The "King's English" in
The Second Shepherd's Play
Mak is first heard off stage:
[In The Second Shepherd's Play the rascal Mak tries to
pretend he is an important messenger from the king, in
London, and he attempts to speak in a dialect suitable
to one from London. The Shepherds immediately recognize
him but he insists on keeping up the pretense. He uses "ich"
for the pronoun "I" and and uses the verb ending -th
(in goyth and doth) rather than -s as in both modern
English and the Northern dialect of Middle English.]
Who is that pypys so poore?
Wold God ye wyst how I foore!
Lo, a man that walkys on the moore,
And has not all his wyll!
Mak, where has thou gon? Tell us tythyng.
Is he commen? then ylkon take hede to his thyng.
What! ich be a yoman, I tell you, of the king;
The self and the same, sond from a great lordyng,
Fy on you! goyth hence
Out of my presence!
I must have reverence;
Why, who be ich?
Why make ye it so qwaynt? Mak, ye do wrang.
Bot, Mak, lyst ye saynt? I trow that ye lang.
I trow the shrew can paynt; the Devyll myght hym hang!
Ich shall make complaynt and make you all to thwang
At a worde,
And tell evyn how ye doth.
Bot, Mak, is that sothe?
Now take outt that sothren tothe,
And sett in a torde!
pypys = pipes up, speaks
foore = fare
tythyng = tidings
ylkon = each one
sond = messenger
saynt = act respectably
paynt = lie
thwang = be flogged
[Text, here slightly regularized and glossed, is from The Townely Mystery Plays, ed. George England and
A.W. Pollard, EETS, extra series, 71 (1897); a better version
for study is The Townely Plays, ed. Martin Stevens and
A.C. Cawley, EETS, S.S. 13-14 (1994) [Widener: 11474.5 vol. 13-14].