THE CASTLE OF PERSEVERANCE (circa 1425)

For a description of this drawing, please scroll down or click here.

At the beginning of the play, Mankind (Humanus Genus) explains the human condition and introduces his Good Angel and his Evil Angel. When I stage this scene, I send the two Angels on stage and so have marked their entrance below. The page is here because it states the basic structure for all morality plays, and All's Well follows this structure.

The left column is the text in the original Middle English; the right column is my translation. The entire play, The Castle of Perseverance, is available at any big library or very conveniently on line at http://www.umm.maine.edu/faculty/necastro/drama/comedy/castle.html (retrieved April 18, 2016). The excerpt quoted below begins at line 275.

HUMANUS GENUS
Aftyr oure forme-faderys kende
žis nyth I was of my modyr born.
Fro my modyr I walke, I wende,
Ful feynt and febyl I fare 3ou beforn.
I am nakyd of lym and lende
As Mankynde is schapyn and schorn.
I not wedyr to gon ne to lende
To helpe myself mydday nyn morn.
For schame I stonde and schende.
I was born žis nyth in blody ble
And nakyd I am, as 3e may se.
A, Lord God in trinite,
Whow Mankende is vnthende!

To aungels bene asynyd to me:
že ton techyth me to goode;
On my ryth syde 3e may hym se;
He cam fro Criste žat deyed on rode.
Anožyr is ordeynyd her to be
žat is my foo, be fen and flode;
He is about in euery degre
To drawe me to žo dewylys wode
žat in helle be thycke.
Swyche to hath euery man on lyue
To rewlyn hym and hys wyttys fyue.
Whanne man doth ewyl, že ton wolde schryue,
že tothyr drawyth to wycke.

But syn žese aungelys be to me falle,
Lord Jhesu, to 3ou I bydde a bone
žat I may folwe, be strete and stalle,
že aungyl žat cam fro heuene trone.
Now, Lord Jesu in heuene halle,
Here whane I make my mone.
Coryows Criste, to 3ou I calle.
As a grysly gost I grucche and grone,
I wene, ryth ful of thowth.
A, Lord Jhesu, wedyr may I goo?
A crysme I haue and no moo.
Alas, men may be wondyr woo
Whanne žei be fyrst forth browth.
MANKIND
After our forefathers' kind,
This night I was of my mother born.
From my mother I walk, I wend.
Full faint and feeble I fare you beforn.
I am naked of limb and lend,            lend = loin
As all mankind is shapčd and shorn.
I know not how 'twere best I fared,
Nor what to do at noon or morn,
For shame I stopped and stared.
I was born this night in bloody blee,        blee = hue
And naked I am, as ye may see.
Ah, Lord God in Trinity,
Mankind is ill-prepared!   (TWO ANGELS enter.)

Two angels been assigned to me,
The one teacheth me the good;
On my right side ye may [her] see,           (I changed the word from "him" to "her" since our good angel is a woman, Helena.)
She came from Christ that died on rood.        rood = Jesus' cross
Another is ordainčd here to be,
That is my foe by fen and flood.
He goes about in every degree
To drag me to those devils wood           wood = enraged, insane
That are thick in the evil dell.
Such two hath every man alive,
To rule over him and his wits five.
When man does evil, the one would shrive,     shrive = hear his confession (and absolve him)
T'other drags him to hell.                         wycke = wicked, wickedness

But since these angels to me befall,
Lord Jesu! of you I beg a boon:
That I may follow, by street and stall,        by street and stall = everywhere and always
The angel that came from heaven's throne.
Now, Lord Jesu, in heaven's hall
Hear when I make my moan.
Caring Christ, to you I call!
Like a grisly ghost, I grieve and groan,
And ponder, right full of thought.
Ah, Lord Jesu! Whither may I go?
A christening-cloth I have and no moe.           I do not know whether crysme is the name of the ritual or the baby's garment.
Alas! men may be wonder woe,
When they be first forth brought.   (Lines 275-326)



What is printed around the castle:

The first stage direction: "He that schal pleye Belyal, loke that he haue gunne-pwder brennyn In pypys in his handis and in his eris, and in his ers, whanne he gothe to bat. The iiij dowteris schul be clad in mentelys: Merci in wyth, Rythwysnesse in red, al tegedyr; Trewthe in sad grene, and Pes al in blake; and thei schal pleye in the place al togedyr tyl they brynge up the sowle."

It can be translated as: "He that shall play Belial, look that he have gunpowder burning in pipes in his hands and in his ears and in his ass, when he goeth to battle. The four daughters shall be clad in mantles: Mercy in white, Righteousness in red, altogether; Truth in sad green, and Peace all in black; and they shall play in the place all together till they bring up the soul."

The parts which you cannot read in this JPEG file: around the circle it says: "This is the water about the place, if any ditch may be made, there it shall be played, or else that it be strongly barred all about, and let not over many stytelers be within the place." I have not found any definition of "stytelers"; maybe it means "spectators."

Above the castle it says: "This is the castle of Perseverance, that standeth in the mids of the place; but let no men sit there, for letting of sight; for there shall be the best of all." On either side of the castle it says: "Covetise' cupboard by the bed's feet shall be at the end of the castle." Under the castle it says: "Mankind's bed shall be under the castle, and there shall the soul lie under the bed till he shall rise and play." In the northeast it says: "Northe-est. Covetyse Skaffold." Caro is Latin for flesh, so the World, the Flesh and the Devil all have scaffolds, as is only right. God and Covetousness have scaffolds, too.


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