Le Jeu d'Adam
Le Jeu d'Adam is a mystery play from the second half of the 12th century made of three parts, the story of the Fall, Cain and Abel, and then a "prophet play. I read two different translations of the play in English, and what struck me most was the treatment of Eve. The play is structured as a mirror of the feudal system, where Adam is a vassal of God, and Eve is the vassal of Adam. However, I found this hierarchy to be rather unstable in the relationship between Eve and Adam. Taking into consideration the fact that I have not read the original because of my lack of skill in Old French, even in the more conservative translation, Eve is Adam's partner, and not merely his servant. She tends the land with him, and their relationship is described in equal terms. The text identifies her as requiring Adam for governing her with reason, but it is she who offers him advice, albeit unwise advice. She is also treated as more individualist and stronger than Adam. She does not hide from her sin and place the blame elsewhere as Adam does. The last thing that I'd like to mention about Eve is her propensity for physical indulgences. She is more interested in the taste of the forbidden fruit than the power it may grant her. Her punishment of feeling pain during childbirth is therefore a fitting punishment for someone whose sins are based in the sensorial as opposed the psychological seen in Adam, who is afraid of appearing as a coward in front of his wife. The play does not feel like it came from the 12th century, but deals with more contemporary, or perhaps it is better to say universal questions, such as who should we listen to? Should we be ambitious? And how do we react in the face of our own misjudgments?
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M.A. French Literature Florida State University