Abraham’s home. This miracle play does not specify where Abraham lives, apart from his early statement that he understands his home to be a gift from God. According to biblical accounts, however, Abraham lived in Beersheba, a town in southern Palestine where Abraham entered into an oath with Abimelech that guaranteed him both water and grazing rights. In the play, the residents of Abraham’s land practice human sacrifice; when he is called upon to take his son on a journey, he expects it will end in his son’s sacrifice. After being tested on the mountain, Abraham returns home and receives further blessing.
Mountain. Crest of an unnamed mountain on which the play reaches its climax three days after Abraham leaves his home. Biblical texts identify this place as Moriah. Abraham’s three-day journey to the mountain advances the plot and informs the audience that Abraham’s son Isaac is unaware that he is to be sacrificed, although Abraham is fully aware of what he is expected to do. A raised elevation on the stage suggests the proximity to divinity of the participants. It also removes the act from the normal realm of life, thus reinforcing the sacred obligation involved. The place of devotion to God and human elevation, in this play, ironically, becomes a temporary place of despair since Abraham fully intends to slay his son.
Dramatic tension is relieved when an angel interrupts Abraham’s sacrifice and a ram is substituted for his son. The mountain thereafter symbolizes complete devotion to the deity and marks a milestone in Abraham’s evolving theology. The mountain is the place of epiphany on which Abraham realizes that human sacrifice is not required of him, thus separating him from his social context. It also comes to be recognized as a place of divine provision. The play’s fifteenth century audiences associated Isaac symbolically with Jesus Christ and saw the play as a prefiguring of Christ’s Crucifixion; they therefore associated its mountain with the place of the Crucifixion.