Skipping the shepherds’ actual journey, Scene VII opens with Coll, Gyb, and Daw at the stable in Bethlehem with Mary and Christ. Each of the three shepherds prepare to present Christ with a gift.
The omission of the shepherds’ journey from England to Bethlehem implies the trip was short—another anachronism, as a trip to Bethlehem on foot would have taken weeks or months. The scene’s exclusion of the shepherds’ journey is reminiscent of the way the play glosses over the shepherds’ journey to Mak’s shack earlier in the play, revealing the first instance of parallelism between the two plotlines. Likewise, just as the shepherds brought a gift to Mak’s child, the shepherds bring gifts to the Christ child—both instances show the shepherds’ generosity despite their deep poverty.
Coll praises Christ for defeating the devil, noting how Christ’s birth means that “The false beguiler now goes beguiled.” Referring to Jesus as “my sweeting” and admiring the way he “merries” and giggles, Coll gifts the Christ child with a bunch of cherries.
Coll uses the phrase “the false beguiler now goes beguiled” to indicate that Christ’s birth has cast out the devil. However, the “false beguiler” also seems to imply Mak and Gill, suggesting that Christ has the power to save mankind from both spiritual and worldly tormenters. Coll’s gift is reflective of Christ’s power: the blood-red cherries signify Christ’s blood, which will be spilled in the crucifixion for the sake of mankind. Coll recognizes the two sides of the Christ child: the powerful Son of God who has cursed the devil and the sweet, little baby who giggles happily.
Gyb calls Christ the “sovereign savior” and presents him with a bird. He lovingly refers to the Christ child as “Little day star” and “little tiny mop.”
Upon seeing baby Jesus, Gyb calls him the “sovereign savior,” recognizing that Christ has been sent to save mankind. The bird Gyb gifts to Christ evokes the Christian symbol of a dove, reflecting the peace Christ brings to the earth. Like Coll, Gyb also recognizes Christ’s humanity, lovingly nicknaming him “Little day star” (pointing back to the star in the traditional nativity story that helped guide the shepherds to Bethlehem) and “little tiny mop.”
Daw’s heart breaks at the sight of Christ’s poverty. Calling baby Jesus “darling dear, full of Godhead,” Daw presents him with a ball with which he can play tennis. He also asks Jesus to “be near when I have need.”
Echoing the other shepherds, Daw sees Christ as both the savior of the world and a tiny newborn baby. The ball Daw gives Christ symbolizes an orb, revealing Christ’s status as a spiritual King. The orb is a common symbol in Medieval art, often illustrated with a scepter to depict royalty and power. Daw’s comments are significant because they suggest that Jesus will remain with the shepherds on a spiritual level and will intervene in times of trouble.
Mary explains the significance of Christ’s birth, declaring that the Christ child is the Son of God sent to earth to redeem mankind. She urges the shepherds to spread the news of Christ’s birth and to always remember their experience in Bethlehem.
Mary emphasizes that Christ can save, and not just distract, the shepherds from their earthly suffering. Traditionally, the birth of Christ means redemption from mankind’s sin rather than suffering, but the play emphasizes the latter. This would have been an attractive promise to the play’s Medieval audience, since Medieval Europe was saturated with poverty and political strife. By explicitly stating the significance of Christ’s birth and urging the shepherds to spread the good news, Mary reveals herself to be the most overtly pedagogical character. Her presence reinforces the play’s purpose of teaching religious lessons to a lay audience.
Coll, Gyb, and Daw know they are redeemed. They decide to spread the news of the nativity through song and leave Bethlehem singing joyful praises.
The shepherds decide to spread the news of the nativity through song, a medium that is accessible even to the illiterate—including the play’s lay audience. In this way, the shepherds sing so that even those outside of the play, meaning the audience themselves, will hear the story of Christ and will be transformed. By closing with a song, the Wakefield Master also encourages the audience to spread the gospel in their daily lives.