Charles T. Downey
The earliest surviving dramatic work in the French vernacular is a semiliturgical play now known as the Jeu d’Adam. This singular work is preserved in only one manuscript copy, Tours, Bibliothèque municipale, 927—a book copied in southern France between 1225 and 1250.1 Scholars have hypothesized that the play was originally created in the second half of the twelfth century, in an Anglo-Norman dialect,2 and that it is either the conglomeration of multiple fragments or the work of a single author.3 Most specialists agree that the play originated either in northern France, under the domination of England,4 or in England itself,5 despite the southern French origin of the only surviving manuscript copy.
1For the first edition of this work, see Victor Luzarche, Adam: drame Anglo-Normand du XIIIe siècle publié pour la première fois d’après un manuscript de la Bibliothèque de Tours (Tours: J. Bouserez, 1854). The play survives on fols. 20r–40r of the manuscript, under the title Ordo representacionis Ade, and is only one component in a collection of plays and other items. A facsimile of this portion of the manuscript has been published, with a parallel diplomatic edition of the text, as Le Mystère d’Adam, édition diplomatique accompagnée d’une reproduction photographique du manuscrit de Tours et des leçons des éditions critiques, ed. Leif Sletsjøe, Bibliothèque française et romane, D2 (Paris: Klincksieck, 1967). For further information concerning the manuscript, see Léopold Delisle, “Note sur le manuscrit de Tours,” Romania 2 (1873): 91–95. Of the many editions of the play, those most useful for my purposes were Le Mystère d’Adam (Ordo Representacionis Ade), ed. Paul Aebischer (Geneva: Droz, 1964); “Adam, a Twelfth-Century Play Translated from the French with an Introduction and Notes,” trans. Lynette Muir, Proceedings of the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society 13 (1970): 149–204; Le Jeu d’Adam (Ordo representacionis Ade), ed. Willem Noomen (Paris: Champion, 1971); and Le Jeu d’Adam (El Drama de Adán): Edición del manuscrito 927 de la Biblioteca Municipal de Tours, ed. Ricardo R. Morales, Clásicos Universidad de Málaga (Málaga: Universidad de Málaga, 1994).
2 The scribe of the Tours manuscript, however, has apparently modified several words according to more typically southern spellings (Mystère d’Adam, ed. Aebischer, 14–15).
3 One critic writes, for example, that “if the play is to be considered a masterpiece today…it must be thought of as a total work; its unity and coherence must be demonstrated on literary as well as philological grounds” (William C. Calin, “Structural and Doctrinal Unity in the Jeu d’Adam,” Neophilologus 46 : 249). On this topic, see also Madeline M. Nevins, “Le Jeu d’Adam: Its Unity and Complexity” (Ph.D. diss., Tufts University, 1973). The twelfth-century origin of the play has been deemed “appropriate for the socio-political emphases” of this feudal language; see Wendy Morgan, “‘Who Was Then the Gentleman?’: Social, Historical, and Linguistic Codes in the Mystère d’Adam,” Studies in Philology 79 (1982): 105. A more recent study notes the “rather traditional liturgical introduction” but maintains that “the play swiftly departs from its source to depict the fall in a specifically feudal context” (Kathleen Blumreich-Moore, “Original Sin as Treason in Act 1 of the Mystère d’Adam,” Philological Quarterly 72 : 126).
4 For example, the Tours codex may have been copied “from a manuscript that must have been created a half-century earlier in the northern provinces under the control of the Plantagenets” (Delisle, “Note,” 95; translation mine).
5 For an interpretation of the Jeu d’Adam as “from England,” see O. B. Hardison, Jr., Christian Rite and Christian Drama in the Middle Ages: Essays in the Origin and Early History of Modern Drama (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1965), 257. Consider also the following: “I am leaning more and more toward the hypothesis that the work was written in England” (Jean-Charles Payen, “Idéologie et Théâtralité dans l’Ordo representationis Adae,” Études Anglaises 25 : 19; translation mine). For other viewpoints, see Grace Frank, “The Genesis and Staging of the Jeu d’Adam,” PMLA 59 (1944): 7–17, and “Transitional Plays: Le Mystère d’Adam,” in The Medieval French Drama, 2d ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967), 74–84; and Andreas Kotte, Theatralität im Mittelalter: das Halberstädter Adamsspiel (Tübingen: Francke, 1994).