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The tenth play from the York Corpus Christi Plays deals with Abraham's attempt to sacrifice his son Isaak. It is based on Genesis 22. The play was originally performed by the Guilds of Parchmenters and Bookbinders. Appropriately, the latter guild was deeply concerned with the process of binding, which runs through the play. Abraham and Isaak are bound to God and his commands; the servants are bound to Abraham as their employer; finally, Isaak is physically bound to prepare him to be sacrificed. But beyond that is a concern with learning- as each character grapples with what God's command might mean to them. In the end, God's motives are entirely unclear. Is it a cruel test, a dark comedy, or the breaking of an inherited tradition of child sacrifice?
"Father, that shall we ask
Of wiser men than we," says Isaak at the end of the play, and it is not hard to sympathise with the words of a traumatised son, who only wishes to return back down the mountain.
The original script, in 15th Century Middle English, can be found here, courtesy of Prof. Clifford Davidson and the University of Rochester's TEAMS Middle English Text Series.
Watch an adaptation by Tom Straszewski: