Effective Use of Dialogue in The Sacrifice of Isaac
In the Brome version of The Sacrifice of Isaac, the suspense created by the emotionally charged dialogue is likely what kept the audience's attention. While it is incredibly likely that the audience knew the entire story, the emotional flavor of the dialogue, such as Abraham's innocent expressions of his love of and thankfulness for Isaac at the beginning of the play, is bound to evoke a certain concern for the characters which dims the audience's foreknowledge of the tale's happy ending. It is much the same principle that modern television scriptwriters use to hold viewers' attention through a series; the main characters, who can't die because they are needed for next week's episode, are somehow threatened, and, in the end, are saved by the magic of plot twists and cool kung-fu. But, while you are watching these shows, despite the fact you know these characters won't be killed off, your gut twists every time an arrow whizzes past Xena or Batman narrowly avoids the Joker's evil poison gas. It seems that the medieval playwright was just as adept at making his audience forget that they know the end of the story, but this one does it through his characters' dialogue.
Abraham: As Isaac here, my owyn swete son.
I have diverse children moo,
The which I love not halffe so well.
This fayer swet child, he schereys me soo .
Now cum on, Isaac, my owyn swet child;.
Cume on, swete child. I love thee best
Of all the children that I ever begat.
It appears that this opening speech by Abraham is designed to induce the audience to think ahead to God's demand, by offering them a view of Abraham's love for Isaac, and Isaac's fitness as a son. The portions of this speech that I have not quoted show that Abraham's intent in this speech is not to boast, but to thank God for blessing him with the simple joys of life; a good home, a pleasant wife, and a helpful son. The playwright is open with regards to God's reason in asking for the sacrifice of the most useful and beloved of Abraham's sons. As He says in lines 33-34, "I schall asay now his good will, / Whether he lovith better his child or me." In other words, God is jealous, an emotion that I find badly suited to an omnipotent deity, but that the Old Testament emphasizes as one of God's primary motivations.
When the angel first tells Abraham of God's wishes, Abraham states that he has never begrudged God anything, and although it pains him greatly, he will not begrudge God the sacrifice of his son. When he makes this speech, it appears that Abraham is accepting his fate with a brave face and a pounding heart, hoping that his bold acceptance of something he obviously feels is wrong will cause God to back down from his request. At this point, the audience, too, stands with brave faces and pounding hearts, waiting to hear God's acknowledgement of Abraham's acceptance. I certainly found myself mimicking...