In the Brome version of The Sacrifice of Isaac, the suspense created by the emotionally charged dialogue is likely what kept the audience's attention. While it is incredibly likely that the audience knew the entire story, the emotional flavor of the dialogue, such as Abraham's innocent expressions of his love of and thankfulness for Isaac at the beginning of the play, is bound to evoke a certain concern for the characters which dims the audience's foreknowledge of the tale's happy ending. It is much the same principle that modern television scriptwriters use to hold viewers' attention through a series; the main characters, who can't die because they are needed for next week's episode, are somehow threatened, and, in the end, are saved by the magic of plot twists and cool kung-fu. But, while you are watching these shows, despite the fact you know these characters won't be killed off, your gut twists every time an arrow whizzes past Xena or Batman narrowly avoids the Joker's evil poison gas. It seems that the medieval playwright was just as adept at making his audience forget that they know the end of the story, but this one does it through his characters' dialogue.
Abraham: As Isaac here, my owyn swete son.
I have diverse children moo,
The which I love not halffe so well.
This fayer swet child, he schereys me soo .
Now cum on, Isaac, my owyn swet child;.
Cume on, swete child. I love thee best
Of all the children that I ever begat.
It appears that this opening speech by Abraham is designed to induce the audience to think ahead to God's demand, by offering them a view of Abraham's love for Isaac, and Isaac's fitness as a son. ...
... middle of paper ...
...ng through with the sacrifice.
It becomes quite apparent that the modern scriptwriter does not have exclusive rights to the use of enrapturing dialogue in the creation of gripping scenes. In fact, it may be argued that the medieval playwright was more reliant on dialogue to interest the audience because he needed to write a play that would be engaging on a limited and often primitive set. In just reading this play, I became attuned to the reactions of an audience viewing the play; I believe this attests to the playwright's effective use of language, particularly dialogue, since there are few stage directions, in his composition of The Sacrifice of Isaac.
Ackerman, R. W. Backgrounds to Medieval English Literature. New York: Random House, 1966.
Robertson, D. W., ed. The Literature of Medieval England. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1970.
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