Date and Composition of the York Cycle and the York
- written text comes from the collection
of plays in the manuscript called the "York Register" of the Corpus
Christi play, dated ca. 1463-77
- author is unknown
- would have been performed on a
pageant wagon, in a procession through the streets of York with other pageants
of the cycle
- guild "ownership" ascribed
to the Fishers and the Mariners
- written in a fourteen-line stanza,
- Noah exemplifies a number
of typological relationships (i.e., the characters, themes, and events
prefigure characters, themes, and events that appear later in bibilical tradition
or figurally refer back to earlier ones.)
- The Flood itself can be seen
as prefiguring both Christ's Baptism and the destruction of the world
by God at the Last Judgment.
- "The story of Noah
is thus both a continuation of the Fall of Man and a prelude to the
coming of Christ" (Bevington, 290).
- Noah is a type of Adam: both
are acting on specific orders from God but are then deterred from their
duty by disobedient wives. Noah, however, does not give in to his wife
whereas Adam does.
- Noah is also a type of Christ,
saving true believers from destruction.
- Mrs. Noah is a type of Eve
and also represents recalcitrant sinners who refuse to follow Christ.
- The Ark is the true church
of believers, saved from destruction.
- The argument between Noah and
his wife does not appear in Genesis. The dramatic tradition of Noah's wife's
"disobedience was rooted in Eastern legend, which told that, as had been
the case with Eve, her violation of the natural order was due to the temptations
of Satan, who sought once again to thwart God's plan through the agency of
a woman" (Beadle amd King, 21).
- The Shrewish Wife motif is
also medieval tradition
related to fabliaux, such as The
Miller's Tale and was
a motif common to classical drama
British literature drama. For example:
playwright Plautus' Menaechmi has shrewish "Mrs. Menaechmus."
Wife of Bath (14th c.) might also be considered a shrew.
- The English
version of the shrewish wife appears in early drama as "Mrs.
Noah," who refuses to board the ark with her husband in order
to stay with her friends.
- In the
Tudor period, dramatic interludes and farces relied for comic effect
on the stock character of the "violent, intractable, sharp-tongued"
wives who cuckold husbands and order them around.
- By Queen
Elizabeth's reign, plays, which often relied on classical sources
such as Plautus and Terence, had adapted classical shrews to English
- No stage directions appear to
explain the York staging of the loading of the animals, the flood itself,
the release of the raven and dove, or the appearance of the rainbow. We must
glean information about these elements through
- close reading of the dialogue
of the pageant and through
- reading more explicit stage
directions in other versions of the Flood in medieval drama, such as
the Chester Noah and the Towneley
Other Noah Links
- The Towneley Noah
in ME text with glossary
is online at the Towneley Plays Project Website, University of Calgary and
at Harvard University's
Chester Noah page
- Link to photos of the 1997 PLS Toronto Fringe Festival production
of the Towneley Noah
- Return to Medieval
- Return to Chaucer--The
- | 373
Syllabus | 373
Assignments | 373
Links | E-Mail Instructor |