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A Little-Known Fragment of a Dutch Abraham-and-Sarah Play Mary-Jo Arn Most of the biblical drama in the medieval Dutch vernacular has disappeared in the course of years. There is ample evidence in town and guild records and elsewhere that pageants, proces­ sions, dumb-shows, as well as plays of biblical stories, moralities, and saints’ lives were common occurrences in central and south­ ern Holland as far south as Belgium and as far north as Zwolle.1 The only major piece of biblical drama in the vernacular which is extant from what is now known as The Netherlands is the Maastricht Paaschspel or Easter play (in fact a nearly complete cycle), but the provenance even of that work has been questioned by Professor H. J. E. Endepols, who argues that the play is written in the dialect of Cologne. If this is true, then Holland is truly poor in extant biblical drama in the vernacular. The Joys of Mary (Blijscap van Maria), of which a portion is extant, was played in Brussels. The Play of the Sacrament (Het Sacrament v.d. Nieuwervaart) and the highly secularized allegorical play of The Wise and Foolish Virgins (Van De Vroede en Dwaze Maagden) are only marginally biblical. The Utrecht Antiphonarium (among others) is in Latin. The only texts that remain are two fragments. One is the fifteenth-century Antichrist play from Limburg,2 and the other is a segment of what was probably an Abraham and Sarah play from the region of Zutphen. The Abraham and Sarah fragment was noticed by J. Gimberg, who was associated with the Zutphen archive from 1889 to 1929, and published by him in 1903.3 Zutphen is a Hansa town situated on the bank of the river IJssel, which connects the Rhine with the old Zuyder Zee; in the MARY-JO ARN teaches in the English Institute of the University of Gronigen in Holland. 318 Mary-Jo Am 319 Middle Ages it was an important trade link between Holland and middle and southern Germany (through the Rhine), be­ tween Holland and Denmark, Hamburg, and other North Sea and Baltic ports (through the Zuyder Zee), and between Hol­ land and Flanders. Together with Zwolle and Deventer (which also lie along the IJssel and are both Hansa towns), Zutphen is situated in the northeastemmost region of Holland known to have produced medieval plays. The Abraham and Sarah play is not mentioned in the town records, nor are any other plays mentioned by name. Neverthe­ less, the Zutphen city archives house a single sheet of paper (97 x 182 mm., with horizontal chainlines but no watermark), which appears to be a player’s copy of the role of Sarah, written in couplets, in what must have been an Abraham and Sarah play. The complete lack of evidence of binding along the edges of the leaf and the fact that the text is written on only one side of it is unusual; Professor Johan Gerritsen was able to provide me with evidence that the leaf must have been pasted together with others top and bottom to form a narrow scroll. The relation be­ tween the dimensions of the written space and the size of the leaf itself is therefore probably not the same as it was originally. This fragment is thus very likely a rare example of such a form, a small addition to a very small collection.4 This sheet of paper was kept for many years in a folder full of fragments marked Allerhande merkwaardige manuscripten or “all sorts of note­ worthy manuscripts,” without catalogue or shelfmark number or description.5 Manuscripts from the archives in Zutphen were recently catalogued by codicology students from the University of Nijmegan; thus the fragment has at last received a number: fragmenten verzameling 3-8.6 There seem to be no other play fragments of any kind in the archive. / As far as possible, the Dutch text which follows is laid out exactly as in the original. Abbreviations have been expanded. Virgules have been added at the ends of verse lines, except in line 20, where the virgule is scribal. Note that some verse lines begin with capital letters and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 318-326
Launched on MUSE
2018-07-11
Open Access
No
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