Date and Composition
of the Chester Cycle and the Chester Noah
written text probably comes from
the latest version of the Chester cycle, dating to the sixteenth century,
author is unknown
would have been performed on a
pageant wagon, in a procession through the streets of Chester with other cycle
primary sources include
the Bible (many quotations
from the Latin Vulgate),
the apochryphal Gospels,
Comestor's Historia Scholastica,
de Voragine's Legenda Aurea,
among other common sources
Noah exemplifies a number
of typological relationships (i.e., the characters, themes, and events
prefigure characters, themes, and events that appear later in bibilical tradition
or figurally refer back to earlier ones.)
The Flood itself can be seen
as prefiguring both Christ's Baptism and the destruction of the world
by God at the Last Judgment.
"The story of Noah
is thus both a continuation of the Fall of Man and a prelude to the
coming of Christ" (Bevington, 290).
Noah is a type of Adam: both
are acting on specific orders from God but are then deterred from their
duty by disobedient wives. Noah, however, does not give in to his wife
whereas Adam does.
Noah is also a type of Christ,
saving true believers from destruction.
Mrs. Noah is a type of Eve
and also represents recalcitrant sinners who refuse to follow Christ.
The Ark is the true church
of believers, saved from destruction.
The argument between Noah and
his wife does not appear in Genesis. It is a medieval tradition related to
fabliaux, such as The
Shrewish Wife was a motif common to classical drama
and native British literature drama. For
playwright Plautus' Menaechmi has shrewish "Mrs. Menaechmus."
Wife of Bath (14th c.) might also be considered a shrew.
English version of the shrewish wife appears in early drama as "Mrs.
Noah," who refuses to board the ark with her husband in order
to stay with her friends.
the Tudor period, dramatic interludes and farces relied for comic
effect on the stock character of the "violent, intractable, sharp-tongued"
wives who cuckold husbands and order them around.
Queen Elizabeth's reign, plays, which often relied on classical sources
such as Plautus and Terence, had adapted classical shrews to English
of a prefabricated ark in front of the audience and the use of animal pictures
on cards to symbolize the beast boarding the ark are examples of special effects
in medieval drama that would have added to the audience's enjoyment of the