French literary history
Writers by category,
Short story writers,
Adam de la Halle, also known as Adam le Bossu (Adam the Hunchback) (1237?-1288? or after 1306) 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.
Adam's other 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 Italy.
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.
^ Robert Falck, "Adam de la Halle", s.v., Grove Music Online 1 (subscription access), visited 25 March 2007.,
^ François-Joseph Fétis, Revue Musicale 1.1, 1827.,
2004 - Zodiac. Ars Nova and Ars Subtilior in the Low Countries and Europe Capilla Flamenca. Eufoda 1360.