Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Yorkshire. Northern England moors on which shepherds are watching over their flocks by night. In contrast with biblical shepherds, however, these shepherds complain about typical problems of the fifteenth century rural poor. The shepherds are dispossessed tenant farmers who suffer from the bone-chilling Yorkshire winter, from hunger, and from oppressive landowners. They represent the poor, meek, and downtrodden for whom Jesus is a symbol of hope and social justice, even across the centuries.

Mak and Gill’s home

Mak and Gill’s home. Hovel in which Mak and Gill hide the sheep that Mak steals from the shepherds. Gill, pretending she has given birth once again, wraps the sheep in swaddling clothes and lays it in a cradle. The three are a comic if not blasphemous version of Joseph, Mary, and baby Jesus. The setting again connects the contemporary poor to Jesus, the lamb of God, who was born in a stable, wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger.


*Bethlehem. The play’s final brief scene is set in the stable in Bethlehem in which Jesus was born. Returning to biblical text, this scene shows the shepherds bringing gifts to the Christ Child, thereby merging ancient and contemporary time and clinching the universal relevance of Jesus’ message.