The Brome Play of Abraham and Isaac Background

The Brome Play of Abraham and Isaac Background

It is not known who wrote The Brome Play of Abraham and Isaac; what is known is that it was written in middle England in the fifteenth century in East Anglian English. East Anglian English was one of the dialects that had the greatest influence on the formation of Standard English as we know it today, and was also a precursor of American English. The play is a dramatization of the Binding o Isaac, a story from the Hebrew Bible, a canonical collection of Jewish texts that is the textual source of the Old Testament. They are predominantly written in Biblical Hebrew; the Binding of Isaac is found in the Book of Genesis in Chapter twenty two, and tells of how God asks Abraham to sacrifice his only son Isaac on the mountain range of Moriah. As God's loyal servant, Abraham begins to do as God commands, when a messenger from God interrupts him, and instead Abraham is permitted to sacrifice a ram instead of his son.

One of the possible explanations for the unknown authorship of the play is that the original manuscript was lost for four centuries, re-emerging in the nineteenth century when a copy was discovered in a Commonplace Book, the nineteenth century version of a scrapbook of knowledge and information that the keeper of the scrapbook wants to retain. The Commonplace Book was found at Brome Manor, in Suffolk, which is one of the four counties that make up East Anglia, and given that it was written in East Anglian English, it had not strayed far from its origin. The manuscript was dated 1454 at the earliest, and most scholars have consistently stated that it was written some time in the fifteenth century, John Quincy Adams maintained that it dated back to the fourteenth century.

The Brome Play is linked to the Chester Mystery Plays because of the style of writing and the two hundred areas of similarity found. The Brome manuscript is written with far more superior style, but is nonetheless a better-constructed version of the Abraham Play by the Chester Barbers. Other scholars feel that is it more similar to the York Corpus Christie Plays, a series of forty-eight plays covering biblical history from the creation to the Last Judgement. Wherever the play actually hailed from it is considered to be the best of its genre because of the added human emotions attributed to Abraham.

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