Numerous English plays have dramatized the many stories found in the bible. Most of these plays were done during religious festivals and covered several biblical narratives and stories. There are several coin cycles which began in the late Middle Ages. One of those cycles is the Chester cycle. It was written a long time ago though the author is unknown. The Chester cycle has managed to withstand the test of time and has survived up to this century. There are several plays in the cycle, and the third one is about Noah and the Flood. One significant feature of the play is Noahs wolf. The play depicts women are disobedient, abusive, dispassionate, stubborn and at times violent.
The primary events of the Chester play revolve around the story of the Noahs Ark, found in Genesis 6:1-9.17. However, the play does not focus on the flood itself; rather the play is transformed into a manageable episode of domestic life and what it entails. The play focuses on Noahs wife and her actions. At the turn of the seventeen century, the church was not very tolerant of mysteries surrounding the church or the bible. As such, the Chester cycle was abandoned and would later be revived in the 1950s. The setting is in a small town, Noah is a craftsman, and he has several sons who are his apprentices in his trade. Noahs wife is a wealthy woman and has friends whom she likes spending time with as they drink. Noahs wife does not want to board the ship and leave her friends behind. She thinks the ark is absurdly designed and if she boards it and leaves her friends behind, she will be bored.
In Literary Theory and Criticism, Anne compares the character and behavior of Noahs wife in Chester play with that of the Bible (Anne 55). In the version present in the Bible, there is no mention of Noahs wife but in Chesters play. In the play, she is a high tempered and livid woman. She considers her friends more vital than her family. Noahs wife is of the opinion that she is loved more by her friends compared to her family and she is the only one who can save them from the impending disaster (p. 314 lines 200-8). However, the play is often criticized for promoting sexism. Whereas Noah and his sons are working hard constructing the ark and ensuring that animals are getting in, the wife is busy gossiping with the neighbors. Noah keeps reprimanding and urging her to stop chitchatting and enter the ark, but she does not listen to him. She keeps gossiping with the other neighbors. In the end, her sons get fed up with her, and the incessant pleads of their father, they carry her to the ark while she is still gossiping.
When she gets into the Ark, she slaps Noah, and he does not do anything. He knows how bad-tempered his wife can be and as such, he says it is better to remain still and quiet (p.315 Lines 245-8). Anne is critical of the fact that the wife is portrayed as an insensible woman despite the fact that the play also portrays her as a powerful woman whereas her husband is henpecked (Anne 55). Although the Chester play shows that she is a terrible woman, her role in the play and the society is significant since she provides entertainment through and through. At the end of the flood, God sends a rainbow showing that man has atoned for all the sins he committed and that He shall not punish humankind with floods again (p.318, line 3).
Anne, Stevens. (2015). Literary Theory and Criticism. Chapter 3: The Middle Ages and the
Renaissance. Religion and Biblical Interpretation. Broadview Press.
The Chester's Play of Noah's Flood. Retrieved from
http://www.eng.fju.edu.tw/iacd_99F/medieval_lit/medievalplays/newpage3.htm as at 12/7/2017.
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