Noah's Flood, the River Jordan, the Rea Sea: Staging in the Towneley Cycle


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

Four plays of the Towneley Cycle present intriguing references to water as a staging property. These plays are III. Processus Noe cum filiis, V. Jacob, VIII. Pharao, and XIX. Johannes baptista in which are represented Noah's flood, the River Jordan, the Red Sea, and, again, the River Jordan, respectively. The obvious issue is, of course, the method by which water as a staging requirement was presented. Hardin Craig has drawn attention to the entry in the accounts of the Coventry Cappers' Company which reads: ."It. p'd for halfe a yard of rede sea vjd."1 If the Red Sea could be represented in such a manner by a piece of cloth, so presumably could any other stretch of water. And M. D. Anderson notes that a nave boss in Norwich Cathedral presents an Ark seeming to float on water which looks more like painted cloth than formalized ripples used to represent actual. water. She suggests that cloth was possibly draped over the wheels which · supported the moving Ark, to hide them and at the same time to pretend the rippling movement of water.2 However, there are many references to painted cloth used in connection with processional production or in any production using a raised waggon in which the cloth was hung around the sides of the cart to hide the wheels. Draped cloth, then, is not necessarily associated with water. Nor is it always valid to assume that when water was required, draped cloth was the only means of representing it. This paper proposes that such an assumption may not accurately be made within the context of Towneley production and that a much greater likelihood exists that real water was present in the acting area to serve as a staging property.

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