he wold ryse ageyn.
Yf that hese dyscyplys come serteyn
And out of his grave stele hym away,
Thei wyl go preche and pleyn seyn
That he is reson the thryd day!

This is the cowncel that I gyf here:
Take men and gyf hem charge therto
To weche the grave with gret power
Tyl the thryd day be go.

PYLAT Sere Cayphas, it shal be do,
For as ye say, ther is peryl in
And it happend that it were so.
It myth make our lawys for to blyn.
Ye shal se, sere, er that ye go
How I shal this mater save
And what I shal sey therto,
And what charge thei shal have.

Come forth, ye Ser Amorawnt
And Sere Arphaxat, com ner also,
Sere Cosdram and Sere Affraunt,
And here the charge that ye must do:
Serys, to Jhesuis grave, ye shal go
Tyl that the thryd day be gone,
And lete nother frend nor fo
In no wey to towche the ston.

Yf ony of hese dyscipelys come ther,
To fech the body fro you away,
Bete hym down — have ye no fere —
With shamful deth do hym day!

In payn of youre godys and youre lyvys —
That ye lete hem nowth shape you fro —
And of youre chyldere and youre wyfys,
For al ye lese and ye do so.

AMERAUNT Sere Pylat, we shal not ses!
We shal kepe it strong anow.
ARFAXAT Ya, and an hunderyd put hem in pres,
Thei shal dey, I make a vow.

COSDRAM And han honderyd? Fy, on an honderyd and an honderyd therto!3
Ther is non of hem shal us withstonde!
AFFRAUNT Ya, and ther com an hunderyd thowsand and mo,
I shal hem kylle with myn honde!

PYLAT Wel, serys, than youre part ye do!
And to youre charge, loke ye take hede.
Withowtyn wordys ony mo
Wysly now that ye procede.

[Here the knytys gon out of the place.

Lo, Sere Cayphas, how thynkyth yow?
Is not this wel browth abowth?
CAYPHAS In feyth, ser, it is sure anow.
Hardely, have ye no dowth.

ARFAXAT Let se, Ser Amaraunt, where wele ye be?
Wole ye kepe the feet or the hed?
AMERAUNT At the hed, so mote I the,
And hoso come here, he is but ded!

ARFAXAT And I wole kepe the feet this tyde
Thow ther come both Jakke and Gylle.
COSDRAM And I shal kepe the ryth syde,
And hoso come, I shal hym kylle!

AFFRAUNT And I wole on the lefte hand ben,
And hoso come here, he shal nevyr then!
Ful sekyrly his bane shal I ben
With dyntys of dowte!
Syr Pylat, have good day!
We shal kepyn the body in clay,
And we shal wakyn wele the way
And wayten all abowte.

PYLAT Now, jentyl serys, wole ye vowchsaffe
To go with me and sele the graffe
That he ne aryse out of the grave
That is now ded?
CAYPHAS We graunte wel, lete us now go
Whan it is selyd and kepte also.
Than be we sekyr withowtyn wo
And have of hym no dred.
Sir; listen

one; be wary
Or else; might; rue

well know

third; (t-note)
surely; (t-note)
openly say
risen; third

give them
be gone

Sir; done

might; laws to cease
see; sir; before


(see note); (t-note)
come near

neither friend nor foe

any; his


goods; lives; (t-note)
them not escape from
children; wives
lose if

enough; (t-note)
if a hundred press us

none of them
if there
them; my hands

sirs; then
duties; heed
any more

(see note); (t-note)

brought about
Certainly; doubt

Let’s see; will; (t-note)
Will; guard
may I prosper; (t-note)
whoso; dead

guard; right now
Jack and Jill (i.e., whoever); (see note)
right side; (t-note)
whoso; kill

whoso; never thrive
death; be; (t-note)
doughty strokes
guard; in the earth
watch well
Keep our eyes open

sirs, will; vouchsafe
seal; grave; (t-note)
not arise; (t-note)

When; sealed
Then; secure

  [Tunc ibunt ad sepulcrum Pilatus, Cayphas, Annas, et omnes milites et dicit:4










ANNAS Loo, here is wax ful redy dyght
Sett on your sele, anon ful ryght.
Than be ye sekyr, I yow plyght
He shal not rysyn agayn.
PYLAT On this corner, my seal shal sytt
And with this wax, I sele this pytt.
Now dare I ley he shal nevyr flytt
Out of this grave, serteayn.

ANNAS Here is more wax ful redy, loo!
All the cornerys, ye sele also.
And with a lokke, loke it, too!
Than lete us gon oure way
And lete these knyntys abydyn therby.
And yf hese dysciplys com prevyly
To stele awey this ded body,
To us they hem brynge without delay.

PYLAT On every corner now is sett my seale.
Now is myn herte in welthe and wele.
This may no brybour awey now stele
This body from undyr ston.
Now, syr buschoppe, I pray to thee
And Annas also, com on with me,
Evyn togedyr all we thre,
Homward, the wey we gon.

As wynde wrothe,
Knyghtys now goht!
Clappyd in cloth,
And kepyth hym well!
Loke ye be bolde
With me for to holde.
Ye shul have gold
And helme of stele.
seal, now
Then; certain; promise

seal; grave
I bet; escape

lock; lock

knights stay

bring them

well-being; ease
thief; (t-note)


the angry wind; (t-note)
guard him (Jesus)

to consider
steel helmets

  [Pylat, Annas, and Cayphas go to ther skaffaldys (scaffolds), and the knyghtys sey:

















AFFRAUNT Now, in this grownnde
He lyeth bounde,
That tholyd wounde
For he was fals.
This lefft cornere,
I wyl kepe here,
Armyd clere
Bothe hed and hals.

COSDRAM I wyl have this syde
Whatso betyde.
If any man ryde
To stele the cors,
I shal hym chyde
With woundys wyde,
Amonge hem glyde
With fyne fors!

AMERAUNT The hed I take
Hereby to wake,
A stele stake
I holde in honde.
Maystryes to make,
Crownys I crake,
Schafftys to shake
And schapyn schonde.

ARFAXAT I shal not lete
To kepe the fete.
They are ful wete,
Walterid in blood.
He that wyll stalke,
Be brook or balke,
Hedyr to walke —
Tho wrecchis be wood!

AMERAUNT Myn heed dullyth;
Myn herte fullyth
Of slepp.
Seynt Mahownd,
This beryenge grownd
Thu kepp!

ARFAXAT I sey the same.
For any blame,
I falle!
Mahownde whelpe,
Aftyr thin helpe,
I calle.

COSDRAM I am hevy as leed.
For any dred,
I slepe.
Mahownd of myght,
This ston tonyght,
Thu kepe!

AFFRAUNT I have no foot
To stonde on root
By brynke.
Here I aske
To go to taske
A wynke.

suffered wounds




steal; corpse

them pass
sheer force

head; (t-note)
to guard

great deeds
Heads; crack
Shafts; tremble
bring about ruin; (t-note)

cease; (t-note)
wet; (t-note)

(I.e., anywhere)
Those wretches; crazy

head feels dull; (t-note)
Holy Mohammed

say; (t-note)

Mohammed’s child

lead; (t-note)

the edge

to take
nap; (t-note)


Go To Play 35, Harrowing of Hell (2); Appearance to Mary; Pilate and Soldiers