Adam De La Halle, byname Adam Le Bossu, or Adam The
Hunchback (born c. 1238, Arras, France—died c. 1287, Naples
[now in Italy]), poet, musician, and innovator of the
earliest French secular theatre.
Adam de la Halle, also
known as Adam le Bossu (Adam the Hunchback)
(1238–1287) was a French-born trouvère, poet and
musician, whose literary and musical works include
chansons and jeux-partis (poetic debates) in the
style of the trouveres, polyphonic rondel and motets
in the style of early liturgical polyphony, and a
musical play, "Jeu de Robin et Marion", which is
considered the earliest surviving secular French
play with music. He was a member of the Confrérie
des jongleurs et bourgeois d'Arras.
nicknames, "le Bossu d'Arras" and "Adam d'Arras",
suggest that he came from Arras, France. The
sobriquet "the Hunchback" was probably a family
name; Adam himself points out that he was not one.
His father, Henri de la Halle, was a well-known
Citizen of Arras, and Adam studied grammar,
theology, and music at the Cistercian abbey of
Vaucelles, near Cambrai. Father and son had their
share in the civil discords in Arras, and for a
short time took refuge in Douai. Adam had been
destined for the church, but renounced this
intention, and married a certain Marie, who figures
in many of his songs, rondeaux, motets and
jeux-partis. Afterwards he joined the household of
Robert II, Count of Artois; and then was attached to
Charles of Anjou, brother of Louis IX, whose
fortunes he followed in Egypt, Syria, Palestine, and
At the court of Charles, after
Charles became king of Naples, Adam wrote his Jeu de Robin
et Marion, the most famous of his works. Adam's shorter
pieces are accompanied by music, of which a transcript in
modern notation, with the original score, is given in
Coussemaker's edition. His Jeu de Robin et Marion is cited
as the earliest French play with music on a secular subject.
The pastoral, which tells how Marion resisted the knight,
and remained faithful to Robert the shepherd, is based on an
old chanson, Robin m'aime, Robin m'a. It consists of
dialogue varied by refrains already current in popular song.
The melodies to which these are set have the character of
folk music, and are more spontaneous and melodious than the
more elaborate music of his songs and motets. Fétis
considered Le Jeu de Robin et Marion and Le Jeu de la
feuillée forerunners of the comic opera. An adaptation of Le
Jeu Robin et Marion, by Julien Tiersot, was played at Arras
by a company from the Paris Opéra-Comique on the occasion of
a festival in 1896 in honour of Adam de le Hale.
His other play, Le jeu Adan
or Le jeu de la Feuillee (ca. 1262), is a satirical drama in
which he introduces himself, his father and the citizens of
Arras with their peculiarities. His works include a congé,
or satirical farewell to the city of Arras, and an
unfinished chanson de geste in honour of Charles of Anjou,
Le roi de Sicile, begun in 1282; another short piece, Le jeu
du pelerin, is sometimes attributed to him.
His known works include
thirty-six chansons (literally, "songs"), forty-six rondets
de carole, eighteen jeux-partis, fourteen rondeaux, five
motets, one rondeau-virelai, one ballette, one dit d'amour,
and one congé.