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Published: 05-09-2019

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Humanity of Christ in “The York Play of the Crucifixion”

In the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance, there was an emergence of creativity and imagination. These ideals have been portrayed all through the fields of human inquiry — artwork and entertainment getting particularly impacted. A strong example of such a newly inventive dramatic style is the emergence of “mystery plays,” or plays that depicted the adjust in portrayal of Christ’s humanity. In earlier times, the Catholic church was quite strict as to the interpretation of the Bible, with the pope’s word or interpretation becoming the only one allowable. Any person who strayed from this interpretation could be heavily punished. With the emergence of the Renaissance, creativity spread not only into the secular arts but also the spiritual arts. The Catholic church began commissioning a series of mystery plays to enlighten the people concerning the gospel, and to a various type of Christ than they had previously identified — a Christ who was no longer harsh, silent, cold, and practically nothing like themselves. Mystery plays, such as the “York Play of the Crucifixion,” helped to portray the humanity of Christ by means of the use of character, comedy, and setting. In “The York Play of the Crucifixion,” the humanity of Christ is, somewhat unexpectedly, also depicted through the character development of the soldiers.

In the play, Christ is being taken by 4 soldiers to the hill to be crucified. The 4 soldiers are unnamed, possibly to assist make the soldiers far more universal and relatable to the audience. With this device, the viewers, or readers, are now in a position to discover much more in common with these soldiers, and detect resemblances to the soldiers in their total disregard of Christ. The soldiers show this disregard with comments such as “Then to this operate us need to take heed/ So that our functioning be not wrang/ None other note to neven is need/ But let us haste him for to hang” (25-28). These lines, spoken by soldiers one particular and two in the beginning of the play, introduce the audience to naivety of the soldiers, in that they have no concept of who they are crucifying. The soldiers, who represent all men and women, show how we can be blind to Christ and his atonement for us. The focus on Christ’s act of atonement, and our place in remembering his sacrifice, is portrayed in a very diverse way in the “York Play of the Crucifixion,” as compared to plays from earlier eras. The play is told by each day soldiers, from mankind’s perspective, to far better depict our connection with Christ. He is seen as just yet another traitor to be crucified: “Come on, let kill this traitor strong” (32). By possessing this perspective set before it, the audience is better capable to see its connection with Christ as a blessing, as a gift we need to take advantage of, instead of taking in the preceding beliefs that centered on our debt and all-natural sin. Christ himself speaks a handful of lines in the play, which accentuates his divine mercy.

Via the disregard of the soldiers and the contrast with Christ’s constant passivity, each Christ’s humanity and his divinity are portrayed. “Almighty God, my Father free…Here to dead I oblige me/ For that sin for to save mankind/ And sovereignly beseek I thee/ That they for me may possibly favor discover/ And from the Fiend them fend, So that their souls be safe” (51-58). These lines, the initial spoken by Christ in the play, show the reader His fantastic humility and forgiveness. The lines, thrown in the mix with the complaints of the soldiers, invoke painful emotions for the audience. Furthermore, Christ’s humanity is show by means of references to his physical character, focusing on his bodily inflictions. ‘Yea, asunder are both veins and sinews” (147). This line shows the soldier’s focus on Christ’s human nature, on his bodily suffering, reminding the audience of His humanity. The character portrayal of both the soldiers and Christ help to emphasize His relationship with the common man, and His much more human side.

The use of comedy in “The York Play of the Crucifixion” also serves to emphasize the humanity of Christ. The soldiers, frequent, every day males, are preoccupied with their activity, which is observed by them as menial and even annoying. There are comedic lines in the play, as properly as an underlying current of humour all through. Specific line examples can be found in a soldier’s complaining of the craftsmanship of the cross and nailings: “It fails a foot and a lot more/ The sinews are so gone in/ I hope that mark amiss be bored/ Then have to he bide in bitter bale/ In faith, it was over-scantly scored” (107-112). These lines can be seen as operating on several levels. In a single way, they provide comedic relief to such an emotional theme. In one more, they serve to engage the audience. Providing a contrast with earlier interpretations of Christ’s suffering, a comedic really feel assists to draw in people to then hear a higher message. Even so, the comedy also operates as a contrast between the humility and submissiveness of Christ. A a lot more painful instance of their humor arises when the 1st soldier tells the second to continue beating Christ: “Strike on then tough, for him thee bought” (101). With the jokes and full disregard of respect that the soldiers have, emphasis is place on the quietness of Christ, further calling consideration to the theme of his humanity and of our connection with Him. The comedy provides a realistic setting, enabling us to additional relate to the soldiers. Additionally, the actual setting of the play gives emphasis on the humanity of Christ. The play takes location in one particular, static setting, permitting the characters and message to appear timeless. By placing the soldiers in such a setting, the audience is further capable to relate to their experience. The lifting of the cross is also important, in that, from an audience’s standpoint, their concentrate has been mostly on the soldiers, but now is on Christ. It is an appropriate ending as it reminds once more the audience of our duty in remembering Him, and how his humanity allows us to be capable to have a divine partnership with Him.

“The York Play of the Crucifixion” is a prime example of the emerging creativity of the Renaissance. With earlier depictions of Christ, in art as effectively as literature, as harsh and cold, the new portrayal of his humanity through mystery plays helped the individuals to hear the gospel and feel Christ’s love in a new, much more engaging, and much more interpretive way. In “The York Play of the Crucifixion,” different elements of character, humour, and plot perform collectively to emphasize our relationship with Christ by means of his humanity.

Function Cited

Reidhead, Julia, ed. “Christ’s Humanity.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Vol. A. New York City: Norton, 2012. 440-47. Print.
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