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By Christine Richardson, Jackie Johnston (auth.)

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The bulk of the surviving texts and records comes from north and eastern England. Some critics have taken this to indicate that the Mystery Cycles were unknown in the south of the country. Since there are records of cycles in London and Canterbury this would not appear to be the case, and it is perhaps simply the result of better manuscript preservation in the parts of the country which were less politically and intellectually active in the following centuries. a R-Town 'Cain aDd Abel' Of the four surviving complete cycles of Mystery plays, the NTown Cycle is in many ways the most problematical and the least typical.

While many critics feel that the more lively Towneley-Wakefield play represents the most dramatically successful of the Cain and Abel Plays, Eleanor Prosser considers it an example of gratuitous obstructive comedy which works against the doctrinal message and dramatic impact of the play. 6 Cain and Abel are well contrasted figures in theN-Town play. Abel is the contemplative and humble figure who seeks advice first from his earthly father, Adam, and then bends his will to that of his heavenly Father.

They posit a 'proto-cycle' of older plays with infrequent stage directions in Latin, covering the Old Testament plays, the early Life of Christ and a Passion sequence, to which have been added two later 'subcycles' with more frequent stage directions in English, one on the Life of the Virgin and the other a Passion sequence. A certain number of plays with stage directions in English and Latin represent the adaptation of older plays to form links to the newly-grafted material and present a more unified sequence.

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