Article Title

Source of Order or Sovereign Lord: God and the Pattern of Relationships in Two Middle English "Fall of Lucifer" Plays


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

In The English Mystery Plays (1972), Rosemary Woolf, commenting on the "Fall of Lucifer" plays in the cycles, saw the York and Chester plays as at opposite extremes of competence, with the York as best, the Chester as weakest.1 She criticized the Chester play as "diffuse" and as showing "an abrupt and unmotivated change of heart" in Lucifer (p. 108). Other scholars have assessed the Chester play more positively. Peter Travis, for example, sees the play as "an accomplished opening pageant,"2 and points out, in reply to Woolf's criticism, that "Satan's gradual shift toward evil is an important part of the play's exploration of the phenomenon of free choice." My own evaluation of the Chester "Fall of Lucifer" agrees with Travis', but closer attention to the contrast between it and the York play implied in Woolf's treatment brings out a significant difference in the presentation of God that perhaps underlies the deficiencies some scholars have seen in the play. Comparison of the figure of God as presented in the two plays makes evident the pattern of relationships the Chester playwright uses to make his audience realize the significance of the free choice noted by Travis.

Comparative Drama is carried by JSTOR and Project MUSE.