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“Cain and Abel”

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Anonymous (English playwright, flourished probably early 1400s), modernized by Alexandra F. Johnson (Canadian academic, ____-____), “Cain and Abel,”

a 10-minute N-Town Bible-history cycle play in English, set outside of Eden, 15th century concept of Old Testament time,


  •  © 1999 by Alexandra F. Johnston;  •  script/rights for academic or performance use is freely granted, provided that no alterations are made in the texts. All other rights reserved. However, donations to the work of Records of Early English Drama, 150 Charles Street West, Toronto M5S 1K9, Canada, would be welcome.  •  Full script available at N-Town Pageant 2: Cain and Abel, http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/~ajohnsto/frntmt.html, on the site of Medieval English Drama: Modernized Performance Texts, http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/~ajohnsto/index.html, accessed November 10, 2001; Johnston says,

  §  Dramatis Personae Abel (m), son of Adam and Eve; Cain (m), son of Adam and Eve; Adam (m), father of Abel and Cain; God (m), Father of Mankind.

  §  Synopsis Abel urges Cain to go with him to seek their father's blessing. Cain responds, “I can be merry! So might be thee! / If my father I never see, / I give thereof not a straw.” Abel persists and they kneel before Adam, who counsels them to love and dread God and give Him burnt sacrifice. Both sons agree to follow the advice, so their father blesses them. Abel tithes his best sheep. Cain tithes a shrivelled sheaf, adding, “Let God take it, or else it leave. / Though it be to me great reproof / I care not at this tide.” Abel’s criticism of this act builds into a heated argument between the brothers. They burn their offerings. Mocked by Cain, Abel says, “Of the best was my tithing, / Of the worst was thy offering. / Therefore, God almighty, heaven’s king / Allowed right not thy deed.” Cain turns on his brother. “What, thou stinking wretch, and is it so? / Doth God thee love and hateth me? / Thou shalt be dead, I shall thee slay! / Thy lord, thy God, shalt thou never see, / Tithing more shalt thou never do. / With this jaw bone I shall slay thee. / Thy death is now, thy days are gone. / Out of my hands shalt thou not flee. / With this stroke, I thee kill! / Now this boy is slain and dead. / Of him I shall never more have dread. / He shall hereafter never eat bread. / With this grass, I shall him hide.” Then God calls Cain to account for his brother. “Cain come forth and answer me. / Answer my question anon right / Thy brother Abel, where is he now?" Cain claims not to be his brother’s keeper, “I know not where he is.” God condemns Cain, “And for thy deed thou shalt sore rue.” Cain, fully aware of his sin, says, “Now will I go, wend my way / With sore sighing and wellaway / To look where that I best may / From man’s sight me hide.”

 §  Comment “. . . [The] plays in the N-Town manuscript provide a wide variety of types of Biblical drama from the two-part Passion Play and the plays on the Virgin Mary to well-crafted stand-alone single episode plays such as the Trial of Mary and Joseph and the Woman Taken in Adultery. They are offered here as both performance and teaching texts in the hope that they will allow more people to come to know and love the lively world of the late medieval English theatre.”  •  For information about the texts of other medieval and Renaissance plays available on the World Wide Web, click here, http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/~reed/stage.html#texts.

  §  Themes Bible-history, curse of Cain, family, fratricide, Genesis, murder, Old Testament.

This Website continues under construction and welcomes new citations and comments.

Page mounted November 10, 2001, and updated June 17, 2004, by the Webmaster.

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Small-Cast One-Act Guide Online


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1/2/3/4 for the Show: A Guide to Small-Cast One-Act Plays

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