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5 The Norwich Grocers’ Play(s) (1533, 1565): Development and Changes in the Representation of Man’s Fall

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Chapter Summary

This essay deals with the two versions of the Fall of Man episode, the only surviving play(s) of the lost Norwich cycle of mystery plays (the A and B texts). After discussing their scholarly reception, this article highlights the main differences between the pre-Reformation and the post-Reformation texts, focussing on the endings, perceptibly different because in the Reformed text a more positive and hopeful future for Adam and Eve is substituted to the tone of utter despair of the Catholic version. At the end of the episode, the B text introduces allegorical characters, thus mixing the mystery and the moral play traditions. The relationships and parallels between the Norwich plays and the other extant cycles are then studied, emphasizing the characterization of the protagonists (Adam, Eve, and the devil) and showing how even the attempt at ‘reforming’ a Catholic play still relies heavily on the old tradition, so much so that prologues are introduced in the B text, in order to justify the legitimacy of a Biblical play (when strictly adhering to the Scriptures) even under the new religion. Despite the efforts of the compiler of the more recent text, the last known performance in Norwich was as early as 1565.



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