The Second Shepherd’s Play

Cast of Characters

COLL – The leader and oldest of the three shepherds

GIB – The second shepherd

DAW – The youngest of the shepherds

MAK – A thief

GILL – Mak’s Wife




Scene Locations

A Moor: The shepherd’s field

Mak and Gill’s Home: A bed, cradle and a door

The Crooked Thorn: The side of a road pub

Stable: The place where Jesus is born

(COLL enters alone)


  • COLL:
    Lord, but this weather is cold! And I am ill wrapped.
  • I’m nearly numb, so long have I napped.
  • My legs give way, my fingers are chapped.
  • It is not what I wanted, for I am all sapped
  • From sorrow
  • In storms and tempest
  • Now in the east, now in the west
  • Woe is he that never has rest
  • Through the day or tomorrow.
  • But we are silly shepherds that walk on the moor,
  • Actually, we are nearly homeless, turned out of the door;
  • Our harsh lords oppress us and keep us poor.
  • Whatever we do, they always want more.
  • You know this information.
  • We are worked till we’re lamed
  • Overtaxed and disdained
  • It is like we’ve been tamed
  • By these gentlemen.

    (GIB enters)


  • GIB:
    Lord, have mercy, what does this mean?
  • The world in such shape, this we haven’t seen.
  • Lord, these winds are cruel, and this weather – I’m not too keen.
  • The frost is so hideous it seems obscene.
  • No lie.
  • Now in dry, now in wet,
  • Now in snow, now in sleet,
  • When my shoes freeze to my feet
  • It is not at all easy.
  • But as far as I know, everywhere that I go,
  • We poor married men suffer as much woe;
  • We have sorrow constantly – it is often so.
  • A wife is like a hen, going to a fro.
  • She cackles;
  • But when she begins to croak,
  • To groan and to poke,
  • It is not a joke,
  • For he is in shackles.
  • The truth is I have my own and let me describe her,
  • She is as sharp as a thistle and rough as a briar,
  • She as brows like pig’s bristles and a face without cheer,
  • If she once wets her whistle she can sing full and clear
  • The Pater Noster.
  • She is as big as a whale withal,
  • She has a gallon of gall,
  • And by Him who died for us all
  • I wish I had lost her.
  • COLL:
    Gib, I’m on the other side of the hedge. And your talking so loud I’m going deaf
  • GIB:
    Well, what are you doing being so late? Have you seen Daw?
  • COLL:
    Yes, out in the pasture. I heard him blow his horn. Here he comes now.
  • Stand still.
  • GIB:
  • COLL:
    Because he’s coming.
  • GIB:
    He will make up some lie if we don’t beware.

    (Daw enters, not seeing the others)


  • DAW:
    Christ bless me quickly and Saint Nicholas!
  • I am in need of help – it is worse than it was.
  • But now I know to take heed and I’ll let the world pass.
  • The ground is in doubt and brittle as glass
  • And slips.
  • The world fared never so;
  • With marvels mo’ and mo’
  • Now it’s well, now it’s woe,
  • Time always flips.
  • We that walk in the nights, our cattle to keep,
  • We see unexpected sights when other men sleep.
  • But I think my heart jumps, I see thieves peep. (Sees men hiding)
  • You are two tall creatures. I think my sheep
  • Need tending.

    (Tries to turn and run away, but the other two catch him. He recognizes them)


  • Ah, Sir, God save you master mine!
  • I need something to drink and someplace to dine.
  • COLL:
    You knave, you are a worthless servant.
  • GIB:
    What! Let the boy rave. He can wait till later. We have already had our
  • dinner.
  • DAW:
    Servants like me toil and sweat,
  • We eat our bread dry, which I don’t get;
  • We are often wet and weary when our masters sleep yet,
  • We are home late, but in food and drink we get
  • Less than is profitable.
  • So why should I worry,
  • I am in no hurry,
  • A cheap servant will curry
  • A cheap bill.
  • COLL:
    You would be a bad servant for a poor man to take wooing with him.
  • GIB:
    Peace boy! No more joking. Where are the sheep, we are wasting time
  • DAW:
    Sir, I left them in the corn this morning when the bells rang for dawn
  • services. They are in good pasture and can’t go wrong.
  • COLL:
    Good. By the cross, these nights are long! To cheer us up let’s sing a song
  • GIB: I was thinking the same thing.
  • DAW: Good idea.
  • COLL:
    Let me sing the tenor.
  • GIB:
    And I will sing the high treble.
  • DAW:
    Then the middle part falls to me. Let’s see how we chant.

    (They sing, not very well. Mak enters with a cloak on)


  • MAK:
    Oh, Lord who made both the moon and the stars, which I cannot count,
  • I do not understand your will. What is this that disturbs my mind?
  • God grant that I was in heaven, for there are to children crying there.
  • COLL:
    Who is it that sings so poorly?
  • MAK:
    (aside) Only God knows how badly I fare! (aloud) It is a man who walks
  • on the moor and has no peace!
  • GIB:
    Mak, where have you been. Tell us the news.
  • DAW:
    Is he coming? Everyone look out for your things. (grabs Mak’s cloak)
  • MAK:
    What?! I am a yeoman, I tell you, sent from the king. A messenger from a
  • great lord or some such thing. Fie on you! Go hence out of my presence: I must
  • have reverence.
  • COLL:
    Why are you being so unfriendly?
  • GIB:
    Mak, do you want to act like some sort of saint? I think you do.
  • MAK:
    I will make a complaint and have you all flogged if you keep talking like
  • this.
  • COLL:
    Mak, stop talking like that. We know who you are.
  • MAK:
    Well, look at you three. I thought I knew you. You are a good company.
  • GIB:
    Watch out rascal, as late as it is, what are we supposed to think. You have a
  • reputation of stealing sheep.
  • MAK:
    I am honest and true as steel, all men know that. But I am not feeling well.
  • I have not eaten much this month or the last.
  • COLL:
    How fares you wife?
  • MAK:
    Lies lounging by the fire there,
  • With a house full of kids, she drinks without care,
  • It’s the only thing she does fare
  • Other wise
  • She eats as fast as she can,
  • And every year that comes to a man
  • She adds another one to the clan,
  • And some years two.
  • GIB:
    I have had more sleepless nights than anyone in the shire. I need to sleep
  • even if I take less for my hire.
  • DAW:
    I am cold and nearly naked and would love to have a fire. I am weary from
  • running around in the mire. You stay awake.
  • GIB:
    No, I will lie down here, I’m tired too.
  • DAW:
    I am as good a man as any of you, but Mak, come here and lie down in
  • the middle of us.
  • MAK:
    But then I might hinder you if you needed to talk together. Don’t worry.
  • From my head to my toe I promise.

    (crosses himself and lies down away from them, when the others are asleep he gets up)


  • Now it’s time for a man whose plate is cold,
  • To stalk secretly as he can into the fold
  • And nimbly to work, and not be too bold,
  • For he might pay for the deed of it were told
  • At the ending.
  • Lord, how they sleep hard – as you can hear,
  • If the flock aren’t scared, then I shall get near.
  • Look, one comes over. Now turn to cheer
  • From our sorrow!
  • A fat sheep, I dare say!
  • With a good fleece I do pray!
  • When I can I’ll repay,
  • But this I will “borrow”.

    (takes sheep and exits)

  • Scene 2

    Mak and Gill’s Home

  • MAK:
    Gill are you in there? Get us some light.
  • GILL:
    Who make such a noise at this time of night?
  • I have sat down to spin; I hope now I might
  • Get something done without such a fight.
  • Oh well.
  • This happens to anyone who has been a housewife – you have to get up all the
  • time.
  • MAK:
    Good wife, open the door! Come see what I have brought.
  • GILL:
    Why don’t you open it yourself?
  • MAK:
    You don’t care much for how long I have been standing here.

    (she opens the door, sees the sheep)


  • GILL:
    By your naked neck, your are going to hang for this.
  • MAK:
    Oh, don’t worry, I am worthy of my meat. When I’m in a pinch I can get
  • more than those that work and sweat all day long. (shows her the sheep) It just
  • fell in my lap, Gill, I had such grace.
  • GILL:
    It would be a shame to be hanged for this.
  • MAK:
    I have escaped many times from things like this.
  • GILL:
    But “So long as the pot goes to get water, someday it will come home
  • broken.”
  • MAK:
    Well, I have it here now. Come help me fast. I want to have it skinned so we
  • can eat it. It has been twelve months since we had sheep’s meat.
  • GILL:
    What if they come near while he is being slain and here him bleat?
  • MAK:
    Then I might me taken – that doesn’t sound very good. Go fasten the street
  • gate.
  • GILL:
    Yes, Mak, but what if they come back?
  • MAK:
    Then I might really be in trouble.
  • GILL:
    I have a good trick, since you can’t think of one. We will hide him here until
  • they are gone. In my cradle. Leave me alone and I will lie in bed a groan
  • MAK:
    Get ready. I will say that you have delivered a boy child tonight.
  • GILL:
    Well, bless this day. This is a good trick. It took a woman’s advise to get
  • out of this at last.
  • MAK:
    If they wake before I get back , they’ll blow the trumpet. I will go to sleep
  • (returns to the shepherds). They are still sleeping. I will walk quietly, as though it
  • had never been I who stole their sheep.
  • Scene 3

    A Moor

  • COLL:
    (waking from a bad dream) Ahhh – hold my had! I can’t stand up. My foot
  • is asleep and I haven’t had anything to eat. I dreamed we were somewhere in
  • England.
  • GIB:
    Oh yeah? Lord, how I have slept well! As fresh as an eel, so light do I feel, as
  • a leaf on a tree.
  • DAW:
    (still under the blanket) God bless me! My body’s quaking. My heart is
  • beating out of it’s skin and I don’t know what’s causing it. Why is it so dark? My
  • eyes are blind! Where is Mak?
  • GILL:
    Man, praise God, he hasn’t gone anywhere yet.
  • DAW:
    I dreamt he was covered in a wolfskin.
  • COLL:
    So are many now covered, especially within.
  • DAW:
    While we were sleeping so long, I dreamed that he trapped a fat sheep, but
  • made no noise.
  • GIB:
    Be still. Your dreaming makes you mad.
  • COLL:
    God can turn all to good, if it be His will.
  • GIB:
    Rise, Mak, it’s shameful. You lie around all day long.
  • MAK:
    Now Christ’s holy name be us among!
  • What is this! By Saint James, I can’t get along.
  • I think I’m the same, but my neck is all wrong.

    (someone twists his neck)


  • Enough!
  • I had a terrible dream.
  • I thought Gill began to groan and travail so bad,
  • Very near the first crow, she had a young lad,
  • To add to our flick – will I never be glad?!
  • I have more to care for than I ever should’ve had.
  • Ah, my head!
  • A house full of bellies asking to feed them again.
  • I haven’t had any rest since I don’t know when.
  • Woe is him who has many children,
  • And too little bread.
  • I must go home, by your leave, to Gill. I pray you examine my sleeve to see that I
  • have stolen nothing. I would loath if you grieved or took aught with me.
  • DAW:
    Go home. As bad as it might be. Now, I want us to look for all the sheep.
  • COLL:
    I will go ahead. Let us meet later.
  • GIB:
  • DAW:
    At the crooked thorn.
  • Scene 4

    Mak ang Gill’s Home

  • MAK:
    Undo this door! How long do I have to stand here?
  • GILL:
    Who makes such a noise. It must be a lunatic.
  • MAK:
    Ah Gill, It is I, Mak, your husband. Oh, the fuss she makes. Is all does play
  • and tickle her toes?
  • GILL:
    What?! Who wanders? Who wakes? Who comes? Who goes?
  • Who brews? Who bakes? What makes me so tired? If the truth be told, how
  • woeful the household that lacks a woman. But what has happened
  • with the shepherds?
  • MAK:
    The last thing they said when I turned my back,
  • Was they would look to see if all the sheep were in their pack.I hope they will
  • not be well paid when this sheep they lack.
  • Yes, Sir.
  • But, however the game goes, I am the one they will suspect and they will make a
  • big ruckus and come here. So, you must do as you promised.
  • GILL:
    I will swaddle him right here in the cradle, and lay down right away. Come,
  • cover me up. When they come calling you will sing a lullaby loud and fast, for I
  • must groan, and if this plan does not work you can trust me no more.
  • Scene 5

    The Crooked Thorn

  • DAW:

    Ah, Coll, good morning. What is that sad look?

  • COLL:
    Alas that ever I was born. We have a big problem. We have lost a fat
  • ram.
  • DAW:
    God forbid, I hope not.
  • GIB:
    Who would do us this scorn? That is not a good thing.
  • COLL:

    Some rascal. I have looked with my dogs through all the thickets

  • and out of fifteen young sheep I have found only one ewe.
  • DAW:
    Now believe me. By Saint Thomas of Kent, either Mak or Gill was part
  • of this conspiracy.
  • COLL:
    Peace, man, be still! I saw when he went. You slander him wrongly and
  • ought to repent quickly.
  • GIB:
    Now as ever I might thrive, if I should even here die, I would say it was
  • he that did this deed.
  • DAW:
    I advise we run and go there. I will never eat bread until we know the
  • truth.
  • COLL:
    Nor will I take a drink until we meet with them.
  • GIB:
    And I will not rest my head until this is solved.
  • Scene 6

    Mak and Gill’s Homen

  • DAW:

    Will you hear how they bellow. Our lordship thinks he can croon.

  • COLL:
    Never had I hears a song so clear out of tune.
  • GIB:
    Mak, undo your door now!
  • MAK:
    Who is it who speaks so loudly, as if it were noon. Who is it I say?
  • DAW:
    Good companions, if it were daytime.
  • MAK:
    (opens door) Good men, speak softly near a sick woman’s head. I would
  • rather die than she have a distress.
  • GILL:

    Go to another place, I am not breathing well. Every step you take hurts

  • me from head to toe, so, get out.
  • COLL:
    Tell us Mak, how are you doing?
  • MAK:
    What brings you to town today? How are you?
  • You have run in the mire and are all wet.
  • I shall make you a fire if you will sit.
  • A nurse would I hire – but can’t think of one yet.
  • Well, I have quite my job, my dream – this is it
  • At this season.
  • I have children, but that you knew,
  • Well more than we have stew,
  • But we must drink as we brew,
  • That just stands to reason.
  • Would you like to eat before you go? It looks like you could use it.
  • GIB:
    No, neither drink or meat could mend our anger.
  • MAK:
    Why sirs, is there something wrong with you?
  • DAW:
    Yes, our one of our sheep was stolen as they walked: our loss is great.
  • MAK:
    Sirs, drink. Had I been there, someone would have paid for that deed.
  • COLL:
    Some men think that you were, and that is what disturbs us.
  • GIB:
    Mak, some men think it was you.
  • DAW:
    Either you or your wife.
  • MAK:
    Now, don’t suppose it was Gill or me!
  • Come, go through our house, and then you will see
  • Who had her.
  • There is not any sheep I’ve got,
  • And Gill, my wife, rose not
  • Since she laid down.
  • As I am true as steel, this is the first meal we will eat today.
  • (They begin to search)


  • GILL:
    Well I die! Get out of my house thieves! You come here to rob us.
  • MAK:
    Don’t you hear how she groans. Your hearts should melt.
  • GILL:
    Get out thieves! Don’t come near my child!
  • MAK:

    If you know how she had fared, your hearts would be sore. You do

  • wrong disturbing a woman who has been in labor.
  • GIB:
    I think our sheep has been slain. What have you two found?
  • DAW:

    All this work is in vain: we may as well go. Except for a little clothing

  • and who empty plates I don’t see anything. But of all the livestock I have worked

  • with none has smelled as badly as he (approaches the cradle)

  • GILL:
    God has blessed me and given me the joy of my child.
  • COLL:
    We have aimed amiss: we are beguiled.
  • GIB:
    Sir, is your child a son?
  • MAK:
    He is a good a son as any lord would have.
  • GIB:
    Mak, we will all be friends, since we are all in one accord.
  • MAK:

    We?! I’ll remain apart, because I have gotten no apology. Farewell you

  • three.
  • (The shepherds leave)


  • COLL:
    Did you give the child anything?
  • GIB:
    I don’t even have a farthing.
  • DAW:

    I will go back quickly, you stay here.

    (Returns to house)


  • Mak, by your leave, may I see your son?
  • MAK:
    No, you have caused me great shame with your behavior.
  • DAW:
    It won’t grieve your child, if by your leave, I can give him a sixpence.
  • MAK:
    No, you should go. He is sleeping.
  • DAW:
    I think he opens his eyes.
  • MAK:
    If he awakens he will cry. I pray you go.
  • DAW:
    Let me leave him a kiss. (Lifts the cradle cover). What the devil is this?
  • He has a long snout.
  • (The others enter)


  • COLL:
    He is fashioned all wrong. We know mischief has been at work.
  • GIB:
    An ill-spun web always comes out badly. I say, he looks like our sheep.
  • DAW:
    Gib, may I peep?
  • COLL:
    Only a parent could love a child that looked like that.
  • GIB:
    This was a strange trick and a fine dodge. It was high fraud.
  • MAK:
    Peace, I bid you. I am the one who stole him, this woman was not
  • involved.
  • DAW:
    This is a terrible thing. We must be avenged. Get a weapon.
  • MAK:
    I have trespassed, and I must learn. I put myself at your mercy.
  • COLL:
    Sirs, listen to my advice.
  • For this trespass
  • We will neither curse nor chide,
  • No more deride,
  • No longer bide,
  • Just toss him in a canvas.

    (They toss him around in a canvas and Mak and Gill return home)

  • Scene 7

    A Moor

  • COLL:
    Lord, how I am sore to the point of burst. I must lie down and rest.
  • GIB:
    I think that sheep weighed 140 pounds. I could fall asleep anywhere.
  • DAW:
    Then, I pray, let’s lie down on this green.
  • GIB:
    I think this is where thieves sleep.
  • COLL:
    Don’t worry, do as I say.
  • (Shepherd’s fall asleep, and are woken by angels)


  • ANGEL:
    Rise, gentle shepherds for now he is born
  • That shall take from the fiend what from Adam was torn
  • Satan is confounded, this night He is born.
  • God has made you His friend this morn.
  • He promises.
  • At Bethlehem go see
  • The one who sets you free
  • In a crib made poorly,
  • Between two beasts.
  • (Angels exit)


  • COLL:
    That was the finest voice I have ever heard. It is a marvel to tell of, even
  • though I am scared.
  • GIB:
    He spoke if God’s Son from heaven. I thought he made the whole woods
  • seem full of light.
  • DAW:
    He spoke of a child in Bethlehem.
  • COLL:
    Let us seek him there.
  • GIB:
    Say what was that song he was singing? Did you hear how he sang it
  • out?!
  • DAW:
    Yes, marry he sang it. There was no note wrong, nor nothing it lacked.
  • GIB:
    Let’s see how you croon! Can you bark at the moon?
  • DAW:
    Hold your tongues. I have done it!
  • COLL:
    Ahh, let’s hear it than!
  • GIB:
    They said we should go to Bethlehem. I am afraid we tarry here to long.
  • We find by the prophesies – of this you should listen –
  • David and Isaiah and more I just don’t know when
  • That prophesied through learning that a virgin
  • Should conceive a son to quench our sin
  • And relieve it,
  • Mankind from woe,
  • For Isaiah said so.
  • DAW:
    Full glad we will be if we live that day
  • When we see the lovely one who takes sins away
  • Lord, let it be as you may
  • Might I kneel on my knee, with some word to say
  • To that child.
  • But the angel said
  • In a crib he laid,
  • He was poorly arrayed
  • Both lowly and mild.
  • COLL:
    Patriarchs that have been, and prophets that warn
  • Desired to see this child that is born,
  • They are gone and have lost what they have sworn,
  • We shall see him, I think, before it is morn,
  • As a sign
  • When I see him and feel,
  • In my heart it will seal
  • A true as steel
  • What the prophets have spoken.
  • GIB:
    Let us go now, the place is near.
  • DAW:
    I am ready and prepared, let us go together to that glorious one. Lord,
  • if it is your will – we are all three ignorant shepherds – please grant us
  • some kind of cheer to comfort us creatures.
  • Scene 8


  • COLL:
    Hail, comely and clean! Hail, young child!
  • Hail Maker, born of a maiden so mild!
  • You have put a curse on the devil so wild.
  • The false grievous deceiver, now go he beguiled.
  • Look, he merries!
  • Look he laughs!
  • Laid next to the calf.
  • I have here on my staff,
  • A bunch of cherries.
  • GIB:
    Hail, sovereign Saviour, for you we have sought!
  • Hail noble child through whom all things were wrought!
  • Hail, full of favor, that made all from nought!
  • Hail, I kneel and crouch. A bird I have brought
  • To my child.
  • Hail, child as they said,
  • Of our creed you are head
  • I would eat of your bread
  • And drink of your cup.
  • DAW:
    Hail, darling dear, full of Godhead!
  • I pray you be near when all round is dread.
  • So sweat is your face, but my heart nearly bled,
  • To see you lay there without any bed,
  • And no toy.
  • Hail, put forth your hand small,
  • I bring you a ball:
  • Have and play as you crawl
  • And have joy.
  • COLL:
    Farewell, sir and lady, and the child on your knee.
  • GIB:
    Lord, I am well. How we must go and tell what it is we have beheld.
  • COLL:
    What grace we have received!
  • GIB:
    Come forth, we are now redeemed!
  • DAW:
    We are bound to sing. Let’s raise our voices!
  • End
  • Source:

    Reproduced with permission from “The Second Shepherd’s Play.” Edited by Caleb Palmer. Web. 5 Dec. 2016. <>


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    Anthology of Medieval Literature Copyright © 2021 by Christian Beck is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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