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Performance and Theatricality in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance
Arizona Studies in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance Volume 41
General Editor Robert E. Bjork
Performance and Theatricality in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
© 2018 BREPOLS Printed on acid-free paper ISBN: 978-2-503-57987-0 D/2018/0095/101 e-ISBN: 978-2-503-57988-7 DOI: 10.1484/M.ASMAR-EB.5.115236 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher.
In memory of Claire Sponsler
Table of Contents Introduction ix Mark Cruse The Intersubjective Performance of Confession vs. Courtly Profession Marisa Galvez
Performing Prudence in Sawles Warde and Chaucer’s Tale of Melibee 17 Candace Hull Taylor The Spectacle of Sainthood: Performance and Politics of La Festa et Storia di Sancta Caterina in Siena Jenna Soleo-Shanks
A Case For Reperformance: Illustrations in the Istoire de la Destruction de Troie la Grant Lofton L. Durham
Tracing Medieval Performance: The Visual Archive †Claire Sponsler
The Discourse about Gender Relationships on the Urban Stage in Late Medieval German Shrovetide Plays and Verse Narratives Albrecht Classen
Subversive Imagery in Bruegel’s The Dirty Bride and Valentine and Orson 135 Catherine Schultz McFarland Staging the Thirty Years’ War: Jesuit Drama and the Politics of Duke Maximilian I of Bavaria, 1600–1625 William Bradford Smith
Musical Performance in Lope de Vega’s La discordia en los casados 177 [Discord between Spouses] Ivy Howell Walters Drama in the Service of Orthodoxy: Dimitrii of Rostov’s Theatrical Investigation of the Schism J. Eugene Clay
Introduction Mark Cruse
This volume is intended as a contribution to the increasingly cross-cultural and globally oriented study of theater and performance in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. The essays gathered here encompass territories in modern Austria, England, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Russia, and Spain and examine material from the thirteenth century to the eighteenth. As these essays demonstrate, performance creates blended spaces — both representational and lived, both imaginary and concrete — which allow for the production of identities, beliefs, or relationships. These spaces may arise when one culture’s performance practices influence those of another. They may be the product of the mixing of different genres, eras, or personages. These performative spaces may appear on stages, in urban squares, or in books, and they may allow for contact between genders, classes, religions, or political groups. Underlying all of these essays is the understanding that performance seeks to shape reality — that in all of the cultural contexts included here, performance opened a space in which patrons, rulers, writers, spectators, painters, and readers could see themselves or their societies differently and, as a result, might alter their identities or the world they inhabited. Marisa Galvez’s essay “The Intersubjective Performance of Confession vs. Courtly Profession” offers an example of how performance could transform one’s inner reality. She compares different understandings of penance that circulated in the late Middle Ages and their expressions in lay culture. The pious fables Le chevalier au Barisel and Fornication imitée both reflect the contritionist view of confession, which held that a penitent state of mind and the outward manifestation of contrition were crucial to a successful confession. Proper penance was thus a performance in which inner and outer selves corresponded. As these tales also emphasize, repentance could be incited by witnessing the penance of another person; thus the spectacle of penitence could alter one’s inner state and make an effective confession possible. Galvez contrasts this conception of confession with that found in crusade love songs such as “Aler m’estuet” by the Châtelain d’Arras, in which the knight Performance and Theatricality in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, ed. by Mark Cruse, ASMAR 41 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2018), pp. ix–xiii.
refuses to declare that he goes on crusade for purely penitential reasons. Rather, he insists upon his devotion to his lady and upon the conflict he feels as he leaves her behind; the operative intersubjective relationship here is not between two penitents, as in the pious fables, but between the knight and his lady. Poems such as “Aler m’estuet” represent a refashioning of the penitential process, combining spiritual objectives with courtly and chivalric values that privileged amorous interaction and the performance of the noble self. In “Performing Prudence in Sawles Warde and Chaucer’s Tale of Melibee,” Candace Hull Taylor focuses on the theatrical conceits and structures that underpin these two works. She examines the ways in which these works transform Prudence from a static icon into an animated agent. Both texts draw on Gregory the Great’s allegory figuring the soul as a house or tower attacked by thieves. In the thirteenth-century Sawles Warde, which was written for an anchoritic audience, Prudence guards the door to the house. Taylor argues that Prudence acts much like the expositor in a play: she occupies a liminal position between the space of action and the reader/audience, orchestrates the comings and goings of characters, has them speak, and regulates the rhythm of activity. There are further performative echoes between her role, liturgy, and sermons. The Prudence in Sawles Warde is designed for readers trained in meditative visualization; she is the intermediary between the scenario and the reader, and by controlling discourse she also, to a great extent, controls and aids interpretation. In Chaucer’s Tale of Melibee, Prudence is once again an active figure whose intervention is meant to guide the main protagonist (and Prudence’s husband) Melibee to wisdom, but here she is set in a much more realistic and constrained situation than the Prudence in Sawles Warde. Not only is she a wife with a family who is brutally attacked but also Chaucer’s Prudence must contend with the stream of sayings and authors that her husband confusedly cites. A more grounded figure, Chaucer’s Prudence is still exemplary, but the stage on which she acts reflects the complexities and outward focus of the lay world rather than the organization and inner contemplation of the religious life. In “The Spectacle of Sainthood: Performance and Politics of La Festa et Storia di Sancta Caterina in Siena,” Jenna Soleo-Shanks discusses the chronicle account of a procession and performance in honor of Saint Catherine that occurred in Siena in 1446. Soleo-Shanks argues that the performance at this event was likely La Festa et Storia di Sancta Caterina, a play about Catherine of Alexandria that served as a thinly veiled memorial to the local holy woman Catherine Benincasa (1347–80). Benincasa, or Saint Catherine of Siena, could not be represented as a saint until her canonization in 1461, but she nonetheless was a member of Siena’s “civic pantheon” in the preceding decades. In her lifetime, Benincasa had had a complicated and often antagonistic relationship with the Sienese authorities, but the play allowed the city both to celebrate her sanctity and to legitimate the government’s power and policies. La Festa et Storia di Sancta Caterina allowed the Sienese to celebrate Benincasa without overtly depicting her as a saint. As Soleo-Shanks shows, the play is full of references that transformed the ancient saint’s life into a specifically Sienese
story, through references to Benincasa’s life, to other Sienese plays, to local sites and Sienese history, and through the participation of Sienese civic authorities. La Festa et Storia di Sancta Caterina is an example of the ways in which medieval and early modern theater created blended spaces by rewriting history and its legitimating narratives. In “A Case For Reperformance: Illustrations in the Istoire de la Destruction de Troie la Grant,” Lofton L. Durham examines the relationship between theatricality and late medieval manuscript illumination. His focus is Paris, BnF, fr. 12601 (ca. 1460), the most extensively illustrated copy of Jacques Milet’s 1452 play the Istoire de la Destruction de Troie la Grant. The miniatures in BnF fr. 12601 employ minimalist and repetitive visual formulas to depict characters, actions, and setting and have been largely ignored by art historians. Durham argues that the seeming simplicity of these images is in fact a complement to the play text that expresses a conscious desire to frame the book as a performance. Instead of drawing on the iconographic tradition of the Troy legend in manuscripts, the illuminations in BnF fr. 12601 are designed in a manner that echoes the use of conventional gestures, props, and decor in theatrical staging. The miniatures do not illustrate the text so much as heighten the effects of the written dialogue and stage directions. Actions are depicted as if they were being staged for the reader, thereby inviting the reader to consume the play not only as a textual and visual artifact but also as a memorable performance. In “Tracing Medieval Performance: The Visual Archive,” Claire Sponsler asks what may be learned about medieval theater from medieval images. She begins by noting the difficulties that modern scholars face when studying medieval theater. By what criteria do we define centuries-old ephemeral events as theatrical? How do we recognize their traces in medieval books and artifacts? She then focuses on the Beauchamp Pageant (London, British Library, MS Cotton Julius E. iv), whose fifty-three captioned drawings, produced between 1483 and 1492, depict the life of Richard Beauchamp, earl of Warwick (1382–1439). Sponsler argues that these images, although they do not accompany a play text, are nonetheless imbued with performance effects. As a leading member of the nobility, Beauchamp lived a life of public service and display, whether as a soldier, courtier, or diplomat. The Beauchamp Pageant images capture his exemplary behavior in scenes that evoke theatrical space and spectacle and that incite the viewer to recall the experience of witnessing live performance. The captions echo the banners and inscriptions at plays and entries, the positioning of figures recalls theatrical blocking, and the attention to costume and objects endows the images with a ceremonial grandeur. At the same time that the Beauchamp Pageant offers insight into the relationship between performance and late medieval visual culture, it also reminds us of the arbitrary and constructed nature of the medieval pictorial archive and of the need to be attentive to the ways in which power and memory shaped it. Albrecht Classen’s essay, “The Discourse about Gender Relationships on the Urban Stage in Late Medieval German Shrovetide Plays and Verse Narratives,”
examines an extensive dramatic corpus that enjoyed great popularity in the Germanophone realms during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Remarkable for the breadth of social types, discourses, and subjects that they represented, these plays were central features of urban carnival culture. Among the many topics that they addressed, one of the most prevalent was the relationship between men and women. While traditional scenarios based on farces and the war of the sexes were common, so too were more nuanced and humanizing interactions that spoke to the complexities of rapidly changing urban society. As Classen observes, the plays express traditional male fears about sexual inadequacy, but they tie this to the fierce economic competition that made financially successful men more likely to attract women and to marry. Women’s anxieties and frustrations are also given voice, as when characters speak of the double standards that require women to be attractive but not excessively so. Many plays are about the financial and sexual tensions that exist within marriage as seen from both the husband’s and the wife’s perspective. Both an introduction to and an overview of this neglected corpus, Classen’s article demonstrates the importance of these dramas to articulating the social and moral preoccupations of late medieval Germanophone cities. In “Subversive Imagery in Bruegel’s The Dirty Bride and Valentine and Orson,” Catherine Schultz McFarland examines the meanings embedded in two prints with theatrical themes. A few years before his death, Bruegel chose to reproduce as prints two scenes from his painting The Battle between Carnival and Lent. The Dirty Bride and The Masquerade of Valentine and Orson were both Carnival farces with medieval and folk origins. McFarland argues that both prints were produced in response to the nationalistic and religious violence caused by policies of the ruling Spanish government. The prints are sister works that may be read in multiple ways: as a protest against Spanish attempts to suppress Carnival and theater; as a critique of the Spanish regent Margaret of Parma; as a celebration of Dutch peasantry; as an erudite play on genre; as a coded reference to Protestantism and its embrace of the popular and low; or as a defense of social mixing. For McFarland, the prints of The Dirty Bride and The Masquerade of Valentine and Orson express sympathy for the everyman and an acceptance of human weakness that are hallmarks of Bruegel’s tolerant humanism. Bruegel chose to produce these particular prints to send a broadly accessible message about the importance of theater, play, and multiple identities. In “Staging the Thirty Years’ War: Jesuit Drama and the Politics of Duke Maximilian I of Bavaria, 1600–1625,” William Bradford Smith examines the role of Jesuit theater in articulating and shaping the ambitions of Maximilian I (1598– 1651), one of the founders of the Catholic League. Bavaria was a major center for Jesuit drama from the mid-sixteenth century. The Jesuits had access to the latest theatrical practices from Italy, which allowed them to produce large spectacles with elaborate special effects. Jesuit drama was political and polemical and presented the struggle between Catholics and Protestants in apocalyptic terms. Smith discusses the several plays devoted to the life of Emperor Henry II, the duke of Bavaria
who became the last Ottonian ruler (r. 1002–4) and was remembered for monastic reforms and the consolidation of the eastern border of the Empire against the pagan Slavs. Smith argues that the early performances of these plays were meant to legitimize Maximilian’s claims to greater authority within the Empire. Once these goals were achieved, a second wave of plays depicted victories over Henry’s heathen enemies to celebrate the Catholic League’s early victories and to call for expanded conflict. Yet Maximilian himself did not endorse a wider war, which leads Smith to note the dangers inherent in using the stage for propaganda: the patron can lose control of the message when play writers and producers recast the patron’s intent or present him as something he is not. Ivy Howell Walters’ essay, “Musical Performance in Lope de Vega’s La discordia en los casados (Discord between Spouses),” examines the function of music in a didactic comedy of the Spanish Golden Age. Walters argues that music used in seventeenth-century theater was by its very nature metatheatrical, not only because it was performed for both internal and external audiences simultaneously but also because playwrights and performers generally drew on pre-existing songs, melodies, or dances known to the public. Music was thus a form of communication between characters on stage, as well as a device that broke the fourth wall and heightened audience engagement. Walters sees the two musical interludes in La discordia en los casados as exemplifying the complexity of theater music in this period. Within the world of the play, the interludes advance the plot, affirm social status and social hierarchy, and demonstrate the insight (or lack thereof) of main characters. As a self-referential wink at the audience, however, the interludes highlight the central themes of the play, cite classical intertexts, foreshadow, create a sense of foreboding, and underscore the play’s didactic message. In their mixing of genres and classes, the musical interludes in this play also reflect and address the mixed — both courtly and common — audience for which it was intended and thereby show how music allowed Golden Age theater to succeed with such a broad public. In “Drama in the Service of Orthodoxy: Dmitrii of Rostov’s Theatrical Investigation of the Schism,” J. Eugene Clay discusses the polemical works written by Dimitrii, the Metropolitan of Rostov (r. 1702–9), to counter the revolt of the Old Believers against the reform of the Russian Orthodox Church. The schism was largely the product of disagreements about ritual performance, with the Old Believers rejecting the new practices introduced by Patriarch Nikon of Moscow (r. 1652–58). Clay shows that to defend the reforms, Dimitrii drew on his knowledge of Western European theater and on his innate understanding of didactic theatricality to shape perceptions of the debate. Dimitrii not only wrote plays and didactic narrative scenarios that presented readers with examples of the perfidy of Old Believers but also depicted Old Believer rituals as empty spectacles devoid of spiritual meaning or salvific power. By writing in the vernacular and offering instruction to commoners through vivid, emotionally charged scenarios, Dimitrii pioneered new forms of theater and of religious education that long influenced dramatic and religious culture in Russia.
The Intersubjective Performance of Confession vs. Courtly Profession Marisa Galvez Confession requires the close interaction between confessor and penitent, an intersubjective experience of private penance. This experience has rarely been placed in dialogue with an altogether different mode of intersubjectivity that occurs in courtly lyric, in which a male speaker addresses a ventriloquized beloved lady. Yet such a comparison not only provides insight into how repentance, a major theme of medieval everyday life that intertwined with performative modes of intersubjectivity, was represented in various ways. It also illuminates how courtly literature might have been in tension with vernacular representations of how one could be led to sincere penance. This essay will examine how the intersubjective performance of a crusade love song, “Aler m’estuet” [I had to go], composed in the first quarter of the thirteenth century by the trouvère Châtelain d’Arras, 1 responds to the emphasis on intersubjective confession in the edifying tales Le Chevalier au Barisel and Fornication imitée. 2 Barisel and Fornication reflect a culture of confession during the thirteenth century that required both internal and external penitential acts to be efficacious. They both feature the figure of the fraternal hermit, who represents the role of the confessor in the thirteenth century, and engage in the theological discussions concerning contrition and regular mandatory confession prescribed by the Fourth Lateran Council (1215). 3 In contrast, whereas the Church understood crusade as 1 Les Chansons de croisade, ed. Joseph Bédier and Pierre Aubry (New York: Burt Franklin, 1909; repr. Geneva: Slatkine reprints, 1971), 137–39. 2 Le chevalier au barisel: Conte pieux du XIII siècle, ed. Félix Lecoy (Paris: Champion, 1955); Fornication imitée, in La Vie des Pères, ed. Félix Lecoy, 3 vols. (Paris: Société des Anciens Textes Français, 1987, 1993, 1999), 1:3–14. 3 Jean-Charles Payen, Le Motif du repentir dans la littérature française médiévale (des origines à 1230) (Geneva: Droz, 1967), 551; Adrian P. Tudor, Tales of Vice and Virtue: The First Old French Vie des Pères (Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi, 2005), 508.
Performance and Theatricality in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, ed. by Mark Cruse, ASMAR 41 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2018), pp. 1–16.
an act of penance, crusade love lyrics of departure such as “Aler” speak about the motivation for crusade in courtly terms and displace the ecclesiastical language of repentance and self-negation with a courtly reluctance to depart from the lady and to surrender earthly cares. They refuse the internal repentance a crusader should have as he departs for crusade — the “right intention” or intentio recta linked to pura conscientia and contritio cordis exhorted most famously by Bernard of Clairvaux in De Laude Novae Militiae (ca. 1128–37) but also by preachers of and apologists for crusade. Apologists for the Second Crusade such as Bernard, Peter the Venerable, and Ralph Niger, who subscribed to the pilgrimage tradition, emphasized that the physical imitatio Christi was of little value unless it was accompanied by an internal spiritual imitatio. This imitatio took the form of a moral regeneration that was a mark of true repentance. 4 Rather than being moved to repentance by an intersubjectivity that depends on the fraternal role of the confessor or friend as in Barisel and Fornication, the crusader lover in “Aler” is moved to crusade by a beloved lady whom he remembers as he departs: it is she who spurs both celestial and earthly prowess, as he says in the closing envoi of “Aler” 5: Li chastelains d’Arras dit en ses chans Ne doit avoir amour vraie enterine Ki a la fois n’en est liés et dolans: Par ce se met del tout en ses comans. [The châtelain says in his songs that he must not have a true sincere heart, who at the same time is not joyful and sad: this is why he places himself entirely under (Love’s) commands.]
The crusader lover in “Aler” departs unrepentant of his earthly love; his song expresses a conflicted motivation to serve the Lord and his Lady because his heart serves his lady while his body goes Outremer to serve the Lord. Unlike songs that exhort crusade and espouse the ideology of popular sermons, crusade love songs attempt to reconcile courtly love and Christian militant action by emphasizing the sacrifice of the knight who leaves under constraint. 6 As I will discuss, the song See Elizabeth Siberry, Criticism of Crusading: 1095–1274 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1985), 96; E.O. Blake, “The Formation of the ‘Crusade Idea,’” Journal of Ecclesiastical History 21 (1970): 11–31, at 25–30; Bernard of Clairvaux, Opera, ed. J. Leclercq and H.M. Rochais (Rome: Editiones Cistercienses, 1957–77), vol. 3, Tractatus et opuscula (1963), 213–39; Ralph Niger, De Re Militari et Triplici Via Peregrinationis Ierosolimitane, ed. Ludwig Schmugge (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1977), 92, ll. 18–25. 5 See Payen, Le Motif du repentir, 546–53, esp. 551. 6 Jean-Charles Payen, “‘Peregris’: De l’amor de lonh’ au congé courtois,” in Cahiers de civilisation médiévale 67 (1974): 247–55; Lisa Perfetti, “Crusader as Lover: The Eroticized Poetics of Crusading in Medieval France,” Speculum 88.4 (2013): 932–57. 4
Confession vs. Courtly Profession
crafts an unrepentant intersubjectivity between crusader and lady that asserts a courtly code of spiritual and earthly chivalry, a lyrical articulation of crusade that responds to the performative situation of confession represented in the tales. While Barisel and Fornication depict reluctant sinners moved to repentance by fraternal confessors, courtly lyric promotes an unrepentant intersubjectivity that reconciles the ethic of fin’amor or true love, chivalric glory, and militant Christian duty. 7 This comparison of confession and crusade love lyrics is informed by Michel Foucault’s celebrated study of confessional discourse (as well as criticisms of its narrow view of medieval culture) but also examines how trouvères were perhaps going back to what Foucault noted as the archaic idea of “aveu” in response to the new discourse of confession — “aveu” formerly meaning “status, identity, and value granted to one person by another” before “it came to signify someone’s acknowledgment of his own actions and thoughts.” 8 We can find evidence of this lyrical resistance to the reformist focus on interiority in an aristocratic crusade love song such as “Aler.” Following Foucault’s definition of “aveu,” love songs of departure constitute avowals, what I will call “professions,” that assert status in relation to a beloved or to others rather than confessions of self-examination. In this sense, crusade love lyrics reaffirm the poet’s fealty to an elite courtly audience even as they profess membership in the Christian community of crusaders. Through the art of song, crusader poets show that even as they physically leave an aristocratic community bound by courtly values, and are initiated as milites Christi into the crusader community bound by a different set of vows sealed by confession, they ultimately maintain their double obligation to both.
For an overview of crusade in medieval French literature, see D.A. Trotter, Medieval French Literature and the Crusades (1100–1300) (Geneva: Droz, 1987), esp. 178–86 for crusade love songs; John W. Baldwin’s discussion of “aristocratic religion” in Aristocratic Life in Medieval France: The Romances of Jean Renart and Gerbert de Montreuil, 1190–1230 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000), esp. 194–247; and Payen’s analysis of crusade songs of departure in “‘Peregris.’” 8 Michel Foucault, Histoire de la sexualité I: La volonté du savoir (Paris: Gallimard, 1976), 78–84, translation from The History of Sexuality: An Introduction, Vol. 1, trans. Robert Hurley (New York: Vintage, 1990), 58. Andrew James Johnston illuminates how the secrecy of Gawain’s confessional scene and his absolution refuses the modern Foucauldian fascination with interiority and subjectivity emerging from the discipline of confession; rather, as Johnston argues, the poem asserts a ritualistic view of confession in which secrecy is maintained. The enigmatic nature of the confession in this text allows the narrative to affirm chivalric values and the authority of the priest while also refusing interpretive closure. See Andrew James Johnston, “The Secret of the Sacred: Confession and the Self in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,” in Performances of the Sacred in Late Medieval and Early Modern England, ed. Susanne Rupp and Tobias Döring, Internationale Forschungen zur Allgemeinen und Vergleichenden Literaturwissenschaft 86 (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2005), 45–63. 7
Penitential Culture and Intersubjective Confession In order to understand how the texts of my study encourage or refuse penance, I provide a brief overview of the ecclesiastical understanding of internal and external acts of penance, sincere contrition, and the pastoral emphasis upon rituals of the sacrament. All these factors of penance figured in the preaching of crusade. I will then show how “Aler,” Barisel, and Fornication respond to various performative aspects of confession. Unlike the moral tales, the courtly language of crusade love songs composed before or at the time of the Fourth Lateran Council does not appear directly engaged with confessional discourse of the period. Yet this was a time when the crusade movement was preached as a penitential activity and vernacular expressions of repentance, confession, and crusade reflected a new pastoral and lay interest in interpreting various degrees of penitential self-representation. An engagement with the topic of crusade in courtly and poetic terms means an implicit engagement with such penitential culture. The pastoral reform movement, culminating in Lateran IV, did not just reaffirm penance as a prerequisite for salvation. In his first general crusade letter issued in 1198, Post miserabile, Pope Innocent III explicitly established crusading as a penitential activity in that those who went on crusade, who have “done penance [for sins] with voice and heart,” would receive the reward of eternal salvation. Following contemporary theological discussions, Innocent emphasized both inner contrition and confession. 9 It makes sense that crusading lords such as Conon de Béthune, the Châtelain de Couci, Thibaut de Champagne, and the Châtelain d’Arras would have been invested in proposing their own idiom of sincere crusade intention at a time when expressions of repentance and penitential acts were being discussed among theologians and pastors in terms of their sincere expression, whether through external signs such as tears or through acts such as donating money for crusaders or hearing sermons. 10 In his letter Quia maior, promulgated in 1213 and famous as a centerpiece of crusading propaganda, 11 Innocent sought to make the benefits of the vow available to all Christians without compromising the practical goal of taking back the Holy Land, which involved raising Innocent III, Post miserabile, from Chronica magistri Rogeri de Houedene, ed. William Stubbs, 4 vols. (London: Longman and Co., 1868–71, repr. 1964), 4:70–75; translation from Crusade and Christendom: Annotated Documents in Translation from Innocent III to the Fall of Acre, 1187–1291, ed. Jessalyn Bird, Edward Peters, and James M. Powell (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013), 35. See also Jonathan Riley-Smith’s discussion of Innocent’s preaching of crusade as a penitential activity in The Crusades: A History (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987), esp. Post miserabile, 149 and Quia maior, 173. 10 See Jessalyn Bird, “James of Vitry’s Sermons to Pilgrims,” Essays in Medieval Studies 25 (2008): 81–113. 11 Innocent III, Opera Omnia, (Quia maior), in Patrologiae Cursus Completus, Series Latina, 221 vols., ed. J.-P Migne (Paris: Garnier, 1844–1905) [hereafter PL], 216: 817–21. 9
Confession vs. Courtly Profession
money and limiting the role of the unsuitable by granting indulgences instead of expecting participation. 12 Being a crucesignatus meant renunciation of the world, family, and possessions; it also included purgation on the hard pilgrimage east, as an imitation of Christ. 13 Rather than confess sins sincerely according to theological and pastoral understandings of the sacrament of penance that became significant in the period leading up to Lateran IV and after, departure love songs notably refuse this confessional discourse of interiority and the rising culture of vow commutation and indulgences for a different kind of crusading sincerity and exteriority — one that affirms the values of a chivalric, aristocratic elite. This contrast of intersubjectivity is significant when we consider that the popularity of exemplary tales such as Barisel and Fornication 14 and the composition of “Aler m’estuet” both come at a time when confessional discourse was at its most contradictory after the decrees of Lateran IV, in particular canon 21, Omnis utriusque sexus, the injunction of yearly confession to one’s parish priest. While emphasizing internal repentance, penitential literature also stressed the efficacy of the sacrament and the authority of the priest to grant absolution. The conservative view, advocated most notably by Saint Thomas Aquinas, emphasized above all the ritual act of confession and priestly absolution, thereby privileging ecclesiastical power over the sinner’s internal state. In contrast, the contritionist view of the sacrament placed less emphasis upon clerical authority than on the shame and confusion felt by the sinner during the expression of sins. 15 According to this view, which advocated for the sinner’s emotional life as primary and for a psychological concept of confession, inner repentance should emerge spontaneously and often violently, with tears as its manifestation. Because the shame and confusion felt by the sinner were considered the most important acts of satisfaction, in some contritionist treatises, such as the popular eleventh-century pseudo-Augustinian treatise De Vera et falsa poenitentia, the priest merely affirmed or declared a subjective and internal process of contrition and repentance. 16 See Louise and Jonathan Riley-Smith, The Crusades, Idea and Reality, 1095–1274 (London: E. Arnold, 1981), 121–22. 13 Bird, “James of Vitry’s Sermons,” 82. 14 See the introductions by Lecoy, La Vie des Pères and Le chevalier au barisel, for the numerous manuscripts of the Vie des Pères produced in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries and the dating of Barisel to the early thirteenth century. 15 For an overview of the Old French terms for sin, repentance, remorse, and penance from the eleventh to the fifteenth centuries, see Leo Charles Yedlicka, Expressions of the Linguistic Area of Repentance and Remorse in Old French (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1945). 16 See Johnston, “The Secret of the Sacred,” 54–59, as well as Baldwin, Aristocratic Life, 223–34, and the foundational studies of Michel Zink, La Prédication en langue romane avant 1300 (Paris: Champion, 1976), and Payen, Le Motif du repentir, which describe the interior/exterior contradiction. 12
With the Council’s transmission of codified religious knowledge to the laity and legislated reform outside of monastic and university circles, the thirteenth century saw the production of vernacular confessional manuals, sermons and collections of exempla meant for spiritual instruction, especially regarding the proper practice of confession. Confessional manuals presented both contritionist and conservative views to the laity. As confession became more frequent among the laity as a private encounter between clergyman and sinner, manuals prescribed methods for the individual’s examination of conscience and offered remedies adapted to the circumstances of the sin and the sinner. In addition to this new system of penance that was gradually replacing the older penitential tariff system, the rise in confessional manuals in the vernacular for laymen as well as priests gave way to what Linda Georgianna sees as the emergence of a “new branch of theology, [a] moral theology — which has as its center the notion of conscience, entailing the individual Christian’s awareness of and responsibility for his own sins.” 17 The earlier ideas of Peter the Chanter, Abelard, and especially Bernard of Clairvaux entered into popular literature about intention, contrition, and confession, as well as matters of the heart. Although recognizing that sincere internal repentance was important, confessional literature’s description of performing certain acts during confession, such as beating the chest and kneeling while confessing to the priest, and the systematic taxonomies of sins, encouraged believers to see the ritualized quality of the sacrament and external descriptions of sin as more important than the internal self. In short, performative formalities of the sacrament related to oral confession, those that were iterative and external, were seen as efficacious in terms of absolution and remission of sins. Given this emphasis upon the performative aspects of confession in the manuals, and despite the continuing spiritual purchase of the contritionist view, the intersubjective and interpretive role of the priest became essential to confession. Thomas N. Tentler argues that theologians such as Thomas Aquinas and Duns Scotus “combined the contrition of the penitent and the action of the priest in a causal unity that produced grace, and thus made the priest logically indispensable.” 18 According to Tentler, with these thinkers the sacrament of penance produced grace not from the contrition of the penitent but from the performance of the sacrament. 19 Extending this idea, we see in pastoralia and vernacular literature the importance placed on the priest’s role in soliciting and interpreting the confession of the sinner. The institution of sacramental confession provided the norms by which confessor and sinner evaluated sins. As Tentler puts it, “there developed . . . a moral science. It classified offenses. It applied normative principles to life and human nature. It 17 Linda Georgianna, The Solitary Self: Individuality in the Ancrene Wisse (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1981), 101. 18 Thomas N. Tentler, Sin and Confession on the Eve of the Reformation (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1977), 22–23. 19 Tentler, Sin and Confession, 22–27.
Confession vs. Courtly Profession
searched for completeness, clarity and universality.” 20 Thus in the manuals we see catalogues of laws and doctrines that systematized ways of sinning, such as the Ten Commandments or the Four Cardinal Virtues, and verses for remembering the qualities of a good confession found in Aquinas’ Summa Theologica. 21 Preachers and clergymen were aware of the contradiction presented by the different theories and stressed above all the danger of an imperfect, forced, or mechanical confession — the inadequate state of sorrow called “attrition” — as well as the possibility that a sinner might embellish his confession in a way that would render penitential acts less severe. While Barisel and Fornication take up these contradictory developments concerning the sacrament in their own ways, this double emphasis upon interiority and performance of exteriority as the thirteenth century progressed suggests that there was room for an alternate, self-authorizing idiom of intentionality based on an external intersubjectivity. Crusading poets developed an aesthetics of crusading sincerity that refuses the intersubjective performance between sinner and priest, a performance that tacitly privileges clerical authority in its sacramental powers and hermeneutic authority. Through the courtly aesthetic, they ascribed meaning to an affective relationality (fin’amor) that establishes a social identity and intentionality among a community of initiates, rather than the external production of an inner repentant self.
Two Ways of Performing Confessional Intersubjectivity: Witness and Imitation In turning now to the two pious tales, we see that Le Chevalier au Barisel and Fornication imitée present different modes of intersubjectivity. They encourage not only human relations in order to achieve internal repentance but also the mimetic performance of sin to lead a sinner to remorse. As Linda Marie Rouillard succinctly puts it in her analysis of Barisel, “no longer is the sinner alone before God and God’s righteous representative. Now it is the quality of human relationships that brings the sinner to contrition and sustains him through his evolution.” 22 A comparison of the two tales reveals the extent to which different intersubjective tactics can apply in order to achieve the goal of repentance. A late twelfth-century or early thirteenth-century anonymous poem, Le Chevalier au Barisel describes the metamorphosis of an unrepentant knight who by chance confesses to a hermit and is motivated only by a care for his vassals (as he says to them, “vostre compaignie m’i maine” [your company leads me there Tentler, Sin and Confession, 135. Tentler, Sin and Confession, 106, 135. 22 Linda Marie Rouillard, “Warrior Relationships with God: From Roland to the Chevalier au barisel,” Medieval Perspectives 17.1 (2002): 129–50, at 134. 20 21
(to confess)]), rather than a desire to repent. 23 The knight thoroughly confesses his sins without any remorse and even relishes his sinful behavior. The knight accepts what he thinks to be an easy expiatory act, filling a barrel with water. He returns from his long, arduous journeys failing in his task because, as the hermit says, his penance is without true contrition: “Te penitance riens ne set, / car tu l’as fait sans repentance, / et sains amour et sans pitance” [your penance is without value, you have done it without repentance, nor love and holy piety]. 24 Yet the hermit also wonders whether the knight’s lack of remorse points to the hermit’s inadequacy as a man of God. The hermit cries out with tears and is violently taken with regret as he addresses God, asking him for pardon. 25 The knight, perceiving the remorse of the hermit, who cries and admits his faults, as a “merveille,” 26 is himself moved to tears, and his first tear fills the barrel. This image illustrates the penitential metaphor of tears as cleansing the soul, a “bath of repentance” (“laver en repentance”). 27 Rouillard’s analysis places this text in the context of the confessional discourse of the period, as the poem teaches that “one cannot legislate regret or remorse” 28 and that the intersubjective relationship between the hermit and the knight is essential to the softening of the knight’s heart: “It takes another fellow human being to trigger regret and contrition and lead the sinner back to God. In addition, the sinner’s plight deeply affects his confessor, who can also change as the result of their interactions within the context of the sacrament of penance.” 29 While Barisel stresses the significance of the knight’s need to witness remorse — tears and verbal expression of sins — in order to come to repentance, Fornication imitée presents another kind of intersubjective relationship that leads to repentance. The first tale of the Old French Vie des Pères, a collection of pious tales and miracles widely copied throughout the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, Fornication imitée tells how a hermit gives in to the temptation of the flesh during a visit to the weekend market with his fellow hermit. He immediately regrets his sin and falls into despair. Finding his companion on the verge of the sin of despair, the second hermit tells a white lie that he too has broken the vow of chastity: “Tant ai eü temptation / que j’ai fet fornication” [I too so fell into temptation, that I committed fornication]. 30 This act of faith or “cortois fet” brings the friend to repentance and returns him to the community of hermits. They take penance together, and the
Le Chevalier au Barisel, l. 125. Le Chevalier au Barisel, ll. 780–82. 25 Le Chevalier au Barisel, ll. 783–808. 26 Le Chevalier au Barisel, l. 813. 27 See Yedlicka, Expressions, 124. 28 Rouillard, “Warrior Relationships,” 138. 29 Rouillard, “Warrior Relationships,” 134. 30 Fornication imitée, ll. 263–64. 23
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tale underscores that the second hermit merely claims to have fornicated and does penance with his brother hermit only as an act of charity. 31 The use of the word “cortois” to describe the hermit’s mimetic performance of sin, meaning here gracious service directed by God rather than the profane sense of manners or acts that befit ideals of nobility (often paired with “preus” — brave or noble), clarifies two different versions of confessional intersubjectivity. The reform spirit’s investment in the new, fraternal role of the confessor allowed the confessor more freedom to influence the difficult sinner, even to the point of committing “pieux mensonges” in order to lead the sinner to internal repentance. 32 So though something “cortois” is understood as a theologically charitable act, as an imitation or performance of sin, this notion of “cortois” connects to the ritualized behavior of both the conservative confessional view and the courtly aesthetic. Further, Fornication offers an example of how the performative aspect of the fraternal confessor role is just as important as that of the sinner, as seen in the institutional and more normative context of the confessional manuals. Unlike the hermit in Barisel, who is so moved by the unrepentant knight that he doubts his spiritual calling, the hermit in Fornication claims to have committed the same sin of his friend as an imitative performance. The performance of sin elucidates his unwavering faithfulness and unchanging status as a man of God. The lie solicits the sinful hermit’s deep spiritual identification: we see how a performance that contradicts an interior state can be acceptable in a contritionist tale that thematizes human relations in confessional practice. While the sinful knight in Barisel is moved because he witnesses a hermit feeling deep remorse for his plight (ll. 813–16), in Fornication the sinful hermit is comforted by the idea that his brother committed the same act. Both forms of intersubjectivity have the same objective of inciting the sinner’s repentance, but Barisel dramatizes contritionist sincerity producing contritionist sincerity: the witnessing of brotherly remorse produces the knight’s contritionist and sincere confession “nuement [dite]” [nakedly said] and “verraie” [completely true], 33 as William de Waddington explains in the late thirteenth-century Manuel des péchés. In contrast, Fornication presents the exception in which dissimulation is acceptable in a fraternal confessional process. 34 The essential differences in modes of intersubjectivity demonstrate how a lie — a performance — can become acceptable even within a confessional discourse so concerned with sincerity. While the knight in Barisel needs to witness another person’s remorse in order to come to inner awareness, in Fornication, personal identification incites the hope required for repentance. Both processes animate the internal trans Fornication imitée, ll. 299–304. Payen, Le Motif du repentir, 551. 33 Roberd of Brunnè’s Handlyng Synne (Written a.d. 1303), With the French Treatise on Which It is Founded, Le Manuel des Pechiez by William of Wadington, ed. Frederick J. Furnivall (London: Nichols and Sons, 1862), 363. 34 See Payen, Le Motif du repentir, 551. 31
formations of the sinners, but the good hermits maintain different intersubjective positions because the hermit in Fornication merely imitates sin as an act of faith or spiritual “courtliness.” Whether through witnessing or identification, the tales represent sinners internalizing, and thus being able to repent, their sinful behavior through intimate social interaction in which they can see themselves in others.
Courtly Intersubjectivity: Remembering the Lady and the Exchange of Hearts In turning to the intersubjectivity of “Aler m’estuet,” we see that the Châtelain d’Arras guarantees his social identity and crusade intention through the creation of a different kind of courtly intersubjectivity, one that I call “professional” rather than “confessional.” Obviously we must understand intersubjectivity here not as a narrated interaction between two people as in the tales but, rather, as an imagined dialogue implicit in the monologic trouvère lyric. This monologic dialogue deliberately refuses the confessional dialogue seen in Barisel and Fornication in order to promote the legitimacy of courtly vows of service and request that imply potential reciprocity rather than actualize it in narrative form. The fact that the knight’s repentance in Barisel occurs because he witnesses the remorse of a man unattached to him in the feudal sense underlines the power of intersubjectivity to affect spiritual interiority and render external status unimportant. “Aler” bids for a lyrical reciprocity: the song articulates the crusader’s hope for continual mutual devotion between himself and the lady during their separation. In the envoi, the Châtelain proclaims this sincere intentionality to go on crusade as a conflicted soldier of Christ who remains devoted to his lady. The song elevates this conflicted sincerity against the sincere narrative of conversion and inner repentance encoded within the structure of a teleologically exemplary narrative. The intersubjective nature of his profession, seen in the exchange of hearts and in the dialogue between trouvère and lady, motivates and authorizes his crusade intention as an “amour vraie enterine” [wholly true love]. The courtly idiom forms a “right intention” independent of the “vraie amors” of perfect contrition described in the confessional manuals and crusade sermons, and dramatically represented in the tales. 35 In stark contrast to the intersubjectivity of Barisel and Fornication, the trouvère’s devotion to his lady promotes an external self as chevalier, one recognized for his feats and loyalty to his lady. He hopes that, like Lancelot in Chrétien de Troyes’ Chevalier de la Charrette, he will win the double “gueredonans” [rewards, l. 37] owed
Yedlicka, Expressions, 28–30; for sermons, see, for example, Bird, “James of Vitry’s Sermons”; and Christoph T. Maier, Crusade Propaganda and Ideology: Model Sermons for the Preaching of the Cross (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000). 35
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a perfect lover and knight who endures hardship and accomplishes noble acts on behalf of his lady: Del gentil cuer Genievre la roïne Fu Lancelos plus preus et plus vaillans; Pour li emprist mainte dure aatine, Si en souffri paines et travas grans; Mais au double li fu gueredonans Après ses maus Amors loiaus et fine: En tel espoir serf et ferai tous tans Celi a cui mes cuers est atendans. [With the noble heart of Guinevere the queen, Lancelot was the most brave and valiant; for her he endured many hard conflicts, he suffered pains and great tortures; but he earned the double reward after these hardships, from loyal and true Love; in such a hope I serve and will always serve she to whom I have entrusted my heart.] 36
One can understand the “double reward” as the earthly reward of adulterous consummation and the esteem of being the most excellent Arthurian knight. Further, the love for God and the love of the lady reinforce each other; he portrays himself as a martyr for both, a proper soldier of Christ in the opening lines who then laments the departure of his lady: “Aler m’estuet la u je trairai paine / En cele terre ou Diex fu traveilliés” [I must go there where I will endure suffering, in that land where God was tortured]. 37 Comparing himself to the paradoxical Lancelot — whose position as King Arthur’s vassal, and lover of the queen, Chrétien famously tries to reconcile — might be enough to justify his crusading prowess as motivated by his lady. But the Châtelain calls upon not only the ethics of Arthurian romance (the reconciliation of fin’amors and chivalric prowess) but also an intersubjectivity that refuses confessional interiority and repentance proper to a crusader who should have the right intention. The intersubjective motivation is visible in the exchange of hearts preceded by the memory of his lady’s words that are recalled as a direct quotation, which Jean-Charles Payen calls “un engagement total de la part de la dame.” 38 Echoing his address to her in the first stanza — “Dame, merci! Quant serai repairiés / Pour Dieu vos proi prenge vos en pitiez” [Lady, have mercy! When I will have returned, I beg you by God that pity takes you] 39 — he remembers the lady speaking to him. In direct discourse, she replies that she will be happy if he returns, and she requests that he remain loyal as a true lover or “fins amourex”: “Aler m’estuet,” ll. 33–40. “Aler m’estuet,” ll. 1–2. 38 Payen, “‘Peregris,’” 252. 39 “Aler m’esuet,” ll. 7–8. 36 37
Sovent recort, quant od li ere seus, Qu’ele disoit; “Mous seroi esjoïe, Se repariés; je vos ferai joiex; Or soiés vrais conme fins amourex.” [Often I remember when, alone with her, she said, “I will be very happy if you return, I will make you joyous; for now be loyal like a true lover.”] 40
The Châtelain then proclaims that he will depart for Syria, leaving his heart with her and taking hers along with him. Having the lady’s heart with him, he explains, will enable him to be valiant abroad: Se le vostre ai od moi en compaignie Adès iere plus joians et plus preus. Del vostre cuer serai chevalereus [If I have your heart with me in company, I will be the most joyful and brave. By your heart, I will be valiant.] 41
The remembered words of his lady — evoked both textually as a quotation and as a memory practice (“sovent recort”) — imply the anticipated return to, rather than the required distance from, a past earthly life required of a penitent crusader in good conscience. The Châtelain deploys memory and the courtly motif of the moveable heart in order to refuse interiority. Further, he exchanges his heart for hers, leaving his heart behind with her and taking her heart; more to the point, he replaces his heart, the seat of his intention according to penitential literature (“corage” or “cuer”), 42 with hers. Another possible reading is to see his heart as both inside and outside his body: his profession of lyrical ambivalence allows him to personally notate his intention as the product of an amorous and social transaction rather than as the product of penitence (recorder can also mean to remember, to learn a song by heart, or have it written). Like other crusade love songs, 43 that of the Châtelain manufactures an external intention — his service to the lady who is given a voice — in order to oppose the confessional view of memory, according to which the mind should turn back into itself. The articulation of sins and repentance results from the mind turning inward; confession is a speech act of self-introspection that manifests a conversion, in the Augustinian sense, from the multiple meanings and contingency of the body “Aler m’estuet,” ll. 21–24. “Aler m’estuet,” ll. 30–32. 42 Maurice of Sully and the Medieval Vernacular Homily: With the Text of Maurice’s French Homilies from a Sens Cathedral Chapter Ms., ed. C.A. Robson (Oxford: Blackwell, 1952), 98. 43 See, for example, “Dame, ensi est q’il m’en couvient aler” by Thibaut de Champagne, who led the failed crusade expedition of 1239. 40 41
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to the unified harmony of the human mind with the divine. 44 We see such a separation of the body and mind through memory espoused in a sermon dating from around 1227 by John of Abbeville. In this sermon he describes the importance of remembering past sins as a penitential activity, whereby the sinner deploys the allegorical sense of past sins in order to distance himself from the past self. Just as John imagines the powerful impact that this recall should have on the penitent, like “wax melting at the flame,” remembering as a sort of purgation of conscience, 45 Bernard of Clairvaux had argued earlier in his sermon De conversione ad clericos that in order to experience Augustinian conversion one must have a certain conscience of fault; humiliating himself, the penitent realizes that he is different from his former self (“purganda memoria”). 46 One must train his memory to remember his guilt, and contrition results from remembering the past self with detachment. In contrast, the crusader does not repent his earthly self or examine his conscience. Refusing the interior penitential process of memory, he promotes the chivalric ethos — service for an earthly Other — as the true right intention. His service to a lady and devotion to her animate his future actions as a soldier of Christ.
Conclusion: Creative and Purposeful Confessional/Professional Intersubjectivity In this essay I have compared the Châtelain d’Arras’ professional vow of crusade intention to the confessional intersubjectivity of the pious tales. Certainly we must take into account that Barisel and Fornication are only two representations of confession during this period and that exhortative crusade texts (epics, long narrative poems, and lyric poems) outnumber crusade love songs. 47 Yet the tales and the crusade song reveal two distinct perspectives on performative intersubjectivity connected to the contradictory confessional discourse of the reformist period. In a sense, the texts respond to an increasing emphasis upon the ritualized performance of the sacrament in confessional manuals despite the persistent belief among the learned and laity of the importance of internal repentance. What these works have in common is that they remain outside what Aden Kumler has called the “new penitential regime” in which theologians developed 44 See Confessions XI.28.38, where Augustine uses the model of the recitation of a psalm to explain the dichotomy of the body and spiritual contemplation, the body being bound up with performance and vocal experience, memory with spiritual activity. 45 Penny J. Cole, The Preaching of the Crusades to the Holy Land, 1095–1270 (Cambridge, MA: Medieval Academy of America, 1991), 153, and transcription of the sermon in appendix, 222–26. 46 Bernard, Opera, ed. Leclercq and Rochais (see n. 4 above), vol. 4, Sermones (1963), 102. 47 See Les Chansons de croisade, and Trotter’s overview of various genres concerning crusade in the Old French tradition.
representational practices for the proper conduct of confession. 48 Kumler describes how pastoral manuscripts function in confession, a process of modus confitendi in which “rhetorical performance . . . unites priest and parishioner in a sacramental practice of representation and interpretation . . . a performance accomplished in the vernacular.” 49 She deploys Mikhail Bakhtin’s concept of a dialogic discourse 50 to describe the representational practices in which priest and parishioner, teacher and learner can collaborate, as in the experience of a reader/viewer interpreting images in pastoral manuscripts. Though her analysis of the pastoral dialogue looks at treatises legislating pastoral performance — such as summulae, summae confessionis, and summae confessorum — and at illuminated pastoral manuscripts, we can consider pastoral texts in the vernacular as similarly concerned with the sinner’s “self-representation” and “coherent confession.” 51 For instance, in Maurice de Sully’s sermon on penance, the bishop’s awareness of the confession as a text produced through an interaction of priest and sinner becomes clear in his concern that the sinner might amend or adorn his sins (“dauber” and “dorer”) and his insistence that the sinner “perfectly” (“parfitement”) confess his sins and their circumstances: Apres la repentance del cuer, si est la confessions de la bouce par coi on se doit acorder a Deu; quar lues qu’il s’en repent en son cuer de son pecié: ne se doit il pas iluekes arester, ançois doit tost venir a son provoire, e soi humilier e ageneillier devant lui, e crier li merci, e regeher li son pecié par sa bouce, e dire comment e quant il l’a fait. Il i a de tels qui vuelent metre essonie en lor pecié, e dire: “Sire, jo n’en puis mais, jo sui en tele compaignie que jo ne m’en puis garder ne tenir de cest mesfait faire,” e par ço veulent dauber e dorer lor pecié. Mais ce ne doit pas prodom faire qui se veult acorder a Deu; mais ausi com il vuelt parfitement conquerre l’amor Deu, issi doit il parfitement regeher son pecié. [After the repentance of the heart, then it is confession by mouth by which one must reconcile himself with God; because as soon as he repents of his sin in his heart, he must not stop here, but right away he must go to his priest, and humble himself and kneel before him, and cry to him mercy, and confess to him his sin by his mouth and say how and when he did it. There are those who want to excuse their sin, and say, “Lord, I can never stop this, I am in such company that I cannot help myself nor hold back from committing this fault,” and by that they want to amend and adorn their sin. But this thing a good man
Aden Kumler, Translating Truth: Ambitious Images and Religious Knowledge in Late Medieval France and England (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011), 46. 49 Kumler, Translating Truth, 55. 50 Mikhail Bakhtin, The Dialogic Imagination, ed. Michael Holquist, trans. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981), 346. 51 Kumler, Translating Truth, 59. 48
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must not do who wants to reconcile himself to God; but just as he wants to sincerely seek the love of God, in this way he must sincerely confess his sin.] 52
Maurice’s awareness of the sinner’s confession as an external (at best, perfect or sincere) translation of the heart, shaped by the priest (following the discipline of the manuals) and the sinner (who might edit his sins rather than perfectly articulate them as prescribed), demonstrates clearly the vagaries of what Kumler, citing Dallas Denery, has called the “inventio of sin” prescribed in pastoral literature. The sermon narrates the penitent’s self-discovery and the confessor’s disclosure and judgment. Together, the penitent and priest hope to discover the penitent’s inward vision through the process of recollection and reflection according to the pastoral syllabus and prescribed interrogation: the representation and interpretation of self-disclosure between priest and penitent is produced in language as a third intermediary term that constitutes the “penitent’s inward vision translated into a confession.” 53 In contrast to the sophisticated dialogic encounter described by Kumler’s study, however, we might imagine that in practice the deployment of Maurice’s precepts for the laity tended towards a normative situation in which ritualized acts of confession and absolution judged efficacious according to prescriptive manuals proved practical for guiding the penitent through the sacrament. Michel Zink and Jean-Charles Payen’s studies on confessional manuals in the Old French tradition, as well as Tentler’s findings, seem to confirm this intuition. 54 Further, Peter Biller argues for the development of professional ethics through confession, which allowed clergy to teach clear definitions of virtuous behavior, especially what is right and wrong in daily life and professional practice: we can see . . . in confessors’ literature . . . a response to the proliferation of specialised occupations and professions which accompanied the urban expansion of the thirteenth century and later. And if one’s first reaction to these lists of questions [in the penitentials] is their negative character — they list sins — it takes only a moment’s reflection to see them in reverse, as providing developing professions with an ethic. 55
As we have seen, Barisel and Fornication reflect a different way to instruct the laity about the sincere process of inward self-examination by offering the model of penitential intersubjectivity. In contrast, “Aler m’estuet” engages with confessional-crusade discourse by offering an alternative expression of intention — an unrepentantly Maurice of Sully, 98. Kumler, Translating Truth, 55, citing Denery. 54 Zink, Prédication en langue romane; Payen, Le Motif du repentir; Tentler, Sin and Confession. 55 Peter Biller, “Confession in the Middle Ages: Introduction,” in Handling Sin: Confession in the Middle Ages, ed. Peter Biller and A.J. Minnis (Suffolk: York Medieval Press, 1998), 3–33, at 16. 52
sincere, conflicted intention to go on crusade motivated by love of the lady. These texts represent sincere declarations of selfhood in states of remorse or regret occasioned by means of close human relationships, even if their goals in presenting these relationships differ from those of pastoralia. With true repentance as their ideological goal, the tales represent an interaction more natural and organic than the reformist process dictated by the interpretive and sacramental powers of the priest, which demands a sinner’s self-examination and the priest and sinner’s dialogic engagement with didactic schemas represented in the confessional literature. In presenting an aristocratic professional mode in response to confession, “Aler m’estuet” extols the superior value of fin’amor and of a chivalric ethos that embodies the collective values of a military aristocracy. The Châtelain seeks to personally authorize his crusade intention through the courtly aesthetic; he performs a song among peers who subscribe to the courtly code of chivalry and feudal service, and yet he also seeks to justify his conflicted intention among clergy judging his “right intention.” In conclusion, these works take up the exteriority and interiority contradiction inherent in contemporary confessional discourse and offer ways for the laity to imagine confession or to profess right intention. In the pious tales, the situation of the sinners demands an intimate performative intersubjectivity — witnessing, comforting identification through a performance of sin — in order for the sinner to discover his inner self and repent his sins. In some ways the tales present the other side of the third-term “literariness” of confession seen in Maurice de Sully’s sermon: the tales make explicit the affect of sincere or insincere performances upon sinners, and Fornication positively interprets creative representation of sin (mimicry) as motivated by charity. Thus the tales demonstrate the creative capacity of brotherly relations to produce inner repentance outside of the ecclesiastical context of pastoral manuals and sermons. Meanwhile, the Châtelain self-authorizes his intention by using a courtly intersubjectivity that establishes an external human — feudal and erotic — obligation as the moral foundation of his crusader vow. Invoking his lady’s presence and his loyal service to her despite his departure, he invokes the chivalric ethos of a public, encoded performance of professed love service, thereby refusing the private, mediated encounter of confession and disentangling sincerity from confessional self-disclosure. The Châtelain’s invention of a profession of love through the convention of courtly lyric manufactures clear strategies for refusing the interiority that the invention of sin requires.
Performing Prudence in Sawles Warde and Chaucer’s Tale of Melibee Candace Hull Taylor To those who lived during the Middle Ages, the virtue Prudence was a familiar allegorical figure. Along with her sister virtues Temperance, Strength, and Justice, she was the subject of countless homilies and works of art and, as the representation of wisdom, was often privileged over her fellow cardinal virtues. In many morality discourses the cardinal virtues are simple personifications, occasionally depicted as climbers on the rungs of a ladder or as the leaves of a tree leading to heaven, with Prudence typically above her sisters. In more complex allegories, Prudence and her sisters are non-speaking residents and defenders of castles and towers representing the human soul. However, Prudence is also a speaking, fully formed, interactive character in two medieval texts: the thirteenth-century Sawles Warde and Chaucer’s Tale of Melibee. Although both works are non-dramatic, in them Prudence plays a role similar to that of the expositor in medieval plays. As Philip Butterworth observes, the expositor’s function is “manag[ing] audiences, inviting participation in devotions and preaching, and control[ling the] development of the narrative.” 1 Whereas in Sawles Warde, Prudence’s role as expositor closely mirrors that of her counterparts in medieval drama, in the Tale of Melibee her role is more complicated, even constricted, by virtue of the performative sphere Chaucer creates for her within the frame of the Canterbury Tales. This essay argues that Prudence’s performativity in each reveals both the didactic and affective promise, as well as the allegorical limitations, of her depiction in medieval literature. The putative audiences of both Sawles Warde and Chaucer’s Tale of Melibee could not be more different. Written for a private anchoritic audience sometime during the first half of the thirteenth century by an unknown cleric, the allegory Sawles Warde, together with the passions of Saints Katherine, Margaret, and Philip Butterworth, ed., The Narrator, the Expositor, and the Prompter in European Medieval Literature (Turnhout: Brepols, 2007), “Introduction,” 3. 1
Performance and Theatricality in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, ed. by Mark Cruse, ASMAR 41 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2018), pp. 17–34.
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Juliana and the homily Hali Meiđhad, form the codicologically and linguistically interrelated texts known as the Katherine Group. 2 The Tale of Melibee is Chaucer’s translation of the French Livre de Melibee et de Dame Prudence, written by Renaud de Louens, which in turn is a translation of the Liber consolationis et consilii written in 1246 by Albertanus of Brescia as a coming-of-age gift for one of his three sons. Its audience, however, is broader, including both the pilgrims on their way to Canterbury and readers of the Canterbury Tales. 3 As I explain below, the composition of the authors’ intended audiences determines the manner in which Prudence performs in each text. As different as these texts and their intended audiences are, Sawles Warde and the Tale of Melibee share an important similarity: both owe the shape of their narrative to a passage in Gregory the Great’s sixth-century treatise Morals on the Book of Job, an interpretation of Jeremiah 9:21: “For death is come up through our windows, it is entered into our houses to destroy the children from without, the young men from the streets.” In his exegesis, a favorite of later medieval writers and homilists, Gregory adopts the imagery of Jeremiah’s verse and allegorizes the human soul as a house or tower stormed by thieves (corporeal temptation) entering through unguarded windows (the five senses): the soul is invisible . . . it has the senses of that body as a kind of opening for going forth. For seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, and touching, are a kind of ways of the mind, by which it should come forth without, and go a-lusting after the things that are without the limits of its substance. For by these senses of the body as by a kind of windows the soul takes a view of the several exterior objects, and on viewing them, longs after them . . . But he who through these windows of the body heedlessly looks out, very often falls even against his will into the delightfulness of sin, and being fast bound by desires, he begins to will what he willed not. 4
The opening lines of Chaucer’s Tale of Melibee, in which the reader is told that Melibee, a man “mighty and riche,” has suffered a great tragedy, echoes Gregory’s passage. Wanting one day to go into the fields “to pleye,” Melibee locks up his wife Prudence and daughter Sophie in his house (the metaphorical residence of Melibee’s soul), making sure that the doors are fastened shut. Unfortunately, three of his “olde foes” set ladders against his house’s wall, climb through the unguarded windows,
Medieval Prose for Women, ed. and trans. Bella Millett and Jocelyn Wogan-Browne (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992), xii–xiii. 3 The Tale of Melibee, in The Riverside Chaucer, ed. Larry D. Benson (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1987), 923. 4 Saint Gregory the Great, The Books of the Morals of St. Gregory the Pope, or An Exposition on the Book of Blessed Job, 21.2.4, ed. and trans. John Henry Parker and J. Rivington (London: Parker and Rivington, 1844): http://www.lectionarycentral.com/GregoryMoraliaIndex.html. 2
beat Prudence, and wound Sophie mortally. 5 Afterwards, when in the midst of counseling her husband against exacting revenge, Prudence, reminding him explicitly what he has foolishly allowed to happen, cites the passage from Gregory: Thou hast doon synne agayn oure Lord Crist, / for certes, the three enemys of mankynde — that is to seyn, the flessh, the feend, and the world — / thou hast suffred hem entre in to thyn herte wilfully by the windowes of thy body, / and hast nat defended thyself suffisantly agayns hire assautes and hire temptaciouns, so that they han wounded thy soule in fyve places; / this is to seyn, the deedly synnes that been entred into thyn herte by thy fyve wittes. / And in the same manere oure Lord Crist hath woold and suffred that thy three enemys been entred into thyn house by the wyndowes / and han ywounded thy doghter in the forseyde manere. [You have sinned against our Lord Christ, for certainly, the three enemies of mankind — that is to say, the flesh, the fiend, and the world — you have allowed entry into your heart willfully through the windows of your body, and have not defended yourself sufficiently against their assaults and their temptations, so that they have wounded your soul in five places; that is to say, the deadly sins that have entered into your heart by means of the five senses. And in the same manner our Lord Christ has willed and allowed that your three enemies have access to your house through the windows and have wounded your daughter in the aforesaid manner.] 6
Sawles Warde, which draws on Matthew 24:43 (“If the head of the household knew at what time a thief would come, he would keep watch and not allow his house to be broken into”), also echoes Gregory. As the unidentified narrator explains at the outset: “[þ]is hus þe ure Lauerd spekeđ of is seolf þe mon” [this house that our Lord speaks of is man himself]. The narrator explains that the “untohene ant rechelese” [unruly and reckless] servants of the household are the man’s five “wittes” [senses] — sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch — and that their allegiance to the husband Wit’s wife Wil has put the soul into mortal jeopardy. 7 Sawles Warde and the Tale of Melibee are part of a large group of medieval texts that allude to Gregory’s allegory, although the allusions have not always been recognized by scholars. 8 Nonetheless, the manner in which Prudence is portrayed in these texts demonstrates the extent to which notions concerning her nature and performativity, and her pre-eminence among her sisters, were part of medieval Melibee, The Riverside Chaucer, 217, ll. 966–70. Melibee, The Riverside Chaucer, 229, ll. 1419–26. All translations of Middle English and French are my own. 7 Sawles Warde, Medieval Prose, 86. 8 Nowhere in The Riverside Chaucer’s “Explanatory Notes” is the allusion to Gregory’s passage correctly identified or explained. 5 6
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didactic discourse. For instance, in Robert Grosseteste’s thirteenth-century Chateau d’Amour, the cardinal virtues are the four turrets of the Castle of Love. The Virgin Mary’s heart, the rock on which the castle is built, is defended by barbicans representing humility, love, abstinence, chastity, generosity, patience, and gladness, who work together to overcome the seven deadly sins. The four cardinal virtues in their respective towers work to guard their gates, so “þat may non vuel come þereinne” [that no evil may come therein]. 9 In another text, the French Somme le Roi, a medieval devotional and didactic compilation, the author, Frère Laurent du Bois, confessor to King Philippe III of France (1245–85), writes “[c]e sont les murs et angles de la meson au preudome qui le font sain et fort” [these four cardinal virtues are the four walls and four corners of the house of the virtuous man, which make him healthy and strong]. Singling out Prudence, Frère Laurent says: “Car qui veult si haut monter il estuet tout au premier que il ait prudence, qui fait le monde despire” [for whoever wants to climb so high, it is necessary first that he has prudence who makes him despise the world]. 10 And in the fourteenth-century Middle English version of the Myrour of Recluses, a translation of the Latin Speculum inclusorum, the third chapter is devoted to the ways in which a recluse might avoid the opportunity to sin. The writer, after Gregory, warns his reader that [t]he fyve wyttis of þe body as vn-wys messageres of mannes herte ben accustumed and wont alwey & ouyral to recorde in hem-self al þat þei han take and receyuyd, be yt veyn þinges, or vnprofitable, anoyinge, greuynge, or enclynynge vn-to synne. [[t]he five senses of the body, like unwise messengers of man’s heart, are accustomed to and want always and overall to record in themselves all that they have taken and received, be it vain things, or unprofitable, annoying, grieving, or inclining unto sin.]
The Myrour’s writer tells the reader that he can avoid falling and slipping into “deedly synne” [deadly sin] if he employs Prudence as warden: ffor þe moore syker eschewynge of alle þese periles, of a prudent feruentnesse or of a feruent prudence, thei werkyn aftir þe conseyl of Salomon, seyinge in this manere, “Call prudence þi love or þi freend” (þat ys to seyn, þe warþeyn & kepere of þi wyl). [for the more surely eschewing all these perils, of a prudent ferventness or of a fervent prudence, they work after the counsel of Solomon, saying in this 9 Kari Sajavaara, “The Middle English Translations of Robert Grosseteste’s ‘Château d’Amour,’” Mémoires de la Société Néophilologique de Helsinki 32 (Helsinki: Société Néophilologique, 1967) : 286. 10 London, British Library, Royal 19 C II, fols. 48v, 50v.
manner, “Call prudence thy love or thy friend” (that is to say, the warden and the keeper of thy will)]. 11
These medieval allegorical representations of the cardinal virtues do little beyond portray Prudence as a stock allegorical character. However, the anonymous author of Sawles Warde, using the Latin text De custodia interioris hominis as his source (itself a part of the larger De anima) and writing expressly for a group of early thirteenthcentury anchoresses living in the West Midlands of England, takes Prudence and her sisters and gives them a more dynamic and theatrical role, even though what he writes is not drama but allegorical prose. 12 No doubt the author was aware that his anchoritic readers had seen many medieval dramas; as Ann Savage and Nicholas Watson have observed, the prose of Sawles Warde’s sister texts, the passions of Margaret and Juliana, indicate that they were written, at least in part, for public performance. 13 But the author also seems to be aware of Anselm of Havelberg’s admonition to medieval readers to “contemplate events in [a] text ‘as though on a stage.’” 14 As Suzanne Lewis says of medieval readers, “the critical act of reading was visualization, and the readers were spectators.” 15 By constructing Sawles Warde as a theatrical performance to be performed in the mind’s eye, the author creates a narrative that encloses its affective promise by use of dramatic conventions, specifically through the figure of Prudence as expositor. If such is the case, what kind of expositor is Prudence, and what does it mean to make her a dramatis persona in a text meant for private reading? Much of what we know about the expositor comes from the evidence found in late medieval dramas, not those contemporary with Sawles Warde, so we are left to make some calculated guesses. According to Peter Happé, expositors in fourteenth- and fifteenth-century dramas typically adopt a removed position outside the action of the drama, affording them a “special vantage point” from which they “manage the narrative by summary, recollection, and anticipation; . . . they initiate moments of participation by the audience in acts of devotion; and they offer didactic interpretation of the 11 Marta Powell Harley, The Myrour of Recluses: A Middle English Translation of Speculum Inclusorum (Madison: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1995), 12. 12 Sawles Warde, in Anchoritic Spirituality: Ancrene Wisse and Associated Works, ed. and trans. Anne Savage and Nicholas Watson (New York: Paulist Press, 1991), 210. 13 The structure of his source may have suggested to him the manner in which to adapt his allegory. While De custodia interioris hominis is “spare and somber,” containing none of the description and narrative details of its anchoritic counterpart, as Anne Eggebroten notes, it nonetheless utilizes a dramatic structure, “continu[ing] alternately in a pattern that hovers between a catechism and a drama.” See Eggebroten, ‘“Sawles Warde’: A Retelling of ‘De Anima’ for a Female Audience,” Mediaevalia 10 (1984): 27–47, at 29–30. 14 Suzanne Lewis, Reading Images: Narrative Discourse and Reception in the Thirteenth-Century Illuminated Apocalypse (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 3. 15 Lewis, Reading Images, 3, 6.
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action.” 16 Occasionally, as Elsa Strietman points out, they also serve to “explain to the audience the significance of an action, an event, a tableau which is visible on stage but which needs additional information to be understood.” 17 Prudence performs each of these roles in Sawles Warde through her ability both to address and interact with the characters within the narrative itself and, alternatively, to anticipate the responses of the anchoritic reader who is “watching” the performance imaginatively as she reads. Prudence’s managing role as expositor in Sawles Warde is characterized by her physical location in the house of the soul. At the beginning of the allegory, an omniscient narrator tells the reader that the beleaguered husband Wit has called on the cardinal virtues to help him establish order again in his household. Wit’s first act is to “cleopeđ Warschipe forđ ant makiđ hire durewart, þe warliche loki hwam ha leote in ant ut” [call Prudence forth and make her doorkeeper, so that she may keep a careful eye on those she allows to go in and out], a position that places her squarely in a location that is neither in nor out. 18 As doorkeeper, she looks both into the house of the soul and outside at those who approach, a stance from which she can speak authoritatively as an expositor of the action and dialogue. This is not unlike the liminal stance an expositor assumes in a theatrical performance by moving between the action on the stage and the audience who is watching, and reminding the audience that it is both seeing and participating in the action of the play. In a theatrical performance, the expositor’s liminal positioning negotiates the space between viewed performance and meaning. Likewise, Prudence’s position in the doorway emphasizes her stabilizing presence in a chaotic household and encourages the anchoritic reader, as she reads and watches the narrative unfold, to imagine the virtue residing within herself, teaching her what to do, and working as her soul’s guardian. Like expositors, Prudence also manages and participates in the narrative arc of Sawles Warde. She directs her sister cardinal virtues to their proper places within the house, decides who gets to come in, and determines who will not. Once she assumes her post as doorkeeper and takes control of the action of the allegory, she demonstrates an omniscience that Wit, Wil, and the unruly residents of the house do not have: Prudence “wel cnaweđ” [knows well] the visitors who are about to arrive and, more importantly, knows how to use them to frighten those in need of correction. For instance, when Fearlac [Fear of Death], the first messenger, arrives, Prudence stages his entrance for maximum dramatic effect: letting him in, she allows his tall, lean, and deathlike appearance to commandeer the gazes of the Peter Happé, “Expositor Figures in Some Cycle Plays in French and German,” in Butterworth, The Narrator, the Expositor, 45–68, at 45. 17 Elsa Strietman, “‘Every Man, I wyll go with thee and be thy gyde’: Narrators, Expositors, and Prompters in the Drama of the Low Countries,” in Butterworth, The Narrator, the Expositor, 11–44, at 11. 18 Sawles Warde, Medieval Prose, 88. 16
house’s inhabitants. As they stare in silence at the spectacle, Prudence prompts Fearlac to explain who he is, where he comes from, and what he has come for, voicing for everyone struck dumb (including, perhaps, the anchoritic reader) what fear prevents them from uttering. Fearlac’s answer, “Of helle,” elicits a clearly feigned exclamation from Prudence: “Of helle! . . . Ant hauest tu isehen helle?” [From hell! . . . And have you seen hell?]. When Fearlac replies in the affirmative, with measured and carefully selected words, Prudence says, “Nu . . . for þi trowđe treowelice tele us hwuch is helle, ant hwet tu hauest isehen þrin” [Now . . . on your honor truthfully tell us what hell is like, and what you have seen there]. 19 This is information she already knows, yet it is also information she takes great pains to control and highlight for the reader, much like an expositor in a play. As expositor, Prudence also anticipates and arranges events. For instance, once Fearlac has completed his description of hell, Prudence observes, “Ich habbe þeruore sar care . . . Ich iseo hu þe unwiht wiđ his ferd ase liun iburst geađ abuten ure hus, sechinde, 3eornliche hu he hit forswolhe” [I am very wary because . . . I see how the devil with his army prowls around our house like a raging lion, seeking eagerly how he may swallow it]. 20 Her words prompt the cardinal virtue Fortitude to step forth and exclaim that, with her help, the soul can defeat even the fiercest of enemies. Fortitude’s appearance and speech usher in Temperance, who in turn introduces Justice, who ultimately proclaims that even with the help of the four cardinal virtues, the inhabitants of the house and the anchoritic reader should consider themselves weak and dependent on God and the cardinal virtues together for help in resisting temptation. Moreover, Prudence’s anticipatory ability also allows her to control the pacing of the action by knowing best when to speak and when to allow a period of silence to develop. After Fearlac has left and before Lives Luve [Life’s Love] arrives, the narrator tells the reader that the husband Wit “þonkeđ God 3eorne wiđ swiđe glead heorte of se riche lane as beođ þeos sustren” [thanks God earnestly with a very glad heart for such a rich loan as these sisters are]. In this interlude, during which the husband Wit prays and the “willesfule huswif ” [willful housewife] remains quiet as her followers transfer their allegiance to the husband, the anchoritic reader is given a chance to pause too, perhaps for a prayerful moment in which to contemplate all that has happened thus far. The next line of the allegory emphasizes that moment of quiet: “Vmben ane stunde spekeđ eft Warschipe” [After a while Prudence speaks again]. 21 Some of Prudence’s lines, in fact, echo parts of another performance with which the anchoritic readers of Sawles Warde would have been familiar: Church liturgy. At one point, using the words of a benediction and acting as both expositor and preacher, Prudence says, “Nu Lauerd Godd . . . wardi us ant werie, ant rihte Sawles Warde, Medieval Prose, 91. Sawles Warde, Medieval Prose, 94. 21 Sawles Warde, Medieval Prose, 98. 19
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us ant reade hwet us beo to donne, ant we beon warre ant wakere to witen us on euch half under Godes wengen” [Now may the Lord God . . . guard and defend us, and guide and advise us on what we must do, and so may we be more alert and more watchful to protect ourselves on every side under God’s wings]. Her prayer for divine protection serves to remind her readers what constitutes an appropriate response to Fearlac’s performance; her request is a glossing of the spectacle they have just witnessed. As with other expositors in medieval dramas, Prudence is a didact: here she is teaching both an appropriate reading of experience for the inhabitants of the house and an appropriate reading of text for the anchoritic reader. She reifies the message with her next words: 3ef we wel werieđ ant witeđ ure hus, ant Godes deore tresor þet he haueđ bitaht us, cume Deađ hwen ha wile; ne þurue we nowđer beon ofdred for hire ne for helle, for ure deađ biđ deare Godd, ant in 3ong into heouene. [If we defend and protect well our house, and God’s dear treasure which he has entrusted to us, let Death come when she will; we need not be afraid either of her or of hell, for our death will be precious to God, and our entrance into heaven.] 22
An expositor must address both the actors on the stage and the audience watching. Similarly, Prudence’s confident and authoritative benediction is directed at two audiences: God, whose protection and guidance she “speaks” into existence, and the audience members who are either characters in the allegory or anchoritic readers needing guidance. Once again, Prudence stands in a figurative doorway, here between the invoked presence of God and her human listeners. She changes perspectives later, however, demonstrating her ability to address the needs of her two constituencies. In the passage that follows Fearlac’s departure, when Lives Luve has come and shared her vision of heaven, Prudence glosses Lives Luve’s apocalyptic vision of heaven for the reader, saying “Þah Ich þis . . . sumdel understonde, þu most unwreo þis witerluker ant openin to þeos ođer” [Though I . . . understand some of this, you must reveal it more clearly and explicate it to these others]. 23 Prudence’s position both inside and outside the text could not be more clearly evidenced: she is both a participant in the text as a figure who understands more than the others in the allegory, and at the same time outside of it, with her anchoritic readers, as someone needing illumination. Her role as reader, interpreter, and counselor places her squarely between the text she inhabits and its interpretation on the one hand, and the inhabitants of the house and reading audience to whom she is directing her commentary on the other. She is, in short, performing an appropriate reading that
Sawles Warde, Medieval Prose, 94. Sawles Warde, Medieval Prose, 102.
depends upon glossing, thereby providing a model of how sacred reading should be undertaken. In fact, Prudence’s performance as expositor in Sawles Warde is a form of literacy predicated on perceptive glossing and the notion that words are deeds. Much of her speech, stated in the imperative voice, is what J.L. Austin calls performative utterance, in which saying something is equivalent to doing or being that which is said. In Sawles Warde, what Prudence says and does is of course prudent, a trait shared by Prudence in Chaucer’s Tale of Melibee. 24 But while Prudence in the Tale of Melibee clearly resembles her namesake in Sawles Warde, the loci of their performances are different. Chaucer’s figure of wisdom is not acting in an enclosed, anchoritic, imaginary stage within the mind of the reader. Rather, she is “performing” by way of her interlocutor Chaucer the pilgrim, on the open road between the Tabard Inn and Canterbury Cathedral. On this stage, competing voices, real or imagined sleights, cross purposes, and misreadings abound. For unlike her characterization in Sawles Warde, Chaucer’s Prudence has no ability to negotiate between the readers of the tale and the pilgrims on the road, and she has only limited ability to negotiate between the characters within the allegory. Her exposition is reduced to the very small stage within her tale. Even there, as the wife of the beleaguered Melibee whose soul is under attack, she cannot extricate herself from her relationship with him or do much more than offer a counterargument, and one of questionable efficacy at that, against his willful obstinacy. Circumscribed and confined in the Tale of Melibee to little more than rhetorical sparring, Prudence’s discourse nonetheless participates in the frame story of the Canterbury Tales as a commentary on reading, misreading, and the limitations of wisdom when it is severed from the divine. At first glance, Chaucer’s Prudence resembles her Sawles Warde counterpart: both are identified by their actions within the imaginary structure of a besieged house or stronghold, by their response to the needs of a husband in desperate need of counsel, and by their ability to read or gloss texts. But unlike her counterpart in Sawles Warde, who is one of the four daughters of God with divine attributes, Chaucer’s Prudence cannot position herself outside the fray of domestic dispute. As Melibee’s wife, she is inescapably bound to whatever he says or does. For instance, when Melibee enters his home and sees his daughter Sophie mortally wounded at the hands of his foes, he “lyk a mad man rentynge his clothes, gan to wepe and crie” [like a madman tearing his clothes, began to weep and cry]. Prudence “bisoghte hym of his wepying for to stynte” [beseeched him to stop his weeping], but only “ferforth as she dorste” [to the extent that she dared]. 25 She is constrained and limited, unable to do more because she cannot escape the domestic sphere. Unlike J.L. Austin, How To Do Things With Words, ed. J.O. Urmson and Marina Sbisa (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1975), 6. 25 Melibee, The Riverside Chaucer, 217, ll. 973–74. 24
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her counterpart in Sawles Warde, she is not on the threshold as a doorkeeper with the freedom to function as expositor of both the text and Melibee’s soul, because Melibee has made sure that the “dores weren faste yshette” [doors were shut fast]. 26 This is no small error on Melibee’s part: he has prevented Prudence from taking her rightful position, and in doing so, he has irreparably limited her effectiveness by reducing her performative sphere to the domestic. In Chaucer’s tale, Prudence is nothing more than a preternaturally perspicacious wife with a mortally wounded daughter and a morally challenged husband. Chaucer’s decision to split the figure of wisdom into two separate characters, Prudence and Sophie, may seem a trivial addition to his translation of Renaud’s Le Livre de Melibee, but it highlights the constricted boundaries within which Prudence performs. Dominick Grace argues that in asserting Sophie’s name, something Chaucer’s source does not do, Chaucer qualifies Prudence’s authority as glossator: “The general effect [in naming Sophie] is to make Prudence less overwhelmingly dominating a force and more of a strong-willed and influential, but human, wife.” 27 The act of naming Sophie, I would add, also indicates a broader knowledge of medieval and classical discourses on virtues than Chaucer has generally been given credit for, including a grasp of some of the earliest classical and patristic discussions of Prudence’s nature. By naming Sophie, Chaucer acknowledges from the outset of his tale one of the earliest disagreements about the essential nature of Prudence: whether she is a representative of phronesis [common sense] or sophia [God’s wisdom]. 28 Nonetheless, Chaucer’s Prudence, as a strong-willed and wise wife, exerts some control over the narrative: like the expositor in a drama, and like her counterpart in Sawles Warde, she asks leading questions that shape the resulting discourse, ushers characters both in and out, and controls the pacing of the action at key moments. For instance, her first question to Melibee, who is crying uncontrollably, seems calculated to set him off and to highlight the inappropriateness of his reaction:
Melibee, The Riverside Chaucer, 217, l. 970. Dominick Grace, “Telling Differences: Chaucer’s ‘Tale of Melibee’ and Renaud de Louen’s ‘Livre de Mellibee et Prudence,’” Philological Quarterly 82.4 (2003): 367–400, at 385. 28 Prudence’s various and sometimes contradictory medieval depictions are attributable to classical and patristic debates concerning her nature and role that are beyond the scope of this essay. A crucial reference is Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, which subdivides the cardinal virtues into two types: the moral and intellectual. For Aristotle, fortitude, justice, and temperance are moral virtues. Wisdom, in contrast, is an intellectual virtue divided into two types: phronesis (what we might now call common sense) and sophia (wisdom resulting from the union of divinely inspired intuitive reason and science). The splitting of wisdom into two entities and the establishment of a hierarchy among the cardinal virtues influenced medieval allegories of prudence. See Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, in The Basic Works of Aristotle, trans. W.D. Ross, ed. Richard McKeon (New York: Random House, 2001), 928–32, 952. 26 27
Allas my lord . . . why make ye youreself for to be lyk a fool? / For sothe it aperteneth nat to a wys man to maken swich sorwe. / Youre doghter, with the grace of God, shal warisshe and escape. [Alas my lord . . . why make yourself look like a fool? For truly it is not fitting for a wise man to grieve so. Your daughter, with the grace of God, shall recover and escape.] 29
Melibee replies that he certainly has cause enough to weep and that, furthermore, Jesus cried when his friend Lazarus died, an emotional answer that does little more than reveal Melibee’s fractured reasoning and refusal to take responsibility for what has happened to his household. Prudence’s first question and Melibee’s response establish the parameters of all future discourse between them: she poses a question or asks him to consider the words of respected auctores [authors] and auctoritates [authorities]; he counters foolishly with seemingly contradictory citations of his own, thereby giving her the opportunity to correct his understanding by offering her own glosses, typically longer and more thorough than his. Like an expositor, she also controls the narrative arc by managing the entrance of other characters. For instance, after Prudence cites the Apostle Paul, Seneca, Jesus Syrak, and Solomon in quick succession after Melibee’s inappropriate comment on Jesus’s tears at Lazarus’s tomb, Melibee tells his wife “Alle thy wordes . . . been sothe and therto profitable, but trewely myn herte is troubled with this sorwe so grevously that I noot what to doone” [All your words . . . are true and therefore profitable, but truly my heart is troubled so painfully that I know not what to do]. Prudence responds by suggesting that Melibee call upon his “trewe freendes,” among whom (the narrator warns) are some “olde enemys” and “subtille flattereres” [old enemies and subtle flatterers]. 30 Like Prudence in Sawles Warde, who invites Fearlac into the house so that he can terrify the household inhabitants into respectful submission, Prudence in the Tale of Melibee encourages her husband to listen to the advice from all of his counselors, even those with less than altruistic motives, so that she can seize the opportunity later to correctly gloss their recitation of auctores and auctoritates in private. Like her counterpart in Sawles Warde, Chaucer’s Prudence is also fully capable of feigning emotion when necessary. Just when it seems that she has convinced Melibee that his counselors are giving him bad advice when they encourage him to seek revenge against his attackers, Melibee balks yet again, claiming that, if he follows Prudence’s admonitions, he will lose social and political standing. The narrator reports that “[t]hanne bigan dame Prudence to maken semblant of wratthe” [then dame Prudence began to feign anger]. 31 She chastises her husband and Melibee, The Riverside Chaucer, 217, ll. 980–82. Melibee, The Riverside Chaucer, 218, ll. 1001–5. 31 Melibee, The Riverside Chaucer, 235, ll. 1687–88. 29
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reminds him that she loves his “honor” and “profit” as her own, that she always has, and that neither he nor anyone else can say to the contrary. She justifies her dissembling by citing Solomon, saying “He is moore worth that repreveth or chideth a fool of his folye, shewynge hym semblant of wratthe, / than he that supporteth hym and preyseth hym in his mysdoynge and laugheth at his folye” [He is more worthy who reproves or chides a fool for his folly by pretending anger than he who supports and praises him for his misdeeds and laughs at his folly]. 32 Once it is clear that Melibee is completely convinced of the wisdom of Prudence’s advice, she asks him for permission to speak to his attackers in private, and again like Prudence in Sawles Warde, she controls the pace of the action by taking her rightful place between those in conflict: [t]hanne dame Prudence . . . /delibered and took avys in hirself, / . . . And whan she saugh her tyme [emphasis added], she sente for thise adversaries to come unto hire into a pryvee place / and shewed wisely unto hem the grete goodes that comen of pees. [[t]hen dame Prudence . . . meditated and pondered in herself . . . and when she saw the right moment, she sent to these adversaries to come to her in private and wisely showed them the great good that comes of peace.] 33
Prudence’s performativity as expositor in the Tale of Melibee takes shape quite differently on the whole from that of Prudence in Sawles Warde. Teaching her husband Melibee to read and interpret accurately is Prudence’s primary role, and the situation is more complicated than that which the Prudence of Sawles Warde confronts. In Sawles Warde, the inhabitants of the house are tractable and amenable to the cardinal virtues’ teaching; Prudence has merely to stage manage the visitors from heaven and hell and add an occasional gloss to make clear the meaning of what has been revealed. Conversely, Prudence in the Tale of Melibee, working without her sisters and tied to Melibee through matrimony, must tackle her husband’s constant misreading and stubbornness with careful instruction and redirection. A close reading of the signal phrase “this is to seyn” [that is to say], used by both Melibee and Prudence to indicate a moment of glossing, reveals the difficulty of her task. 34 For instance, after Melibee attends to the advice offered by the multitude of counselors whom Prudence has encouraged him to consult, Melibee decides to “maken were” [make war] against his attackers despite Prudence’s counsel to the contrary. Citing “many causes and resons,” Melibee tells her that he is going to ignore her admonition because Melibee, The Riverside Chaucer, 236, ll. 1726–29. Melibee, The Riverside Chaucer, 236, ll. 1726–28. 34 I am not the first to make this observation about the phrase “this is to seyn.” See Grace, “Telling Differences,” 380–81. 32
euery wight wolde holde me thanne a fool; / this is to seyn, if I, for thy conseillyng, wolde chaugen thynges that been ordeyned and affermed by so manye wyse. / Secondly, I seye that alle wommen been wikke, and noon good of hem alle. [every man would consider me a fool; that is to say, if I, following your advice, would change things that have been ordained and affirmed by so many wise ones. Secondly, I say that all women are wicked, and there is no good in them all.] 35
“This is to seyn” here serves as something akin to a verbal tick that gets him both to gloss his own words and to reveal his hidden worry: he will look foolish if he changes his mind and listens to advice from a woman, a claim he backs up immediately with unglossed and seemingly misogynistic quotes from Solomon and Jesus Syrak. Prudence, “ful debonairly and with greet pacience” [very meekly and with great patience], 36 corrects his interpretation by first tackling the illogic of his emotion: “it is no folie to chaunge conseil whan the thyng is chaunged, or elles whan the thyng semeth ootherweyes than it was biforn” [it is no folly to change counsel when the thing itself is changed, or else when the thing seems otherwise than it was before]. 37 Then she provides a fuller, more nuanced, gloss of the passages from Solomon and Jesus Syrak, adding weight to her interpretation by citing the godly women of the Bible and saying “Lord Jhesu Crist wolde nevere have descended to be born of a womann, if all wommen hadden been wikke” [Lord Jesus Christ would never have condescended to be born of a woman, if all women are wicked]. 38 Melibee, to be sure, utters “this is to seyn” much less often than Prudence and only to defend an illogical, improbable, or lazy reading. Prudence’s use of “this is to seyn,” in contrast, is typically sharper, clearer, and proffered to parse a particular word or short passage for Melibee’s edification, not unlike the work of expositors in medieval plays: “þat verray trouthe be seyd and conserued; this is to seyn telle trewely thy tale” [that very promise is said and preserved; that is to say, tell truly your tale]; 39 and “it is bettre ‘nay’ that ‘ye.’ / This is to seyn, that thee is bettre holde they tonge stille than for to speke” [it is better (to say) nay or yea. That is to say, that you are better off to hold your tongue still than to speak]. 40 In at least one instance, like a practiced didact, she uses the phrase to signal her translation of a Latin text into English: “and Causa longinqua and Causa propinqua; this to seyn the fer cause and the ny cause” [and Causa Longinqua and Causa Propinqua: that is to say for the Melibee, The Riverside Chaucer, 220, ll. 1055–57. Melibee, The Riverside Chaucer, 220, l. 1064. 37 Melibee, The Riverside Chaucer, 220, l. 1064. 38 Melibee, The Riverside Chaucer, 220, ll. 1074. 39 Melibee, The Riverside Chaucer, 224, l. 1203. 40 Melibee, The Riverside Chaucer, 224, ll. 1218–19. 35
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one cause and for the other cause]. 41 Yet her most significant moments of glossing come when she reads allegorically for Melibee, especially when she has the opportunity to make clear to him that his focus should be on his spiritual, not political, battle. Two-thirds of the way through her tale, Prudence prompts Melibee with a leading question: how does he understand the advice his political cronies have given him to “warnestoore [his] hous” [garrison his house] against future attack? Melibee replies that he takes it to mean that he should warnestoore myn hous with toures, swiche as han castelles and othere manere edifices, and armure, and artelies, / by whiche thynges I may my persone and myn hous so kepen and defenden that myne enemys shul been in drede myn hous for to approche. [fortify my house with towers, such as have castles and other sorts of buildings, and armor and artillery, by which things my person and my house I can keep and defend that my enemies should be in dread to approach my house.] 42
His response, as Prudence is quick to point out, while logical and practical, is a misreading of any number of the discourses on virtue that were popular and in wide circulation during the Middle Ages. Weapons are the defense of those who depend on human strength rather than God’s providence, as Prudence notes: “Warnestoorying of heighe toures and of grete edifices apperteyneth sometyme to pryde” [Fortifying . . . with high towers and great buildings is sometimes indicative of pride], unless “they be defended by trewe freendes that been olde and wise” [they are defended by true friends who are old and wise], another pointed reminder that Melibee has neglected the efficacy of the virtues. 43 In Sawles Warde, Prudence, as expositor, scans what has happened within the house of the soul, looks for and ushers in the appropriate visitors, Fearlac and Lives Luve, and orchestrates the unfolding of a tableau that culminates with a mystical vision of heaven where virgins sing forever in praise of God. The narrator tells the reader that the virtues remain at their posts “te witene ant te warden treowliche” [to watch and to guard faithfully] and that, at the end, the household is completely reordered and restored. 44 Chaucer’s Tale of Melibee finishes on a decidedly more troublesome note: “[w]hanne . . . his herte gan enclyne to the wil of his wif ” [when . . . his heart began to incline to the will of his wife], Melibee calls his adversaries to appear before him and speaks to them “ful goodly” [very graciously], saying that since they appear to be sorry, repentant, and filled with “grette humylitee” [great
Melibee, The Riverside Chaucer, 229, l. 1395. Melibee, The Riverside Chaucer, 227, ll. 1331–34. 43 Melibee, The Riverside Chaucer, 227, ll. 1335–36. 44 Sawles Warde, Medieval Prose, 108. 41
humility], he has decided to forgive them. 45 Yet his reasoning falls short of demonstrating any full-fledged appreciation of the wisdom embodied in an act of grace: he forgives them because it is the only way he can be assured of God’s forgiveness at his own death. In his last speech to his attackers he says, Wherfore I receyve yow to my grace / and foryeve yow outrely alle the offenses, injuries, and wronges that ye have doon agayn me and myne, / to this effect and to this ende, that God of his endelees mercy / wole at the tyme of oure diynge foryeven us oure giltes that we han trespassed to hym in this wrecched world. For doubtlees, if we be sory and repentant of the synnes and giltes which we han trespassed in the sighte of oure Lord God, / he is so free and so merciable / that he wole foryeven us our giltes/ and bryngen us to the blisse that nevere hath ende. [By my grace I receive you and forgive you completely all the offenses, injuries, and wrongs that you have done against me and mine, and to this effect and to this end, that God in his endless mercy would at the time of our dying forgive us our guilts that we have committed against him in this wretched world. For doubtless, if we are sorry and repentant of the sins and guilts which we have committed in the sight of our Lord God, he is so free and so merciful that he will forgive us our guilts and bring us to the bliss that never ends.] 46
His act of forgiveness, in his eyes, is a ticket to heaven. He provides no reflection on the effect his forgiveness will have on his enemies, advisors, friends, or family. We do not see his household restored, nor at the tale’s end is any mention made of his wife Prudence or, for that matter, his daughter Sophie, whose “mortal woundes” may indeed have proven to be more deadly than not, even though Prudence had promised that their daughter would survive if Melibee acted rightly. 47 As I proposed at the beginning of this essay, Prudence’s performances as expositor in Sawles Warde and Chaucer’s Tale of Melibee demonstrate the affective and didactic limitations of her depiction in medieval allegories — limitations having much to do with the manner in which the intended audiences understand her performance. Like the women for whom the allegory was written, Prudence’s performance in Sawles Warde is enclosed. As a spiritual director and expositor, Prudence’s sphere of performativity encompasses her position in the doorway to the house of the soul and its imagined environs and, by figurative extension, the soul and the mind of the anchoress who comprehends with an eye trained to equate the act of reading with the act of watching a drama enfold on a stage. Chaucer’s Prudence performs as an expositor as well, but the material she is required to explain and gloss is dense and contradictory; the sayings and maxims of a myriad of auctores Melibee, The Riverside Chaucer, 239, ll. 1871–81. Melibee, The Riverside Chaucer, 239, ll. 1880–87. 47 Melibee, The Riverside Chaucer, 217, l. 971. 45
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and auctoritates whom Melibee and his advisors cite would confound even the most erudite of scholars. As she says to her husband in exasperation at one point: [y]e han cast all hire wordes in an hochepot, and enclyned youre herte to the moore part and to the gretter nombre, and there been ye condescended./ And sith ye woot wel that men shal alwey fynde a gretter nombre of fooles than of wise men, / and therfore the conseils that been at congregaciouns and multitudes of folk, there as men take moore reward to the nombre than to the sapience of persone, / ye se wel that in swiche conseillynges fooles han the maistrie [[y]ou have cast all their words in a hotchpot, and inclined your heart to the larger part and the greater number, and to that you have yielded. And since you know well that men will always find a greater number of fools than wise men, and therefore the counsels at gatherings and multitudes of folk, where men pay more attention to the number than the wisdom of people, you see well that in such counseling fools have the mastery.] 48
But Prudence’s audience in Chaucer’s Tale of Melibee is not just her husband; by means of Chaucer the pilgrim’s decision to tell her tale, she performs in front of the pilgrims on the road to Canterbury too. I would argue that we need look no further within that inscribed audience than at one of the readers Chaucer embeds in the frame story of the Canterbury Tales, Host Harry Bailly, to understand more completely how her performance differs from that of her counterpart in Sawles Warde. The Host Harry Bailly, “boold of his speche, and wys, and wel ytaught . . . right a myrie man” [bold of his speech, wise, and well-mannered . . . a right merry man], as the inscribed audience discovers, is frequently overbearing and occasionally obtuse about the nuances of human behavior. 49 When he proposes that the pilgrims travel together to Canterbury and entertain each other on the road with tales, Chaucer the pilgrim notes that he and the other pilgrims, although certainly willing participants, also “thoughte it was noght worth to make it wys” [thought it was not worth it to raise difficulties] regarding his proposal, and when Harry Bailly demands that they agree to his plan “withouten wordes mo” [without further discussion], they acquiesce. He sets the terms of their contest, vouchsafes for the prize, and pronounces himself “juge and reportour” [judge and recordkeeper]. The morning of their departure, as “aller cok” [rooster of all], he gets them up and on their way, and when they reach the “Wateryng of Seint Thomas,” a well-known stopping point about two miles outside of London, he orchestrates who will tell the first tale through a casting of lots that he apparently manipulates so that the duty falls on the knight. 50 He is also not a particularly patient man, as his abrupt interruption Melibee, The Riverside Chaucer, 225, ll. 1257–60. General Prologue, The Riverside Chaucer, 35, ll. 755–56. 50 General Prologue, The Riverside Chaucer, 35–36, ll. 785–86, 823, 826. 48 49
of Chaucer the pilgrim’s recitation of Sir Thopas indicates. Cutting him off midsentence, Harry Bailly complains that his “eres aken of [Chaucer’s] drasty speche” [ears ache from (Chaucer’s) foul speech] and that Sir Thopas is a “drasty rhyme . . . nat worth a toord” [a crappy rhyme not worth a turd]. He demands another tale “in prose somwhat, at the leeste, / In which ther be some murthe or som doctryne” [in prose somewhat, at the least, in which there is some mirth or some doctrine]. 51 Like Melibee, he is quick to anger and impatient with what he does not understand; he is far from a sophisticated reader or listener. Harry Bailly also reveals that he is a man with domestic troubles, the first hints of which surface after the Clerk has told his tale about the saintly Grisilde, a wife who undergoes a series of horrendous tests of fidelity at the hands of a seemingly sadistic husband and whose patience in the face of constant adversity is ultimately rewarded. At the tale’s conclusion, Harry declares, “[b]y Goddes bones, / Me were levere than a barel of ale / My wyf at hoom had herd this legende ones!” [by God’s bones, I would rather that my wife at home had heard this legend once than have a barrel of ale!], 52 thus revealing that his home life would improve if his wife heard Grisilde’s woeful tale, the moral of which — at least to Harry Bailly — is that female virtue is best demonstrated by acquiescence and silence. But he quickly admits that the moral of the tale, as he understands it, would be lost on his wife: “This is a gentil tale for the nones, / As to my purpos, wiste ye my wille; / But thyng that wol nat be, lat it be stille” [This is a fine tale for the occasion, as to my purpose, if you know what I mean; but that thing will not be, let it be]. 53 Likewise he misunderstands entirely the import of the Tale of Melibee: when Chaucer the pilgrim finishes reciting it, Harry Bailly, using almost the exact words he uses after the Clerk’s Tale, declares in the prologue to the Monk’s Tale that he would forgo a barrel of ale if his wife could hear Melibee’s tale too. He goes on to tell his fellow pilgrims about the vicious wife whom he endures at home: when he beats his knaves (young male servants), she rushes in with big knobby clubs and cries “Slee the dogges everichoon, / And brek hem, bothe bak and every boon!” [Slay the dogs, every one, and break their backs and every bone!]. She takes offense at anyone who dares to treat her without the respect she expects at church. She calls Harry a false coward who, emasculated by his own timidity, should trade his knife for her spinning wheel. She ridicules him as a “milksop, or a coward ape /. . . That darst nat stonden by [his] wyves right!” [milksop, a cowardly ape . . . who does not dare to defend (his) wife’s honor!]. To his fellow pilgrims, the host admits that “[t]his is my lif, but if that I wol fighte; / And out of dore anon I moot me dighte, Or elles I am but lost, but if that I/ Be lik a wilde leoun, fool-hardy” [this is my life, unless I choose to fight her; and out of doors I must hasten myself, or else I am as good as lost, unless I be like Sir Thopas, The Riverside Chaucer, 216, ll. 923, 930, 934–35. The Clerk’s Tale, The Riverside Chaucer, 153, ll. 1214–16. 53 The Clerk’s Tale, The Riverside Chaucer, 153, ll. 1212A–1212d. 51
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a wild lion, foolhardy]. He predicts that he will be provoked by her and “slee som day / Som neighbor, and thanne go my way; for I am perilous with knyf in honde” [slay some day some neighbor, and then be forced to flee, for I am dangerous with knife in hand]. 54 But Harry Bailly has missed the point of Chaucer the pilgrim’s tale. No doubt his wife Goodelief could learn a thing or two about patience by observing the performance of Prudence in the Tale of Melibee or, for that matter, Grisilde in the Clerk’s Tale, but despite Harry Bailly’s heartfelt wishes to the contrary, his wife is not Chaucer the pilgrim’s intended audience; she, like the unruly wife Wil in Sawles Warde’s household of the soul, who willy-nilly gives free reign to all the corporeal temptations flying in through the windows, is not present to witness Prudence’s performance. Harry Bailly is the intended audience of the Tale of Melibee, yet he not only fails to see himself in Melibee but also, like Melibee, does not understand Prudence’s performance, despite her impressive and careful glossing for both men. Chaucer the pilgrim promises Harry Bailly a “moral tale vertuous” [virtuous moral tale] that tells “somwhat moore / Of proverbes than [he] has herd bifoore” [somewhat more of proverbs than (he) has heard before]. 55 But by choosing to retell an allegory in which Prudence’s performativity is misconstrued by an audience over which she has limited control, Chaucer asks his readers to pay attention to the discord Prudence’s performance highlights. Unlike her counterpart in Sawles Warde, who performs as an expositor both within and beyond the text, Chaucer’s Prudence cannot step out of her tale and take her place on the road between London and Canterbury; she cannot mediate, explain, or otherwise gloss for her traveling audience. Both Sawles Warde and Chaucer’s Tale of Melibee, then, not only demonstrate how versatile and complex a figure Prudence proves to be once freed from her stock representations but also how the limitations of her performativity, be it on the allegorical stage within the mind of an anchoritic reader or on the pages of the Canterbury Tales, can be both construed and misconstrued.
The Prologue to the Monk’s Tale, The Riverside Chaucer, 240, ll. 1894–1920. Sir Thopas, The Riverside Chaucer, 216, ll. 940, 955–56.
The Spectacle of Sainthood: Performance and Politics of L a Festa et Storia di Sancta Caterina in Siena Jenna Soleo-Shanks In his fifteenth-century chronicle of Siena, Tommaso Fecini describes what he calls the most “magnificent celebration” in the city’s history, a festa staged in June of 1446. 1 The event began with musicians leading a procession of Siena’s most honorable families in triumphal carriages through the city streets to a purpose-built stage in the piazza of San Domenico. There, prominent members of the government, dressed in costume, faced an audience of more than 20,000 spectators. Other fifteenth-century sources note that the feast was one of a series of events dating back to 1441. 2 While civic celebrations were not uncommon in Siena at the time, several details of this particular tradition and its contemporary record are noteworthy. The indication that civic officials appeared on stage in costume, for example, seems to directly contradict regulations prohibiting magistrates from taking part in public performances. 3 Additionally, the number of spectators reported would have Tommaso Fecini, Cronaca Senese . . . 1431–1479, in Rerum italicarum scriptores, vol. 15, ed. Ludovico Antonio Muratori (Milan: Societatis Palatinae in Regia Curia, 1729), 857. See also Diana Webb, Patrons and Defenders: The Saints in the Italian City-States (London: Tauris, 1996), 301; Graziella Rossi, “Feste, cacce e sacre rappresentazioni,” in Siena a teatro (Siena: Banca Monte dei Paschi, 2002), 21; Emily Ann Moerer, Catherine of Siena and the Use of Images in the Creation of a Saint (1347–1461) (PhD diss., University of Virginia, 2003), 107–8; and Gerald Parsons, The Cult of Saint Catherine of Siena: A Study of Civil Religion (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2008), 22. 2 Biblioteca Comunale degli Intronati, Siena [hereafter BCIS] MS A. IV, fol. 186; and BCIS, BCI Cod. B. III. 9: Sigismondo Tizio, Historiarum Senensium IV, fol. 269. This evidence is discussed in Webb, Patrons and Defenders, 301; Rossi, “Feste,” 21; Moerer, Catherine of Siena, 107–8; and Parsons, The Cult of Saint Catherine of Siena, 22. 3 BCIS Concistoro 2357, fol. 2v, notes that magistrates are only allowed to appear in public for the city’s celebration of the Assumption holiday. 1
Performance and Theatricality in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, ed. by Mark Cruse, ASMAR 41 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2018), pp. 35–54.
nearly doubled the population of the city at the time. Yet, perhaps the most curious detail of the event is its subject: the festa is said to have been in honor of “Santa Catherina.” 4 In fifteenth-century Siena such a celebration would undoubtedly be associated with Catherine Benincasa (1347–80), the Dominican mantellata affectionately known as “santa” during her lifetime. At this time, however, Catherine was not a saint. By 1446, Benincasa had been dead for more than sixty years, but her canonization would not occur until 1461, eighty years after her death and nearly a generation removed from this “most magnificent celebration.” The occasion for the festivities in June of 1446, therefore, remains unclear, as does the justification for the chroniclers’ superlative description. Yet, as Gabrielle M. Spiegel notes, the function of chronicles and early histories was not to report “what actually happened” but, rather, to legitimize the city’s political goals. 5 Thus the question of the value of Siena’s 1446 celebration is one not merely of the performance tradition itself but also of the relationship between the city and the holy figure it promoted through performance. It is a question, moreover, about the political function of performance in this medieval city-state. To investigate the 1446 celebration, one extant text, known as La festa et storia di Sancta Caterina sopra l’atre divota et bella, is of particular value. One of four dramatic texts included in a luxurious manuscript created and preserved by a confraternity devoted to Catherine Benincasa, this play is a likely candidate for the dramatic performance that would have formed the centerpiece of the city’s celebrations of its local holy woman in the 1440s, despite the fact that this sacra rappresentazione is, at least nominally, devoted to the life of Saint Catherine of Alexandria. Before getting into the complexities of the play text, however, it is important to examine the relationship between the city and the woman who would come to be its saint. This will be followed by a discussion of the significance of Sienese efforts to promote Catherine’s sanctity, and the place of performance — specifically of La festa et storia di Sancta Caterina sopra l’atre divota et bella — within that effort. Located in the heart of Tuscany, the Republic of Siena existed as an autonomous city-state from the twelfth century through the sixteenth. Despite a history of near constant struggles against enemies from both within and beyond its walls, the city entered into an era of civic harmony and increasing regional power in the first half of the fourteenth century. Catherine Benincasa was born in 1347, during 4 “A dì 5 di giugno si fe’ in Siena la seconda volta la festa di Santa Catherina, 3 di pasqua su la piazza di S. Domenico, fu vi la Signoria a sedere su palchette che erono intorno intorno [sic] et fustimato che vi fusse più di 20 mila persona vederle” [On the 5th of June in Siena the feast of St. Catherine was held for the second time, at about 3 in the square of S. Dominico, the Signoria was there sitting on a small stage that was round and it was expected that there would be more than 20,000 people to see them] (BCIS, MS A. IV, fol. 186r). 5 Gabrielle M. Spiegel, The Past as Text: The Theory and Practice of Medieval Historiography (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997), xii–xiii.
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this time of relative peace and prosperity. Within the first decade of her life, however, Siena’s hard-won stability was undermined first by the Black Death and then, several years later, by the fall of its long-standing leaders, the merchant oligarchy known as the Nove. Replacing this popular government were oligarchs representing the city’s wealthiest and most elite citizens. Catherine’s father, a prosperous dyer and wool merchant, was a part of this newly dominant political class that took control in 1368. That same year Catherine, who had already begun to live a religious life, took steps to formally associate herself with the Dominican church by enrolling as a mantellata. Distinguished by their white veils, mantellate were not cloistered or bound by the vows that characterized more formal religious communities. Thus Catherine continued to live in her family home, engaging with her city and its citizens with a freedom that was rare for a woman of her time. Her unique lifestyle as a religious woman working within the city, coupled with her family’s place among Siena’s political elite, not only provided Catherine with a keen awareness of her city’s developing political unrest and its effects but also made her potentially dangerous. She exerted worldly influence, but she was not held accountable within the civic structure. The relationship between the holy woman and her city only worsened as her influence grew with her religious followers and, more importantly, with the pope. As Catherine forged relationships with popes and kings, elected officials and aristocrats, mercenaries and artists throughout the 1370s, her city was in the midst of political turmoil, seeking alliances with former adversaries such as Florence to preserve its tenuous autonomy in the face of growing papal antagonism. 6 By the end of her life, Catherine’s position, though never openly hostile, was overwhelmingly in opposition to Siena’s ruling party. Catherine’s saintly identity was established by her followers after her death and most notably articulated in the Legenda maior, composed by her confessor, Raymond of Capua, who attempted to create an image of Catherine as a mystic and pious woman, forced into worldly affairs, who acted only in obedience to divine 6 On the larger regional conflict and its politics, see Marvin Becker, “Church and State in Florence on the Eve of the Renaissance (1343–1382),” Speculum 37 (1962): 509–27; Gene Brucker, Florentine Politics and Society, 1343–1378 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1962), 131–44, 265–355; Richard C. Trexler, The Spiritual Power: Republican Florence under the Interdict (Leiden: Brill, 1974); and David S. Peterson, “The War of Eight Saints in Florentine Memory,” in Society and Individualism in Renaissance Florence, ed. William J. Connell (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002), 173–214. On the politics of Siena in the Quattrocento, see William M. Bowsky, A Medieval Italian Commune: Siena under the Nine, 1287–1355 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981); Edward English, Five Magnate Families of Siena, 1240–1350 (PhD diss., University of Toronto, 1982); and Antonio Rutigliano, Lorenzetti’s Golden Mean: The Riformatori of Siena, 1368–1385 (New York: Peter Lang, 1992). See Giancarlo Boccardi, Caterina da Siena: Una Santa degli Europa (Siena: Cantagalli, 2003), 199–207, for a useful summary of the principal recipients of Catherine’s correspondence.
commands. As F. Thomas Luongo notes, “for Raymond, Catherine moved in the world, but was not a part of it.” 7 The success of this hagiographic program is evident in much of the modern scholarship on Catherine, and especially in the popular view of her as a “mystic removed from the politics of her day.” 8 In her own day, however, Catherine’s complicated life and her contradictory position in Sienese society were well known. At the time of Siena’s “magnificent celebration,” in 1446, Catherine’s legacy as an ally to exiled factions and an aid to papal influence was still alive in her home city. It is perhaps for this reason that the work to promote her sanctity began not in Siena but, rather, in Venice, where her popularity hastened a formal enquiry in 1411 into her sanctity. In spite of the favorable result, her devotees were unable to initiate a full papal review of the case for canonization. It took four decades to finally reopen her case, and this victory for her followers coincided with a shift in attitudes about Benincasa in her home city. Although it took generations for Sienese leaders to openly support Catherine’s canonization, her name had long been honored by some in the city. The tradition of honoring Benincasa in Sienese public celebrations began upon her death in 1385 with the reception of her relics into the city, and it continued each April with memorials marking the anniversary of her death. Although the 1385 event was elaborate and set a precedent for annual celebrations of the local holy woman, these anniversaries were limited by strict parameters for memorializing local beati who were not canonized, which included “the placing of floral tributes in front of [her] image and the recitation of verses in [her] honor.” 9 It was not until the canonization was made official in 1461 that the annual celebration expanded, following the elaborate protocols established for the celebration of another of Siena’s local saints, Bernardino Albizzeschi in 1450. 10 Yet even after the inception of Catherine’s feast day, the events of the “magnificent celebration” find no parallel in the civic record. 7 F. Thomas Luongo, The Saintly Politics of Catherine of Siena (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2006), 8. 8 Luongo, The Saintly Politics of Catherine of Siena, 7. 9 Parsons, The Cult of Saint Catherine of Siena, 21. 10 Archivio di Stato, Siena [hereafter ASS], Statuto di Siena 39, fol. 79v: 19 marzo 1461, Sancta Caterina Senensis. “Che i Magnifici Signori che per li tempi che saranno insieme con li ordini et altri cittadini quale lo piaccia, vadino con honorata compagnia ogni anno la prima domenica di maggio perchè in tale dì si celebra la festa de la gloriosa Vergine Sancta Caterina Senese, a Sancto Domenico in Camporeggi et faccino la medesima offerta che fa la Biccherna a Sancto Francesco per la festa di Sancto Bernardino. Et tengasi quello medesimo stile, salvo che non si gravino le Arti di offerta o di spesa più che loro si voglino, ma in ogni altro atto si honori questa nostra dignissima Santa, ricordata come Sancto Bernardino predetto” [The Magnificent Signori, that through these days, will go together with the orders and other citizens in humble company every year on the first Sunday in May, because on this day we celebrate the feast of the glorious Virgin, Holy Catherine of Siena, in Saint Dominico in Camporeggi and make the same offering that is made by the Chancellary of Finance to Saint Francis for the feast of Saint Bernardino. And borne in the same style, except that it will not burden the guilds by offering or
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One might assume that Siena’s devotion toward the local holy woman explains the city’s desire to stage performances in her honor before her canonization. A mystic, theologian, and writer, Benincasa may have lived the life of a penitent, but she was far from a recluse. She rejected secular life at a young age, and her pious work attracted followers within her city and throughout the region. Her reputation as a peacemaker and spiritual counselor spread so quickly, in fact, that the first account of her life was penned in 1374, the same year she first wrote to Pope Gregory XI. 11 When news of her death in 1380 spread, she was mourned by thousands both in Rome, where her body lay, as well as in her home city, where public displays continued for days on end. Such details, which were previously accepted at face value by scholars, might suggest that Benincasa’s city would be eager to honor and promote the sanctity of its local holy woman. As noted above, however, recent scholarship has challenged the claim that the Sienese universally revered the Dominican woman, even into the fifteenth century. 12 Although the typical narrative of Benincasa’s life, beginning with those written by her contemporary hagiographers, focuses on her mysticism and rejection of secularism, her work was integrally connected to the politics of her day. As Carolyn Muessig notes, Benincasa “was a person who had her finger on the pulse of the religious and political world of late medieval Italy.” 13 Her regional alliances and influence with the pope directly influenced the political dynamics of her home city. During the so-called War of Eight Saints (1375–78), Siena was allied with Florence against the pope. At this time, Catherine consorted with the Salimbeni family, who had been exiled from Siena and had made numerous attempts to invade the city. Her activities were perceived as such a threat to Sienese leaders that they called for her return to the city — a demand Benincasa rejected with explicit defense of her innocence. 14 Yet there was no denying her work to restore the papal spending more than they wish, but in every other way it honors this our most worthy saint, in the manner of the aforementioned Saint Bernardino]. For more on Siena’s Bernardino tradition, see Fabrizio Nevola, “Ceremoniali per santi e feste a Siena a metà Quattrocento: Documenti dallo Statuto di Siena 39,” in Siena e il suo territorio nel Rinascimento, ed. Mario Ascheri (Siena: Il Leccio, 2001), 171–84; and Robert L. Mode, “San Bernardino in Glory,” Art Bulletin 55.1 (March 1977): 59–70. 11 I Miracoli di Caterina di Iacopo da Siena di anonimo fiorentino, ed. Francesco Valli, Fontes Vitae S. Catharinae Senesi Historici 4 (Milan: G.C. Sansoni, 1936), 1–25. 12 Luongo, The Saintly Politics of Catherine of Siena; idem, “The Historical Reception of Catherine of Siena,” in A Companion to Catherine of Siena, ed. Carolyn Muessig, George Ferzoco, and Beverly Mayne Kienzle (Leiden: Brill, 2012), 23–45; and Parsons, The Cult of Saint Catherine of Siena. 13 Carolyn Muessig, “Introduction,” in Muessig, Ferzoco, and Kienzle, A Companion to Catherine of Siena, 1–21, at 6. 14 Letter 122, September 1377, from Benincasa to Sienese civic leaders, in which she denies being involved in plots against the government, quoted in Luongo, The Saintly Politics of Catherine of Siena, 1–2.
court to Rome during the Avignon papacy, work that was especially divisive in Siena because it ultimately contributed to the Great Schism. 15 As Luongo notes, “her supposed responsibility for the Schism was undoubtedly a reason for the long delay in her canonization.” 16 The complex relationship between the city and its future saint did not end with Catherine’s death but, in fact, continued over the generations during which her possible canonization was pursued and debated. In the 1410s, when Catherine’s canonization was first championed by representatives of the Dominican Order, the Sienese government was not involved. By the 1450s, however, Siena’s leaders took control in order to ensure the successful completion of the process towards canonization, assuming financial responsibility and sending ambassadors to oversee and report on the papal inquiry at every turn. The years immediately preceding this change in civic policy towards Benincasa may therefore be considered as a turning point in the relationship between the city and its potential saint. Catherine’s eventual canonization was, as Gerald Parsons explains, “the culmination of a sustained effort on the part of the Sienese to secure such recognition for a figure who had already become an important member of the ‘civic pantheon’ of Sienese saints and beati.” 17 The magnitude of the celebrations of the 1440s described in the chronicles, coupled with the suggestion that they included processions and music as well as self-consciously dramatic performances, indicates that these events were not merely memorials to a local holy woman but, rather, performances of statehood that traded on the popularity of local religious figures to legitimate the city itself. The “magnificent celebration” for Catherine in 1446 therefore had much in common with other Sienese public spectacles of unique civic-religious significance. These annual traditions, which dated to the thirteenth century, included Siena’s celebration of the Assumption holiday as well as an event in honor of a local Franciscan preacher, Ambrogio Sansadoni. While religious in tone, these events had overt political import. Siena’s Assumption tradition, for example, which celebrated the Virgin Mary’s intervention in a decisive battle, culminated each year with citizens fulfilling their tax obligation as part of a highly structured and performative display. 18 The tradition for Ambrogio Sansedoni, meanwhile, recognized the friar’s successful diplomacy on behalf of the city by presenting a sophisticated dramatic
Luongo, “The Historical Reception of Catherine of Siena,” 24. Luongo, “The Historical Reception of Catherine of Siena,” 25. 17 Parsons, The Cult of Saint Catherine of Siena, 17–18. 18 Jenna Soleo-Shanks, “From Stage to Page: Siena’s Caleffo dell’Assunta, Spectacular Machines, and the Promotion of Civic Power in a Medieval Italian City-State,” in Exploring the Thresholds of Medieval Visual Culture, ed. Jill Stevenson and Elina Gertsman (Woodbridge: Boydell and Brewer, 2012), 281–301. 15
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re-enactment of the political episode. 19 An investigation of the content and context of Siena’s performances in honor of Catherine Benincasa in the 1440s — events I call Siena’s Catherinian performance tradition — not only reveals a similar political dimension to the events but also provides a unique demonstration of the power of performance as a political tool, particularly given the complexity of the relationship between the city and Catherine. More than simple public displays, Siena’s Catherinian tradition can be seen as a series of political interventions through which civic leaders sought to construct, articulate, and promote a very specific image of Benincasa not only as a sacred figure but also as a uniquely Sienese saint. By the 1440s, Siena’s “civic pantheon” included many contemporary citizensaints, or santi cittadini, including Catherine, who had first been referred to as such in the 1420s. The entire cast of these santi cittadini was featured in a visual program commissioned to adorn Siena’s most prestigious civic locations (the baptistery, the hospital of Santa Maria della Scala, and the Palazzo Pubblico) beginning in 1445. Many of these same local saints and beati, notably the aforementioned Ambrogio Sansedoni and Bernardino Albizzeschi, are also featured in self-consciously dramatic performance traditions that appear at this time. While it is unclear exactly when each tradition was initially conceived, by the 1440s, after generations of civic turmoil, civic leaders not only actively sponsored such performances but also promoted them as civic celebrations. This civic agenda might explain why Fecini’s chronicle notation of the events of 1446 seems so effusive. It is also noteworthy that Siena’s Catherinian tradition did not exist in a cultural vacuum. Catherine, like her contemporary santi cittadini, was being honored by her city in both visual and performative art. These projects, remarkably, began before her canonization. Thus it is clear that, despite a complicated political relationship with their local holy woman, the Sienese came to recognize and promote Catherine as a citizen-saint even before her official canonization. This is not to say, however, that the city was overtly promoting Benincasa’s sanctity in the absence of the requisite papal approval. Recent work by Diana Norman, in fact, makes it abundantly clear that Sienese visual depictions of Benincasa at this time occupied a purposefully ambiguous space: civic commissions required that Catherine be depicted as a revered holy woman and admired citizen but stopped short of using the visual iconography of sainthood. 20 During the papal enquiry into Catherine’s canonization, the Sienese were very careful not to overstep the bounds of Church dictates and present Catherine as anything other than a beatified Soleo-Shanks, Performing the Ben Comune: The Political Functions of Performance in the Republic of Siena (1260–1555) (PhD diss., Graduate Center of the City University of New York, 2009), 196–204. 20 Diana Norman, “Santi cittadini: Vecchietta and the Civic Pantheon in Mid-FifteenthCentury Siena,” in Art as Politics in Late Medieval and Renaissance Siena, ed. Timothy B. Smith and Judith B. Steinhoff (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2012), 115–40. See also Parsons, The Cult of Saint Catherine of Siena, 19. 19
woman. As Parsons explains, paintings of Catherine commissioned before 1461 conspicuously depict her with the rays of a beata as opposed to the full halo, which signifies a saint. 21 In contrast, in an image completed in the baptistery between 1450 and 1453, immediately after the canonization of Bernardino Albizzeschi, the newly canonized saint is afforded the halo while Catherine is not. Furthermore, in May of 1461, within weeks of Catherine’s canonization, when Sienese leaders should have been confident that their efforts were successful, documents attest that civic leaders “consistently and scrupulously refer to Catherine as beata Caterina,” not sancta. 22 Sienese leaders applied the same caution to visual commissions as they did to performance practices, which may be one reason why they could not sponsor a performance depicting the life of Catherine Benincasa in the 1440s. The evidence suggests that, despite the many reports that Siena sponsored performative celebrations of Catherine Benincasa in the 1440s, 23 no dramatization of Benincasa’s life would have been staged in Siena prior to her canonization. However, the city could promote Benincasa’s sanctity in other ways, including performances that dramatized the legend of another holy woman whose life and deeds were closely associated with Siena’s own holy Catherine, a saint with whom Benincasa even shared a name. The play of La festa et storia di Sancta Caterina sopra l’atre divota et bella, a 1,640-line Sienese sacra rappresentazione devoted to the life of Saint Catherine of Alexandria, may very well be the text around which such a performance was designed and staged. First described in late nineteenth-century scholarship as “one of the most precious documents of ancient Italian drama,” 24 La festa et storia di Sancta Caterina was virtually ignored by scholars for almost a century. A 1997 English translation by Anne Wilson Tordi made the text more accessible but has sparked little scholarly interest, perhaps because the translator ignores the play’s possible performance history and oversimplifies the text’s contemporary context. 25 One aspect of the play’s history that Tordi does explore, however, is the text’s preservation in an undated manuscript belonging to the Sienese confraternity of Santa Caterina della Notte. Made up of Catherine of Siena’s earliest followers, who had formerly belonged to other confraternities, this group was created with the
Parsons, The Cult of Saint Catherine of Siena, 22. Parsons, The Cult of Saint Catherine of Siena, 23, 25. 23 For example, “Rappresentazione di Santa Caterina da Siena,” in Sacre rappresentazioni toscane dei secoli XV e XVI, ed. Paolo Toschi (Florence: Olschki, 1969), 79–85. 24 Vincenzo de Bartholomaeis, “De codice senese di sacre rappresentazioni,” Rendiconti della Reale Accademia de’ Lincei: Classe di scienze morali storiche e filologiche 6, pt. 1 (Rome: Tipografia della Accademia, 1890), 313. 25 La festa et storia di Sancta Caterina: A Medieval Italian Religious Drama, ed. and trans. Anne Wilson Tordi (New York: Peter Lang, 1997). 21
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express purpose of honoring the Sienese holy woman. 26 The manuscript’s luxurious details suggest that it represented a sizable investment by the confraternity and thus may have been commissioned to celebrate its consolidation in 1477, but the style and syntax of the text itself suggest that it existed “as early as the late fourteenth century.” 27 Thus performances of a play designed to recall and promote the sanctity of Siena’s holy woman may date back to the time of Catherine’s death. One of many dramatic interpretations of the legend of Catherine of Alexandria, La festa et storia di Sancta Caterina stands out as one of only two medieval Italian plays of the saint. 28 The main character announces that she is “the daughter of King Costus, Catherine by name,” 29 and the action brings to life important episodes from the saint’s legend over three days, beginning with her conversion and mystical marriage to Christ and ending with her torture and martyrdom. As Tordi notes, “the play does not diverge from the traditional narrative” of Saint Catherine of Alexandria’s life. 30 However, certain details stand out for their seeming incongruity with the popular legend. These details can only be understood within the context of Sienese history and the issues surrounding the local veneration of Catherine Benincasa. Despite the absence of direct references to Benincasa, her presence is suggested metonymically throughout the text. Siena’s holy woman cultivated the associations between herself and her namesake saint during her lifetime, by invoking Saint Catherine of Alexandria as a model of sanctity and by claiming the early Christian martyr as her patron. Furthermore, the character of Catherine in La festa et storia di Sancta Caterina is not simply an iteration of the Alexandrian saint. Rather, the Catherine of the play reminds audiences of important events in Benincasa’s life, especially her very real presence as a member of Sienese society. The play can be seen as rewriting the more problematic details of the life and deeds of the Sienese holy woman within the accepted model of female sanctity represented by Catherine of Alexandria. The play is layered with specific Sienese references that, for local audiences, would have transformed the well-known episodes from the early saint’s life into a uniquely Sienese drama. For the Sienese audience, the parallels between
ASS, Patrimonio dei Resti Ecclesiastici, 568, fols. 1v–3v. For more on the genesis of this confraternity, see Emily Moerer, “Consorella or Mantellata? Notes on Catherine of Siena’s Confraternal Legacy,” in Confraternitas 18.1 (2007): 2–15, at 9. 27 Tordi, La festa et storia di Sancta Caterina, 1. See also de Vincenzo de Bartholomaeis, Origini della poesia drammatica italiana (Turin: Società Editrice Internazionale, 1952), 384. 28 The other Italian dramatic treatment of the legend is La devota rapresentatione di S. Caterina vergine e martire: Nuovamente ristampata (Florence, 1561), sig. Av; reprinted in Toschi, ed., Sacre rappresentazioni toscane, 79–85. 29 “Del re Costo figiula, / So’ Caterina per nome chiamata”: Tordi, La festa et storia di Sancta Caterina, 124–25. 30 Tordi, La festa et storia di Sancta Caterina, 21. 26
the early Christian Catherine and the medieval holy woman that ran through the play made it a potent argument for the sanctity of Siena’s non-yet-sainted Catherine. If La festa et storia di Sancta Caterina was staged in 1446, it would have provided the local Sienese audience with myriad ways to approach and appreciate the life of their local holy woman. For example, in the play, Catherine of Alexandria has a mystical marriage to Christ, which is a feature of both the Alexandrian legend and Benincasa’s biography. Yet in the play, the discussion of marriage takes place not between Catherine and Christ alone but between Catherine and the Virgin Mary, who holds an image of the Christ Child and performs the espousal between them. This detail may have been a reference to an aspect of Benincasa’s unique mystical marriage, as described in the first account of her life, known as the Miracoli, which was written around 1374 by an anonymous Florentine. According to the account, as a child Catherine sought solitude outside the city walls and once hid herself in a grotto outside the Porta di Sant’ Ansano, where she prayed to the Virgin Mary to be espoused to Christ and where the Blessed Mother ultimately appeared to her carrying the Christ Child in answer to her prayer. As this example demonstrates, details of the text that may be overlooked by modern readers may have had complex resonance to a fifteenth-century Sienese audience and must therefore be considered within the context of Catherine’s history and the context of her city. Such examples abound in the first two days of the Sienese play, which include miracles and episodes that are uniquely connected to the city, its history, and its performance tradition. They cannot be connected to the legend of the early saint, nor are they evident in extant contemporary Italian treatments of the legend. One of the most obvious examples of the play’s uniquely Sienese focus appears in the very first moments of the first day, where there is an unexpected focus on water. While water, of course, has deep Christian significance, which is explored overtly in the play through the act of baptism, there is another more basic human need for water, which defined Siena’s history. Living in a landlocked city without plentiful rivers or lakes, the Sienese were preoccupied with water throughout their history. Beyond restricting Siena’s manufacturing and trade opportunities, the limited water supply ultimately undermined the city’s economic foundation. The banking industry failed in part due to the city’s lack of water when, in the sixteenth century, even the papacy lost faith in Siena’s ability to survive without its own water sources and papal funds were transferred from Sienese to Florentine banks. 31 The city’s obsession with finding useful water sources resulted in a range of projects, from the idealized and ill-fated expansion schemes so ridiculed by Dante to the practical and successful underground aqueducts still studied by modern engineers. In short, Sienese anxiety over water was a defining civic characteristic of the republican era. The focus on water in the play functions as a metaphor for the city itself and the struggles with which its citizens most identified themselves. 31
English, Five Magnate Families, 127–30.
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The Sienese dream of water, flowing in and around the city, is referenced in major works of art on both religious and civic subjects, from Duccio’s early fourteenth-century Temptation on the Mountain, part of the Maestà originally displayed on the high altar of Siena’s cathedral, to Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s famous frescoes, known as The Effects of Good Government, commissioned to decorate the central meeting room of Siena’s government palace. The former is a utopian vision of Siena, with water flowing from the hillsides into the city, described by scholars as a vision of abundant water, available to all, that was an expression of a shared Sienese dream. 32 Lorenzetti’s image is also commonly described as “an idealized image of the Sienese contado.” 33 Specifically, the fresco represents an actual municipal project that had yet to be realized at the time of the painting’s completion. The section of the painting labeled “Talamone” refers to a swamp-like coastal region about fifty miles southwest of Siena that had been purchased by the city in the early fourteenth century in hopes of creating a viable port. 34 Siena’s gamble on Talamone was a financial catastrophe and proof, to some, of Sienese hubris. Dante describes the Sienese as “those vain people who put their hopes in Talamone and will lose more than they may hope to find in the Diana.” 35 The Diana, a legendary underground water source that was the obsession of civic leaders throughout the republican era, rivaled Talamone in the Sienese imagination. Like Talamone, the Diana never provided the city with water. Sienese hope for water may have gone unfulfilled throughout the republican era, but that did not stop artists such as Duccio and Lorenzetti from imagining the city flowing with water. The same image is brought to life in performance in La festa et storia di Sancta Caterina. Water is especially important in the first day of the three-part play, which focuses on Catherine’s conversion. The conversion day begins with a miracle and ends with a sacrament, both involving water. Whereas Catherine’s baptism provides the expected conclusion to the first part of the sacra rappresentazione, the opening scene is not part of the popular legend. Tordi admits that it “has no precedent in other poetic or prose versions of the Catherine tradition.” 36 Taken together, however, the two scenes frame the unique Sienese version of the conversion by demonstrating the miraculous and transformative power of water. English, Five Magnate Families, 127–30. Diana Norman, Siena and the Virgin: Art and Politics in a Late Medieval City State (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1999), 14. 34 The Sienese acquired Talamone in 1303. For more on the government investment and building program in Talamone, see Norman, Siena and the Virgin, 14; and Paolo Cammarosano and Vincenzo Passeri, Castelli del Senese: structure fortificate dell’area senese-grossetana (Milan: NIE, 1985). 35 “. . . quello gente vana / che spera in Talamone, e perderagli / più di speranza ch’a trovar la Diana”: Dante, Purgatorio, Canto XIII, ll.151–53 (Rome: Armando Editore, 2003), 231. 36 Tordi, La Festa et storia di Sancta Caterina, 47. 32
The day begins with a hermit praying to God for water: Lift this burden from me now that I am old, O glorious God. It is too tiring for me to go far off for water, O my Lord, you, gracious and loving, who gave generously to Moses in the desert when you satisfied your people who were so thirsty. 37
The hermit’s needs reflect the very core of Siena’s desperation. By the 1440s the city had been looking for water for centuries, searching beyond its walls, as far as Talamone, in hopes of finding a viable source. Sienese audience members would have identified with the hermit’s exhaustion and desire for water. His next lines would have resonated even more deeply: “Lord, I want to pray [to] you to give me such a fountain of water that I need no longer go fetch it.” 38 The hermit’s prayer is answered with the appearance of an angel, who does not simply bring water to him but rather tells him where and how to obtain it: “Make the sign of the cross at the first dry wood that you find.” 39 Although no stage directions indicate the actions that would have followed this line, it is clear that the hermit heeds the angel’s instructions and is rewarded. The hermit’s reaction reveals that this was no mere trickle but a spectacular gush. He calls the water “a sign of true hope of the blessed kingdom,” 40 thus suggesting that the water is not simply a fulfillment of a physical need or an answer to a prayer but is proof that heaven and redemption exist. While the abundant flow of water speaks to God’s power and testifies to the existence of heaven, water also signifies sanctity. Of the two hermits who appear in the play, only one can make water appear. The one that produces water inspires his fellow brother to recommit himself to the Lord and also becomes Catherine’s spiritual counsel. Catherine’s conversion to Christianity depends on the sanctity of this counselor, which is established through his receipt of the heavenly gift of water. The first hermit is not the main character in the Sienese play and only appears in the first day of the three-part performance, yet during his limited stage time he accounts for an extensive amount of the dialogue. Despite the fact that he is one of at least eight speaking characters appearing on the first day, he has almost half of
Tordi, La Festa et storia di Sancta Caterina, 60–61, ll. 9–16: “Levami questa briga / Orch’io son vechio, o glorioso Idio. / Troppo m’è gram fatica / Andar lungi per l’acqua, o signor mio, / Tu, gratioso et pio, / Che nel diserto a Moyses donasti, / Quando tu satiasti / El popul tuo ch’era sì assetato.” 38 Tordi, La Festa et storia di Sancta Caterina, 61, ll. 17–20: “Signor, ti vo’ pregare / Che dell’acqua mi doni una tal vonte / Non mi bisogni andare / Più colaggiù per essa a pie’ ponte.” 39 Tordi, La Festa et storia di Sancta Caterina, 62–63, ll. 23–24: “Fa’ il segno della croce / Al primo legno secco ch’ai trovato.” 40 Tordi, La Festa et storia di Sancta Caterina, 64, ll. 31–32: “di vera speranza / Segno m’ài dato del regno beato.” 37
The Spectacle of Sainthood
the lines and speaks almost twice as much as Catherine. The focus put on the hermit in La festa et storia di Sancta Caterina is particularly interesting when compared with the character’s absence in many Italian versions of the legend. The hermit only appears in four of the thirteen contemporary examples with which Tordi compares the Sienese text. 41 Even the primary Latin source, the Passio Sancte Katerine Virginis, overlooks the hermit. 42 The presence of a hermit character would have had distinct resonance for the Sienese, however, again owing to details of Catherine Benincasa’s unique biography. As noted earlier, according to the Miracoli, in her youth Catherine often went beyond the city walls to pray at the Porta di Sant’ Ansano, which at the time was home to a number of communities of female hermits. In the play, a hermit converts Catherine, acts as her first confessor, and instructs her on how to live a religious life. Conspicuously absent from accounts of Saint Catherine of Alexandria’s life, hermits were instrumental in the early formation of Catherine Benincasa’s religious life. Although the hermit is Catherine’s counselor and spiritual guide, her ultimate transformation from pagan to Christian occurs only after she begs for the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and receives a miraculous sign. In describing the vision in which she speaks to the Virgin, Catherine explains to the hermit how she knelt before an image and begged for the Virgin’s intercession. To the Sienese audience, the action of kneeling before an image of the Virgin and asking for her intercession would have resonated in a very specific way. This was the same act undertaken by Sienese citizens when they first dedicated themselves and their city to the Virgin before the Battle of Montaperti in 1260. It was also the action that formed the foundation of the city’s annual ritual of civic and religious devotion on the Virgin’s feast day. Quoting the central event of the city’s annual Assumption celebration did more than remind the local audience of their national holiday, it marked the character of Catherine as uniquely Sienese. Yet another detail further substantiates this idea. In the play Catherine describes Mary as “an empress all adorned, / All beautiful and happy, / Crowned with a great crown, / Accompanied by angels.” 43 This description could easily describe the Madonna degli grossi, the image before which the Sienese reportedly made their original vow. Unlike later Marian altarpieces, which employed either angels or crowns, the early anonymous altarpiece notably features both. Thus, the dialogue suggests that Catherine dedicates herself to the very same image of the Virgin before which the Sienese were believed to have proclaimed their original vow to the Madonna. By referencing the image, the play not only suggests a connection between the staged representation
Tordi, La Festa et storia di Sancta Caterina, 17–35. Tordi, La Festa et storia di Sancta Caterina, 249. 43 Tordi, La Festa et storia di Sancta Caterina, 97, ll. 354–57: “Viddi quella Maria tutta ‘dornata / Tutta bella et felice, / D’una magna corona incoronata, / D’angeli accompagnata.” 41
of Catherine’s conversion and the city’s sacred and civic history, but also promotes the acceptance of Catherine as an act of civic loyalty. As these examples demonstrate, the unusual details of the conversion drama allowed the local Sienese audience to see their own civic struggles and their uniquely civic form of devotion in the sacred drama. To the Sienese, both civic survival and spiritual salvation were made possible through the Virgin. This civic ideology is most powerfully expressed in the myth of Montaperti, but it is also evident in La festa et storia di Sancta Caterina, where references to the Virgin connect the city’s temporal need for water to the sacred power of water, as manifest in the sacrament of baptism. The first day begins when the hermit asks the Lord to give him a fountain, and it ends immediately after Catherine asks for and receives baptism. Before the sacrament can be performed, however, the hermit provides Catherine with one last deep and powerful metaphor through which he ostensibly explains the Christian mystery. The hermit describes the miracle of Christ’s incarnation by calling the Virgin “the divine fountain.” 44 This common image had special significance for the Sienese community, as it simultaneously evoked the Virgin’s intercessory and protective role, the redemptive power of baptism, and the fountains that provided Siena with much-needed water. Catherine stands in for the Sienese audience when she demonstrates her understanding of the hermit’s message. Upon hearing the hermit’s description of the Virgin as a “divine fountain,” Catherine confirms her belief and understanding in “the great mystery” of Christianity and asks to be baptized. 45 As both a terrestrial concern and spiritual symbol, water frames the main action of the conversion day. If La festa et storia di Sancta Caterina was used for the celebration of 1446, it would have been staged within sight of Siena’s oldest fountain, Fontebranda, in the shadow of the church of San Domenico. Productions of the play could easily have used the water from that fountain to achieve the spectacular effect of the divine source suggested in the aforementioned lines. By connecting the miracles and metaphors involving water and the baptism scene to the city’s oldest and most honored fountain, the performance called attention to the city’s great efforts and even greater achievements in procuring water. Despite the dearth of natural water sources in Sienese territory, the city managed to create a useful system of aqueducts or bottini by investing in extensive engineering projects throughout the early
Tordi, La Festa et storia di Sancta Caterina, 100, ll. 397: “La divina Fontana.” Tordi, La Festa et storia di Sancta Caterina, 100–1, ll. 401–8: “I believe what that what you say / Of your God is the truth, / And my intellect / Understands the manner of the Trinity. / And of the humanity [of Christ]. / I understand the great mystery completely, / Therefore I want you to give me / Holy baptism, for I have delayed too long” [Io credo del tuo Dio / Quel che tu dici sie la veritade, / Et lo ‘ntellecto mio / Comprehende il modo della trinitade / Et della humanitade. / Il gram misterio intend tutto quanto, / Però il baptesimo sancto / Vó che mi dia, chè troppo ò indugiato]. 44 45
The Spectacle of Sainthood
republican era. 46 Siena’s unique bottini system, which allowed water to flow through the city in subterranean tunnels, is still a marvel of civic engineering today. 47 In the medieval republic, water from the bottini, used for drinking, sanitation, and manufacturing, was collected by citizens at often elaborate fountain complexes. Not simply utilitarian, these civic fountains were gathering places and points of civic pride. The Sienese expended huge sums in designing, decorating, and maintaining these fountains, particularly Fontebranda. 48 The most compelling evidence that La festa et storia di Sancta Caterina was staged near the honored fountain is found in the text of the second day of the play. Devoid of obvious miracles or spectacle, the second day seems to lack the very elements that characterized the popular style of sacre rappresentazioni. Most of the text, in fact, focuses on a debate. According to Tordi, the scenes that focus on foreign characters, including a procession scene prior to the debate, were intended “to thrill the audience” and thus can be understood as the dramatic highlight of the day. 49 Although the inclusion of foreign characters indeed would have provided an opportunity for some spectacle, I would argue that the scenes did more than merely show off “elaborate costumes and lavish props that the middle-class public would have enjoyed,” as Tordi states. 50 Like the unexpected focus on water on day one of the play, the unusual form and important function of these scenes on day two can only be appreciated within the context of Sienese performance history. Details of these scenes also provide a compelling link between the play text and chronicle accounts of the performance staged in Fontebranda in 1446. The second day begins with a discussion between the pagan emperor, Maxentius, and Catherine, which quickly ends when Maxentius realizes that he is unable to outwit the Christian woman: “The more I sharpen my wits, / The more I see wisdom in her.” 51 He decides, instead, to send messengers throughout the world in
46 Duccio Balestracci, Daniela Lamberini, Mauro Civai, and Bruno Bruchi, I bottini medievali di Siena (Siena: Alsaba, 1993); Fabio Bargagli-Petrucci, Le fonti di Siena e i loro acquedotti (Siena: Periccioli, 1992); and Roberta Magnusson, Water Technology in the Middle Ages: Cities, Monasteries, and Waterworks after the Roman Empire (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001). 47 Michael Kucher, The Water Supply System of Siena, Italy: The Medieval Roots of the Modern Networked City (New York: Routledge, 2004). 48 Duccio Balestracci, “Siena e le sue fonti,” in Siena e l’acqua: Storia e immagini di una città e della due fonti, ed. Vincio Serino (Siena: Nuova Immagine Editrice, 1997); idem, L’immagine di Siena: le due città: le piante degli acquedotti sotterranei di Siena nelle collezioni cittadine (dal XVI al XIX secolo): catalogo della mostra: Siena, Palazzo pubblico, Magazzini del sale, 25 marzo–9 maggio 1999 (Siena: Nuova imagine, 1999). 49 Tordi, La Festa et storia di Sancta Caterina, 47. 50 Tordi, La Festa et storia di Sancta Caterina, 47. 51 Tordi, La Festa et storia di Sancta Caterina, 127, ll. 651–52: “Quanto più m’assottiglio, / Più veggio sapientia in lei.”
search of great minds to challenge her. 52 The scholars who are called to this debate become the focus of three distinct scenes, which account for roughly half of the overall text of day two. Prefacing the scholars’ entrance is a scene that establishes the greed and corruption of the pagan court, featuring messengers who have gone in search of scholars and have now returned to court demanding that they be paid. Specific details, such as the messengers’ rate of pay, given in florins, as well as the mention of a local Sienese tavern and local wines, suggest that the scene functioned to connect the foreign setting of the play to contemporary Siena. During the procession of the scholars, which forms the highlight of the day’s action, each scholar announces his specialty and place of origin as he enters the performance space. These foreigners identify themselves as judges from Damascus, Cyprus, Beirut, Hungary, Germany, Rome, Spain, and France; logicians from England, Lombardy, Persia, and Syria; magicians from Barbary; poets from India; geometricians from Crete; and astrologers from the East. Although little information is given about each group or individual, the amount of time the scene encompasses is noteworthy, especially when compared to the time devoted to other scenes. In the opening exchange between Catherine and the emperor, only twenty-nine lines are needed to establish Catherine’s understanding of the Christian mystery, her intellect, and her firm conviction against her pagan enemy. Yet, more than one hundred lines are employed to introduce the foreigners who have come to debate her. 53 The inclusion of the procession in La festa et storia di Sancta Caterina seems to have been unique to the Sienese version of the Catherine legend. After a thorough examination of the early saint’s legend, Tordi concludes that the “elaborate procession of captains and scholars arriving at the court . . . is not found in other Italian versions of the legend.” 54 Although Sienese officials often took part in public processions on feast days, and members of the clergy occasionally performed the roles of sacred characters, 55 I have found no other reference to magistrates and council members dressing in costume for performances or participating as actors in Siena. The unique inclusion of civic officials as actors in what was likely an original embellishment of the popular legend is another indication that the Sienese production of La festa et storia di Sancta Caterina in 1446 was an important event. This long and detailed procession, with its inclusion of tributes, would have resembled Siena’s civic processions for sacred holidays. Not merely a bourgeois indulgence in the play, as some scholars have suggested, the inclusion of tributes would likely have resonated with the audience on several levels. First, tributes were an important part of civic processions, such as those that marked the Assumption Tordi, La Festa et storia di Sancta Caterina, 128–9, ll. 660–80. Tordi, La Festa et storia di Sancta Caterina, 138–51, ll. 745–856. 54 Tordi, La Festa et storia di Sancta Caterina, 47. 55 Civic records suggest, and chronicle discussions note, that for Siena’s annual performance in honor of Ambrogio Sandedoni, the part of the holy Dominican was typically performed by the oldest and most revered member of his order. 52
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holiday, which required the attendance of all Sienese citizens under penalty of law and which culminated with the donation of tax tributes. The play’s inclusion of tributes also seems to quote Sienese legendary history and would have had significant meaning for Sienese audiences. Before the foreign leaders enter, a captain announces the many gifts he has brought, including a cart laden with silver. In Siena, the image of a cart filled with money would have referenced one thing: the Battle of Montaperti, Siena’s legendary fight for freedom against Florentine invaders in 1260. Chronicle accounts report that Siena could never have won the battle without the donation of “a cart filled with 118,000 florins” to pay the German mercenaries. 56 In her discussion of the tribute scene, Tordi points out that “the use of the demonstratives ‘questo’ and ‘quello’ indicates that the items pointed to were visible to the audience.” 57 The captain specifically points out the cart, saying, “that is a cart loaded with silver.” 58 The physical presence of that item on stage would no doubt have deepened the significance of the dramatic moment. An emphasis on exotic costuming would also presumably have made the scene a highlight of the play. Although no stage directions provide specific information about what these characters wore, it is likely that the array of exotic costumes needed to distinguish the foreigners from the characters in Maxentius’s court would have added to the spectacular impact of the scene. Whereas in medieval performances sets were often simple and the ability to employ complex spectacular machinery may have been limited, costuming was one area that was highly developed. 59 Late medieval performance, in general, delighted in the use of exotic costumes for foreigner characters. One example of the popularity of staging “exotic” characters in performances throughout Europe can be seen in the ubiquity of Magi plays. 60 Because the dialogue of the procession scene in Siena’s Catherine play denotes more than a dozen different points of origin for the scholars and concludes by designating the astrologers as simply “from the East,” it seems clear that this scene was, in part, an opportunity for spectators to enjoy the “oriental” fashions that were popular throughout the era. Contemporary evidence in the visual arts attests to the Fecini, Cronaca Senese, 200. Tordi, La festa et storia di Sancta Caterina, 47. 58 Tordi, La Festa et storia di Sancta Caterina, 142–43, l. 786: “quell’è un carro carco d’ariento.” 59 Documentation regarding a play presented in Ferrara at roughly the same time as Siena’s La festa et storia di Sancta Caterina attests that the Ferrarese production had more than 287 costumes. See “Classical performances in Ferrara, 1499,” letter from Jano Pencaro to Isabella Gonzaga, written in Ferrara and dated 9 February 1499, quoted in The Medieval European Stage, 500–1500, ed. William Tydeman (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 468–69. 60 The Magi were featured in plays presented at contemporary fourteenth- and fifteenthcentury Italian spectacles in Milan (1336), Florence (1463), and Revello (15th century), as well as in the Benediktbeuren Christmas play and in performances staged in Beverley, Dublin, Barcelona, and Delft. See Tydeman, The Medieval European Stage, 500–1500, 103–6. 56 57
popularity of such images, 61 and performance practices also would have highlighted the spectacle of foreign characters in exotic dress. As Fecini reports in his chronicle, the 1446 performance included members of the Sienese government wearing costumes representing “an emperor, a king, lords, doctors of law and of medicine, astrologers, philosophers, poets, musicians, and learned men of all the sciences.” 62 The elaborate costumes suggested by the text signaled that the individuals on stage represented exotic characters, but there is nothing in the text to suggest that the actors’ faces were obscured. Conceivably, audience members for La festa et storia di Sancta Caterina could have recognized the particular civic officials under the costumes. Thus the scenes of foreign dignitaries were not simply spectacles of sumptuous costumes and props, as Tordi concludes. Rather, these scenes were metatheatrical moments that both referenced and actually represented Sienese civic identity. The procession and presentation of tributes took on new meaning when these traditions were enacted by the city’s current magistrates and councilors. If Fecini’s account of the 1446 performance in Fontebranda does, in fact, describe La festa et storia di Sancta Caterina, then the procession scene was not simply an imitation of civic ritual. When recognizable members of the civic government processed into the play space, the audience members from the Fontebranda district witnessed a version of one of the city’s most important civic and religious rituals — the Assumption festival — presented in their most important local space, the Piazza di San Domenico. During the procession scene, the Piazza di San Domenico acquired the function of a civic space and the play of Catherine became a civic performance. Just a few lines longer than the procession scene, the debate scene is the longest single scene of La festa et storia di Sancta Caterina. Unexpectedly, the debate provides the opportunity for the most spectacular moments of the day. On the one hand, the scene allows Catherine to prove herself worthy of the claims others have made about her: she demonstrates not only her literacy but also her familiarity with Scripture and Greek philosophy, quoting both in response to the judges’ questions. On the other hand, the scene presents an important dramatic reversal: the judges who initially scoffed at the idea of debating a girl are not only stumped by her arguments but also find themselves compelled by her evidence. Finally, when rhetoric turns to spectacle, the judges concede the fight to Catherine. No stage directions detail the action, but the dialogue provides enough information to piece together this important moment. Turning to a statue of Mahound (Mohammed), Catherine exclaims, “In the name of Jesus, / I command you, golden statue, / To throw
61 See Joyce Kubiski, “Orientalizing Costumes in Early Fifteenth-Century French Manuscript Painting (Cité des Dames Master, Limbourg Brothers, Boucicat Master, and Bedford Master),” Gesta 40.2 (2001): 161–80. 62 Fecini, Cronaca Senese, 869.
The Spectacle of Sainthood
yourself down on the ground.” The emperor’s response indicates that Catherine’s command has been effective. He gasps, “You have shattered our god.” 63 The dramatic spectacle does not end with the shattering of a pagan statue, as made clear by Catherine’s next lines: “The devil was within it, / You could see him fly away.” 64 Despite the absence of stage directions, these lines clearly indicate that once the statue fell, a devil appeared and immediately fled, or may even have flown out of, the theatrical space. In her summary of this spectacular moment, Tordi concludes that “the devil emerging from the shattered fragments must have been remarkable to the audience.” 65 Indeed, the sudden appearance of a devil would have been an outstanding moment, especially in contrast with the long procession and debate that preceded it. Yet the moment would have done more than simply surprise the Sienese audience. The materialization and subsequent escape of the devil in the midst of a sacred drama would have been familiar to them. The same action was an important part of the annual celebration staged for Ambrogio Sansedoni, which also included a mock battle in which angels and men on horseback chased devils out of the performance space. Although fleeing devils were a common trope in medieval drama, the sudden appearance and escape of the devil in La festa et storia di Sancta Caterina would likely have reminded the Sienese audience specifically of the annual celebration of Sansedoni, a version of which had been staged since 1273. It is possible that the producers of La festa et storia di Sancta Caterina consciously borrowed from this older tradition in designing the spectacular effect that formed the climax of the second day. The final lines of La festa et storia di Sancta Caterina provide one more way to connect the play to the city’s performance culture, and invite further speculation on the meaning of the performance for medieval audiences. Each day of a sacra rappresentazione typically began and ended with an angel addressing the audience. The closing address on day three of La festa et storia di Sancta Caterina makes a statement that is unique to the city, its performance traditions, and the context of the play. The angel reminds the audience of the subject of the play: “This is our queen, / [. . .] This is Catherine.” 66 In La festa et storia di Sancta Caterina, both actors and audience members could claim an association with Saint Catherine, but which Catherine was intended in these final lines? The angel directs the audience to claim her as their own. Although Catherine of Alexandria was a popular saint throughout Europe as well as in Siena, she did not hold a special place in Siena’s civic pantheon: 63 Tordi, La Festa et storia di Sancta Caterina, 162, ll. 973–77: Caterina: “Nel nome de Giesue, / I’ ti comando a te, statua d’ora, / Che senza alcun dimoro / Ti gitti guiso in terra traboccone.” Imperadore: “. . . ‘l nostro idio [. . .] facto ài spezare.” 64 Tordi, La Festa et storia di Sancta Caterina, ll. 979–80: “E v’era il diavol drento, / Bem lo potesti veder vie volare.” 65 Tordi, La Festa et storia di Sancta Caterina, 49. 66 Tordi, La Festa et storia di Sancta Caterina, 244, ll. 1633 and 1635: “Quest’è nostra reina, /. . . Questa sì è Caterina.”
she was not a patron of the city, nor was she honored with a local cult or confraternity. Catherine Benincasa, however, had a devoted following during her lifetime and after her death, during the near century it took for her ultimate installation in the heavenly canon. La festa et storia di Sancta Caterina was not just another Sienese sacra rappresentazione but was one uniquely tied to Catherine Benincasa. The unusual focus on water in the first day of the play, the inclusion of a unique procession with legendary props and costume on the second day, and references to Catherine as a member of Sienese society in the closing address of day three were all ways to connect the play to Sienese history and civic identity. References to the city’s oldest and most honored fountain, the appearance of civic magistrates in costume, and repeated lines or actions associated with other civic performance traditions firmly established La festa et storia di Sancta Caterina as a Sienese performance, not simply a generic sacra rappresentazione staged in the city. If the play was produced in Siena in the 1440s, it would have provided a means through which members of the community could speak to one another. But more than a celebration of shared civic identity and history, it could have been an opportunity to venerate the Sienese Catherine before her canonization without violating Church dictates. In this medieval city, this combination of dramaturgy, spectacle, and ritual had the power to transform the past, inform the present, and influence the future.
A Case For Reperformance: Illustrations in the Istoire de la Destruction de T roie la Grant 1
Lofton L. Durham The question of whether — and how — images in medieval manuscripts may capture certain kinds of performance configurations and practices is neither new nor settled. The wide range of possible relationships between word and image makes it impossible to generalize about the relationship of illustrated books to performance. Nonetheless, images in play texts can tell us something about possible contemporary visualizations of drama. 2 The focus of this article is an illustrated manuscript of Jacques Milet’s dramatization L’Istoire de la Destruction de Troie la Grant, composed in 1452. Known by the sigil P4 (Paris, BnF, MS fr. 12601), the codex conserves the entire text of the nearly 30,000-line play, as well as three-quarters of the Prologue and one-third of the Épître épilogative (Letter of Epilogue), and it dates 1 This essay has benefited enormously from the comments of this volume’s editor Mark Cruse, as well as my colleague, Jenna Soleo-Shanks, of University of Minnesota, Duluth. My thanks especially to them and to others who have encountered this work elsewhere and responded generously and helpfully to it. 2 See especially Pamela Sheingorn, “Medieval Drama and the New Art History,” Mediaevalia 18 (1995): 143–162; Robert L.A. Clark and Pamela Sheingorn, “Performative Reading: The Illustrated Manuscripts of Arnoul Gréban’s Mystère de la Passion,” European Medieval Drama 6 (2003): 129–72; idem., “‘Visible Words’: Gesture and Performance in the Miniatures of BnF, MS fr. 819–820,” in Parisian Confraternity Drama of the Fourteenth Century: The Miracles de Nostre Dame par personnages, ed. Donald Maddox and Sara Sturm Maddox (Turnhout: Brepols, 2008), 193–217; Richard K. Emmerson, “Visualizing Performance: The Miniatures of the Besançon MS 579 Jour du Jugement,” Exemplaria 11.2 (1999): 245–84; Visualizing Medieval Performance, ed. Elina Gertsman (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2008); and Mark Cruse, Gabriella Parussa, and Isabelle Ragnard, “The Aix Jeu de Robin et Marion: Image, Text, Music,” Studies in Iconography 25 (2004): 1–46.
Performance and Theatricality in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, ed. by Mark Cruse, ASMAR 41 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2018), pp. 55–91.
lofton l. durham
to ca. 1460. Accompanying the manuscript text of the play are nearly 400 illustrations. Though P4 is one of thirteen extant manuscripts of the play, it is one of only two illustrated examples. 3 The other illustrated manuscript, O (Oxford, Bodleian Library, Douce MS 356), contains just under 100 pictures, but it lacks most of the Prologue and the entire Letter of Epilogue. Thus P4 is the most completely and carefully copied and decorated example among the thirteen extant manuscripts. Using vellum for substrate, the thick codex does not include works by any other author. The entire volume is in extremely good shape, with the ink, paint, and illumination appearing virtually unfaded and free of decay. The manuscript is thus a dense textual and visual artifact of considerable beauty, unusual in both its fine state of preservation and in the relative poverty of the secondary literature surrounding it. In the context of French medieval drama studies, this play has been cast as unusual in a number of ways. For example, it focuses on the history of antiquity (rather than biblical stories, saints’ lives, or urban and domestic farces), retelling the legend of the second destruction of the city of Troy at the hands of the Greeks. In addition, unlike most other dramatic pieces from the Middle Ages, we know this play’s author, the names of two collaborators, and the date and place of its composition. The existence of two other works by the same author, the aforementioned Prologue and Letter of Epilogue, provide an unusual level of detail regarding the author’s motivations and goals in composing the work. 4 Finally, in addition to the thirteen manuscripts, the play also exists in thirteen print editions. 5 Together, these artifacts stake out nearly a century of circulation in book form. However, this play has received little attention in the secondary literature, for reasons that I have outlined elsewhere. 6 Indeed, I know of only one article to discuss the visual register of this play and what it might mean for investigators of performance. 7 Into this unexplored terrain, then, I sally forth to plumb a possible relationship among images 3 For details on these manuscripts, see Marc-René Jung, La légende de Troie en France au moyen âge, Romanica Helvetica, 114 (Basel and Tübingen: Francke, 1996), 602–5. 4 For the text of the Prologue, see Istoire de la Destruction de Troye la Grant par Maistre Jacques Milet, ed. Edmund Stengel (Marburg and Leipzig: Elwert’sche Verlags-Buchhandlung, 1883), 1–5. For a critical edition of the Épître, see Marc-René Jung, “Jacques Milet et son Épître épilogative,” in Travaux de linguistique et de littérature: mélanges d‘ études romanes du moyen âge et de la Renaissance offerts à M. Jean Rychner (Strasbourg: Centre de philologie et de littératures romanes de l’Université de Strasbourg, 1978), 251–58. 5 For details on these editions, see Graham A. Runnalls, Les Mystères français imprimés (Paris: Champion, 1999), 126–131. They have the following sigils: a, b, c, d, e, f, g1, g2, h, i, j, k, l, and m. 6 Lofton Durham, “Reconnecting Text to Context: The Ontology of ‘French Medieval Drama’ and the Case of the Istoire de la Destruction de Troie,” Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism 25.2 (2011): 37–60. 7 For the article on images, see Marc-René Jung, “La mise en scène de l’Istoire de la Destruction de Troie la Grant par personnages de Jacques Milet,” in Atti del IV Colloquio della Société internationale pour l’étude du théâtre médiéval, ed. M. Chiabo, F. Doglio, and M. Maymone
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in manuscript P4 of the Istoire and to examine medieval notions of that play in performance. 8
Ways of Seeing: Looking Back in Time What exactly is visualized in manuscript illustrations? Theodore Lerud has observed that some people in the medieval period tended to distinguish between two types of images: “quick,” or moving, and “deed,” or still. 9 Rather than making distinctions based on aesthetic categories such as sculpture, painting, or drama, “all were viewed as the images or phantasmata which, in Aquinas’ model, served as the link between body and soul, sense and understanding.” 10 Moreover, the “quick” image that results when a “man is sett in a pley” appears to have been viewed as “better,” and thus “uniquely able to jog the mind.” 11 Thus the moving image, or the performance, provides a stronger signal for encoding the visual than the still representation of painting or sculpture. Consequently, one way of viewing illustrations in play manuscripts might be as “quick” images in a “deed” format. Thus, such illustrations might be prone to demonstrate some preoccupation with what distinguishes “quick” from “deed”: motion, gesture, physical expression, and dynamic spatial relationships. Another way of making sense of the images is through the kind of reading experience they inspire. Since the image exists, while the performance no longer does, the images themselves embody a kind of materialization of selected scenes in the play. Pamela Sheingorn and Robert L.A. Clark have proposed a theory of “performative reading,” a “special kind of reading of the text, either by individuals or in small groups” that “shaped the reader’s reception and visualization of the dramatic text.” 12 They are most interested in dismantling a binary approach to illustrated drama manuscripts that assigns value according to whether a given manuscript “contributes to the reconstruction of performance practice or fails to provide such information and is therefore useless.” 13 I share their stance against an all-or-nothing (Viterbo: Centro studi sul teatro medioevale e rinascimentale, 1984), 563–80. For the most recent bibliography on critical works, see Jung, “Jacques Milet et son Épître épilogative,” 240–58. 8 The thirteen manuscripts have the sigils A, B, E, G, O, P1, P2, P3, P4, P5, Pe, R, and Y. In the course of this research, I personally consulted O, P1, P2, P3, P4, P5, Pe, R, and Y. 9 Theodore K. Lerud, “Quick Images: Memory and the English Corpus Christi Drama,” Moving Subjects: Processional Performance in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, ed. Kathleen Ashley and Wim Hüsken (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2001), 213–37. Lerud is quoting from the Tretise on Miraclis Pleyinge, a fourteenth-century English text. 10 Lerud, “Quick Images,” 213. 11 Lerud, “Quick Images,” 224. 12 Clark and Sheingorn, “Performative Reading,” 129, 130. 13 Clark and Sheingorn, “Performative Reading,” 136.
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consideration of illustrated drama manuscripts. In the case of P4, however, I want to argue that comprehending the content of the images and how they relate to the text depends upon fifteenth-century familiarity with performance conventions and traditional methods of performing the Troy legend. Indeed, I believe that P4 represents an artifact so inflected with and reflective of performance that it could facilitate — and, in the minds of readers, inspire and constitute — a re-performance of Milet’s Istoire. In addition to Lerud’s “quick” vs. “deed,” another medieval distinction useful for considering how manuscripts such as P4 make meaning is that of parole (text) and painture (image). The goals of representing knowledge shared by these two forms make it possible to articulate the relationship among text, image, and their referents. The assumption that images or text may objectively represent something in the world is a decidedly modern bias. Rather, as Mary Carruthers demonstrates, words and pictures both functioned as “signs [to] make something present to the mind by acting on memory.” 14 Therefore, these signs make pictures in the mind that are necessary for learning the matter presented by the signs. Consequently, painture can mean both the images in the text, as well as the images in the mind evoked by the text itself. Lerud would wholeheartedly agree — the purpose of images, either moving or still, was to “jog the memory.” 15 Carruthers quotes the thirteenth-century ecclesiastic Richart de Fournival, in a passage particularly relevant here: When one sees painted a story, whether of Troy or something else, one sees those noble deeds which were done in the past exactly as though they were still present. And it is the same thing with hearing a text, for when one hears a story read aloud, listening to the events one sees them in the present. 16
Thus words and pictures together carry the essential meaning of the story because they jointly conjure the mental pictures necessary to comprehend them. Carruthers notes the relative stability of this idea, citing sources from the seventh century through the fifteenth. But one question at issue in manuscripts of play texts is which story is being conjured? Drama, as a form of literary expression, is distinguished by its specificity and sequentiality — even simultaneous action flows only forward in time. This person speaks now, and says this; another person replies, saying this; the essence of the storytelling emerges in dialogue, in bodies in motion, in relation to an audience. Further, every manifestation of drama in production differs from every other, both in terms of subtle variations across repeated performances of the same production and in more substantial alterations from production to production. 14 Mary Carruthers, The Book of Memory (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990; repr. 2006), 222. 15 Lerud, “Quick Images,” 224. 16 Quoted in Carruthers, The Book of Memory, 223.
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Which story is being conjured: the story of the play (manifest in the reader’s mind), or the story of a production of that play (existing in the material world)? The difference has long been studied, from Aristotle’s distinction between logos (“story”) and mythos (“plot”), to Mieke Bal’s distinction between fabula and “story.” 17 The words are different, but the concepts are the same: logos is to fabula as mythos is to “story.” The concept of fabula or logos refers to the abstract material from which a specific version of the story/mythos is crafted. For example, the legend of the Greeks’ destruction of Troy spawned several different versions. In Milet’s Istoire, the Greeks play the role of pseudo-Saracen infidels, wearing turbans and sacrificing animals, while the Trojans appear as fifteenth-century French noblemen. However, some versions from Burgundy remade the Greeks in the image of Burgundian nobles facing the pseudo-Saracen Trojans. 18 Thus the same fabula/logos spawns a different story/mythos according to the needs and uses of a particular culture or author. The distinction between logos/fabula and mythos/story enables a comparative analysis of images in different versions of the same logos/fabula: in this instance, the legend of Troy. By examining pictures in manuscripts of prosaic, poetic, and dramatic versions of the Troy legend in Latin and the vernacular, one derives a constellation of similarities and differences that provides a framework to account for, articulate, and measure the significance of differences among images in particular medieval manifestations of the Troy story. Of greatest interest to me is how these comparisons cast light on the possible connection between selected images in a play text and in conceptions, conjured and crystallized, of that play text in performance. Ultimately, I will argue that the images in P4 ask viewers to recall past performances — perhaps of the Troy story specifically but also of other similar epic and classical material using similar performance and production techniques — in order to imaginatively reconstruct a performance, or create a reperformance, of Milet’s Istoire. Images that depart from the familiar iconography of the Troy story, and especially those non-iconographic images that depict practical performance solutions to staging problems, can give us particular insight into fifteenth-century staging practices and illustrate an important connection between live performance and pictorial documentation. 19 My approach to the illustrations in P4 is also informed by the necessity of approaching manuscript evidence on its own terms and in the context of the local 17 Aristotle, Poetics, trans. Leon Golden (Tallahassee: University Presses of Florida, 1968; repr. 1981), 42–43; and Mieke Bal, Narratology: Introduction to the Theory of Narrative, trans. Christine van Boheemen (Toronto: Toronto University Press, 1997), 6–7. 18 Stefania Cerrito, Le rommant de l’abbregement du siege de Troyes (Aix-en-Provence: Presses de l’Université de Provence, 2010), 88–92. 19 In the terms of the ongoing debate about the relationship between manuscript illuminations and performance, I am taking a position similar to that of Stephen K. Wright, The Vengeance of Our Lord: Medieval Dramatizations of the Destruction of Jerusalem (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1989), 132–37.
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conditions of creation and use. 20 Useful here are the concepts of “pre-text” and “cotext”: the pre-text of an artwork consists of its “literary and iconographic sources and models,” while the co-text is “the immediate literary and visual milieu” of that work. 21 The Istoire’s pre-text includes images and their accompanying text in various forms of the medieval Troy story, and, importantly, the tradition of performance conventions associated with performances of the Troy legend from the late fourteenth century through the sixteenth. As co-text, the images accompanying the play invite an art historical analysis of style, origin, media, and common practice, as well as of the quality of the correspondence between picture and text (painture and parole) and, finally, of the nature of the visual representations: that is, what is depicted and how (e.g., “quick” or “deed”). I believe that the performance pre-text and co-text in P4 appear to take precedence over the Trojan iconographic pre- and co-text. The images in P4 ask a reader to recall the mechanics, details, and conventions of performance primarily, while either excluding, or presuming the existence of, the reader’s familiarity with the iconographic traditions associated with the legend of Troy.
Performance: Clues in the Text Before a reader of P4 encounters any images, the Istoire’s author, Jacques Milet, takes considerable pains to orient readers to the performance aspect of his work in the 248-line Prologue. 22 Clearly intended for inclusion in all copies of the play and confirmed extant (in whole or in part) in nine of the thirteen manuscripts, the Prologue declares the author’s motivations: Jay voulu eviter redicte Sy ay propose de le faire Par pesonnages seulement pour monstrer le vray exemplaire a leuil tout evidamment comme il appert tout clerement a ceulx qui la lisent et oyent. 23 [I wanted to avoid repeating; So I have proposed to do it See Carol Symes, “The Appearance of Early Vernacular Plays: Forms, Functions, and the Future of the Medieval Theater,” Speculum 77 (2002): 778–835. 21 Emmerson, “Visualizing Performance,” 250. 22 The Prologue varies in length and completeness amongst extant examples. For example, in P4 it is 248 lines, while in Stengel’s edition it runs to 328 lines. No critical edition of this poem as yet exists. 23 P4, fol. 2v. 20
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By characters only [In order] to show the true exemplar Most noticeably to the eye So that it appears quite clearly To those who read and hear it.] 24
In creating a work in which characters are in dialogue with each other, Milet presumably aims to produce a clearer model of exemplary behavior than that shown in non-dramatic versions of the story, which he has no wish to replicate. He is placing in the foreground the mythos of his undertaking — the crafting of a specific manifestation of the Troy legend for a specific audience. Yet how does that specific audience encounter the play? The phrase “to those who read and hear it” seems in a modern context quite straightforward. But the phrase has three variations spread across eight manuscripts, centered on the linked concepts of “reading,” “hearing,” and “seeing” (see Table 1). 25 Like P4, the manuscripts P3, Pe, and R all show “lisent et oyent” [read and hear]. 26 Manuscript P5, however, reads “lisent et voyent” [read and see], while three others (O, P1, and Y) all read “lisent ou voient” [read or see]. 27 The slipperiness here illustrates an important constellation of meanings, which raises the question of the degree to which the manuscripts ask readers to consider the performance of the play. The phrase “read and hear” could refer to aural recitation — one person reading out loud to one or more auditors — or to theatrical presentation. “Read and see” could refer to aural recitation, since “see” could mean, as Carruthers argues, that auditors “see” images in their minds’ eyes as a result of the reading. But “read and see” could also refer to either reading the play, or to seeing the play performed. By using “and,” this phrase keeps alive both possibilities. Finally, the phrase “read or see” points much more strongly to the interpretation that the play may be transmitted either through reading (either individually or to groups) or through seeing it acted out. The connotation of “see” as primarily a reference to mental imaging, as emphasized by Carruthers, appears less plausible in this last example because of the word “or.” Painture and parole, as we have seen, work together to create meaning in the minds of readers; they are not alternatives to each other. The Prologue’s indeterminacy regarding the mode of transmission of the play is, on the one hand, hardly a surprise. Such mouvance abounds in medieval texts Author’s translation. Data regarding manuscript dating for Table 1 come from Jung, La Légende, 602–5. 26 Paris, BnF, MS fr. 1626, fol. 2r (P3); MS Rothschild 1079, n. fol. (R); and Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania, Walter and Lenore Annenberg Rare Books and Manuscript Library, Codex 658, fol. 13r (Pe). 27 BnF, MS fr. 24333, fol. 9v (P5); Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Douce 356, fol. 3r (O); BnF, MS fr. 1415, n. fol. (P1); and New Haven, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, MS 543, n. fol. (Y). 24 25
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lisent et voyent lisent ou voient lisent et oyent read and see read or see read and hear P5‡
16th century: undated ms.
15th century: undated mss.
* illustrated ‡ contains dramatis personae Table 1. Variations in Prologue language, by date and manuscript.
of all types. 28 In addition, scholarly investigation has demonstrated the complex, overlapping relationship between reading and performance in the Middle Ages. 29 That the distinctions between reading, hearing, and seeing appear blurred might be expected. But on the other hand, to declare that the mouvance at work in the Prologue exclusively derives from a conceptual overlap between reading and performance in medieval culture misses what might be a simpler explanation. It is hard to imagine scribal error accounting for the variety of differences in the phrase across these eight manuscripts — “ou” instead of “et,” the addition of a “v” to the verb “oyent.” If the changes are not attributable to scribal error, then they likely reflect the contemporary sense of author, copyist, and reader that the Istoire enjoyed a life outside of its pages, designed for performance both real and imagined. This perspective is supported by the fact that all three variations of the phrase emerged early in the play’s manuscript life. Of the six manuscripts for which reasonably precise origination dates exist, the three phrase variants occur in the first three manuscripts to appear: P5 (1459); O (1461); and P3 (1464). 30 O contains almost 100 images, and the earliest manuscript (P5) contains a list of 102 characters in a dramatis personae. Though the apparently earliest variation (“lisent et voyent” [read and see] in P5) seems to exist in only a single case, the other two variations (“lisent et oyent” [read 28
On mouvance, see Paul Zumthor, Essai de poétique médiévale (Paris: Seuil, 1972), 43–46,
29 See, for example, Evelyn Birge Vitz, Orality and Performance in Early French Romance (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 1999); Joyce Coleman, Public Reading and the Reading Public in Late Medieval England and France (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996); and Sylvia Huot, From Song to Book (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1997). 30 Jung, La Légende, 604–5.
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and hear] and “lisent ou voient” [read or see]) occur in overlapping fashion through the end of the fifteenth century and into the sixteenth (see Table 1). While there may be an underlying pattern to these variations, what is important is that within a few decades of the play’s completion in 1452, scribes and illuminators were copying it, illustrating it, recording the dramatis personae, and altering the Prologue to reflect the idea that this play was read, heard, and seen.
Art Historical Context and Performance Traditions Just as the Prologue’s variants directly invoke performance, so do the illustrations in P4, accompanied by extensive stage directions, focus on the performance aspects of the Istoire. The column-width illustrations in P4 vary in size and complexity and occur with irregular frequency throughout all 254 folios. The pages are laid out in two columns, 32 cm by 23 cm. Pictures usually span only one column, with the exception of the images at the beginning of each of the four performance days, which extend from the left to right margins as well as down one-half to two-thirds of the page. Most images are framed in gold paint. This manuscript also contains two different kinds of text. The play’s dialogue, following Edmund Stengel’s 1868 critical edition of the 1484 first printing with its 27,984 lines, accounts for 90% of the text in the manuscript. The remainder occurs in the form of stage directions: descriptions and instructions of a logistical, emotional, or scenographic nature. The dialogue unfolds in columns, the left margin justified and the right margin left ragged, with character names centered in the column above their speech and underlined in crimson ink. The stage directions, underlined in red, begin either at the left margin or at a point midway between the left margin and the start of the character name. This layout and pattern of rubrication make it very easy to find the stage directions. Moreover, the images in the manuscript nearly always directly precede or follow stage directions. In many cases, the words of the stage directions impinge upon the frame of the miniature; this strengthens the visual connection between the words and the image, so that the stage direction becomes a kind of caption for the picture. As a result, the stage directions, with the accompanying pictures, provide a rough overview of the entire story of the play, which can be grasped by simply reading the directions and viewing the images instead of reading the entire text. Some have argued that such captions or rubrics represent instructions to the illustrator rather than indications for performance. 31 It is certainly possible that the captions did assist the illustrator in creating the drawing; however, that does not mean the
M. Alison Stones, “Secular Manuscript Illumination in France,” in Medieval Manuscripts and Textual Criticism, ed. Christopher Kleinhenz (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1976), 83–102, esp. 96–97. 31
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captions could not serve as guides to the reader in imagining a performance. As we will see in the analysis of rubrics and illustrations, the image and the caption often complement, rather than duplicate, each other. In some cases, images occur without any accompanying text. This is particularly the case where the image focuses on gestural or physical reactions to events in the dramatization (“quick” images). From an art historical perspective, the images in P4 reflect a relatively uncommon practice in fifteenth-century French book illustration. The style, called dessin colorié [colored drawing] and attributed primarily to workshops in Lille and surrounding cities in northern France and Burgundy, dates to the last half of the fifteenth century and was relatively common in German-speaking areas, especially Germanophone Switzerland. 32 Used primarily in vernacular works on paper, its appearance and subsequent frequent use might initially be attributed to the need to illustrate long works with many small drawings, relatively quickly, and at a reduced cost. But the economic constraints that may have motivated a shift to swiftly rendered ink sketches enhanced with watercolors, quickly turned into an aesthetic preference amongst certain northern French, Flemish, and Burgundian artists, such that the dessin colorié appeared principally in these regions. 33 The best-known practitioner of the style, called the Master of Wavrin because of his employment under Jean de Wavrin, chamberlain to Philippe le Hardi, the duke of Burgundy, created images of striking simplicity, with dark ink outlines to figures, economical picturization, and light color washes for emphasis. The active, vibrant images have reminded more than one art historian of modern cartoons. 34 Some contemporaries of the Master of Wavrin created different effects with similar tools, which demonstrates the variation possible within this style. For example, Martin Le Franc, in his Le Champion des Dames, which is considerably smaller in size than the Master’s folio editions, allowed the colored drawings to take up relatively more of the page, with concomitantly greater detail in the images. Still economical in what he included within the frame, Le Franc nonetheless provided much more shading and detail — particularly in the background — than the Master of Wavrin. As a result, Le Franc’s drawings lack the striking resemblance to cartoons and instead seem more like detailed copper engravings enhanced with watercolor washes. The images in P4 also show the wide range of variation possible in the dessin colorié style. For example, nearly full-page illuminations start the play and each of succeeding journées and depict Hector’s tomb near the end of the second day, as well as the failed Trojan sacrifice on day four. Ink and watercolors are the materials used, irrespective of the size of the images. The one exception appears to be Hector’s tomb, where layers of richly pigmented and gold paint comprise the background
32 François Avril and Nicole Reynaud, Les manuscrits à peintures en France, 1440–1520 (Paris: Bibliothèque nationale de France, 1993), 98. 33 Avril and Reynaud, Les manuscrits à peintures en France, 98. 34 Avril and Reynaud, Les manuscrits à peintures en France, 99.
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and the tomb itself. Despite these variations, however, all pictures appear to be the work of the same artist — shapes, colors, and style all seem consistent from the first image on folio 3 to the last image on folio 247. The origins of the style in northern France and Burgundy are also consistent with what is known about the provenance of this manuscript, which appears in the inventory of the duke of Burgundy’s personal library in 1467. 35 The images and text in P4 draw on the relatively well documented and lengthy history of performances of various aspects of the Trojan legend. Evelyne van den Neste records a Troy-themed joust on 15 August 1330, in Paris, 36 while Lynette Muir places the earliest record of a performance of a Troy play in a 1400 letter from Avignon that refers to at least two previous events described as plays “of the siege of Troy.” 37 Still others have pointed out Jean Froissart’s account of the 1389 entremets before the new Queen of France, Isabeau de Bavière, which included a castle with a tall central tower, a pavilion, and a ship, all on wheels, representing “le siége [sic] devant Troye.” 38 Though this event for the queen could not have been a performance of Milet’s Istoire, it demonstrates both the interest in live re-enactment of the Troy legend and a particular staging philosophy. The story was told with three large and spectacular set pieces mounted on mobile and capacious vehicles. Laura Hibbard Loomis observes the similarity between the set pieces used in the 1378 performance of the siege of Jerusalem and those appearing in the 1389 account of the siege of Troy. 39 Whether this represents reuse or reconstruction of the set pieces, I believe it demonstrates an awareness of the value of conventional settings to serve a variety of performance purposes in telling a range of stories. In the same way that conventional devices or metaphors in romance permit authors to meet readers’ expectations regarding the purposes and content of their narratives, so too particular kinds of scenic units (like movable castles, ships, and pavilions), flexible props (a carved wooden chair, a bench, a staff), or arrangements of bodies in space Georges Doutrepont, La littérature française à la cour des ducs de Bourgogne (Paris: Champion, 1909; repr. Geneva: Slatkine reprints, 1970), 171. 36 Evelyne van den Neste, Tournois, joutes, pas d’armes dan les villes de Flandre à la fin du Moyen Age (1300–1486) (Paris: École des Chartes, 1996), 219. Thanks to Mark Cruse for this reference. 37 Lynette Muir, Love and Conflict in Medieval Drama (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 131. 38 Laura Hibbard Loomis, “Secular Dramatics in the Royal Palace, Paris, 1378, 1389, and Chaucer’s ‘Tregetoures,’” Speculum 33.2 (1958): 242–55, esp. 249–50. 39 Loomis describes in detail the re-enactment of the First Crusade’s siege of Jerusalem at a banquet given by French King Charles V in honor of his visiting uncle, Emperor Charles IV, as described and illustrated in the Grandes Chroniques made for King Charles V (BnF, MS fr. 2813). See Loomis, “Secular Dramatics,” 243–46. The 1389 performance is also attested by Froissart, Book IV, Chapter 1. See Froissart’s Chroniques, vol. 14, ed. Kervyn de Lettenhove (Brussels: V. Devaux, 1867–77), 14–17. Loomis notes that both the joust and the banquet events used large ships and castles as scenic pieces (249). 35
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(rows of men with spears, a procession, kneeling by a body) meet audience expectations while shaping their understanding and response to the events portrayed. Though preceding Milet’s play by sixty years, the thinking behind the 1389 Troy entremets would seem to make a reappearance in P4’s cycle of illustrations, as the only structures depicted in the miniatures are ships, castles, and pavilions.
Performance: Clues in the Pictures As P4 contains nearly 400 illustrations, it is impossible in this essay to address every aspect of this visual bounty that I believe relates to the performance dimension of Milet’s text. Therefore, I will focus on just a few of the clues in the pictures. For example, taken as a whole, the images depict a vocabulary of recurring visual modules: a green grass/blue sky background, and standard scenic and property elements. Of course, repetition such as this in an illuminated manuscript could be a result of the artistic practice of using visual modules to assist in creating so many illustrations. But this repetition also brings to mind performance as a mode of expression, in the same way as the play’s Prologue, stage directions, and dialogic structure do. That is, it is possible to view the repetitive nature of the content in the illustrations as representing the use of performance conventions, by which simple images, costumes, settings, words, gestures, and behaviors are deployed to signify, symbolize, or otherwise stand in for something that cannot be fully realized during performance. The idea behind a performance convention is to reduce the expense and complexity of props, costumes, or scenery by substituting an iconic stand-in. In fact, performance conventions could be described as an iconography of performance practice: the repetitive depiction of certain objects, settings, gestures, or costumes meant to remind the reader of performance as a mode of expression rather than to cue the memory of specific iconographic subjects, such as the life of Christ or the Troy legend. 40 Indeed, the P4 illustrations orient readers to the performance dimension of the text in many ways, including through the interdependence of the pictures, the dialogue, and the stage directions, as well as through a focus on physical and gestural expression in the manner of “quick” images. As was common in secular books of the fifteenth century, the opening miniature (Figure 1) in P4 differs in scale and complexity from almost all of the other colored drawings. 41 Dominating the upper half of the page and stretching across both columns, the image on folio 3r consists of three layers. The outside frame, Clark and Sheingorn make a similar point, asserting that illustrations in play manuscripts can “function as a visual gloss, enabling the reader/viewer to ‘perform’ that text,” through a visual program focused on “reconstruct[ing] the complex stage movements that shift the attention of audience members from one mansion to the next.” See Clark and Sheingorn, “Performative Reading,” 149. 41 Stones, “Secular Manuscript Illumination,” 93. 40
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Figure 1. BnF MS fr. 12601, fol. 3r.
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limned in gold paint, outlines an arched space containing towers, battlements, and archways — the elements of a fortress or city. In the center, the fortress or city appears in a cutaway view, exposing a curious hybrid space. What appears to be the wooden infrastructure of a building encloses a view of a blue sky, a green lawn, and a king seated upon a wooden throne attended by five men, four standing and one kneeling, hat in hand. Fittingly for an opening miniature, the architectural setting here is considerably more complex than that in almost all the other miniatures in the codex. Although the opening miniature is exceptional in its size and complexity, its inner scene, which focuses on several people standing in an indeterminate space that evokes both an interior and an exterior, employs a background that appears in nearly all the remaining illustrations. On folio 3r, a crimson-underlined Explicit at the bottom of the left column shows where the Prologue concludes. At the top of the right-hand column, a rubric names the author and work to follow: Cy sensuit listoire de la destruction de troye la grant translatee de latin en francoys et par personnages faicte par maistre jacques milet estudiant en luniversite dorleans commence lan mil cccc cinquante le deuxiesme jour du mois de septembre. 42 [Here follows the Story of the Destruction of Troy the Great, translated from Latin into French and dramatized by Master Jacques Milet, student at the University of Orléans, begun in the year one thousand four hundred fifty, the second day of the month of September.] 43
Immediately beneath the colophon, the inhabited initial “O” begins the first line of the play’s dialogue, “O deesses et dieux, parfais et glorieux” [O goddesses and gods, perfect and glorious]. The image in the “O” depicts a scribe, seated on a wooden bench at a wooden desk, who holds a stylus over an open book with markings upon the pages. In the background, a green lawn meets a blue sky. The presence of green grass and blue sky in images showing activities usually occurring indoors, as in both scenes on this folio, is not a characteristic of dessin colorié. Of the eight different images by three different artists cited by Avril and Reynaud in Les manuscrits à peintures en France, 1440–1520, all depict specific interior and exterior details rather than the background in P4. 44 The backgrounds in these miniatures would thus seem to stem from the conscious use of a performance convention meant to cue the reader to the text’s theatrical nature and function.
BnF, MS fr. 12601, fol. 3r. Author’s translation. 44 Avril and Reynaud, Les manuscrits, 98–103. 42 43
A Case For Reperformance
The initial folio of the play proper also demonstrates the performative interdependence of word and image, parole and painture. The play begins with Priam’s speech decrying the first destruction of the city of Troy (which took place under his father, King Laomedon) and the subsequent abduction of his sister, Hesione, by the Greeks. Fittingly, the first image in P4 (Figure 1) depicts Priam on his throne and stands in for a rubric announcing this first speech. Other manuscripts, as well as every extant print edition, add the word “Priam” or the phrase “et commence le roy Priam” [and King Priam begins] before the first line of dialogue (“O deesses et dieux”). In P4, however, the image replaces words. The next set of illustrations not only shows the conventional backdrop but also inaugurates the ubiquitous depiction of “quick” images throughout P4. For example, after Priam’s initial speech, the dialogue reveals that Priam commands his messenger Mathabrun to visit his vassals and order them to attend his court. The illustration shows the messenger, standing on a green lawn, outside a castle whose towers are the same height as the figure. Mathabrun’s response to the king’s order immediately follows the image: Sire vostre voulente soit, Je iray tout presentement. 45 [Sire, your will be done, I will go immediately.] 46
The image shows what occurs after Mathabrun has uttered this line — he is depicted having left Priam’s presence and standing outside what is presumably Priam’s castle, ready to journey to Priam’s sons and vassals. The dialogue and the picture are both necessary to fully comprehend the action at this point. Similarly, the next image shows Mathabrun meeting the first person on his list, Anchises (Figure 2). Machabrun’s line ends just before the frame of the illustration, and Anchises’ name appears at the bottom of the frame, just within it, underlined in red, so that it serves as a label for the image of his character as well as a signpost for the beginning of his line. In the image, Machabrun kneels on the grass and extends a folded letter to Anchises. Anchises’ hand is outstretched, about to take the letter, and he is standing on low steps that lead to some kind of turreted and castellated structure behind him. Not only does this scene underscore the interdependence of the words and images for making meaning but also the content of these initial illustrations aligns strikingly with Lerud’s conception of “quick” images. The artist seems at pains to capture the gestures and objects involved in these moments of physical interaction. In addition, the castle or mansion in the Anchises picture (Figure 2) bears striking similarities to the one Mathabrun has just left. This is another example BnF, MS fr. 12601, fol. 4r. Author’s translation.
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Figure 2. BnF MS fr. 12601, fol. 4r.
of how the artist of P4 establishes scenic and architectural conventions that recur throughout the manuscript illustrations. The stage directions in P4 repeatedly refer to a location where Priam holds his court, sometimes calling it a “chasteau” or “chasteau Ylion” [Ilion Castle] and other times labeling it a “lieu,” “eschaffault,” “ostel,” or “place.” Mathabrun’s embassy, which takes up half the first performance day, visits nearly a dozen geographically separate locations where he is received rudely by various Greek nobles and kings. In the images, however, these separate locations appear as a repeating motif: an iconic castle stands in for all. This decision to repeat a similar image does little to help the reader imagine geographically diverse locales, though it certainly reinforces the idea that one, or a few, “castles” may stand in, in performance, for a great many fictional locations.
A Case For Reperformance
Figure 3. BnF MS fr. 12601, fol. 130r.
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Figure 4. BnF MS fr. 12601, fol. 234r.
In addition to a castle, the artist also repeats a motif of white columns, sometimes showing a wooden vaulted ceiling, a wooden wall with three glazed windows, or a red curtain either drawn across the back of the picture, or left hanging at the edge of the frame. This is the “pavilion” setting that, like the castle, stands in for an astounding variety of locations. For example, Priam appears in council with his sons in such a space on folio 73v, yet precisely the same space also serves as the Temple of Venus where Achilles prays on folio 130r (Figure 3). The Temple of Athena, where the Trojan family assembles for the final failed sacrifice, except for its enlarged size, looks exactly like the Temple of Venus. And on folio 234r (Figure 4), the same space, complete with a red curtain in the background, hosts the Greek army as they encounter the wooden horse for the first time and prepare to enter it. Various combinations of the white columns, wooden ceiling, wooden wall, and red curtain recur throughout the cycle of illustrations. In addition to repeated appearances of the pavilion and castle, props such as a wooden bench and two small wooden tables play diverse roles in a variety of settings. For example, in the scene where Hecuba bids farewell to Paris, two small wooden tables provide a resting place for Paris’ helmet and a support for Hecuba
A Case For Reperformance
Figure 5. BnF MS fr. 12601, fol. 24r.
as she swoons. 47 The first illustration shows an embrace, and the second shows Hecuba, bent over, with her hand on the second table. A long wooden bench, upon which Priam’s sons sit during a council meeting on folio 12v and where Paris waits for Helen to finish her prayers at Cytharea (fol. 24r, Figure 5), reappears as an altar, covered in a white cloth, in many different temples, including those of Venus (fol. 21r, Figure 6), Apollo (fol. 64r, Figure 7; fol. 168r, Figure 8), and Pallas Athena (fols. 231r and 231v), as well as the impromptu altar holding three idols for the Greek oath (fol. 237r). The bench also appears as a seat for Agamemnon as he rallies his troops on the field of battle (fol. 81v, Figure 9). A wooden coffin of apparently similar dimensions, which could be a bench with its seat removed, appears
BnF, MS fr. 12601, fol. 19r.
Figure 6. BnF MS fr. 12601, fol. 21r.
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Figure 7. BnF MS fr. 12601, fol. 64r.
Figure 8. BnF MS fr. 12601, fol. 168r.
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Figure 9. BnF MS fr. 12601, fol. 81v.
in the scene where Achilles wraps the dead body of Patroclus in a sheet (fol. 96v). These examples demonstrate how utilitarian furniture common to the period takes on a protean role in these illustrations to become an iconographic convention like the landscape backdrop. The similarity of Priam’s castle to Anchises’ fortress (and to the fortresses of all the Greek nobles), the generic pavilion setting, the reappearance of simple structures and furniture, and the “quickness” of the interaction between characters all work in concert to conjure this play in performance. The illustrations also cooperate with their accompanying stage directions to assist readers in “recapturing the performative dimension of the text.” 48 For example, stage directions often explicitly point to structures and events inherent in performance, yet utterly unnecessary if comprehending the text were the only goal. For example, on folio 6v, an illustration shows a man kneeling before Priam, who Clark and Sheingorn, “Performative Reading,” 154.
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is seated on a wooden throne placed on a green lawn. The man holds his hat in his hand. No other structure is visible. The stage direction underneath this picture describes a sequence of events: Et y aura grant pause de hault menestrelz tandis les filz de priam et les enlever se seront autour de priam et appres la pause liconius et sa compaignie rencontra et saluera priam en telle maniere. 49 [And there will be a long pause for the minstrels, while Priam’s sons get up and place themselves all around Priam, and after the pause, Liconius and his companions will meet and greet Priam in this manner.] 50
This text connects written dialogue and illustration with events that occur in performance: the playing of instruments, the movement of actors, and the greeting of a king. In addition, the text also provides guidance for a sequence designed to direct the audience’s attention. First, there is a pause in the dialogue. During this pause, the musicians play, while actors move into place. Then, the signal for the end of the pause is the movement of Priam’s sons about him, with Liconius and his companions approaching. The nature of this coordination is most comprehensible in relation to actual musicians, real actors, and the distance between points in a space set aside for performance (a greensward, for example, as shown in the illustration). As an exercise in imagination, this stage direction is preoccupied with the mundane rather than the fantastic, as is the illustration, which freezes the moment at the end of the sequence of events, where Liconius salutes his king “en telle maniere” [in this way]. Outside of a performance context, then, the information delivered by the picture and the stage directions immediately below it provides exactly the wrong kind of cue for a mental reconstruction of a show of fealty to the great Trojan king, because the stage directions seem to destroy the mimetic illusion. Moreover, the image and stage directions express an interest in performance, but one that is remarkably imprecise from a modern perspective conditioned by staging plans, annotated scripts, photographs, and video recordings. Yet illustrations and stage instructions could and surely did act as cues for the reconstruction of performances in the minds of reader/viewers. To follow Fournival, what the manuscript provides, in painture and parole, are pathways to imagining a performance of a vassal’s fealty to Priam, which necessarily partakes of material details focused on what was most relevant to staging: musicians, timing, basic scenic elements, blocking, and gestures. It was from such elements that a mental, like a real, performance could be made. 49
BnF, MS fr. 12601, fol. 6v. Author’s translation.
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Troy Iconography and Milet’s Istoire The debt that these illustrations owe to performance is particularly obvious when contrasted with the iconographic program associated with other versions of the Troy legend in circulation at about the same time. There were literally hundreds of versions of the Troy legend that appeared from the thirteenth through the sixteenth centuries, in a wide variety of formats, styles, and visual vocabularies. Illustrations of the Troy story in manuscripts from the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries tend to depict highly detailed landscapes, Gothic interiors, or bird’s-eye views of epic battles or apocalyptic destruction. 51 Similarly, textiles, sculptures, and paintings adopted the conventions of the time and context where they originated. 52 Fifteenth-century tapestries pictured the antique Trojan milieu as analogous to, and invested with detail from, the medieval. This is not to claim that artists strictly reflected contemporary dress and appearance; rather, they mixed contemporary dress and objects with Orientalist additions such as helmets, beards, curved swords, or turbans. 53 The images in P4 themselves suggest that the artist did occasionally draw on familiar visualizations of the Troy legend for the Istoire — particularly in the tomb of Hector and the costume of the Greeks — but the majority of illustrations depart from the contemporary iconography of Troy. As the basis for the Istoire, Milet exclusively used Guido delle Colonne’s Historia Destructionis Troiae, illustrated versions of which provide an important source of Troy iconography. 54 The Bibliothèque nationale de France conserves two different illustrated manuscript copies of Colonne’s Historia (MS fr. 22553 [1425–50]; MS n.a.f. 24920) which supply a range of images that may be compared to those in P4. MS n.a.f. 24920 dates from the late fifteenth century and issued from the workshop of the well-known illuminator Jean Colombe (d. 1493). Colombe lived in Bourges, in central France, and worked for Charlotte of Savoy, King Louis XI’s queen, and Charles I, Duke of Savoy, her nephew. Colombe’s style differs markedly from the dessin colorié tradition. Instead of small, single-column drawings meant 51 For an overview and history of common iconography in narrative Troy illustrations, see Hugo Buchthal, Historia Troiana: Studies in the History of Medieval Secular Illustration (London: Warburg Institute, 1971). 52 For an extensive list of works of art in many media on the “matter of Troy,” see Margaret Scherer, The Legends of Troy in Art and Literature (New York: Phaidon Press, 1964). 53 Scott McKendrick, “The Great History of Troy: A Reassessment of the Development of a Secular Theme in Late Medieval Art,” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 54 (1991): 43–82, at 64. On the practice of combining contemporary costume with ahistorical, exotic, or out-of-date clothing in manuscript illuminations, see Anne H. Van Buren and Roger S. Wieck, Illuminating Fashion: Dress in the Art of Medieval France and the Netherlands 1325–1515 (New York: Morgan Library and Museum, 2011), 17–27. 54 T.E. Oliver, “Jacques Milet’s Drama La Destruction de Troye la Grant: Its Principal Source, Its Dramatic Structure” (unpublished PhD diss., University of Heidelberg, 1899).
Figure 10. BnF MS n.a.f. 24920, fol. 41v.
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for swift execution, Colombe’s large, often full-page paintings demonstrate careful pictorial composition, a preoccupation with storytelling, a love of expressive effects, a welter of detail on figures and backgrounds, and little interest in correct perspective or logical construction of space. 55 These characteristics can be seen in an image of the city of Troy on fol. 41v in MS n.a.f. 24920 (Figure 10). The two columns of text are dominated by an image of the walls, city, and citadel of Troy that stretches nearly to the edge of the page itself, far outside the confines of the text’s margins. No frame encloses this picture, which heightens its evocation of vast space. Close to the observer, the walls of the city rise high and forbidding in their monolithic presence and lack of detail. Just visible above the walls is a densely packed arrangement of city buildings, like stalagmites reaching towards the indigo blue sky. In the walls, a great gate is open to show a path past tall houses that disappears into the distance, which is dominated by a greenery-covered outcropping at the apparent center of the city. On the crown of this hill, a gray wall encircles a many-turreted fortress. In scale and in detail, this picture of the city of Troy has a great deal in common with the textual description in Milet’s Istoire, 56 but almost nothing in common with the “ostel” where Priam holds court in the P4 illustrations (fol. 191v, Figure 11). As this example from the Istoire shows, the dialogue of the play is linked to more elaborate depictions of Troy in other works, but the illustrations in P4 correlate closely with the mundane priorities of the stage directions. Other images in this copy of Colonne’s Historia demonstrate a similar concern with expansive narrative representation that is quite different from the conventionally similar colored drawings in P4. For example, the image of Paris’s departure from Troy depicts a shoreline populated by a vibrantly dressed aristocracy, a vast sea that stretches to a horizon line near the top edge of the page, and a fleet of ships scattered in a harbor. 57 Though this picture is closer in size to the P4 drawings, its color, detail, and wide perspective reflect the priorities and purpose of a very different artist. In a particularly detailed miniature (fol. 12r, Figure 12), the portrayal of Helen’s abduction manages to include a foreground where a deadly battle rages; a middle ground showing steps to the temple of Aphrodite and a road to the port, framed with a portcullis and showing the harbor and ships in the distance; and a background filled with city buildings surrounding the temple. None of the images in P4 have the depth or the background detail shown in these illuminations by Colombe and his atelier. The illustrations punctuating the scene of Helen’s abduction in P4 show Helen and her maid Florimonde behind a wooden screen with three windows, next to a bench where Paris and his men sit and wait (Figure 5).
Avril and Reynaud, Les manuscrits, 326–27. Priam welcomes the abducted Queen Helen with a seventy-one-line encomium to the city’s vastness, wealth, and invincibility. See Stengel, Istoire, 53–54, ll. 2926–97. 57 BnF, MS n.a.f. 24920, fol. 10r. 55
Figure 11. BnF MS fr. 12601, fol. 191v.
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Figure 12. BnF MS n.a.f. 24920, fol. 12r.
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The blue sky and the green lawn are the only background details. The stage direction associated with this miniature reads: . . . et tous les troyans seslongnent du temple et sen vont sur ung banc pres du temple. Et helene dit. . . 58 [. . . and all the Trojans leave the temple, and sit on a bench near the temple, and Helen says. . .] 59
This leaves little doubt as to the relevant scale (human rather than epic) and focus (narrow rather than wide), and the priority of P4’s illustrator to show information about the enactment of the scene: Where do the characters go when they leave the temple? To which group do we pay attention after Paris and company leave — those inside or outside the temple? Colombe’s concern, in contrast, was to evoke an imaginative and mimetically persuasive reconstruction of the scene on Cytharea for the readers of Colonne’s Historia. But Colombe’s priorities may not have been the norm. Indeed, stylistic innovators often buck the trends before others adopt their practices. In the other manuscript of the Historia at the BnF (MS fr. 22553), illustrated by an unknown artist, the drawings almost match in size some of the larger miniatures in P4. 60 However, the content still demonstrates a desire to show more detail rather than less. One picture shows the city of Troy in the background, a middle ground consisting of three standing figures, and a foreground of Greek tents enhanced by a forest of spear points. 61 And all of this in about 40 square cm of space! The precise location of the figures, and the spatial relationship between the city and the encamped army, are elided against a shaded ground dotted with trees and bushes, seemingly randomly. This image cues an altogether different sort of imaginative reconstruction, as it requires effort to untangle the confusing relationships among items within it. Other images within the manuscript show a similar layering of detail accompanying diverse depictions of geography. Judging by the examples of these two Historia manuscripts, then, the Istoire’s debt to Colonne’s Historia did not extend to pictorial representation. Another source of Troy iconography that differs markedly from the miniatures in P4 is Raoul Lefèvre’s Recueil de Troie (Troy Collection; BnF, MS fr. 22552, ca. 1495). An instructive comparison can be made between this manuscript and the image in P4 of Paris, Helen, and Florimonde at Cytharea before the abduction
BnF, MS fr. 12601, fol. 24r. Author’s translation. 60 Images from this manuscript, as well as from the previous example, are digitally available through the web database images.bnf.fr. 61 BnF, MS fr. 22553, fol. 108r. 58 59
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Figure 13. BnF MS fr. 22552, fol. 216r.
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(Figure 5). 62 The simplicity of this image stands in stark contrast to the detail and style of an illustration of the exact same moment in Lefèvre’s Recueil in BnF, MS fr. 22552. 63 Occupying two-thirds of the page and stretching across both columns, the Recueil illustration shows the interior of the Temple of Venus, with the altar to the right, Paris’ men-at-arms on the left, Helen (kneeling on a cushion) and Paris (bending over her) at the center, and a doorway to the outdoors, through which the viewer can see the seaside and the Trojan fleet at anchor (Figure 13). Interestingly, the altar is framed in white columns, and a red curtain is drawn to one side by a lady-in-waiting, details that echo the pavilion composition in the P4 miniatures. The superficial similarity of the curtains and columns, however, pales in comparison to the divergent impact of these two images. The colored drawing in P4, absent the explanatory dialogue and stage directions, would be nearly impossible to decipher. Two women behind a wooden wall? Three men seated on a bench? No background, interior decoration, or costume details indicate that the figures in the drawing represent some of the most well-known fictional characters in the fifteenth-century French cultural milieu, Helen of Troy and the Trojan prince Paris. In the Lefèvre manuscript, however, the picture stands on its own. With the richly dressed main characters, sumptuously painted setting, and the helpful gilded label “Temple de Venus” on the wall next to the door, virtually anyone familiar with the Troy story could divine what scene was playing out in the image. Fournival’s statement that peinture and parole can “make something present to the mind” and thus aid the reader to see “those noble deeds which were done in the past exactly as though they were still present” is thoroughly applicable to this copy of the Recueil. That is, the image of Helen’s abduction stimulates a picture in the mind of the “historical” deed as it took place in the past. In P4, however, the illustration conjures details evoking a particular performance, rather than inspiring a recall of common Troy iconography. Likewise, on folio 168r in P4, the image of two Trojans lying in wait to ambush Achilles and Archilogus in the Temple of Apollo suggests a keen awareness of how the scene could be staged (Figure 8). The moment is depicted in the pavilion setting, with the red curtain drawn back and an armored knight just visible hiding behind it, watching the two Greeks as they enter. Rather than show the actual attack, this image shows the set-up required for performance. As in a play, the scene is configured so that the “hidden” attackers are apparent to the audience but presumably not to their enemies, and it incorporates elements of the pavilion: the columns serve to bracket Achilles’ entrance; the altar indicates the sacred locale; and the curtain provides a handy hiding place. This image is all the more striking when compared to illustrations of this scene in contemporaneous narrative versions
BnF, MS fr. 12601, fol. 24r. BnF, MS fr. 22552, fol. 216r.
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such as the Recueil (Figure 14) and in later print editions of the play, which often showed the attack itself. 64 The pavilion’s utility as a stand-in for a scenic element rather than an imaginative or historical location is demonstrated by its reappearance, after the complete destruction of the city of Troy, in a scene occurring in the Greek camp. As Pirrus looks on, the Greek warrior Ajax dies in a blue bed set within the confines of the same white columns, wooden ceiling, and red curtain that served as the primary location for the palace and citadel of Ilion, the variety of temples in Troy and elsewhere, and even the staging area for the final deceptive assault on Troy with the wooden horse. This practice of illustration utterly fails to make any distinction among places or times, or even indicate which characters are associated with which places. Instead, the images argue strongly for P4 as being designed to inspire readers’ recall and reconstruction of a performance of the Troy legend. However, at least one image in P4 appears to deliberately invoke the iconography of a particularly well-known character from the Troy story: Hector. Folio 126v, which contains the nearly full-page illustration of Hector’s tomb, occurs exactly at the mid-point of the codex (Figure 15). The illumination of Hector’s tomb, which includes an elaborate throne and an armored effigy, enshrines the character at the material center of the play. The extensive use of gold, not only on the frame but also within the image itself, represents a concrete application of time and treasure to the crafting of this particular image. No other image in the book contains nearly as much gold within the frame. Unlike the swiftly drawn and colored illustrations in the rest of the manuscript, that of Hector’s tomb and epitaph emphasizes color and luxurious detail. In addition, the illustration of Hector’s tomb closely aligns with depictions in other versions of the Troy story, such as in Jean Colombe’s illuminations of Colonne’s Historia. In Colombe’s version, the scene where Achilles fatefully falls in love with the Trojan princess Polyxena features Hector’s tomb in the background, looming nearly as high as the vaulted ceiling above the scene, decorated with much gold, and sporting two effigies of the dead knight: one prone and one standing, both in full armor. 65 Other manuscripts, such as the Roman de Troie (BnF, MS fr. 783, late thirteenth century) and two copies of the Histoire ancienne jusqu’à César (BnF, MS fr. 254, 1467, and BnF, MS fr. 22554, sixteenth century), also feature illustrations of Hector’s tomb, though in various sizes and with divergent details. 66 The central placement of the illustration of Hector’s tomb in P4 and its imitation of wider iconographic practices exalt Hector as a central figure in the play and a model of chivalry, and reflect how easily recognizable he was. But the image in P4 also incorporates many of the motifs repeated throughout other illustrations
64 BnF, Arsenal MS 3692, fol. 209r (Recueil de Troie, fifteenth century). The ambush is depicted in woodcuts in seven of the thirteen Istoire print editions (a, c, f, g1, g2, h, and m). 65 BnF, MS n.a.f. 24920, fol. 27v. 66 BnF, MS fr. 783, fol. 109v; BnF, MS fr. 254, fol. 99v; and BnF, MS fr. 22554, fol. 119r.
Figure 14. BnF Ars. MS 3692, fol. 209r.
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Figure 15. BnF MS fr. 12601, fol. 126v.
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in the manuscript: the wooden wall with windows; the bench-cum-altar, covered in its white cloth; the white columns framing the scene; and a wooden vaulted ceiling. In the same way that the events in the play complicate Hector as an example for Christian knighthood, so the image is complicated by juxtaposing and integrating iconographic traditions with visual traces of performance. Moreover, the complexity of this illustration is the exception that proves the rule: its ostentation reveals the functionality of the other images in the manuscript. Thus Hector’s death, or more accurately the commemoration of his death, occupies pride of place in the play. Furthermore, it is in death that Hector’s reputation as a prudhomme (chivalric model) acquires a range of meanings. The play manuscript records the reactions of characters to his death by structuring the illustrations to evoke a funeral march. The cycle of funeral illustrations stretches from folios 121r to 126v and shows Hector’s body carried in procession back to Troy; depictions of individual family members’ reactions to the body, laid in armor on the greensward; Andromache lifting the body of Hector in her arms; and a large illustration of Hector’s tomb with an accompanying eight-line epitaph. Hector’s return home traces the contours of places both real and imagined: the performance space; the fictional space of Troy and Ilion; and the cultural space occupied by chivalry, nostalgia, and French national mythmaking that drew on Trojan ancestors. Each of the images of family members mourning Hector occurs within the pavilion setting: a white-columned enclosure featuring a wooden ceiling; and a red curtain drawn across the back. The ground remains the green lawn, while blue sky shows through small gaps in the curtain. The family members’ encounters with Hector’s body emphasize the magnitude of the loss and inscribe the physical manifestation of that loss on the bodies shown in the images — a loss that is meant to resonate not only in the play but also with its audience in performance.
Conclusion: The Istoire and its Reperformance Determining the relationship between a given manuscript’s illustrations and the possible performance manifestations of that work is an inexact endeavor. Nonetheless, the example of the P4 manuscript of Jacques Milet’s Istoire de la Destruction de Troie la Grant permits a rich investigation of the connection between the material conditions and practices of performance and the depictions of those conventions. Perhaps more than most play manuscripts, P4 has the ability to serve as a guide for the staging of the play text it contains, even if the guidance provided is not as precise as modern theater artists would expect. P4’s illustrator was particularly mindful of the physical realities and demands of live performance, transmitting in the images a conceptual framework replete with signals about setting, gesture, posture, movement, music, and other performative features. The economical visual style, coupled with complementary explication in the stage direction rubrics, lends itself particularly effectively to a portrayal of objects and figures that evokes a performance
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milieu. This saturation of P4 with performance is an obvious case of a manuscript that facilitates “performative reading,” but I think the concept actually does not describe the degree to which P4 partakes of the performance dimension of the text. Comparisons to the pre-text and co-text of this manuscript witness demonstrate how the P4 illustrator had access to a rich iconographic tradition yet chose a different way of portraying the same fictional events that otherwise received elaborate mimetic treatment in workshops like those of Colombe and others. Though it is impossible to say whether or not these images record a performance, I believe that the codex and the imaginative response of its readers constitute a re-performance, accessible to everyone as they encountered the intertextual and intermedial mise en page of the P4 manuscript.
Tracing Medieval Performance: The Visual Archive †Claire Sponsler What would we not give for a videotape of a medieval play! Although no one would ever claim that film or video can capture in unmediated fashion the multi-sensory experience of play-going, taping rates as a virtually life-like representational form compared with what the technologies of theatrical reproduction available before the age of photography were able to achieve. The most common of those forms of reproduction was the hopelessly inadequate scribal use of pen to set down the words spoken aloud during a dramatic enactment. Because writing was able to document only what could be expressed in language, it was obviously best suited to recording the words spoken by actors during the performance. Facial expressions, gestures, movement, sounds, smells, and other aspects of live performance are difficult to capture in words and, not surprisingly, often went unnoted. So also, in many cases, did other features we would now expect to find in a play-text: speaker tags are often absent; stage directions are seldom mentioned; and props and costumes almost always remain a blank, except as they can be construed from the actions of the play. These omissions result from both technological deficiencies — that is, the slow development of conventions for the scribal recording of drama — and pervasive cultural attitudes towards performances as ephemeral and occasional events that did not need to be documented. 1 Spurred in part by recognition of the limitations of extant play-texts as evidence of early performance practices, medieval drama scholars in the last decades of For discussions of the difficulty of recognizing plays in their manuscript contexts, see Donald C. Baker, “When is a Text a Play? Reflections upon What Certain Late Medieval Dramatic Texts Tell Us,” in Contexts for Early English Drama, ed. Marianne G. Briscoe and John C. Coldewey (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1989), 20–40; and Carol Symes, “The Appearance of Early Vernacular Plays: Forms, Functions, and the Future of Medieval Theater,” Speculum 77.3 (2002): 778–831. 1
Performance and Theatricality in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, ed. by Mark Cruse, ASMAR 41 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2018), pp. 93–109.
the twentieth century turned to the archives to search for traces of dramatic activity in account books, legal documents, and other records (a search exemplified by the Records of Early English Drama project, founded in 1975). More recently, inquiry has shifted to the manuscript environments of early plays, as scholars have looked at the physical evidence provided by the codices into which dramatic texts were copied. This second wave of archival inquiry has been accompanied by an expanded notion of what constitutes a performance and what forms of data can be used to track it. The outcome of this archival work has been a thorough exploration of the written record of early performances. And yet, as evidence for the staging of medieval plays and the experience of watching performances, much of that record is problematic, as Carol Symes has noted. 2 Not all performances were recorded; some texts were written beforehand to guide performances, while others were made afterwards, sometimes long afterwards, to commemorate them. Many mentions in the historical record are for exceptional events, such as performances that led to violence or were controversial. For instance, we know about a passion play that was performed at Chelles, outside Paris, in May of 1395, only because of a legal letter of remission issued by King Charles IV in August 1395 granting clemency to the assailant in a crime committed in the play’s aftermath, evidence for Jody Enders’ assertion that the earliest records of medieval drama are often “narratives of violence.” 3 Moreover, texts of plays, many of which must have been intended for ephemeral use as prompt sheets or players’ texts, were even more susceptible to destruction or loss than other medieval manuscripts. We also cannot always be confident that a surviving script for a play represents the record of an actual performance. Given the complicated and indeterminate nature of the written evidence, it is welcome news that other technologies of dramatic reproduction were available in the premodern period, including drawings, paintings, weavings, and carvings that, while not without their own problems as sources of evidence, constitute a visual archive of early performances that should be weighed alongside the written one. Just as scribes took up the pen to document performances verbally, artists employed brush, loom, or chisel to create images of plays, processions, spectacles, and ceremonies. Presentation manuscripts of royal entries sometimes include illustrations; a book from twelfth-century St. Albans that contains the plays of Terence shows gestures of characters in dialogue, figures from the plays, and classical masks in a structure that seems to represent a classical scena; stained-glass windows and other artworks depict jugglers, musicians, and performers; some drawings seem to show the layout of a performance space, such as the plan for the staging of the Castle of Perseverance or the illustration of the stage used in the Valenciennes passion play of 2 Carol Symes, “The Medieval Archive and the History of Theatre: Assessing the Written and Unwritten Evidence for Premodern Performance,” Theatre Survey 52 (2011): 1–30. 3 Jody Enders, “The Spectacle of the Scaffolding: Rape and the Violent Foundations of Medieval Theatre Studies,” Theatre Journal 56 (2004): 163–81; see 165 for the quotation and 163 for discussion of the 1385 crime.
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1547; and non-dramatic texts at times have visual representations of performances, such as the depiction of the “Dance of the Wodehouses” found in a manuscript of Froissart’s Chronicles, ca. 1470. A particularly full example is the Liber Apologeticus, a Latin play by Thomas Chaundler (ca. 1418–90), which is preceded by fourteen full-page grisaille drawings with Latin captions at the bottom of the page that illustrate the scenes of the play that immediately follows. 4 As is the case with written records, the status of visual images as evidence for medieval performances is problematic. In many instances, scholars have granted images such as the ones mentioned in the preceding paragraph documentary status based on the assumption that they were produced after the performance, which they are assumed to reflect or imitate. 5 But using visual images to study medieval drama raises many methodological questions. 6 What, for example, is the documentary status of such things as the seven painted cloths now in the Reims Museum of Fine Arts that depict events surrounding the Roman destruction of Jerusalem included in the mystery play known as the Vengeance de Nostre Seigneur (The Vengeance of Our Lord), or of other pictorial representations of subjects that also appear in plays, such as Hans Memling’s Passion panel? 7 How do the material forms of different media shape the material depicted or performed? If the relationship between late medieval
The St. Albans manuscript is now Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Auct.F.2.13; see Clifford Davidson, Illustrations of the Stage and Acting in England to 1580 (Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute Publications, 1991), 50–56, for a discussion of the manuscript. Chaundler’s work is in Cambridge, Trinity College, MS R.14.5 (ca. 1457–61); see M.R. James, The Chaundler MSS (London: J.B. Nichols and Sons, 1916), 10; and Thomas Chaundler, Liber Apologeticus de Omni Statu Humanae Naturae: A Defence of Human Nature in Every State (c. 1460), ed. Doris Enright-Clark Shoukri (London: Modern Humanities Research Association in conjunction with the Renaissance Society of America, 1974), 15. The Liber Apologeticus is a rare example of an illustrated playtext from England; continental play-texts were more often illustrated; for one example, see the Jour dou Jugement and the analysis by Richard K. Emmerson, “Visualizing Performance: The Miniatures of the Besançon MS 579 Jour dou Jugement,” Exemplaria 11 (1999): 245–84. 5 For an approach to reconstructing performances from visual sources, see Clyde W. Brockett, “Reconstructing an Ascension Drama from Aural and Visual Art: A Methodological Approach,” Fifteenth-Century Studies 13 (1988): 195–209. 6 For the use of art as evidence of staging practices, see Cynthia J. Brown, “From Stage to Page: Royal Entry Performances in Honour of Mary Tudor (1514),” in Book and Text in France, 1400–1600: Poetry on the Page, ed. Adrian Armstrong and Malcolm Quainton (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007), 49–72; and Dagmar Eichberger, “The Tableau Vivant–an Ephemeral Art Form in Burgundian Civic Festivities,” Parergon 6 (1988): 37–64. 7 Laura Weigert, “The Afterlife of Spectacle: Creating a Performance of The Vengeance of Our Lord through Paint,” in EMF: Studies in Early Modern France, vol. 13: Spectacle, ed. Anne Birberick, Russell J. Ganim, and Jeff Persels (Charlottesville, VA: Rookwood Press, 2010): 65–87. 4
art and drama is “intertextual, not causal or agentive,” as Martin Stevens has argued, what common cultural discourses do the two forms of representation share? 8 To get at those methodological questions and to theorize the visual archive of medieval drama, I will focus in the remainder of this essay on one illustrated fifteenth-century text, the Beauchamp Pageant. This text shows that just as extant scripts point to a variety of occasions, places, and forms for performance, so too do surviving visual images. Like written records, they also reveal a pervasive resistance to being placed in modern genre categories, with what we call a “play” often being indistinguishable from other cultural forms — such as debate, game, courtly and civic ceremonies, and rituals of self-presentation — that indicate the dramatic possibilities of a range of texts and cultural practices. As evidence for medieval theater, visual images are just as complex as written records, and like them are mediated and motivated in a variety of ways that require attention to methodological issues. The Beauchamp Pageant is an example of a genre — the illustrated biography — otherwise elusive in the corpus of pre-modern books. Its subject is Richard Beauchamp, the earl of Warwick (1382–1439), known as the “king maker,” an influential figure in the inner circles of the English court during the reigns of Henry V and Henry VI. A self-contained work of twenty-eight leaves, the Pageant consists of fifty-three line drawings with accompanying comments that describe each image. It was produced during the reign of Richard III, between 1483 and 1492, more than forty years after its subject’s death. It was commissioned, scholars agree, by the earl’s daughter Anne, who perhaps intended it to serve as a chivalric exemplar for her grandson, the young Prince Edward. 9 The Pageant follows Warwick’s life from birth to death, depicting him as a chivalric hero who is pious, patriotic, and a master of military prowess. Illustrations show his jousts, his travels to the Holy Land, and his various military exploits. Although the Pageant (now London, British Library, MS Cotton Julius E. iv) has been reproduced in facsimile three times, most recently and excellently by Alexandra Sinclair in 2003, it has remained largely unstudied by scholars of theatrical and literary history. 10 8 See Elina Gertsman, “Pleying and Peytynge: Performing the Dance of Death,” Studies in Iconography 27 (2006): 1–43; and Martin Stevens, “The Intertextuality of Late Medieval Art and Drama,” New Literary History 22 (1991): 317–37. 9 See E.M. Thompson, “The Pageant of Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, commonly called the ‘Warrick Manuscript,’” Burlington Magazine 1 (1903): 151–64; and Alexandra Sinclair, The Beauchamp Pageant (Donington: The Richard III and Yorkist History Trust in association with Paul Watkins, 2003), 22–23. 10 It has also been edited in facsimile by the Roxburghe Club in 1908, and by Viscount Dillon and W.H. St John Hope in 1914; see The Pageants of Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, reproduced in facsimile form from the Cottonian ms Julius EIV in the British Museum, ed. William, earl of Carysfort (Oxford: Roxburghe Club 150, 1908); and Pageant of the Birth, Life, and Death of Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick KG, 1389–1439 (London: Longmans Green and Co., 1914). Images from the Beauchamp Pageant can be viewed through the British Library Images Online
Tracing Medieval Performance: The Visual Archive
Although the uniqueness of the Pageant might argue against its usefulness as evidence of the visual representation of performance, nearly all handwritten texts produced before the age of print were one-off productions, varying in accordance with the talents and resources of the individual authors, scribes, and artists who made them. To extrapolate from any manuscript certainly requires an awareness of the limits of generalization but need not shut down discussion of its status as evidence of broader cultural trends. To my knowledge, no one has considered the Beauchamp Pageant as part of the visual archive for performance history, and few have asked what evidence it provides for the viewing experience of a medieval play. 11 Nor has anyone asked what it says about the intersection of spectatorship, reading, and performance, including both performance of a self and performance of public dramas and ceremonies. Those questions are worth asking, for what they can say not just about this unique manuscript but also about attempts to trace medieval performance. Long before Erving Goffman called attention to the performative nature of identity, biographies and hagiographies were representing individuals as creations of performance, often because the individual in question seems to have deliberately shaped his or her identity through performances. Despite giving ample to space to Margery’s private “feelings” or mystical visions, the Book of Margery Kempe, for example, also constructs Margery as holy by recounting public moments in which she makes a spectacle of herself through her histrionic behavior. Some of these moments are directly inspired by drama (such as the chastity bargain she extracts from her husband as they return from attending the York cycle plays), while others recreate it (Margery’s insertion of herself into scenes from the Passion, for instance, which echoes mystery play enactments of the biblical event). As Margery Kempe and the lives of numerous others show, medieval selves were made through public performance and, when subsequently written down, were often represented in ways that retained the theatrical nature of the self. 12 Whoever created the Beauchamp Pageant had at hand that model of biography as written record of performed identity and expanded it to include visual representation. To flip through the twenty-eight leaves of the Pageant is to encounter a series of staged enactments from the earl’s life. The book begins with an illustration of his birth, in which Margaret, the Countess of Warwick, lies in bed looking at her newborn son, who is held by an aristocratic woman, perhaps his grandmother. site: http://imagesonline.bl.uk/index.php?service=search&action=do_quick_search&language= en&q=beauchamp+pageant. 11 For a discussion of the significance of the Beauchamp Pageant for medieval drama, see Claire Sponsler, “What the Beauchamp Pageant Says About Medieval Plays,” in Editing, Performance, Texts: New Practices in Medieval and Early Modern English Drama, ed. Jacqueline Jenkins and Julie Sanders (Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), 11–26. 12 See Susan Crane, The Performance of Self: Ritual, Clothing, and Identity during the Hundred Years War (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002).
Two other women of rank are shown stirring the contents of a bowl that is about to be offered to Margaret and looking through an open coffer that contains cups and spoons that may have been gifts to the child. A servant kneels at a fireplace, preparing food or medicine. What might have been a static depiction has been turned into a drama featuring six actors engaged in various tasks that point both to the birth that has just taken place and to events that will follow (the mother’s recovery, the bestowal of gifts, and so on) and representing a kind of secular nativity play located within a private household. What does this illustration suggest about the experience of play-going, about, for instance, audience relationships to theatrical spaces? Although the illustration, framed within the space of a page in a codex, does not replicate the spaces of performances in late medieval England — urban streets, fields and church- or inn-yards, guildhalls, and halls in wealthy households — and does not employ the structures commonly used for staging performances — pageant wagons, platform stages, “mansions” — it nonetheless evokes the experience of a playing space and asks readers to activate their memory of live performance, even as it represents that space two-dimensionally on a manuscript page. The depiction of the space of the earl’s nativity is akin to the representational tactics of the Vengeance tapestries made around the 1460s in the Netherlands, whose image sequence, as Laura Weigert has argued, “presented viewers with an accumulation of episodes” that echoes the spatial dynamic of the French and Netherlandish Vengeance plays and offered “multiple viewpoints onto a single place,” as occurred in the urban streets where the plays were staged. 13 The drama of the earl’s birth is framed in the Pageant within a room, which while open to the front carefully limits the space of the activities surrounding the earl’s birth. A narrow passage allows entry into the room from the left, but from the perspective of the reader of the book, the scene is contained in one compact and orderly space. The illustration captures a vestigial sense of the spatial experience of a mystery cycle nativity play while controlling that spatial experience through pictorial conventions. The placement and use of words in the Pageant, as well as their relationship to the pictures, are also suggestive of the experience of play-going, and particularly of the way in which audiences might have responded to the written texts that were a feature of some spectacles and pageantry. Each illustration of the earl’s life contains a short caption, usually positioned at the top of the page, which identifies the scene being visually depicted and in many cases offers additional information about it. The caption that accompanies the earl’s baptism in the second illustration in the book, for instance, identifies the event as a baptism and also remarks on the identity of his two godfathers, noting that one of them, Richard Scrope, later “in processe of tyme” became the archbishop of York. Whatever its purposes, the caption is not Laura Weigert, “‘Theatricality’ in Tapestries and Mystery Plays and its Afterlife in Painting,” Art History 33.2 (2010): 224–35, at 229. 13
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essential for deciphering the scene. Given the central position of the baptismal font and the naked child being immersed in it, anyone familiar with the rite of baptism can see immediately what is being depicted. Most of the figures crowded into the frame around the font are identifiable by their dress or accoutrements and do not require explicit naming. King Richard II, another of Beauchamp’s godfathers, wears the imperial crown and an ermine-lined surcoat, while Scrope wears a bishop’s miter, as does the officiating churchman. One of the canons assisting the bishop in the rite carries an open chrismatory with the vessels of oil for anointing the infant, another holds the service book, and a third the bishop’s crozier and a scroll. The high rank of the lone woman in the scene, probably the godmother, is visible in the details of her gown and headdress, which are identical to those of a noblewoman who appears in the birth scene (the ermine-trimmed neck and hem of her gown indicate her status). The superfluous and yet supplementary quality of the caption to the baptismal scene resembles that of the writing used in spectacles and performances, such as the “scriptures” employed on tableaux or the written texts found on subtleties at banquets. For those who can read them, they add extra information about the scene, but they are not essential, since the image conveys most of the meaning. The interplay of visual and verbal in the Pageant and the relegation of words to secondary status mimic the experience of play-going, in which the visual spectacle takes precedence over any writing that may be included in the enactment. Just as the use of writing in the Pageant echoes its use in performances, so too does the kind of reading demanded by the two media. The Pageant is in the form of a book and was obviously meant to be read in some fashion. We unfortunately have no record of actual readers of the Pageant, who might offer a sense of how the book was used. If Anne’s grandson, Prince Edward, was the intended first user, it is unlikely that he ever had a chance to read the book, since he died in 1484. It is possible that Anne herself leafed through it, as Sinclair imagines, to remind herself of the stability of an earlier age at a moment when she had lived through the upheavals of the late fifteenth century, but there is no way to be certain. More likely is that the Pageant was given into the care of the heralds, whose collection after Richard II’s death became disorganized and scattered, some rolls being kept by individual heralds. Possession by the heralds would explain why the Pageant passed into the hands of Robert Glover, Somerset Herald (d. 1588). 14 If the heralds did hold the book, it would not be surprising, given their professional involvement with rituals and ceremonies, if they had been especially appreciative of its extensive depiction of those same kinds of performances in representing the earl’s life. Whoever its actual readers, the Beauchamp Pageant calls for a performative method of reading. Such a method could be applied to actual play-texts, as Robert Sinclair, Beauchamp Pageant, 24 and 24n99. A list of Glover’s books includes the Pageant; see Sinclair, Beauchamp Pageant, 1n3. 14
L.A. Clark and Pamela Sheingorn have shown: individuals, or sometimes groups, reading a play-text could take on various roles if they wished and in so doing create an experience of the play, whether or not they had ever seen it; the genre itself would have established the story as one that had been performed. 15 Or performative reading could be used for texts not explicitly linked to live performance: Jeffrey Hamburger, for example, has described the Rothschild Canticles as a drama acted out by the reader; and Jessica Brantley has shown how theatrical practices informed private devotional reading. 16 Joyce Coleman has pointed to the frequency of public and performative oral reading in the period, and many texts were composed with both oral performance and the written medium in mind, as Kathryn Starkey has shown was the case for Wolfram of Eschenbach’s Willehalm, which, like the Beauchamp Pageant, is a work that combines words and images while invoking performance. 17 As these and other scholars suggest, even as an increase in private reading began to supplant earlier modes of aural reception and move reading away from publicly performative settings, late medieval readers — even those reading silently to themselves — drew on the idea of public performance in their encounter with written texts, especially devotional ones. In such situations, the text being read resembled Hans Memling’s Passion panel, which, while clearly related to drama, in the view of Martin Stevens “does not signify an actual performance” but, instead, “represents the idea of a performance.” 18 The Beauchamp Pageant’s call for performative reading can most readily be seen in its emphasis on exemplarity and instruction. The general themes of the Pageant are chivalric deeds, knightly identity, and official service, themes drawn as much from literature as from life. Almost one-quarter of the book features such knightly actions as tournaments, challenges, and points of arms, seen as reaching their apotheosis in the figure of Beauchamp. The earl’s life was shaped by precepts of chivalry that had been articulated much earlier in instructional accounts, such as those by Ramon Lull and Geoffrey de Charny, as well as in courtly romances. 19 The romance most closely associated with Beauchamp was Guy of Warwick, 15 Robert L.A. Clark and Pamela Sheingorn, “Performative Reading: The Illustrated Manuscripts of Arnoul Gréban’s Mystere de la Passion,” European Medieval Drama 6 (2002): 129–54. 16 Jeffrey Hamburger, The Rothschild Canticles: Art and Mysticism in Flanders and the Rhineland circa 1300 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991); and Jessica Brantley, Reading in the Wilderness: Private Devotion and Public Performance in Late Medieval England (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007). 17 Joyce Coleman, Public Reading and the Reading Public in Late Medieval England and France (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996); and Kathryn Starkey, Reading the Medieval Book: Word, Image, and Performance in Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Willehalm (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2004). 18 Martin Stevens, “The Intertextuality of Late Medieval Art and Drama,” New Literary History 22 (1991): 317–37, at 328. 19 See Maurice Keen, Chivalry (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1984), 8–11.
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written ca. 1210, and, as Sinclair notes, by the fifteenth century there was a longestablished connection between the earls of Warwick and the fictional hero. 20 That connection is stressed in the caption to illustration 18, which claims that even the great sultan owned books about the legendary hero, books that predisposed the sultan’s lieutenant to welcome the earl “with gret honoure” during his visit to Jerusalem. The caption claims that the act of reading about Guy of Warwick has led to gestures of hospitality, which the reader of the Pageant is encouraged to take as an example of the benefits of cultivating a heroic reputation. The caption in this instance points towards the dialogue that might have been part of Warwick’s meeting with the sultan’s lieutenant or, more generally, an entry or welcome scene in a play. Generic crossing and performative reading activate the visual image and its instructional message by alluding to the dialogue that would be part of a dramatic performance and by encouraging the reader’s vicarious identification with the earl. As this example suggests, one problem associated with the visual archive of medieval performance is that in many cases performance was encoded in the visual text. Just as writing was often performative and rested on the assumption of oral and public recitation, so painting and other forms of visual representation were a species of display, intended for public viewing and thus overlapping with the kinds of spectatorship that observers brought to dramatic performances. “Hearing the text aloud in a performance — even if the sole performer was the reader himself — was the rule,” as Michael Clanchy notes, and seeing a visual image similarly called on acts of perception that spectators employed when watching dramatic performances. 21 Performative reading of the Pageant is helped along by its extensive use of the discourse and practices of performance — including emphasis on embodied action, staging of scenes, and use of costume and stage properties — to deliver its drama of a personal life. In a different context, the illustrations could be taken for sketches toward the mounting of a play, so fully do they realize Beauchamp’s life as a series of enacted scenes presented for public viewing. As he moves through the twentyeight folios, he changes costume and adopts new roles. The ninth illustration, for instance, shows the earl embarking on a journey to the Holy Land, in the role of a pilgrim. In the foreground he is seen dressed as a pilgrim and carrying a staff, stepping into a small boat. In the background the artist depicts the large carrack in which the earl would have sailed to Jerusalem, having been granted a license to undertake the journey, as the caption explains. Some twenty of the illustrations are of royal events of national importance in which Beauchamp played a part, as for instance in illustration 33, which shows the earl delivering a letter to the pope, after having been appointed ambassador by Henry V. The earl is dressed in a long gown
Sinclair, Beauchamp Pageant, 14. Michael T. Clanchy, From Memory to Written Word: England 1066–1307, 2nd ed. (Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1993), 253, 269, 285. 20 21
with an elaborate baldric and kneels before the pope with the letter in his hand, acting as England’s emissary in an event of historic importance. The more public scenes are similarly crowded with participants and present events in process. 22 In nearly every case, while the focus is on the earl, who is usually in the center of the frame, careful “stage-management” of other figures and the dynamic use of “props” depict a series of related actions taking place on the periphery. For instance, the fifth illustration shows the tournaments that took place for the coronation of Queen Jane. The artist places the jousting in the center, but around it ranges a series of small dramas that show courtiers and others watching (not all of them paying attention), squires attending their knights, spectators climbing a tree, and two men apparently arguing over a broken lance. With these multiple glimpses of figures in action, the artist has effectively staged a series of dramatic actions within the frame of the picture, and the reader, like the viewer of a play, is required to differentiate between foreground and background, central and peripheral actions, and shifts in characters and scenes. In this use of theatrical conventions, the Pageant’s dramatic presentation of Beauchamp’s life goes well beyond the kind of performance of self that was characteristic of late medieval courtly culture and seems to invoke the model of the saint play. There is certainly a sense that the earl’s life was lived on the public stage, that he performed his identity through ritual and spectacle, and that his presence at tournaments, coronations, papal audiences, pilgrimages, and other ceremonial and ritual occasions contributed to his status and displayed his power and privilege. But the artist of the Pageant shapes the latent theatricality of courtly identity into a series of dramatic scenes emphasizing Warwick’s chivalrousness and saintliness. While it lacks the conversion scene and performance of miracles that are features of extant saints’ plays, that genre seems to hover in the background of the Pageant. A less genre-specific link to medieval plays is in the Pageant’s emphasis on embodied action, understood as the vehicle for conveying meanings. The eighth illustration, for instance, records Beauchamp’s investiture into the Order of the Garter following the battle of Shrewsbury by re-enacting the ceremony, which takes place on the battlefield, where the earl fought on the crown’s side against the rebellion led by the Percys. The earl stands in the foreground, as an official buckles the Garter around his calf. He shares center stage with the crowned Henry IV, who wears the Garter and leans on a staff. Around them stand men in field armor, attentively watching, and in so doing directing the reader’s gaze onto the earl. As the only extant contemporary illustration of the ceremony of the Garter, this drawing might lead us to consider its verisimilitude and its documentary
One aim of the public scenes was to demonstrate the Beauchamps’ loyalty to the Lancastrians following events at Bosworth, but immediate ends aside, these illustrations also place the earl within the context of national enterprises. 22
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value. 23 Was it common to hold the ceremony outside? Was the Garter conferred to honor military success? Was the king usually present? Similar questions could be asked about other ritual and ceremonial occasions depicted in the drawings, such as the Whitsun feast that is the subject of illustration 12, in which the earl sits with a crowned and berobed Charles VI and his guests at table, where, according to the caption, the earl “so manerly behaved hym self in langage and norture, that the kyng and his lordes with all other people gave hym greet lawde.” 24 Or the illustration in which the earl makes an offering in the Chapel of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem and afterwards, as the caption explains, had his arms “set up on the north side of the Temple,” where “they remayned many yeres after.” 25 While those are valid and interesting lines of inquiry, pursuit of the documentary status of individual scenes is less rewarding than consideration of the whole. The Pageant is useful not because it represents any single performance, despite its frequent and direct depiction of spectacles and ceremonies such as tournaments, entries, banquets, and coronations, but because it is infused with and expects its readers to draw on theatrical discourses and the experience of play-going. Its importance for the visual archive derives from the way it calls attention to the cultural field within which reading, spectacle watching, and image viewing took place. Although the three media had individual and distinctive features, the Pageant demonstrates the extent to which they were intertwined cultural practices. That intertwining can be seen in the use of the language of shewing in the Pageant. Many Middle English narratives and lyrics begin with injunctions to listen (“lysteth,” “herkneth”) that signal the oral-aural status of a good deal of medieval writing. In contrast, the typical opening phrase in the Pageant’s captions is some variation on “Here shewes howe” (the phrase is lacking in just seventeen of the fiftyfive captions, and in those cases it is implied as a preface to “howe,” as in “Howe Erle Richard . . .”). “Shew” was a term commonly applied to dramatic performances and visual spectacles and points to the dominance of the visual as a medium for taking in performances. We may tend to think of drama as an aural or verbal art, but before the advent of purpose-built indoor theaters and their enhanced acoustics, the verbal/aural features of performance may have been less important than visual ones for most audiences. In fact, “spectators” is probably a more accurate term for the audience of medieval drama than “listeners,” and, as the terms “processyon,” “pagent,” “shewe,” and “processe” suggest, drama was often thought of as a visual spectacle. 26 That fact is often concealed, given the nature of the surviving evidence for medieval performances, since play-texts best preserve the aural aspects of plays, at least in the form of the words spoken by actors, although they seldom capture music or other
See Sinclair, Beauchamp Pageant, 67n41. Fol. 6v, reproduced in Sinclair, Beauchamp Pageant, 74. 25 Fol. 9, reproduced in Sinclair, Beauchamp Pageant, 85. 26 V.A. Kolve, The Play Called Corpus Christi (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1966), 13. 23
sounds that were part of performances. Speech banners, which are used in medieval paintings to represent spoken words, are related forms, in which, as one scholar has noted, “the words become images and the verbal becomes visual.” 27 The captions in the Beauchamp Pageant invite readers to become spectators, by activating the looking skills so important for the experience of late medieval drama (the captions might also encourage scholars to examine apparently non-dramatic medieval texts that include exhortations to look — “lo, here,” “beholde,” “see” — for a buried link to actual performance). That the scribe who provided the captions for Beauchamp’s biography was drawing on theatrical discourse is also indicated by use of the word “pagent,” from which the modern title of the book is drawn and which is used twice by the writer of the captions (in the first and eighth illustrations, fols. 1 and 4v). “Pagent” had various meanings associated with written or visual representation: it could refer to an ornamental hanging or a story or tale; it was also a variant form of the word “pagine,” whose most frequent meaning was a page or leaf of a book but which could also apply to writings or documents or to Scripture; and, even though the Middle English Dictionary and Oxford English Dictionary do not indicate this usage, it could be used to denote “illustration” or “picture.” 28 In addition to having meanings that linked it with books, paintings, and tapestries, the word “pageant” was also used to describe enactments and mimetic representations. It could refer to a scene in a triumph or royal entry, to the wheeled platform on which a play was presented, or to a play within a mystery cycle. Used with the word “pleien,” it indicated the acting of a part or the playing of a role — a usage of particular interest in the context of a biography — or, more sinisterly, the practicing of a deception (like acting). Despite their differences, these definitions do not negate but, rather, extend the visual meanings of the word, broadening its application to take in other media. Taken together, what the various uses of the Middle English word “pageant” suggest is a blending of various representational media that depend on sight: engagement with a “pageant” could encompass the activities of reading words on a page, watching a dramatic performance, or looking at a painting or wall-hanging. In using the term “pageant” to describe scenes from the earl’s life, the author of the captions appears to have been explicitly thinking of those scenes as performative or mimetic. Tellingly, the term “portreiture,” which 27 Alison R. Flett, “The Significance of Text Scrolls: Towards a Descriptive Terminology,” in Medieval Texts and Images: Studies of Manuscripts from the Middle Ages, ed. Margaret M. Manion and Bernard J. Muir (Chur, Switzerland: Harwood Academic Publishers, 1991), 43–53, at 53. 28 From Latin pagina and Old French pagine, pagene; see Middle English Dictionary “pagin(e),” (n.). For its use to mean “illustration,” see A.S.G. Edwards, “Middle English Pageant ‘Picture’?” Notes and Queries 237 (ns 39) (1992): 25–26, who cites examples from the late medieval period. Also see Martha W. Driver, “Pageants Reconsidered,” in Makers and Users of Medieval Books: Essays in Honour of A.S.G. Edwards, ed. Carol M. Meale and Derek Pearsall (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2014), 34–47.
Tracing Medieval Performance: The Visual Archive
might at first seem better suited for the portraits of Warwick’s life presented in these twenty-eight folios, is used just once, for illustration 55 (fol. 28), where it describes the still figures drawn into a genealogy. 29 Its use in that instance strongly suggests that the writer of the captions was intentionally distinguishing between two types of illustration, one dynamic and the other static. The creators of the Beauchamp Pageant appear to have made a conscious decision to present the earl’s life as drama, not as image. Although there were many routes that might have led the scribe and artist of the Pageant to draw on theatrical discourse, not to be discounted is a possible direct connection to the making of spectacles and entertainments. Artists of all kinds were employed in the making of spectacles and plays, providing painted and inscribed cloths, scenery, and other items needed for the performance (the Bridge Accounts, for instance, with their lists of expenditures for pageantry on London Bridge, give some sense of the artisans employed in the production of public ceremonies in fifteenth-century England). Neither the scribe nor the artist of the Pageant has been identified, but Kathleen Scott has suggested the latter may be the artist who illustrated William Caxton’s translations of the Metamorphoses of Ovid and the Mirroure of the Worlde; more definitively, he has been linked to a pen drawing related to the ceremony of the knighthood of the Bath, which shows the knightcandidate being put to dry in bed after his ritual bath. 30 If that attribution is correct, the artist of the Beauchamp Pageant had other occasions to record a ceremony. He may well have also lent his services to the design of pageantry. Some features of his style, particularly the use of a three-dimensional architectural frame for indicating location and the presentation of interior space as an architectural exterior with a front opening, were innovations of the fourteenth century, suggesting that he had trained earlier and by the time of his work on the Beauchamp Pageant was nearing the end of his career and had an established reputation that would make him a suitable choice for the Beauchamp project. 31 By whatever route, the scribe and artist of the Pageant arrived at representational techniques that reproduce through the mechanisms of private reading the character and meaning of public performances, shaped in the Pageant to capture the performance of the self. The Beauchamp Pageant is in all likelihood not a script in the sense of being a written artifact that was a prerequisite for performance, even if Thompson thought it comprised the designs for another project, possibly a series 29 Another example of static illustrations related to Beauchamp can be found in the Rous Roll, written by John Rous (The Rous Roll, with an Historical Introduction on John Rous and the Warwick Roll by Charles Ross [Gloucester: Sutton, 1980]). Rous was once considered to have been the author of the captions in the Beauchamp Pageant, an assumption that finds no support in current scholarship. 30 See Kathleen L. Scott, The Caxton Master and His Patrons (Cambridge: Bibliographical Society, 1976), 55–59. 31 See the discussion by Sinclair, Beauchamp Pageant, 6.
of tapestries or wall hangings, two forms that are often linked to drama. It is also not a transcript, in the sense of being a record of performance, nor a scripture, which does not presuppose performance. 32 Yet the experience of reading it is homologous to that of watching a play. Although each medium — book, play, painting — had its own specificity, they shared similar representational strategies centered around ways of looking and similarly participated in a broader theatrical culture. Because the visual aspect of early drama has proven so elusive, it is not surprising that the rare illustrations of stages or processions or performances have been pounced on with such enthusiasm. How can we know what costumes were worn, what gestures used, what sets were constructed, what stage properties were employed when the written record is so often silent on those subjects? Illustrations hold out the promise of being able to see at last what spectators at performances themselves saw. The impossibility of that hope has been demonstrated in recent work that has questioned the verisimilitude of illustrations of early plays and, more broadly, the relationship of archive to repertoire. Not only do we recognize that a representation is simultaneously “a facsimile and a simulacrum, a copy and a counterfeit” but also we question the relation of that representation to the embodied performance to which it is related. 33 In performance studies, “archive” refers to the texts, documents, maps, material objects, archaeological remains, and artifacts that are (apparently) durable, while “repertoire” is the term for the (supposedly) ephemeral forms of embodied practice and performed knowledge such as sports, ritual, spoken language, dance, and acting. In a critique of its use in Latin American studies, Diana Taylor notes that there are several myths about the archive, including that it is unmediated and that it resists “change, corruptibility, and political manipulation.” Taylor argues that the relationship between archive and repertoire is not sequential (as Pierre Nora’s notion of lieux de mémoire would have it), nor is it true versus false, mediated versus unmediated, ancient versus modern, hegemonic versus anti-hegemonic. Moreover, performances, like the archive, can function as acts of transfer, “transmitting social knowledge, memory, and a sense of identity.” 34 Those cautions about the archive bear keeping in mind, especially since a large percentage of medieval performances of all kinds — forensic, ritual, public, political — was never recorded in any fashion and never made the move from repertoire to archive. Even when they were recorded, performances are not always easy to identify; that is, they do not always look like what modern readers would classify Thompson, “Pageant of Richard Beauchamp,” 160. See Gregory Nagy, Poetry as Performance: Homer and Beyond (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 112, for the terms. 33 The quotation is from Representing the Past: Essays in Performance Historiography, ed. Charlotte M. Canning and Thomas Postlewait (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2010), 11. 34 Diana Taylor, The Archive and the Repertoire: Performing Cultural Memory in the Americas (Durham: Duke University Press, 2003), quotations from 19 and 2, respectively. 32
Tracing Medieval Performance: The Visual Archive
as plays, since they lack speaker tags, stage directions, incipits, or other signs we now associate with plays. Moreover, written texts of medieval plays were rarely identified as such. And whenever they entered the written record, performances did so in accordance with specific interests and motives that shaped the making of accounts. All of those features make it difficult to view surviving scripts or accounts as faithful scripts for, or after-the-fact transcriptions of, theatrical events. Both scripts and transcripts inevitably lie some distance from actual performance, which was grounded in orality and spectacularity more than in writing. The fact that many surviving manuscripts of medieval plays postdate the performance suggests that professional performers did not primarily rely on written scripts. The corollary, therefore, is that surviving written records may represent after-the-fact and only partial traces of performance rather than prescriptions for it. Performance has always been indebted to more permanent forms of media for its survival, but we would be mistaken to take those more permanent forms as expressing an exact equivalence with what actually happened when actors put on an entertainment for audiences. What else might give the Beauchamp Pageant status as a record, even if indirect, of performance? With its mingling of words and images, the Pageant may be unique as biography, yet it resembles other illustrated manuscripts, especially illustrated romances, such as the Alexander romances (which, like the Beauchamp Pageant, are also in some sense biographies), and medieval picture bibles, such as the Morgan Bible, from around 1250, whose forty-four folios contain 283 pictures of episodes from Creation to the story of King David, with captions in Latin (apparently added later). 35 It also, and more importantly for any attempt to add it to the visual archive of medieval performance, resembles continental illustrations of drama, such as Jean Fouquet’s miniature of the Martyrdom of Saint Apollonia — which, even if not a literal depiction of a performance, surely captures aspects of live performance, especially given Fouquet’s own involvement with theater and the theatrical connections of the legend of Saint Apollonia itself — or the miniature in a fifteenthcentury French manuscript of Livy’s History of Rome that depicts the abduction of the Sabine women during a theater performance, with the audience arranged on a wooden framework similar to the scaffolds used for mystery plays and jousts. 36 For the Alexander romances, see David J.A. Ross, Alexander Historiatus: A Guide to Medieval Illustrated Alexander Literature (Frankfurt am Main: Athenäum, 1988). Reproductions and discussion of the Bible illustrations can be found in Sydney C. Cockerell and John Plummer, Old Testament Miniatures: A Medieval Picture Book with 283 Paintings from the Creation to the Story of David (New York: George Braziller, 1969). 36 See Thomas A. Pallen, “Caveat emptor: A Reinvestigation of Jean Fouquet’s ‘The Martyrdom of Saint Apollonia,’” in European Theatre Iconography, ed. Christopher Balme et al. (Rome: Bulzoni, 2002), 141–54, for a reading that considers the painting as a warning to Etienne Chevalier about public office rather than as an accurate depiction of a theatrical performance. Also see the exchange between Graham Runnals and Gordon Kipling in Medieval English Theatre 35
Visually narrated books such as picture-bibles provide an analogue for the narrative aspects of the Beauchamp Pageant, while visual representation of live performance — if that is what the Apollonia and Sabine women miniatures are — suggests an awareness of visual imagery as a technology for recording enacted plays. An even stronger connection with plays can be seen in the Pageant’s resemblance to the Livre des miracles de Notre Dame de la Poterie, a book made around 1499 that contains eighteen drawings showing various miracles attributed to the Virgin of the Pottery in Bruges. As in the Pageant, the Poterie manuscript combines text positioned above and outside the frame of the illustrations, which are in brown ink on paper folios, but unlike the Pageant, the Poterie figures are static and unanimated. Although the Poterie drawings inspired a set of tapestries, we do not know if they were linked to a live performance of the Virgin’s miracles, and the drawings lack spectators and ancillary action, features that in the Pageant evoke staged drama. 37 While such analogues link the Pageant to drama, not much connects it with less performative and mimetic genres, such as narrative. Sinclair notes that very few English examples of illustrated secular narratives are known and that there are few chronicles or tales that are “accompanied by a pictorial version of the incidents being narrated.” 38 The Pageant’s affiliations seem to lie, then, with performance and its archive, rather than with the art of narration and non-mimetic, disembodied storytelling. Although the Pageant mingles media and crosses genres, it depends on the memory of familiar performances and recreates them. 39 If we take the Beauchamp Pageant as a document in the visual archive, we need to be aware of its own sources and purposes. The historical sources and “original” documents of the archive are all mediated by virtue of being representations by eyewitnesses or later documenters; in that regard, even what we consider primary sources are secondary. 40 It appears that the scribe-chronicler of the Pageant had access to earlier written sources that formed the basis for his account of Richard Beauchamp’s life, an account that has a high level of historical accuracy and can be verified in official records. Beauchamp employed a chronicler, a Master Brewster, 19 (1997) over the relationship of Fouquet’s painting to drama. For the miniature of the Sabine women, see Sandra Pietrini, “Iconographical Models in Various Contexts: The Roman Theatre in a French Manuscript of Titus Livius,” in Balme, et al., European Theatre Iconography, 155–69. 37 See the discussion of the Livre des miracles de Notre Dame de la Poterie in Sinclair, Beauchamp Pageant, 9. 38 Sinclair, Beauchamp Pageant, 9. 39 See Visualizing Medieval Performance: Perspectives, Histories, Contexts, ed. Elina Gertsman (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2008), for similar reflections on the overlap of media and responses to them in the medieval period. 40 See Canning and Postlewait, Representing the Past, 14. The essay by David Wiles, “Seeing Is Believing: The Historian’s Use of Images,” in the same volume, 215–39, is especially useful for considering the visual archive for performance.
Tracing Medieval Performance: The Visual Archive
who later loaned his chronicle to the antiquary William Worcester, who included extracts from it in his Itineraries. 41 Sinclair notes that the description of the earl’s pas d’armes at Guines (accompanying illustrations 26–31) closely follows the eyewitness account, probably by a herald, that was included among the accounts of jousts and challenges in Sir John Paston’s Grete Boke. Deliberately designed for a limited audience of aristocrats and steeped in the cultural values of that group, which it aims to replicate through social instruction, the Beauchamp Pageant is a highly mediated document. If we agree, as the evidence suggests, that most medieval performances were unscripted and improvisational, then how can we recover evidence about them? While written texts have been the chief form of apprehension of past performance practices, visual images offer a reminder of what writing cannot capture. Looking at paintings and drawings for their connection with performance expands the body of historical evidence for the study of medieval performance, but it also complicates that evidence, since as a technology for recording performance, visual images both conceal and reveal. As Jacques Derrida has noted, our understanding of the archive “determines the structure of archival content even in its coming into existence and in its relationship to the future.” 42 My interest in the Beauchamp Pageant as a document of performance asks that we broaden our understanding of the archive of medieval drama to take in not just visual representations illustrating scenes from plays, which have long been acknowledged as a source of information about early plays, but also visual representations that have a seemingly less direct relationship with spectacle, drama, and theater. By so doing, we can more fully come to terms with the experience of play-going and can better position performance within the cultural field of the later Middle Ages. As usefully as any list of payments to actors, any plan of a playing space, any drawing of a pageant wagon, or any script of a play, the Beauchamp Pageant can shed light on medieval drama and its meanings for audiences. It may not be a videotape, but the Pageant offers more than a few traces of what it was like to go to a play.
Antonia Gransden, Historical Writing in England II: c. 1307 to the Early Sixteenth Century (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1982), 339–40; and William Worcestre: Itineraries, ed. J.H. Harvey (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1969), 214–21; both cited in Sinclair, Beauchamp Pageant, 11. 42 Jacques Derrida, Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression, trans. Eric Prenowitz (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995), 17. 41
The Discourse about Gender Relationships on the Urban Stage in Late Medieval German Shrovetide Plays and Verse Narratives Albrecht Classen As scholarship has already observed for some time, the discourse on gender relationships, marriage, and sexuality increased considerably in the late Middle Ages, especially in the urban world, as reflected in different literary genres, art works, and treatises, as well as in legal cases. 1 In fact, we could characterize the late Middle Ages almost in terms of the profound and often acrimonious tensions between the genders, which did not lessen when the Protestant Reformation developed. In their propaganda war against the Catholic Church, Martin Luther and other reformers often portrayed the requirement of celibacy for the clergy as an absurdity that was not supported by the New Testament. Nevertheless, a vast number of popular songs, verse narratives, and also prose narratives were predicated on the realization that it was difficult for man and woman to live together within the bounds of marriage without conflicts and strife. Protestant preachers in particular spent much time and energy on writing detailed sermons about marital relationships, offering detailed advice on how husbands and wives should live together, how to handle conflicts, and how to assist each other so as to achieve a harmonious and joyful marital coexistence. 2 1 See, for example, Johann von Tepl’s Ackermann and Albrecht von Eyb’s Ehebüchlein; and the contributions to Masculinities and Femininities in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, ed. Fred Kiefer, Arizona Studies in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, 23 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2009). 2 Albrecht Classen, Der Liebes- und Ehediskurs vom hohen Mittelalter bis zum frühen 17. Jahrhundert, Volksliedstudien, 5 (Münster, New York, et al.: Waxmann, 2005). See also Rüdiger Schnell, “Liebesdiskurs und Ehediskurs im 15. und 16. Jahrhundert,” in The Graph of Sex and the German Text: Gendered Culture in Early Modern Germany, 1500–1700, ed. Lynne Tatlock
Performance and Theatricality in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, ed. by Mark Cruse, ASMAR 41 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2018), pp. 111–133.
As might be expected, this subject, which had almost universal relevance, was also fought over and debated on the stage, especially in late medieval Shrovetide plays. This contribution focuses on these specific plays because of their highly representative character, particularly within urban settings, and because despite much interest in them, this important angle has not yet been illuminated enough. The traditional Shrovetide plays enjoyed tremendous popularity from the fifteenth century through the middle of the sixteenth, when more complex forms of sophisticated plays emerged and were performed in schools and universities. This dramatic genre brings to light many facets and features of city life in the late Middle Ages. 3 Significantly, as research has convincingly demonstrated, these types of plays — and many others, including religious plays (Passion plays, Christmas plays, Easter plays, etc.) — apparently appealed to broad audiences and were most attractive both to the urban class and the aristocracy, both to men and women. 4 After all, many of these plays required a fairly large, sometimes even a huge, number of actors, which necessitated a heavy commitment by a variety of city dwellers, including the city councils. 5 As the name for this kind of play indicates, they were regularly performed during Shrovetide, or Mardi Gras, when people enjoyed considerable freedom from Church rules and welcomed many kinds of entertainment. 6 In other words, the Shrovetide play functioned as a remarkable stage performance where the actors poked fun at their audience, performed episodes and scenes characteristic of ordinary urban life, and where the viewers were suddenly confronted (Amsterdam and Atlanta: Rodopi, 1994; Chloe, vol. 19), 77–120; and idem, Frauendiskurs, Männerdiskurs, Ehediskurs: Textsorten und Geschlechterkonzepte in Mittelalter und Früher Neuzeit, Geschichte und Geschlechter, 23 (Frankfurt a.M. and New York: Peter Lang, 1998). 3 Klaus Amann and Max Siller, “Urban Literary Entertainment in the Middle Ages and the Early Modern Age: The Example of Tyrol,” in Urban Space in the Middle Ages and the Early Modern Age, ed. Albrecht Classen, Fundamentals of Medieval and Early Modern Culture, 4 (Berlin and New York: Walter de Gruyter, 2009), 505–35. 4 For an introduction to the religious plays, see David Brett-Evans, Von Hrotsvit bis Folz und Gengenbach: Eine Geschichte des mittelalterlichen deutschen Dramas, vol. 1: Von der liturgischen Feier zum volkssprachlichen Spiel, Grundlagen der Germanistik, 15 (Berlin: Erich Schmidt, 1975). See also Hedda Ragotzky, “Fastnachtspiel,” in Reallexikon der deutschen Literaturwissenschaft, vol. 1, ed. Klaus Weimar, Harald Fricke, Klaus Grubmüller, and Jan-Dirk Müller (Berlin and New York: Walter de Gruyter, 1997), 568–72. 5 Manfred Brauneck, Die Welt als Bühne: Geschichte des europäischen Theaters, vol. 1 (Stuttgart: Metzler, 1993), 523–27. 6 In a previous study I made some attempts to investigate the theme of marriage in late medieval plays, especially those by the sixteenth-century Nuremberg cobbler Hans Sachs: “Marriage in Late-Medieval German Easter and Shrovetide Plays,” Comparative Drama 40.1 (2006): 99–124. Here I will take the next step and examine the much more neglected genre of Shrovetide plays from the fifteenth century only, making forays into a truly uncharted area, since many of those texts have never been discussed critically by modern scholars and are not even available in modern critical editions.
Gender Relationships on the Urban Stage
by a theatrical mirror that regularly forced them to laugh at their neighbors and themselves. This phenomenon also applied to the many different religious plays. 7 We group the major Shrovetide plays according to their geographic provenance into those originating from the Austrian-Bavarian (southeastern) region, those from Tyrol (southern language area), those from the Alemannic area (southwestern Germany), those from Nuremberg in particular (Franconia), and those from Lower (northern) Germany, especially from Lübeck. 8 Nevertheless, taken all together, geographical differences did not have a huge bearing on the unique features of this genre. Despite all the facetious, sexual, and scatological elements, the entire genre of Shrovetide plays is characterized by its deeply didactic orientation. In Nuremberg, where the tradition of these plays began around 1440, craftsmen dominated the field, both as playwrights and actors. In the course of time they received increasing criticism from the city government for their outspoken political commentary and lack of moral constraints. One of the earliest authors of these plays was Hans Rosenplüt (ca. 1400–after 1460), followed by Hans Folz (1435/1440–1513), and, most famously in the sixteenth century, by Hans Sachs (1494–1576). Some of the better known playwrights from the same time were Peter Probst (fl. 1553–56) and Jacob Ayrer (1544–1605), but the majority of Shrovetide plays have come down to us anonymously. The audience was regularly invited to laugh at foolish characters, but the genre at large increasingly aimed at addressing political, moral, and, after the Protestant Reformation, religious concerns. Whereas the early Shrovetide plays were commonly performed on the street, in the tavern, or at some other urban location, designated sites became the norm in later times, setting the stage for the establishment of the early modern theater. 9 In Tyrol (today northern Italy and southern Austria), the genre did not develop until the 1500s, when Vigil Raber emerged there as the leading writer and director Klaus Ridder, “Erlösendes Lachen: Götterkomik — Teufelskomik — Endzeitkomik,” in Ritual und Inszenierung: Geistliches und weltliches Drama des Mittelalters und der Frühen Neuzeit, ed. Hans-Joachim Ziegeler (Tübingen: Niemeyer, 2004), 195–206. 8 Hans Rupprich, Die deutsche Literatur vom späten Mittelalter bis zum Barock, vol. 1: Das ausgehende Mittelalter, Humanismus und Renaissance, 1370–1520, Geschichte der deutschen Literatur von den Anfängen bis zur Gegenwart, 4.1 (Munich: Beck, 1970), 282–87; and Die deutsche Literatur vom späten Mittelalter bis zum Barock, vol. 2: Das Zeitalter der Reformation 1520– 1570 (Munich: Beck, 1973), 332–47. 9 Werner Röcke, “Literarische Gegenwelten: Fastnachtspiele und karnevaleske Festkultur,” in Die Literatur im Übergang vom Mittelalter zur Neuzeit, ed. Werner Röcke and Marina Münkler, Hansers Sozialgeschichte der deutschen Literatur vom 16. Jahrhundert bis zur Gegenwart, 1 (Munich and Vienna: Carl Hanser Verlag, 2004), 420–45. See also the contributions to Jeux de carnaval et Fastnachtspiele: Actes du Colloque du Centre d’Etudes Médiévales de l’Université de Picardie Jules Verne 14 et 15 Janvier 1994, ed. Danielle Buschinger and Wolfgang Spiewok, Greifswalder Beiträge zum Mittelalter, 25 (Greifswald: Reineke-Verlag, 1994). 7
of those plays (1510–35). 10 In Lübeck, two associations of patricians, the Zirkelbruderschaft and the Kaufleutekompanie, were mostly responsible for the enactment of Shrovetide plays. In Switzerland and Alsace, the genre began to flourish only in the 1520s, such as in Lucerne, where the upper classes assumed the leading roles. The two most important Swiss authors were the Basel book printer Pamphilius Gengenbach (1480–1525) and the Bern painter and town councilor Niklaus Manuel (1484–1530), in whose plays the idealization of the Swiss Federation is quite prominent. 11 Two thematic elements stand out as most characteristic of this whole genre: first, the rather astounding and, at least for modern sensitivities, baffling obscenity in language and gestures; 12 and second, the definite interest in poking fun at all traditional values, at morals, gender, marriage, and at people in general. Only a few authors of Shrovetide plays are known to us, such as the aforementioned Folz, Rosenplüt, and Sachs, and the plays all appear to have been composed by male writers. As Hans Rupprich comments, Verspottung der Frauen ist an der Tagesordnung; von den einzelnen Ständen werden kaum je die Bürger, weniger das Rittertum und der Klerus, umso ärger aber die Bauern betroffen . . . die Feindschaft gegen die Juden tritt wie in den geistlichen Spielen so auch in den Fastnachtspielen hervor. [the mocking of women is the norm; among the individual social classes the urban dwellers are hardly ever attacked, and the nobility and the clergy very rarely, but the peasants are treated the worst . . . The enmity against the Jews appears as much in the religious plays as in the Shrovetide plays]. 13
Rupprich then goes on to analyze sixteenth-century Shrovetide plays, dividing them into one group that combines allegory, Christian teaching, and general didacticism and another group that pays little respect to the reality beyond the stage. 14 Such formal criteria might be helpful as a first approach, but closer analysis soon reveals how much these are only theoretical models that do not necessarily do justice to the
Vigil Raber: Zur 450. Wiederkehr seines Todesjahres. Akten des 4. Symposiums der Sterzinger Osterspiele (25.–27. 3. 2002), ed. Michael Gebhardt and Max Siller, Schlern-Schriften, 326 (Innsbruck: Universitätsverlag Wagner, 2004). 11 For a concise summary, see Maria E. Müller, “Fastnachtspiel,” in Lexikon des Mittelalters, vol. 4 (Munich and Zurich: Artemis, 1987), 314–16. 12 Johannes Müller, Schwert und Scheide: der sexuelle und skatologische Wortschatz im Nürnberger Fastnachtspiel des 15. Jahrhunderts, Deutsche Literatur von den Anfängen bis 1700, 2 (Bern and New York: Peter Lang, 1988). 13 Rupprich, Die deutsche Literatur, 286. 14 Rupprich, Die deutsche Literatur, 286–87. 10
Gender Relationships on the Urban Stage
actual texts as they have survived. In other words, we are still at the beginning of a critical understanding of this large corpus of late medieval plays. 15 Although there is a rich body of scholarship concerning late medieval and early modern plays within the context of urban politics, public customs, theatrical tradition, and religious debate 16 and although some attention has been paid to the theme of gender conflicts in late medieval literature at large, 17 we nevertheless face two challenges in analyzing these works. First, many of the 150 or more Shrovetide plays have not yet been fully or even partially examined. However, we are fortunate to have available at least an edition of many of the texts, even though the nineteenth-century edition by Adalbert von Keller no longer meets modern standards. Second, considering that audiences in late medieval cities were certainly mixed in gender and that the plays were performed in open spaces in cities, there cannot be any doubt as to the critical importance of the gender relationships as presented on the stage, which often assume central thematic relevance. Exactly fifty years ago, Eckehard Catholy argued, taking Hans Folz’s Markolf as the basis for his claim, that “Im Fastnachtspiel wird die Frage nach dem Wert der Frau übermächtig und verdrängt — mit einer Ausnahme — alle jene Episoden des Volksbuchs, die nicht damit in Zusammenhang gebracht werden können” [In the Shrovetide play the question regarding woman’s worth gains dominance and marginalizes, with one exception, all those episodes in the prose novel that cannot be associated with it in that context]. 18 Because the range of themes contained in the Shrovetide plays proves to be so extensive, we may conclude that they most
15 Dieter Wuttke, “Nachwort,” Fastnachtspiele des 15. und 16. Jahrhunderts, ed. Dieter Wuttke, fourth bibliographically expanded edition (1993; Stuttgart: Reclam, 1995), 441–59, esp. 443–45. 16 See the contributions to Fastnachtspiele: Weltliches Schauspiel in literarischen und kulturellen Kontexten, ed. Klaus Ridder (Tübingen: Max Niemeyer, 2009). Surprisingly, none of the authors examines gender issues, sexuality, or identity issues. 17 See the contributions to Eheglück und Liebesjoch: Bilder von Liebe, Ehe und Familie in der Literatur des 15. und 16. Jahrhunderts, ed. Maria E. Müller, Ergebnisse der Frauenforschung, 14 (Weinheim: Beltz, 1988). See also Elisabeth Wåghäll Nivre, Women and Family Life in Early Modern German Literature, Studies in German Literature, Linguistics, and Culture (Rochester, NY, and Woodbridge, Suffolk: Camden House, 2004), although she does not take into account the Shrovetide plays. Elisabeth Keller, Die Darstellung der Frau in Fastnachtspiel und Spruchdichtung von Hans Rosenplüt und Hans Folz, Europäische Hochschulschriften, Reihe 1: Deutsche Sprache und Literatur 1325 (Frankfurt a.M. et al.: Peter Lang, 1992), limits herself to a very narrow focus on the presentation of women only. 18 Eckehard Catholy, Das Fastnachtspiel des Spätmittelalters: Gestalt und Funktion, Hermaea, Germanistische Forschungen, Neue Folge, 8 (Tübingen: Niemeyer, 1961), 93.
definitely functioned as literary mirrors of the social, moral, ethical, political, and religious life in the urban centers, offering both entertainment and instruction. 19 The large number of Shrovetide plays makes it almost impossible to come to grips with the thematic range covered during the long period when they enjoyed popularity and were performed in late medieval and early modern cities. The subsequent selection for this paper can only be somewhat arbitrary, and yet the fact itself that these texts all focus on the way in which men and women interact with each other or perceive others through a variety of lenses confirms how much these topics continued to interest audiences. As an important proviso, however, we have to keep in mind that a number of the texts in the collection produced by von Keller are not clearly Shrovetide plays but are “Spruchgedichte,” i.e., verse accounts that might have been intended for subsequent transformation into a play. Paralleling a growing fascination with sexuality, the authors of Shrovetide plays also integrated verse narratives into their works, such as “Von knecht Heinrich und der bauerndirne” [Of Servant Heinrich and the Farm Maid]. 20 Here I will examine only one example of Spruchgedichte and then turn to Shrovetide plays, in which the dramatic performance is fully developed through the distribution of speaker roles. “Von knecht Heinrich” depicts a rural scene where a peasant bitterly complains to his wife about their farmhand because of his severe cussing and brutal treatment of the animals. He finally decides, and she fully agrees, to fire the young man. Not until she has commented and approved does he call the servant in to inform him that the work contract has been cancelled. The farmhand now demands his outstanding payment, which amounts to a fairly large bill for the farmer. The latter therefore tries to counteract this and makes up an alternative account: the servant had impregnated their maid, and the farmer and his wife now bear the costs of taking care of the child. While the farmer argues that the servant raped the young woman: “Den lon zehenpfunt will ich fur die schant haben” [Ten pounds of your payment I want to have for the rape], 21 the accused insists that the maid should be brought in and testify. If she confirms that she has been raped he will indeed abandon his claims on the payment; otherwise his master should hand over the money. The maid now relates that she had been lying sick in bed one day when the servant came in and slept with her, which she enjoyed more than anything else in her whole life. 22 This convinces the farmer that he will have to respect this relationship, so 19 Eckehard Simon, Die Anfänge des weltlichen deutschen Schauspiels 1370–1530: Untersuchung und Dokumentation, Münchener Texte und Untersuchungen zur deutschen Literatur des Mittelalters, 124 (Tübingen: Niemeyer, 2003), 199–203. 20 Fastnachtspiele aus dem XV. Jahrhundert, ed. Adalbert von Keller, 4 vols., Bibliothek des Litterarischen Vereins in Stuttgart, 28–30, 46 (Stuttgart: Litterarische Verein, 1853–58), 3:1414–16. I will quote from this edition (hereafter cited simply as Fastnachtspiele), unless otherwise noted. 21 Fastnachtspiele, 3:1415, l. 6. 22 Fastnachtspiele, 3:1416.
Gender Relationships on the Urban Stage
he calls the minister who marries the two young people. Nevertheless, the narrator warns of the potentially dangerous outcome in such situations if the lover is not honorable and does not marry the girl. In that case, we are told, the farmer’s wife would have made every effort to throw her out of the house, with the child. In the Shrovetide play Die Vasnacht von der Baunheirat [The Shrovetide Play of the Peasants’ Marriage], 23 we observe several elements that prove to be characteristic of the entire genre. First, the playwright sets the scene in the rural world where a group of farmers discusses whether the young Hainz should be given the maid Gerhaus as his wife. Second, the more these characters talk, the more they expose their own foolishness or moral and ethical shortcomings. Third, stanza nine underscores that farmers do not know how to take care of women and treat them rudely and in an uncouth way, whereas noblemen fully understand how to play the game of love with women. This theme is considerably expanded in Die Vastnacht vom Werben umb di Junkfrau [The Shrovetide Play about Wooing a Virgin], 24 where we also encounter a farmer as the would-be lover of the female protagonist, but he is only one among many. However, although each man tries to convince the young woman to accept him as her lover, she rejects them all and ridicules their efforts. She laughs at the knight who wants to impress her with his skills at tournaments and jousts. She demonstrates no interest in the farmer, whom she would immediately cheat on with the priest, and she scoffs at the priest for his transgressive behavior. The thief announces in openly pornographic terms that he intends to sleep with her, which she rejects most resolutely. The young woman also turns her back on the various craftsmen, judging each one of them to be a fool, dirty, and clumsy. Only the scribe, who appears at the end, can impress her enough to make her regard him as a worthy marriage partner whom she likes and whom she prefers above all other men because he promises to be the one who can grant her all her desired joys. 25 As this play signals, the competition among the men in the urban world for the desired marriage partner was fierce. Neither the knight nor the craftsmen appears particularly attractive, whereas the scribe (perhaps the playwright himself) presents himself as the most appealing marriage partner. In a rather absurd play, Di grosz Liebhabervasnacht [The Great Shrovetide Play about Lovers], 26 individual male speakers describe in nonsensical terms how much they love their wives. For instance, the third one indicates that he loves his wife more than swimming across the river Danube, more than climbing a mountain, and more than a lice-infested coat. He goes on to claim that he loves her more than he likes weeding thorny plants, and when he sees her before him, all his joy is gone. His outrageous satire concludes “Mir ist von ir so vil gelücks beschert, /
Fastnachtspiele, 2:567–70. Fastnachtspiele, 2:613–20. 25 Fastnachtspiele, 2:620, l. 6. 26 Fastnachtspiele, 2:632–34. 23
Als mir hars auf der zungen steet” [I have received as much good fortune from her as I have hair growing on my tongue]. 27 No female voice is included, and the last speaker actually apologizes to the innkeeper for their performance in case they have overdone their jokes about their wives. After all, as he emphasizes in the concluding lines: “Nach rainen weiben steet unser zuversicht, / Wann wir wollen in dienen on alles abelan. / Ich hoff, das kain falscher klaffer wer derfreut daran” [We trust in pure women whom we want to serve without wavering. I hope that no false gossip will have his fun with this]. 28 An unusual example of a Shrovetide play, in which the medieval tradition seems to continue to play a significant role and which is predicated on the gender conflict in marriage, can be found in Der Luneten Mantel [Luneta’s Coat]. 29 Here a young maid named Luneta — perhaps a borrowing of Lunette from Chrétien de Troyes’ Yvain and Lunete in Hartmann von Aue’s Iwein — brings to King Arthaus’ (Arthur’s) court a luxurious coat that shows whether any woman who wears it has kept her honor or not. This motif was commonly used in medieval literature and has in this case probably been borrowed from either Ulrich von Zazikhoven’s Lanzelot (ca. 1210–20) 30 or Heinrich von dem Türlin’s Diu Crône (ca. 1220–30; The Crown), though in the latter text the testing object is a goblet that spills wine on the person who has morally transgressed. 31 Just as in the medieval verse romances where virtually every woman at court proves to be guilty of some kind of shortcoming, in the play the coat looks awkward on all female members of the court, including King Arthaus’ wife, the emperor’s wife, and the queen of “Kerlingen” (France). However, the court jester forbids his wife to undergo the test. His injunction induces her to utter vile curses against her husband, whose wishes she will no longer respect. Instead, as she emphasizes, from now on she will sleep with the other servants in the horse stable. The king of Spain interprets all of this as a warning for himself not to ask his wife to undergo the test. The herald, however, admonishes him not to follow a fool’s model, and because the modest woman, the queen of Spain, proves to be the one whom the coat actually fits, the play quickly comes to its conclusion. As we now learn, this is a young woman married to an old man, but she has always fully submitted to his rule and has never even thought of other men. The herald emphasizes their unique relationship, declaring that while she is the youngest queen at the court, her husband is the oldest king. The play thus idealizes a highly patriarchal concept perhaps not so uncommon in late medieval Fastnachtspiele, 2:633, ll. 15–16. Fastnachtspiele, 2:634, ll. 26–28. 29 Fastnachtspiele, 2:664–78. 30 Christine Kasper, Von miesen Rittern und sündhaften Frauen und solchen, die besser waren: Tugend- und Keuschheitsproben in der mittelalterlichen Literatur vornehmlich des deutschen Sprachraums, Göppinger Arbeiten zur Germanistik, 547 (Göppingen: Kümmerle, 1995), 100–32. 31 Heinrich von dem Türlin, Die Krone (Verse 1–12281), ed. Fritz Peter Knapp and Manuela Niesner, Altdeutsche Textbibliothek, 112 (Tübingen: Niemeyer, 2000), ll. 918–2631. 27
Gender Relationships on the Urban Stage
cities where the social structure of marriage, especially amongst craftsmen, often required the marriage of partners very different in age. Moreover, the play glorifies the chaste woman who cares little about clothing and other apparel and has never learned how to brag in public. 32 This Shrovetide play thus glorifies those women who do not commit adultery and who love their husbands irrespective of their age difference. Contemporary literature tended to present adultery as a rather common and acceptable phenomenon, but in this play the audience receives a very strong message to the contrary. Moreover, the herald concludes that men can enjoy their lives only if they are fortunate enough to be married to a pure and loyal woman: “So wer unser freude entwicht, / Und het wir rainer frauen nicht; / Het wir nit weib, die uns trost geben, / So het wir gar ain elendes leben” [We would lose our joy if we did not have pure wives. If we did not have wives who can give us comfort, then our lives would be rather miserable]. 33 Many times we learn of severe conflicts between the genders, especially when it concerns those who can, should, or would like to marry. Age differences, economic shortcomings, unattractive physical appearances, and even threatening behavior regularly play a significant role. In Von heiraten spil” [Play of Marriage], 34 a group addresses an innkeeper and laments their difficulties in finding adequate and welcome marriage partners. None of these men shows any sign of happiness; instead, they are all beaten down by social competition and their inability to meet the right person. The first one complains about an old but rich man who forced him out of the competition, although the woman was young and pretty and would have been an ideal marriage partner for him. The old man is accused of sexual impotence, but there is nothing the loser in this marital challenge can do because money counts more than physical attractiveness. The second speaker is also a young man, who was maligned in public by an old woman who alleged his impotence, which chased away all potential partners: “Ich nit werung ob den knien” [I do not have anything of value above the knees]. 35 In the next case we learn that the speaker had been offered a widow as wife, but she had demanded so much sexual pleasure from her first husband that her present suitor shies away from her, afraid that he might fail in his own potency. The other option recommended by the friends, to forgo marriage and to join a monastery, as the next speaker mentions, proves to be unacceptable because: “Ich fünd kain münchflaisch nindert an mir. / Mein esel gailiert auf der pan / Und wil nit lang on futer stan” [I do not discover any monkish flesh on me. My donkey enjoys wandering around Fastnachtspiele, 2:676, l. 23. Fastnachtspiele, 2:677–78, ll. 32–35. 34 Fastnachtspiele, 2:700–3. 35 Fastnachtspiele, 2:701, l. 12. I have not found a confirmation that “werung” or “währung” could also refer to the genitals, but see Grimm, Deutsches Wörterbuch, online at: http://dwb.unitrier.de/de/. Nevertheless, the common meanings of “currency,” “value,” or “kind” might be the basis for the sexual allusion here. 32
and does not want to be without food for long]. 36 The next man confronts an old woman who had already been married three times and now seems to be most ugly and obese, with a mouth as black as a sooty chimney and with sagging breasts as big as milk saddle bags. We then hear that a young woman approached the speaker, offering herself as his wife, but then a friend informed him of her lack of morality and her previous affairs, which made this option impossible as well. The eighth speaker repeats the earlier complaint that another person with more money took away all his chances with the woman he had wooed. But he himself now insists that he has undoubtedly the right sexual organ — “dienstknecht unter meim nabel” [servant under my bellybutton] 37 — and that no wife would have to be embarrassed about it. Finally, all the circumstances seemed right for the last and ninth speaker: he actually liked the woman he had set his heart on, but just when he was about to ask her to marry him, another person had slept with her and impregnated her, which ended all his plans. As simple as this play seems to be at first sight, it reflects widespread male insecurity, fear of sexual impotence, anger about other men with more money, and hence also deep sexual frustration. Of course, no female speaker is allowed to counter any of the charges, and the play itself is predicated on a strategy to make the audience laugh about the speakers’ failures in all their efforts to find the right woman, but the nine voices obviously express general insecurity among the male population. Whenever a match seems to be made, some major obstacle appears and destroys all hope for a happy marriage. These conflicts result from a mismatch in age, the triumph of money over love, lack of morality, fear of being sexually overpowered, the woman’s ugliness or disloyalty, and from doubt thrown, publicly, on a man’s sexual potency. Misogyny was a prominent feature of public discourse, but this Shrovetide play brings to light quite a different perspective, revealing that men’s alleged hatred of women might also have been the result of a lack of self-confidence, of male competition for social superiority, and of fear of female sexuality. 38 The Shrovetide play Die Frauenschender Vasnacht [Shrovetide Play about the Rapists] 39 aims to pursue the opposite perspective insofar as the female protagonists claim the upper hand here: a group of women appears at court and demands justice from the judge because men have begun to injure women’s honor. The judge assigns them a male lawyer, who brings forth the suit. The men present, knights and their servants as well as councilors, are all asked for their opinion. In unison, though to different degrees, they condemn, in the worst possible terms, both those who speak badly about women and those who commit adultery. As we learn at the Fastnachtspiele, 2:702, ll. 6–8. Fastnachtspiele, 2:703, l. 11. 38 For a good collection of relevant text passages regarding this misogyny, see Woman Defamed and Woman Defended: An Anthology of Medieval Texts, ed. Alcuin Blamires with Karen Pratt and C.W. Marx (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992). 39 Fastnachtspiele, 2:704–8. 36 37
Gender Relationships on the Urban Stage
end: “Hat denn der paur nicht genug daran, / So zünt man im das har im hintern an” [When a boor has not enough (with his own wife), one should burn the hair on his ass]. 40 However, at the end, the women are not given any chance to speak or to comment, and when closely examined, the many different opinions voiced by the individual speakers only address men’s fear that their wives could be seduced by other men; hence the harsh condemnations of all those who dare to transgress ethical and moral norms. In Di Maköcken Pusz Vasnacht [Shrovetide Play about Repentance in Maköcken [Cockaigne?]], 41 a number of men appear on stage and describe past wrongdoings for which they now have to do penance. But this is not an ordinary play where moral ideals find theatrical expression. Instead, pornography and scatology dominate here, and the alleged shortcomings emerge as rather disturbing transgressions of a sordid nature. The first man admits that he had walked around for a whole year without having worn pants, and finally his penis had beaten a hole in his leg and so lost some of its previous length, which women bitterly lament. The second had sinned only by disobeying custom, such as having eaten during the fasting season, having sat when he was supposed to stand, and having cursed when he ought to have prayed. In the third stanza, however, the pornographic element comes clearly to the surface. Here the sinner had taken a bath with a woman who then had begged him to touch her vagina and help her achieve an orgasm. But he was so ashamed that he ran away, refusing to do her sexual bidding. Worse yet, in the sixth stanza another sinner confesses that he had left his excrement outside people’s doors. Next, we learn that a woman had asked a man to satisfy her “nachthunger” [night hunger], but he had refused and denied her that favor. Similarly, the eighth penitent relates that a woman had approached him one day, declaring her love for him, but he felt scared and asked her to wait until the next morning. The next one had danced with a woman who then had signaled by scratching his palm that she wanted to sleep with him. He, however, did not know what to do, bent down, farted, and so lost all her favors. Another speaker reports that once while he urinated outside a cow-shed, a maid saw his “wasserrörn” [water pipe], which made her so desirous for sex that she fainted. Of course this is a Shrovetide play, so nothing is to be understood in straightforward terms, although it would be equally erroneous to dismiss the entire genre as far removed from social reality. Remarkably, however, all these men express fear of female sexual desires and try to escape from women, perhaps all of them reflecting a deep-seated sense of impotence and fear of losing their independence if they allow women to enjoy a sexual relationship with them on their own, female, terms. As much as this and other plays attempt to evoke their audience’s laughter, we clearly observe a sense of fear, specifically male insecurity, and a sense that Fastnachtspiele, 2:713, ll. 11–12. Fastnachtspiele, 2:724–27.
traditional patriarchy might be at risk. At the same time, the male voices regularly formulate the double-bind of being in need of sexual satisfaction yet also of being afraid if their female partners make demands of their own. This male fear finds an intriguing, if not contradictory, expression in the play Die Vasnacht von der Müllnerin [The Shrovetide Play of the Miller’s Wife], 42 in which the first speaker reports that a young woman had told him of her willingness to sleep with him, but as soon as he exposed his “wasserstecken” [water stick] to her she took fright and fell on her back. But then he seems to have slept with her after all, because we learn from her, as quoted by him, that she enjoyed it so much that she pledged never again to remain long without a lover. Of course, we always have to be mindful of the highly metaphorical language for all sexual matters, but those metaphors can easily be translated considering the context and the narrative development in this stanza and elsewhere. In the second stanza the situation proves to be more complicated, because the second lover is outdone by two priests who possessed, as he formulates it, larger “donkeys” than he did. His beloved consequently rejected him in favor of those more potent competitors, which resulted in his despair, as he announces that he will never try to woo her again. The third speaker seems to be luckier at first because he has married and now enjoys sexual pleasure with his wife, but she demands so much from him that he is afraid of failing in this regard. Sarcastically, but perhaps also revealingly, he comments, “Ir dink ist hungrig als di wolfmagen” [her thing is as hungry as a wolf ’s stomach]. 43 The opposite dilemma dominates the marriage of the next speaker, who lives with an old woman who uses any possible religious excuse to avoid sleeping with him. Deeply frustrated sexually, he offers to lend to the man with the insatiable wife his “glatzeten knaben” [bald little boy], 44 with which the other might then be able to satisfy his nymphomaniac wife. The next man brags about his ever-ready and most potent penis, comparing it with a donkey that can carry enormous weights. He too would like to lend this donkey to the husband who suffers from his wife’s excessive sexual appetite. The sixth speaker identifies himself as a widower who claims still to be sexually strong and active, if only he could find himself a wife. He feels so vexed by his sexual desires that he cannot sleep at night. And during the day he only has to cast an eye on a woman to experience an erection, which causes him embarrassment in public. The seventh man offers his friends a maid for all their needs because she has proven to be always desirous of sex. He himself had slept with her, but he also expresses, in not so subtle terms, how much she has always been in control and determined their sexual activities. He now seems to be quite happy to get rid of her because her sexual potency scares him and puts him to shame. Referring to her Fastnachtspiele, 2:731–34. Fastnachtspiele, 2:732, l. 10. 44 Fastnachtspiele, 2:732, l. 24. 42 43
Gender Relationships on the Urban Stage
genitals, he emphasizes that “sie hat gar ainn volln futerkreben” [she has a truly full feeding trough]. 45 Finally, the eighth speaker laments that women in the village have maligned him badly, accusing him of having slept with too many women: “Ich hab zu ser im wald gehauen” [I have chopped too much wood in the forest]. 46 Moreover, as he formulates it, referring to his exhausted penis, the women claim “Das mir mein pfert müg nimer getraben, / Es sei vorn treg und hinten faul / Und sei ain ab geritner gaul” [that my horse no longer wants to trot, that it is slow in front and lazy in the back and that it is a tired old horse]. 47 Nevertheless, this man claims still to have sexual potency, because he could easily sleep with three women per night. The spokesman for the entire group finally admonishes them all to put mourning behind them and to enjoy their time with women. When a man displays sorrow, women will deny him access to their genitals: “Trauren macht manche frauen verzagt, / Das sie aim das under gemach versagt” [mourning makes many women despondent who then deny access to their lower floor]. 48 Obviously, all these male figures reflect a variety of typical male anxieties, either of having not enough or no sex at all with women or facing female demands that go beyond their own sexual potency. Jealousy of priests who seem more attractive and successful lovers also finds its expression, 49 but being a widower or married to a nymphomaniac represents the greatest challenge. The Shrovetide play, set in this free-wheeling atmosphere of the festive season, allows all those anxieties to come to the surface and be formulated in more explicit terms than during the rest of the year. Scholarship has often emphasized the drastically sexual nature of these plays, but our analysis shows how much these sexual comments really reflect social problems, identity issues, and a considerable crisis of masculinity. 50
Fastnachtspiele, 2:734, l. 1. Fastnachtspiele, 2:734, l. 6. 47 Fastnachtspiele, 2:734, ll. 8–10. 48 Fastnachtspiele, 2:734, ll. 22–23. 49 For parallel cases as documented in Norman chronicles, see Jennifer D. Thibodeaux, “The Sexual Lives of Medieval Norman Clerics: A New Perspective on Clerical Sexuality,” in Sexuality in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Times: New Approaches to a Fundamental CulturalHistorical and Literary-Anthropological Theme, ed. Albrecht Classen, Fundamentals of Medieval and Early Modern Culture, 3 (Berlin and New York: Walter de Gruyter, 2008), 471–83. 50 Mark Breitenberg, Anxious Masculinity in Early Modern England, Cambridge Studies in Renaissance Literature and Culture, 10 (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996); Valeria Finucci, The Manly Masquerade: Masculinity, Paternity, and Castration in the Italian Renaissance (Durham: Duke University Press, 2003); and Anthony Ellis, Old Age, Masculinity, and Early Modern Drama: Comic Elders on the Italian and Shakespearean Stage (Farnham, Surrey, and Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2009). 45
In the play Der Wittwen und Tochter Vasnacht [Shrovetide Play about the Widow and [Her] Daughter] 51 a widow approaches the mayor with the request to help her find a husband both for herself and for her young daughter. However, the critical question is who should be the first one to be blessed with a man. A group of city councilors then deliberates and offers their advice, the first councilor stating that the daughter is in greater need of sexual satisfaction than her mother, whereas the others do not make a decision and only talk about the urgent need to satisfy the maid’s “nachthunger.” The eighth speaker varies the argument somewhat, resorting to rich sexual metaphorical language to emphasize that the maid deserves a young man as husband who would be able to cut grass on a fresh, new meadow. The old woman should thereafter marry too because there is plenty of feed in her own meadow. The next speaker utilizes deft pornographic language to support the maid’s claim. If she is mature enough to sleep with a man, that is, if her breasts have the size of pears, it is time to teach her how to swallow a sausage, as long as a finger and as thick as the thumb. The widowed mother is pleased with all the advice and announces that she will look for a young man anxious to marry her daughter, whereas she herself will select a man more appropriate for her own age. Both here and in most other Shrovetide plays, the sexual relationship dominates all thoughts of marriage, which the authors identify as a safe haven where people can satisfy all their sexual desires. We hardly hear of love, affection, character, or personal preferences: sex stands out as the most important need. Not surprisingly, a good number of Shrovetide plays clearly express men’s sexual frustration either because their wives are too old and no longer want to sleep with their husbands, or because the fear of unwanted pregnancy causes problems, such as in Ein Vasnnachtspil, wie drei in ein Haus entrunnen [Shrovetide Play about How Three Escaped Into a House]. 52 Here we encounter three men, each of whom has had problems with women and thus feels the need to escape from them. The first simply ran away from his old wife, the second had promised marriage to a woman and yet abandoned her, while the third slept with a woman, impregnated her, and then ran away. The narrator comments in the first stanza: “Dorumb sol man sie strafen die narren, / Das sich ander gauch daran stoßen / Und frum frauenpilde mit fride laßen” [One should punish these fools so that the other goons are alerted and leave virtuous women in peace]. 53 However, the situation is not as simple as these first lines indicate. The first man bitterly complains about his wife, who is too old and who adamantly refuses to listen to his sexual appeals and to sleep with him. But another speaker comes forward, identifying himself as the wife’s cousin who had received quite a different account from her. She had told him about the husband’s drinking problem, which Fastnachtspiele, 2:746–50. Fastnachtspiele, 2:851–55. 53 Fastnachtspiele, 2:851, ll. 23–25. 51
Gender Relationships on the Urban Stage
keeps him in the inn late into the night where he also sleeps with the girls. Consequently, once he has returned home, after midnight, he no longer has any sexual interest, to his wife’s disappointment. The speaker in the next stanza argues from a very different perspective, appealing to them to stop arguing. He says that marrying an old woman is inappropriate for a young man, although this need not mean that old women are to be held in contempt. However, marrying an old woman and experiencing constant bickering at night is not acceptable either. 54 In the second case, the young man who had promised a woman that he would marry her but then reneged is clearly condemned. In the third case, the man is accused of having slept with the woman, having thus robbed her of her virginity, without taking her as his wife. His defense runs the same course as in a previous Shrovetide play, since he argues that he had slept with her, indeed, but that another man, a scribe, had really impregnated her. While he had believed he was her first lover, he subsequently realized that he had actually been the fourth, after three priests. In the following stanza another man intervenes, identifying himself as her brother. She had told him in secret that the lover, i.e., the previous speaker, had pledged his full loyalty to her yet did not keep it at all. We are not told about any promises to marry her, but the brother now warns the man that he is determined to attack him at the next opportunity and cut off his penis as punishment, using an odd metaphorical expression: “Das dir dein blase im ars mußen brechen” [so that your bladder must rupture in your ass]. 55 There is no resolution of this dispute, and we are left somewhat baffled as to the concrete charge and counter-charge. The play concludes with one speaker urging everyone to let this strife go and not listen to those drunkards and their silly talk. However, irrespective of the fragmentary nature of this play, the general tone, or rather complaint, comes through loud and clear, with women lamenting men’s abusive behavior toward them: taking their virginity, impregnating them, and then refusing to live up to their responsibility. The tone might be facetious here, but the underlying message is clear — that is, a serious warning for men to abstain from disrespectful, hurtful, irresponsible, if not criminal, behavior toward women. Surprisingly often in Shrovetide plays, individual male speakers raise their voices and sharply attack other men for being “frouwenschänder” [abusers, or more accurately: rapists]. There are also plays in this collection in which women comment on their husbands, and those in which men talk about their wives. In Von den Männern [Of Fastnachtspiele, 2:853, ll. 10–11. As so often in fifteenth-century Shrovetide plays, the metaphorical language is not easy to translate. Here the warning pertains to a woman who plants green peas all night long (“Die alle nacht ein acker mit kiferbeisen set”). “Kieferbse” [pea] was regularly correlated with “kifen” or “keifen” [bitch, fight]. See Grimm’s Deutsches Wörterbuch, vol. 11: http://dwb.uni-trier.de/de/. 55 Fastnachtspiele, 2:855, l. 13. 54
Men], 56 women discuss their husbands’ character and behavior among themselves and try to assure the others that these men are trustworthy and love their wives. In order to test that claim, one of them, Agnes, pretends to have died, which her husband, Jan, who happens to have arrived at the scene, at first bitterly laments. He even emphasizes that he will never seek another wife, yet within a minute he has changed his mind and immediately begins to woo another woman. He proves to be so crude and careless that he wants to take the new one home with him on the spot, whereas he will send another man with a wheelbarrow to transport his first wife’s corpse to the cemetery. Then, however, the allegedly dead woman Agnes recovers, gets up from bed, and begins to beat him badly because she has overheard his comments. Completely defeated, he begs for mercy, and she makes him pledge to do her bidding in the future, whatever it might be: “Heb auff zwen fingr und schwere hier, / Daß du gehorssam leistest mir / Und haltest mich für deinen herrn, / Und diene mir in grossen ehrn!” [lift two fingers and swear now that you will obey me, treat me as your lord, and serve me most respectfully]. 57 Once the couple has left the stage, the last female speaker addresses the audience and exhorts them to inform all women everywhere how they can learn about their husbands’ evil character, which implies, of course, that that kind of knowledge would provide the wives with the leverage to subdue them and keep them in servitude. The following Shrovetide play in von Keller’s collection, Von den Weybern [Of Women], 58 presents more or less the opposite perspective, with a rather foolish and feeble Rolandt who laments to his neighbor Robert that the village sacristan is in love with his wife Gret, who has gone to meet the sacristan at the cemetery. Rolandt proves to be extremely weak and impotent because he does not know how to defend his marriage or how to fight for his wife, as his only reaction is: “Sie gauckeln da, ich föchte mich, und thuo ich weiß nicht was” [They indulge in hanky-panky there, I am afraid, and they do something, I am not sure what]. 59 Rather than doing something, when he observes the meeting of the sacristan and his wife, he feels like dying of jealousy. Robert encourages him to pretend to have died, after which Robert will inform Gret of her loss. First, however, we witness the exchange between the two lovers and learn that she has not wanted her husband for a long time and instead desires a love affair with the sacristan. In the background, the seemingly dead Rolandt mumbles under his breath, threatening to kill the interloper, whispering to himself that the sacristan should be refused, but all this only confirms his own weakness and helplessness. Robert then informs the wife about her husband’s death as a result of his grief over her love for the sacristan, and at first she blames herself for her own cruelty and
Fastnachtspiele, 2:1018–20. Fastnachtspiele, 2:1020, ll. 5–8. 58 Fastnachtspiele, 2:1021–25. 59 Fastnachtspiele, 2:1021, l. 18. 56 57
Gender Relationships on the Urban Stage
even expresses remorse. She goes so far as to emphasize that there are no words for her pain, yet upon the sacristan’s encouragement she finally abandons her grief and announces her determination to join hands with her lover. At this point, however, the events take a rapid turn because Robert reveals that Rolandt is not dead yet, and suddenly she declares her undying love for her husband. Moreover, when the sacristan complains about her decision to abandon him, she mocks him: “Du bist ein närrischer geck” [you are a foolish dandy], 60 to which he can only retort that one should never trust young and thoughtless women. Rolandt chases him away and announces that the married couple has reunited. The difference between these two last Shrovetide plays is remarkable, although there are also important similarities. In both plays we are told that marriage is highly unstable, since no marriage partner can truly count on the other person’s love, trust, and loyalty. As soon as the news has arrived that the husband or the wife has died, the widower or widow immediately turns to a new partner. Neither one pays any respect to the deceased, and each only cares about finding a new lover. In both plays, the one who is abandoned feels deep pain and anger but does not know how to react or what to do. The differences between these plays are even more interesting. In the first play the husband immediately wants to forget his wife once he has learned of her death, demonstrating an extraordinary callousness. He does not even want to give his wife a proper burial. For that reason, Agnes beats him up so badly that he cowers before her and becomes her servant, obeying her in every regard. In the second play, Margaretha initially comments that she has long abandoned her husband in her heart and wants to engage in a love affair with the sacristan. Yet as soon as she has received the news of Rolandt’s death, she expresses extensive remorse and blames herself vehemently. The sacristan then intervenes and tries his best to dissolve her emotional attachment to her deceased husband: “Süsse lieb, verlasse ihn!” [Sweet love, abandon him!]. 61 But she does not reconsider her position, continues to lament, and points out how much pain she is suffering. Of course she also ignores her dead husband, but as soon as she has learned the truth she announces that she does not love anyone else but him. The play concludes with an angry exchange between the sacristan and Rolandt’s neighbor Robert, whereas the wife does not suffer any ill consequences for her attempted transgression. In terms of the gender discourse in these two texts, marriage is shown to be unstable owing to personal weakness, lack of loyalty, carelessness, and the failure of the traditional system of marital values. Most intriguingly, while Agnes violently subdues her husband, especially as a punishment for his moral shortcomings, Rolandt enjoys, so far as we can guess, the return of Margaretha as his loving wife, but she is not punished at all. In fact, in both plays we observe once again a Fastnachtspiele, 2:1025, l. 8. Fastnachtspiele, 2:1023, l. 20.
tendency, which is a bit unsettling for us, to reflect on men’s weakness and inability to maintain their marriage and to preserve the love relationship with their wives. The extent to which marriage was regarded as an institution rife with strife and conflict is also apparent in the comments by a thirty-year-old man in the Shrovetide play Die X Alter dyser Welt [The Ten Ages in this World]. 62 The man has recently married but experiences only “ach und wee” [woe and misery]. The couple fights constantly, and he is so much in fear of his wife that he is already losing his hair. Everything about being a husband and a householder seems to be a bother, if not a torture: “Mein geist den muost ich bald uff gäben, / Wann ich also do heim solt sitzen, / Die finger saugen, nägel spitzen, / Ouch haben weder fröüd noch muot. / Hußhalten mir worlich wee thuot” [I must soon give up my spirit if I have to stay home, suck my fingers, file my nails. Also, I experience neither joy nor happiness, to stay home truly hurts me]. 63 He rejects scornfully the admonishment by his partner, a hermit, to fill his life with work as God expects him to and instead insists on enjoying his time in the tavern and drinking with his friends so that he will not have to stay at home. Once he has spent all his money, he will join the military and steal from other people, since he does not care at all about his wife. The hermit is deeply saddened when he hears this and reminds his interlocutor of God’s commands: “Kain ander geschelschafft sol man han, / Dann die fraw irn eelichen man, / Desglichen auch der man sein wyb” [one should not have any other company than the woman her husband and the man his wife]. 64 However, a forty-year-old man then boasts of having committed adultery many times because his wife does not satisfy his sexual needs. As is often the case in late medieval literature, this adulterer resorts to the old litany of famous men in biblical and classical times, such as Solomon, Aristotle, Virgil, and Samson, who were victims of female guile. Despite their failure to resist women’s seductiveness, they all enjoyed the greatest fame and reputation. In conclusion, he insists that it is common knowledge that only those who commit adultery are regarded as real men. The hermit offers counterarguments, pointing out, for example, the catastrophe that struck Paris because he had kidnapped Helen, which resulted in the wholesale destruction of Troy. The exchanges continue, involving older and older men who openly admit their wrongdoings during their youth and do not really distance themselves clearly from the position advocated by the younger men vis-à-vis wives and marriage. 65 The only exception is a fifty-year-old who unashamedly prides himself on being a horror to people, robbing them of their property and taking their lives during Fastnachtspiele, 2:1026–55. Fastnachtspiele, 2:1035, ll. 14–18. 64 Fastnachtspiele, 2:1036, ll. 25–27. 65 See the contributions to Old Age in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance: Interdisciplinary Approaches to a Neglected Topic, ed. Albrecht Classen, Fundamentals of Medieval and Early Modern Culture, 2 (Berlin and New York: Walter de Gruyter, 2007). 62
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war, not even caring about widows and orphans. Considering that the subsequent exchanges pertain increasingly to general moral complaints and concerns, we can break off here and return to our central question regarding the gender debate. No woman is asked to comment on the statements by these men, and most men express very low opinions of their wives, which the hermit then condemns in strong terms, although his admonishments do not seem to have any impact. Adultery has always been regarded, by Church and society, as a major transgression, but here some of the male speakers openly defend their right to sleep with any woman they like. As the twenty-year-old remarks, “Wo ich junckfrawen bschyssen kan, / Gang ich yn nach beid tag und nacht” [Wherever I can deceive virgins, I chase them both day and night]. 66 The play is clearly predicated on the Ten Commandments, but the playwright reveals that these are no longer followed by anyone, which leads to the general victimization of women. However, this play simply pursues one perspective, allowing only men to speak, without considering women’s opinion. Provocatively, the playwright concentrates mainly on male behavior and male thinking, but, as we have observed, the complementary criticism of men by their wives occurs as well. In the aforementioned plays we observe a representation of gender relationships that runs contrary to traditional perceptions of a fifteenth-century urban society dominated by patriarchy. Men’s fear of women is frequently exposed, as is their anxiety regarding their own possible sexual impotence, with the result that women are treated only as sexual objects. Moreover, several plays depict wives as domestic tyrants who know exceedingly well how to subjugate their husbands or, for that matter, any other man who might try to insist that women ought to obey their husbands. An example of such a play is Ein Paurenspil mit einem posem altem Weib etc [A Peasant Play with an Evil Old Woman]. 67 Whatever the protagonist dares to protest about, his wife simply pushes it aside and resorts to physical violence, not stopping even when a neighbor tries to defend the poor man. Both men try to hide underneath a bench, but the woman pulls her husband out and threatens him with more beatings, so that he begs her most humbly to spare him. In fact, he declares that from now on he will obey all her orders and be her willing servant: “Und was du mich haist, das wil ich thun, / Und mit dir halten fried und sun, / Und laß mich auf und laß von mir, / Das wil ich immer danken dir” [Whatever you tell me to do I will carry out. I will hold my peace and penance, but let me get up and let go of me, I will always be thankful for that]. 68 Subsequently the other man dares to come out from under the bench, though he continues to express his fear of this mighty woman, until she confirms that she will leave him in peace; in fact, she promises to dance with him, which calms the entire scene. Fastnachtspiele, 2:1033, ll. 11–12. Fastnachtspiele, 1:47–52. 68 Fastnachtspiele, 1:51, ll. 17–20. 66 67
Facetious as this Shrovetide play pretends to be, reflecting, according to the narrator, the freedom to explore new topics and to transgress traditional norms, we discover here another example of deep-seated male anxieties with regard to the powerful woman who is strong enough in body and mind to deal with two men and scare them out of their wits. Neither the husband’s initial complaints to the innkeeper about having been badly mistreated by his wife nor the neighbor’s efforts to appeal to his friend to be a man, to show his wife who is master and to remind her of her obligation to play only the second fiddle, changes anything in this situation, and this fierce woman triumphs over both men. Over and over again these Shrovetide plays present new perspectives, conditions, and situations, and in their attempts to bring innovative material to the stage, the playwrights shed important light on the complexity of gender relationships, which could be harmonious, aggressive, violent, oppressive, or balanced. The plays thematize the various ways in which husbands and wives interact with each other and highlight the cultural-historical relevance of the entire genre. Not all plays present a negative image of gender relationships. In Aliud von Frauenriemen [Aliud of Women’s Belts], 69 women appear onstage and present themselves in their best light, highlighting their physical beauty and their appearance in public. They then discuss their marriages. Occasionally one of the husbands speaks up as well. One declares his great pride in his wife and in her virtuous behavior, such as her generosity to the poor and needy. Because of her good habits and speech, he gains in reputation everywhere. The next husband praises his wife for not being a braggart but, rather, being eager to be kind and pleasant to people. The next wife admits not knowing how to dress in an elegant way; instead, she simply follows her husband’s precepts. Moreover, she would, if she had the money, give plentiful alms to the poor, which would make people sing her praise. Other women pride themselves on their physical attractiveness, and one of them even emphasizes her sexual allure, which gives her husband frequent erections: “Dar umb gar dick muß meinem man / Sein zegelein gen mir aufstan” [Therefore my husband’s penis often has to rise toward me]. 70 The sixth woman, however, expresses her great concern about her public reputation because people so easily spread false rumors about her, which the next woman confirms. The women also worry about the contradictions in society’s expectations: if a woman puts on beautiful clothing she is seen as wasting her money, but she should not look like a nun. For the tenth woman the situation proves to be even worse because if she does not take care to dress attractively, her husband will look for another woman: “Zier ich mich nicht, ich wird betrogen” [if I do not dress elegantly, I will be cheated on]. 71 Moreover, as the twelfth woman declares, if she Fastnachtspiele, 1:103–8. Fastnachtspiele, 1:106, l. 7–8. 71 Fastnachtspiele, 1:107, l. 12. 69
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were to be without elegant clothes, the public would disregard her and marginalize her at events such as dances. A beautiful dress, however, would give her the desired status and would prevent her husband from being embarrassed. We encounter here a kaleidoscope of experiences that women apparently had in late medieval urban society. These women show that as wives they must represent their husbands at public events such as dances, must speak well and be generous, and also must be sexually attractive, without attracting too much attention. If they do not live up to these expectations, they face severe criticism or are simply left behind or left out. Whereas many Shrovetide plays emphasize gender conflicts quite starkly, or represent in highly negative terms the role played by powerful women who viciously subjugate their husbands — or vice versa, of course — in this play we confront a different scenario, with women reflecting upon their own roles as wives who have to satisfy a wide range of expectations. Some husbands also speak up in this play and confirm how pleased they are with their wives’ willingness to conform to these roles. We clearly perceive how the individual speakers affirm the constructedness and artificiality of their gender functions through the development of the theatrical discourse but also how they indicate how much women’s cooperation contributed to harmonious coexistence with husbands and within patriarchal society at large. Although it seems highly doubtful that the anonymous playwrights could have been female, there are, in fact, a surprisingly large number of plays that present women in a much more positive light than men. We encounter a more exaggerated approach, which characterizes most Shrovetide plays, in Ein Spil wie Frauen ein Kleinot aufwurfen [A Play about How Women Gamble a Gem]. 72 Here women invite their husbands to demonstrate in public how much they love their wives and offer a valuable prize to the winner. Of course, the playfulness of the entire set-up immediately comes through as the men simply formulate exorbitant statements to characterize their love, which no one would truly believe because of the absurdity of their claims. The ninth man, for instance, maintains that even if his wife were 100 years old, shaped like a monkey, black as a Moor, and a total fool, he still would regard her as perfect in appearance and intelligence. A more realistic appraisal of love is provided in Ein Spil von Fursten und Herren [A Play of Princes and Lords]. 73 Close to the end one knight affirms: Durch frauen willen tut man hofiren, / Durch sie ist stechen und turnieren, / Durch frauen tut man sper zuprechen, /. . ./ Durch frauen gewint man und verleust, / Durch frauen manger des nachts erfreust, / Durch frauen willen manig man / Vertut mer, dann er gewinnen kan.
Fastnachtspiele., 1:132–37. Fastnachtspiele, 1:138–53.
[For women’s sake men engage in courting, they joust and perform in tournaments, they break lances on their behalf . . . Through women one gains and loses, through women many men enjoy the night, on behalf of women so many men lose more than they can gain]. 74
Wherever we turn in these plays, we come across both critical and laudatory statements about women. In some plays, husband and wife fight against each other, one winning and one losing, and in others the men praise their wives in exaggerated terms. The Shrovetide plays proved to be one of the best public fora to present the complexities and tensions in marriage, to explore how husband and wife could live together in practical terms, and they also illustrated the various models of power distribution in marriage. We do not necessarily find a common denominator across these plays, except that the playwrights invited their audiences to laugh at the exchanges on the stage and their apparent realism. We cannot confirm that patriarchal society truly dominates in these plays, especially because the male characters often reveal considerable fear of their wives and are even beaten and punished by them. In a number of cases the husbands prove to be impotent or simply not potent enough to live up to society’s expectations of their masculine roles. We also, however, come across traditional models of courtly praise of women, which then suddenly turn into a sarcastic appraisal or, rather, critique of how much women could contribute to a man’s financial ruin. The Shrovetide plays offered teaching and entertainment, prodesse et delectare, and through their thematizing men’s and women’s attitudes toward each other and their voicing criticism of social mores the urban stage became a forum for the exploration of gender relationships. The literary quality of these Shrovetide plays might often seem rather doubtful, given their crude, offensive, obscene, and scatological language. This is especially true if we compare them, for instance, with many of the sixteenth-century Reformation plays. It is little surprise that scholarship has only tentatively touched upon this genre, without going into detail and without examining the content of many of these intriguing plays. From our perspective, however, we can only underscore how valuable these relatively short dramatic pieces prove to be as literary expressions of a wide-ranging, often contradictory, contentious, volatile, and occasionally facetious and satirical discourse on gender relationships in late medieval life, particularly within the urban world. 75 Collectively, they uphold Fastnachtspiele, 1:151, ll. 23–32. Curiously, this topic has not been considered even by recent scholarship, although a wide range of different aspects has been discussed in detail. See, for instance, Klaus Ridder, Martin Przybilski, and Martina Schuler, “Neuedition und Kommentierung der vorreformatorischen Nürnberger Fastnachtspiele,” in Deutsche Texte des Mittelalters zwischen Handschriftennähe und Rekonstruktion: Berliner Fachtagung 1.–3. April 2004, ed. Martin J. Schubert, Beihefte zu Editio, 23 (Tübingen: Niemeyer, 2005), 237–56; Klaus Ridder, Rebekka Nöcker, and Martina Schuler, 74
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patriarchal structures, while at the same time they undermine the thin veneer of male pretensions in complex scenarios where gender roles prove fluid — the result of intensive, often acrimonious discourse. Apparently the temporary license of the Shrovetide season made it possible for these various approaches, concepts, and tendencies to come to the fore. Efforts to establish social control within the framework of marriage were thus given a meaningful, though playful, image through theatrical performance. 76
“Spiel und Schrift: Nürnberger Fastnachtspiele zwischen Aufführung und Überlieferung,” in Literatur als Spiel: evolutionsbiologische, ästhetische und pädagogische Konzepte, ed. Thomas Anz and Heinrich Kaulen, Spectrum Literaturwissenschaft, 22 (Berlin and New York: Walter De Gruyter, 2009), 195–208; and Maria Elisabeth Müller, “Infame Rituale: Zu den antijüdischen Fastnachtspielen von Hans Folz und R.W. Fassbinders ‘Der Müll, die Stadt und der Tod,’” in Die Kunst der Infamie: vom Sängerkrieg zum Medienkrieg, ed. Hubertus Fischer (Frankfurt a.M. and New York: Peter Lang, 2003), 81–141. 76 See also Edelgard E. DuBruck, Aspects of Fifteenth-Century Society in the German Carnival Comedies, Studies in Russian and German, 8 (Lewiston, NY, Queenston, Ont., and Lampeter, Wales: The Edwin Mellen Press, 1993), which nicely introduces the genre at large but does not bring out many new insights.
Subversive Imagery in Bruegel’s T he Dirty Bride and Valentine and Orson Catherine Schultz McFarland The sixteenth-century Flemish artist Pieter Bruegel the Elder is best known for his depictions of peasants, but his work covers many subjects, from traditional religious scenes to comedy. Although he lived in tumultuous and divisive times, his work seems to defy attempts to place him in one political camp or the other. Flanders was one of the battlegrounds of the Reformation, and yet Bruegel does not seem to have had an opinion about the struggle. Scholars have attempted for years to discern his religious and political sympathies, yet there is no overt historical evidence of his position. Nevertheless, two of Pieter Bruegel’s last prints, The Dirty Bride (The Marriage of Mopsos and Nisa) (Figure 1) and The Masquerade of Valentine and Orson (Figure 2), depictions of broad farces performed at Carnival and at other festivals, seem to be pointed, but veiled, criticisms of the political and religious upheavals just breaking out into civil war in the Spanish Netherlands before the artist’s death in 1569. They are emblematic of many of Bruegel’s concerns and typical of his oblique commentaries on the social turmoil in the Netherlands in the midsixteenth century. Present in these prints are clues to Bruegel’s ideas on many of the vital social issues of his day, from the conflict with the Spanish to the new interest in the primitive, expressed not in discrete and straightforward iconography but in Bruegel’s characteristically complex and interwoven ironies. Rather than ascribing either a Catholic or a Protestant position to the artist, one can read in the topsyturvy world of The Dirty Bride and Valentine and Orson a conscious ambiguity that expresses not only an almost modern sense of dialogue with the viewer but also Bruegel’s own Erasmian humanism. These two Carnival farces appear in a very similar configuration in Bruegel’s large painting The Battle between Carnival and Lent (Figures 3, 4, 5), finished at least seven years before the drawings. Taken out of the busy wimmelbild [teeming picture] and spotlighted in the prints, the two farces mean something different from what they mean in the painting, where they are merely part of a multitude of Performance and Theatricality in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, ed. by Mark Cruse, ASMAR 41 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2018), pp. 135–154.
catherine schultz mcfarland
Figure 1: The Dirty Bride (The Marriage of Mopsos and Nisa): Private collection. Photo courtesy of Conrad Kane.
Figure 2: The Masquerade of Valentine and Orson: Courtesy of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.
Subversive Imagery in Bruegel
Figure 3: The Battle between Carnival and Lent: Courtesy of the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.
Figure 4: Valentine and Orson, detail from The Battle between Carnival and Lent: Courtesy of the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.
catherine schultz mcfarland
Figure 5: The Dirty Bride, detail from The Battle between Carnival and Lent: Courtesy of the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.
Subversive Imagery in Bruegel
Shrovetide maskings. Not many of Bruegel’s contemporaries would have had access to the painting, but many might have seen the prints, and I submit that lifting these images out of the earlier painting gave them a more particular significance, a message of tolerance that could have been seen as subversive by both political and religious polemicists on either side in the religious conflicts of the day.
Iconography and Context The Dirty Bride exists in a drawing by Bruegel on a woodblock (Figure 6) and in an engraving published posthumously by Hieronymus Cock based on another version of the woodblock drawing. When published, the work was titled The Marriage of Mopsos and Nisa, the names of two comic rustics who appear in Virgil’s eighth Eclogue as very minor characters. The tongue-in-cheek text below the illustration reads in Latin, “Mopsos married Nisa. What may not we lovers hope for?” However, the engraving depicts a scene not from Virgil but from a Carnival folk play, The Dirty Bride, a typical northern European comic satire on women. If only because both stories poke fun at peasants, this play may have been linked in the minds of some of Bruegel’s classically educated contemporaries with the brief account of Mopsos and Nisa in the Eclogues, but clearly Virgil would have been far from the minds of most Flemings watching the bawdy folk farce at Carnival and at other festivals. 1 This unexpected juxtaposition of Netherlandish peasants and the classical world is our first hint that, to Bruegel’s contemporaries, there was more to this work than meets the eye. Calling the consort of the Dirty Bride “Mopsos” is a clever way of linking this northern folk tale to classical learning. 2 In fact, the caption on the engraving, which does not appear on the woodblock drawing, was probably added by Bruegel’s humanist publisher, not only as a link between the classical world and his own time 3 but also as a way to give this “peasant art” some gloss of erudition, thereby hiding from the Spanish censors that this is a depiction of an unlawful activity, the Carnival folk play. Some of the harshest placards, or edicts, during Mark Meadow, Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s Netherlandish Proverbs and the Practice of Rhetoric (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002). As Meadow points out, sixteenth-century educators in the Netherlands used Latin textbooks that included many adages and proverbs from the classical world. Anyone literate would have understood these classical allusions, which were often paired with Netherlandish sayings. 2 David C. McPherson, “An Origin for Mopsa in Sydney’s Arcadia,” Renaissance Quarterly 21.4 (Winter 1968): 420–28. The coincidence of the name “Mopsa” and the Dutch word “mops” no doubt inspired the caption. “Mops” was a word for a little pug-nosed dog and thus could also refer to a funny rustic bumpkin. 3 Margaret Sullivan, “Bruegel’s Proverbs: Art and Audience in the Northern Renaissance,” The Art Bulletin 73.3 (September 1991): 431–66. 1
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Figure 6: The Dirty Bride: Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City.
Philip II’s rule of the Netherlands restricted both plays by the literary rederijkerskamers [chambers of rhetoricians] that overtly criticized the Hapsburg monarchy, and those of peasant celebrations at Carnival and other festivals. The Dirty Bride [De Fuile Bruide] tells of a ragamuffin wench wooed by a young man of the town who seems happy with her coarse and lewd ways, much to the amusement of the audience. The term “dirty bride” not only refers to hygiene but also implies that she is already pregnant, or at least has been bedded. 4 However, the iconography of the work is not quite what might be expected from a depiction of Shrovetide masking. The image portrayed by Bruegel is clearly a play, as some of the characters are dressed as mummers and the small boy in the foreground carries a large shell such as was often used to receive donations from the audience. Yet the scene takes place on the outskirts of a town and not inside city walls. In fact, a large stone building appears in the background, emphasizing the separation of city and countryside. The large edifice looks decrepit, with a shutter hanging askew, making it seem unwelcoming, even sinister, and adding to the beauty of the contrasting natural countryside. This woodland would not have been the actual setting for a performance of this play, as there are no spectators. Curiously, the “play” is being For a discussion of the derivation of vuile bruid from vuile ei [dirty egg], i.e., an egg that has been fertilized, see Walter Gibson, Pieter Bruegel and the Art of Laughter (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006), 206, n. 83. 4
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put on away from any other Shrovetide players and even away from the realm of the civilized world. The Masquerade of Valentine and Orson, finished as a woodcut and also published posthumously, in 1570, is likely a sister work to The Dirty Bride. 5 The subject derives from a play about two brothers separated at birth, one raised by bears (Orson) and the other at the court of “King Pepin” (Valentine). When they meet, Valentine tries to turn Orson into a courtier, but Orson woos Valentine’s lady, and conflict between the brothers erupts. Eventually Valentine, the civilized man, overcomes Orson, the Wild Man who, depending on the version, is either banished, civilized, or killed. The pairing of The Dirty Bride and Valentine and Orson may have stemmed from the fact that, in both, the low figure of fun is paired with a more civilized lover: the courtly lady in the case of Orson, and the silly young townsman in The Dirty Bride. Like the print of The Dirty Bride, that depicting Valentine and Orson shows an actual Shrovetide play being performed. In the image, Orson is dressed head-totoe in animal skins and has long scraggly hair and a beard. The costume is almost a bear disguise, as one would expect, given the etymology of the name “Orson” (Latin ursus). Wild Men and bear characters have appeared for centuries in many European Carnival and mid-winter festival traditions, including those in Romania, Austria, and France. Traditionally the “Wild Man,” sometimes called “Nameless,” would be ritually returned to town at Candlemas (2 February) as a way for wilderness to be incorporated into civilization and thus conquered. However, in this print the Wild Man is not so much the frightening embodiment of the wilderness that he was in the Middle Ages but, rather, a figure both scary and humorous, a grotesque like the Dirty Bride herself. The mincing and bowing required of the hairy beastturned-courtier would be comical even to modern eyes. Despite the thematic similarities between, and carnivalesque nature of, these two plays, their depictions in these prints are marked by significant differences. As visualized by Bruegel, the two plays seem to present opposing narratives of the “natural,” uncivilized human being. While Orson’s play takes place in the town, where the Wild Man can never be victorious, The Dirty Bride is set outside the walls, where an earthy peasant girl belongs. The iconography in Bruegel’s depiction of her play includes mussel shells on the ground, the aftermath of the wedding feast, and a “priest” who performs the marriage ceremony and is dressed as a mummer so as to make the playacting clear to the viewer. A musician playing a rough stringed instrument wears a mask that has a long nose, an obvious and comic phallic reference, although he seems to be the only person in the scene who is expressing real mockery. In fact, his mask and music could be read more as lewd conviviality Pieter Bruegel the Elder: Drawings and Prints, ed. Nadine Orenstein (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2001), 246. Orenstein suggests that “the woodcut [of The Dirty Bride] . . . was probably intended as a pendant to The Wild Man.” 5
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than mocking. The bride wears a colander on her head as an emblem of Carnival parody of the housewife, and she dances toward her wedding bed (the tent) with her hair down like a virgin, which she clearly is not. However, she gets her swain in the end and frolics merrily around her dwelling, happy in her uncivilized behavior and uncensured by any onlooker. Thus the scene seems to be a kind of natural, playful romp, as opposed to a censorious parody. By contrast, the play of Orson the Wild Man takes place inside the town and is not meant to be funny in the same way. The performer in the bear suit and false beard, despite his comical displacement, is meant to be vanquished (or at least transformed), a satisfying and moral ending to an archetypal story of civilization versus barbarism. Even the compositions of the two works emphasize their differences. The Dirty Bride is intertwined with her companions who create a unit, a little knot of people engaged in their romp. Orson, in contrast, stands isolated and almost at bay, up against the wall and menaced by the crossbowman, separate from his companions. Like his contemporary Montaigne, Bruegel “essays” different ideas about human nature and relationships in these two prints and then shows us the antithesis to every thesis. In The Dirty Bride and Valentine and Orson Bruegel shows us dichotomies of male/female, town/country, wild/civilized, funny/serious, and moral/immoral. His ambivalence suggests an open-minded exploration of different strategies of being, with no apparent didactic agenda. In addition to the abstract commentary on human society that one may divine in these prints, there are the specific political connotations that would have struck a contemporary viewer. The Dirty Bride likely refers to Margaret of Parma, Philip II’s half-sister and his regent in the Netherlands. In 1565 she threw an extravagant wedding for her son in Brussels, which was severely criticized by the Netherlanders for its excesses in a time of turmoil and food shortages. Margaret was not popular and, at the time of her son’s marriage, was ridiculed as “the dirty bride.” 6 It did not help that she apparently sported a small moustache. 7 In the metaphorical social criticism of the Netherlanders, inversion was used as a kind of satire, and the comic rustic became the noblewoman Margaret. Nevertheless, it is not certain that Bruegel took sides in either the political conflicts between Spaniards and Netherlanders or the religious conflicts between Catholics and Protestants, even when the allusions to the conflicts are clear. Although The Dirty Bride could indeed be taken as a simple caricature of Margaret, Valentine and Orson could be read on its surface as pro-Spanish. Clearly the Spanish rulers thought of the Netherlanders as uncivilized Low German peasants. The Wild Man could have suggested to the viewer the rough country people who were attending the Protestant hagepreken [hedge sermons], the illegal and subversive Orenstein, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 248, n. 5. Famianus Strada, De bello belgico: The History of the Low-Country Warres, trans. Sir Robert Stapylton (London: Humphrey Moseley, 1650), 109ff. 6 7
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sermons that took place out in the countryside, and so could have appealed to the Spanish disdain for the Netherlanders. However, the Wild Man also could have alluded to another character dressed in skins, John the Baptist. Anabaptists in particular, but also Calvinists and Lutherans, looked to John the Baptist as the uncorrupted Christian. (Bruegel’s Sermon of St. John the Baptist depicts the Baptist pointing out Jesus to the crowd in what looks like the Flemish countryside, a scene that certainly brings to mind the hedge sermons). The Spanish authorities would have first seen Orson in the woodcut as one of the uncivilized Flemings trying to be an aristocrat, thus an object of derision. A discerning viewer then could have caught the chastening allusion to the Baptist, reminding both Spanish and Flemish viewers of the tenets of tolerance in early Christianity but camouflaged well enough to elude the censors. Thus Bruegel depicts the two plays as emblematic of the conflicts in the Netherlands and allows the viewer to see the folly, in both its positive and negative connotations, on both sides, an ambiguity as mercurial as that of Erasmus’ personification of Folly in his Encomium Moriae. Folly as childish play, folly as sin, folly as human nature, folly as the simple faith of the Baptist, folly as rebellion, and folly as the behavior of the Spanish are all suggested by Bruegel in his choice of these two Carnival plays. By the mid-sixteenth century, printmaking had become quite important in the Netherlands for disseminating information to the masses. Even though the literacy rate of sixteenth-century Antwerp and Brussels was the highest in Europe, most of the lower classes would not have been reading sophisticated exchanges between rulers, apologies for one side, or criticisms of another. There was, however, a new rising middle class of merchants and artisans in the Spanish Netherlands who were literate in their native language and in Latin and who were purchasing and reading not only pamphlets but also the new “best-sellers” such as the Adages of Erasmus. Although Latin and even Flemish literacy was hardly universal, even Netherlanders of humble birth were aware of the potency of images and image-making, both because of the ubiquity of simple prints used for notices, pamphlets, propaganda, and even advertising and also because of the violent iconoclastic controversy tearing the cities apart. There was a huge audience for printmaking, and thus Bruegel’s message of tolerance is also substantiated by his choice of the most democratic medium of the sixteenth century, the print. 8 Because of the scrutiny of imagery by the authorities, and the solemn importance attached to it, a print depicting The Dirty Bride or Valentine and Orson would have had more and deeper political connotations for a contemporary of Bruegel, as well as for Bruegel himself, than it might at first glance have for modern viewers.
8 Peter Arnade, Beggars, Iconoclasts, and Civic Patriots: The Political Culture of the Dutch Revolt (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2008), 59. Particularly in Antwerp, publishing and printmaking were vibrant industries. Pamphlets were popular and even could be bought on a journeyman’s wages.
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Any resident of Antwerp or Brussels would have known that Shrovetide plays were now forbidden by the Spanish overlords. Anyone would have known of the association of carnivalesque merrymaking with the rebellious actions of the anti-Spanish movement. Restrictions on festivals and masking began as early as 1531 under Philip’s father, Charles V, who tried unsuccessfully to restrict Carnival celebrations to one day. 9 These anti-Carnival ordinances continued throughout the sixteenth century. The processions that were part of the many religious feast days celebrated by the people of the Duchy of Burgundy had morphed in some cases into performances that criticized the Spanish or the Catholic Church. Carnival had been particularly uninhibited, as were kermesses, festivals celebrating the anniversary of the founding of a church. These village-wide parties included drinking and dancing in the streets, along with skits and the mocking of authority figures, almost like Shrovetide frolics, and so were banned by the Spanish. It is true that the “topsy-turvy” world of Carnival was frowned upon by both secular and religious authorities in much of Europe by the 1560s. The “king of fools” and other characters who mocked established authority figures were banished from the church grounds, where they had originally been enacted, and were performed out in the streets. In addition, many Protestants throughout Europe were trying to banish the excesses of these Carnival performances for moral reasons. However, in the Netherlands, because the many carnivalesque celebrations were anathema to the Spanish and had become such mainstays of cultural life, they were not only tolerated by the Netherlandish churches and political authorities but even encouraged. Peter Arnade posits that “the world-turned-upside-down was as attractive a source of inspiration to the iconoclasts as was Calvinist theology.” 10 Noblemen often visited the villages during kermesses and even joined in the celebrations. 11 Thus depictions of Carnival plays already had connotations of rebellion for all classes of Netherlanders. In addition to the kermesses, in Antwerp the Feast of the Circumcision had become the most important yearly festival. Everyone participated, with competitions for the best float and accompanying performance for the ommegang, the parade that processed around the city walls carrying the foreskin of Jesus, Antwerp’s prized relic. 12 Many of the earlier Shrovetide plays, such as The Dirty Bride and Valentine and Orson, had now become part of these other festivals. The urban rederijkerskamers also became lively public expressions of all kinds of cultural dynamics, from religious passions to political conflicts. Stages were set up in town squares and plays were performed that showed off the erudition (the “rhetoric”) of the members of the chambers but also entertained, with both solemn moralizing tales and satirical comedies. This particularly Netherlandish art form was
Arnade, Beggars, 47. Arnade, Beggars, 112. 11 Gibson, Pieter Bruegel and the Art of Laughter, 98. 12 Arnade, Beggars, 138, 142, 164. 9
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an important source of civic pride and an arena in which cultural tensions could be released. 13 The landjuweels [jewels of the land], or competitions for best play, were popular entertainments. Guild-supported chambers such as Bruegel’s Violieren [gillyflowers], the chamber for the Guild of Saint Luke to which artists belonged, put on many of the plays and drew performers from almost all classes. The audiences included everyone from the most educated and the new middle class to the illiterate. These performances were thus an important place for the mingling of the classes and an arena where they might find agreement and mutual understanding. There were even friendly archery contests between noblemen and peasants. In other words, the rederijkerskamers and their performances were a dangerous phenomenon for the Spanish authorities, who were threatened by the new groundswell of revolt and a nascent patriotism in the Low Countries. Plays were understood as an important vehicle for expressing subversive ideas in sixteenth-century Flanders. Even if a Fleming ignored the political satire in so many of the performances in the festivals in the Lowlands, he could hardly ignore the oppression and violence of Spanish rule, which created a simmering tension that was part of daily life. The drawings upon which the prints for The Dirty Bride and Valentine and Orson are based were probably produced in the Wonderjaar [wonder year] of 1566, during which riots and looting resulted in thousands of religious artifacts being destroyed and hundreds of people being executed, including the Counts of Egmont and of Hornes, friends and cohorts of the Dutch leader, William of Orange. Only days before their arrest, these two popular lords had dined with Cardinal Granvelle, advisor to the regent, Margaret of Parma. Without warning, they were arrested and executed without trial, which enraged the populace. Even their membership in the Order of the Golden Fleece, which guaranteed trial by a jury of peers, did not protect them. If these two powerful Catholic aristocrats could be beheaded by the Spanish secular authorities, it was felt, then no one was safe. Gibbets were everywhere. Violence and retaliation were daily phenomena. Even someone who wanted to remove himself from the conflict would have had a hard time doing so. Bruegel could not have ignored such an extreme situation, despite his putative neutrality. Although Protestant faiths were rapidly gaining adherents in the Netherlands during the 1560s, the unhappiness with Spanish rule was not entirely the result of a religious schism. King Philip II’s devout Catholicism meant that secular and religious authorities were, for all intents and purposes, one and the same. The intolerance of the Spanish overlords of any deviation from orthodoxy, and their highhanded despotism that ignored the traditional rights of both the Burgundian lords and the Brabantine chartered towns, caused a simmering discontent among both Protestants and Catholics. Even loyal Catholics were among the rebel forces calling themselves the Geuzen [beggars]. An “Order of the Beggars” (originally called the “Order of the Compromise”) was created by the Netherlandish ruling class as a Arnade, Beggars, 60.
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response to Spanish domination, its satiric moniker an assertion of rebellion. The rallying cry “Vivent les Gueux” [Long live the Beggars] came first from anti-Spanish Catholic noblemen and then spread to the merchants, farmers, cloth workers, and artisans, all of whom were denigrated as peasants by the Spanish rulers, who were still entrenched in an outmoded feudal system and highly jealous of the threatened rights of the nobility. In the Spanish Netherlands in the 1560s it would have been almost as difficult to assign a religious affiliation to a rebel against the Hapsburgs as it would have been to assume a political affiliation for a Catholic. This complex political and religious situation is crucial to understanding the elusive meanings not only in the two prints of Carnival plays but also Bruegel’s work as a whole.
Bruegel’s Oeuvre Pieter Bruegel’s religious and political sympathies are not clear from contemporary documents, but I believe that one can discover in his works evidence of a belief in tolerant humanism. What we do know from existing documents is that he was close friends with both Christopher Plantin and Abraham Ortelius, two very learned Netherlanders who were associated with the humanist group the Familia Caritatis [the Family of Charity], which espoused tolerance for religious, philosophical, and cultural differences. Ortelius, the great map-maker, and Plantin, his publisher, were sophisticated men who did not work overtly for one side or the other in the rebel skirmishes leading up to the Dutch revolt, but they made it clear that they supported tolerance, reason, and, above all, freedom from despots. Plantin published many copies of works by Erasmus, the great proponent of humanism in the North, including The Praise of Folly and Adages. Bruegel certainly would have been aware of these publications. Both works present their ideas obliquely, forcing the reader to see both sides of a question. Like Erasmus (and Montaigne), Bruegel also presents a multifaceted point of view that helps his viewers consider conflicting ideas. For example, in the painting Children’s Games, a small vignette in the background (Figure 7) certainly seems an overt criticism of the Catholic Church. A boy who looks very much like a cowled monk is whipping a top. He stands over the toy in a pose evocative of punishment, while directly above him squats a little girl who watches herself urinate and gives us a rare example of exposed and open human female genitalia in medieval and Renaissance art. 14 It seems Bruegel wanted the viewer to see a contradiction between the innocent and natural curiosity of the little girl and the cruel stance of the boy. The juxtaposition evokes the punishment by the Catholic Church for sexual sins. However, in other scenes in Children’s Games, Bruegel presents happily straightforward play-acting of Catholic rituals such as Only the Sheela-na-gigs on Irish churches show the female body in such a graphic manner, and they were meant to be apotropaic grotesques. 14
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Figure 7: Detail from Children’s Games: Courtesy of the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.
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matrimony and baptism. We do not see an anti-Catholic stance in the work as a whole but, rather, see an acceptance of all types of human “play” and all types of opposition to it. Similarly, in Dulle Griet (Figure 8), a huge painting in the Mayer van den Bergh museum in Antwerp, Bruegel seems at first glance to be critical of the excesses of the Protestants, particularly of the iconoclasts, but upon closer scrutiny seems to mitigate the criticism. Bruegel himself could hardly have been a supporter of the destruction of art, although he did not paint any works to be hung in churches (at least not after his apprenticeship). However, in Dulle Griet we see a work that expresses what looks to be ambivalence about the crowds of marauding iconoclasts that were causing more and more turmoil in the 1560s. Dulle Griet shows the folk character Mad Meg, a furious woman (sometimes a giantess) who leads an army of housewives to loot at the gates of hell. She is a stock character in stories that mock women who win “the battle for the breeches” (who “wear the pants in the family”). Bruegel illustrates this folk character in a way that suggests that she is one of the iconoclastic housewives who, along with their menfolk, broke into churches and cloisters and destroyed art or made off with the finery. Bruegel’s Griet leads an army of powerful women, armed with pots and pans and other household accoutrements and carrying their loot. However, in the painting Griet seems to be in hell, not just up against the gates. She is battling demons and devils that evoke a Boschian world of evil. In fact, she has almost become the force for good in this work, the armored knight fighting the devil. Bruegel has taken one of the many sixteenth-century folk proverbs and stories that are critical of aggressive women and turned it on its head, making the object of opprobrium and ridicule into a kind of crusader, a soldier fighting evil. Thus he seems to be here both an opponent and a supporter of the iconoclasts (and of viragos!). Bruegel’s ambiguous and multi-faceted iconography sometimes encompasses religious ideas as well. One of the fiercest religious debates during the Reformation concerned the value of faith versus good works. Bruegel seems to engage this idea in The Beekeepers and in The Peasant and the Birdnester, both of which suggest the Flemish proverb, “he who knows where the nest is, knows, but he who gets it, has it.” In other words, action is more important than knowledge, or as one might say colloquially, “actions speak louder than words.” In the engraving The Beekeepers, which has the nest adage as a caption, Bruegel seems to be obliquely advocating the Catholic tenet of the grace received through good works and action in the world, instead of the Protestant tenet of relying only on faith for salvation. In the engraving, the hooded beekeepers are blindly unaware of the young man up the tree stealing honey, while they labor in the foreground. At first the print seems to say that the boy’s direct action has yielded results, while the labor of the hooded characters has not. This could not be the case, however, since the beekeepers are working hard tending their beehives. Therefore, the adage under the image does not seem to make sense, if one associates the active boy in the tree with Catholicism’s tenet of the virtue of good works over faith. The most fruitful way of uncovering Bruegel’s intention might
Subversive Imagery in Bruegel
Figure 8: Dulle Griet: Courtesy of the Museum Mayer van den Bergh, Antwerp.
be to start with the obvious. The beekeepers in the foreground are the subject and are quite startling at first glance. They seem oblivious in their eerie hoods, almost frighteningly inhuman. Why portray these agricultural workers in such a fearful manner? To contemporary viewers might they not have suggested the hooded interrogators and executioners of the Spanish Inquisition? Since in the Renaissance a beehive was sometimes used as a parodic symbol of the Catholic Church, it is easy to read the beekeepers as “keepers” of Catholicism. While the adage might suggest that the hooded characters are foolish Protestants unaware that blind faith cannot bring grace, I believe that a contemporary viewer would have seen these strange hooded characters as blind and ominous Spanish Catholics trying to bring the “bees back to the hive,” while the boy in the tree could be seen as a rebellious Netherlandish youth taking action. 15 Thus the adage under the image would have confounded the censors while hinting at the real, more political, meaning. The Peasant and the Birdnester also refers to the aforementioned adage advocating action over knowledge. Here Bruegel’s peasant seems to be coyly pointing out to the viewer the clever nest-robber, but he will fall with his next step into a ditch that is contiguous with the viewer’s space, thus making a fool out of himself and negating the cleverness of his sly wink at the viewer. Is he thus meant to be the foolish character? If so, is he foolish for pointing out the nest robber? Or is he the fool for failing to rob the nest himself? The viewer is invited into the painting by the direct gaze of the boy, only to fall into the ditch with him. Bruegel makes it clear by the See Orenstein, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 240, for various interpretations of this work as an allusion to religious conflict. 15
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title The Birdnester that the aforementioned proverb asserting the importance of action is the subject of the painting, but then he obscures its meaning. The viewer cannot tell if Bruegel offers the adage as wisdom or folly. Bruegel’s inverted compositions and ambiguous meanings allowed him to comment upon contemporary issues without alerting either the Spanish censors or the nationalists, but they also send multifaceted messages to the viewer. I think that Bruegel’s contemporaries would have understood and appreciated the ambiguities. The double meaning would have appealed to the contemporary taste for inversion but would also have been a satisfying and courageous assertion of the need for debate instead of dogma. Can we see through all this obfuscation and discern any evidence of his actual support of the revolutionary “Beggars”? Bruegel often depicted literal beggars, even giving them top billing in one painting, The Cripples. They are never, however, portrayed sympathetically. Although they are pathetic, we do not feel particularly sorry for them. Beggars in Bruegel’s time were often con artists, or former mercenary soldiers, maimed by war but still loathed by the populace that they had raped and pillaged before they lost their limbs and had to resort to begging in the street. In The Cripples, Bruegel depicts a small group of frolicking horrors, wearing hats of different walks of life, and each with foxtails pinned to his jerkin, a symbol of lepers and other outcasts. The “Beggars” of the rebel movement against the Spanish often wore foxtails on their clothes to thumb their nose at their overlords who had dismissively labeled them as such. Does Bruegel mean to associate the rebel movement with such odious kinds of beggars? And are the hats, including a bishop’s miter, supposed to imply that members of these professions were con artists? Certainly he knew that the viewer could hardly miss the allusion to the rebels. If nothing else, foxtails have a long career as symbols of different kinds of duplicitous and sinful behavior. Foxes are, of course, traditionally associated with slyness in European iconography, but for the Netherlanders they also had become a symbol of the much-hated Cardinal Granvelle, because of his own supposed slyness. Foxtails were worn as a talisman for victory over Granvelle, like a fox’s brush after the hunt. Thus Bruegel’s beggars and their foxtails had multiple meanings for sixteenth-century viewers. One might see a satire of everyone in this work, as hats of all social classes, from nobleman to peasant, are worn by the cripples. This work in particular seems to make contradictory statements about those who wear the foxtails. 16 This constant evocation of double entendres is Bruegel’s forte and the mark of his genius. In the painting The Battle between Carnival and Lent (Figure 3), from
16 For a fascinating exploration of the foxtail and its many meanings, including erotic connotations, see Malcolm Jones, “Fiddlers on the Roof and Friars with Foxtails,” in The Netherlandish Proverbs: An International Symposium on the Pieter Brueg(h)els, ed. Wolfgang Meidner (Burlington: University of Vermont, 2004), 163–94.
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which our two folk play prints are drawn, all of humanity appears. This is one of Bruegel’s large God’s-eye-view paintings that look down at the folly of the world. However, Bruegel does not seem to be criticizing the folly of humankind as he does in Netherlandish Proverbs and sometimes in Children’s Games but, rather, seems to be depicting ways in which the frolicking and foolish behavior of Carnival is a natural part of the ritual year, balanced by the equally natural sober weeks of Lent. Neither the carnivalesque side nor the Lenten side of the painting shows real discord or conflict. Granted, the title refers to a battle, and there is a kind of playful joust in the foreground between personifications of the ritual seasons. However, the joust is just that, a ritual, a “play,” a kind of call-and-response echoing that Bruegel uses to express the dynamic forces in constant conflict in the human condition. For example, the masked celebrants on the Carnival side find their echoes in the many cloaked and covered figures on the Lenten side of the painting. The beggars on the Lenten side plead for alms the same way that the Carnival maskers beg for donations. On the left, the “Tavern of the Blue Boat,” 17 symbolizing the “Ship of Fools” (humankind), is balanced by the church on the right, with its pinwheel window suggesting cycles, one of Bruegel’s favorite metaphors for the theater of creation with its turning seasons. The ship of fools and the cycle are two ways of describing the world and point again to the ambivalence in Bruegel’s depiction of social life. The “Half-Lent” straw man of this one-day relief-feast halfway through Lent perches in the window on the Lenten side, balanced by a figure pouring something out of the window on the Carnival side. Is she cleansing or perhaps squelching the revelers? It is as if she, too, is a “half festival” figure, a symbol of an anti-Carnival impulse in the midst of revelry, in the same way that Half-Lent allows a relaxing of asceticism for one day. Certainly this woman is a reminder that each half of the year gives way to the other. A woman in a red dress and white cap and apron seems to have strayed away from her identically dressed Carnival companions on the left, to wander into Lent, a kind of physical linking of the two halves of the painting. And of course, our Carnival folk plays, The Dirty Bride and Valentine and Orson, appear in the painting as two opposing versions of uncivilized behavior. When one considers the entire painting, the echoes reach even further. On the Lenten side, the good housewives are not “dirty brides” and the good burghers are not “Wild Men” pretending to be courtiers. These series of pictorial elements echo and oppose each other throughout the painting. Bruegel uses these interlocking visual metaphors repeatedly in The Battle between Carnival and Lent, suggesting a cyclical panorama that includes rituals
For more on the blau[we] schu[i]t [blue boat] at Carnival, see Ethan Matt Kavaler, Pieter Bruegel: Parables of Order and Enterprise (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 121–25. 17
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not only of Carnival and Lent but also of other parts of the religious year, such as Candlemas and Easter. 18 Each side of the painting, therefore, depicts harmony, both in the playful excesses of the weeks between Christmas and Ash Wednesday and in the weeks of springtime cleansing and introspection during Lent. Bruegel associates Carnival neither with the Protestants nor with the Catholics but with the natural rhythm of human culture, implying that both Lent and Carnival are necessary for the ideal society. 19 In this, his most harmonious painting, with its ironic title, he is addressing religious conflict but not allowing the viewer to understand the work according to any preconceived political or religious doctrine. These townspeople and peasants are all of us, “Everyman,” engaging in the natural ritual cycle of the religious year. 20 In fact, Everyman, or Elck [each] in Flemish, was clearly one of Bruegel’s most important themes and another stock character in plays and stories. Bruegel not only portrayed Elck in every peasant that he painted but he also did an engraving of Everyman looking for truth. Elck is foolish but, like Bruegel’s Alchemist, very human in his search for meaning. Similarly, in their human folly and unangelic behavior, both Orson and the Dirty Bride are the carnal aspects of ourselves, “Everymen” who did not always have to rise above their animal nature to be human. In fact, the world of the peasant, lusty and strong, close to the earth and the calendar round, does seem to be true and full of life for Bruegel. In his understanding of the phenomenon of Carnival, Mikhail Bakhtin explains the grotesque and sometimes even scatological revelries of Carnival as life-affirming expressions of human incarnation. 21 The derivation of the word “carnival” could be “the leaving of flesh” or “the raising of flesh,” and indeed both concepts exist in the Carnival ritual. In his choice of subjects, Bruegel expresses his understanding of the irony inherent in our humanity.
Louise Shona Milne, Dreams and Popular Beliefs in the Imagery of Pieter Bruegel the Elder c. 1528–1569 (PhD diss., Boston University, 1990), 344. Milne suggests that more than Carnival and Lent are depicted. For example, in the painting there are processions of lepers such as those allowed into towns in the second week of January. 19 Margaret D. Carroll asserts that the essentially conservative ideology of the Dutch Revolt and its vision of a land without foreign invaders and their oppressive laws could be an influence on the theme of the painting as a “wishful evocation of what life might be like if those conditions were restored and there were no placards, for example, to curtail the inhabitants’ festive celebrations.” See Carroll, Painting and Politics in Northern Europe: Van Eyck, Bruegel, Rubens, and Their Contemporaries (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2008), 50. 20 Cyclical compositions and themes are present not only in Bruegel’s Cycle of the Seasons but also in his Way to Calvary and other works. 21 Mikhail Bakhtin, Rabelais and His World, trans. Helene Iswolsky (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984). 18
Subversive Imagery in Bruegel
Conclusion: The Tolerant Humanist Why did Bruegel choose to depict The Dirty Bride and Valentine and Orson as a pair? He could have chosen any of the Carnival skits that were performed for kermesses, feast days, rederijkerskamers, or at Shrovetide itself. Yet the character of the Dirty Bride is paired with Orson, the Wild Man. Both of these characters are “primitives.” They are not only the opposite of the civilized ideal of male and female but are also natural beings. During the sixteenth century there was a fascination with “primitive” peoples, both because of the encounters with the New World and because of the Reformation. Protestant reformers wanted to strip away the 1,500 years of Catholic history and go back to what they considered the basic tenets of the early Christian fathers. At the same time, many people, from theologians to concerned civic leaders, were becoming aware of the often horrifying treatment of the natives in the newly colonized lands. Bruegel’s choice of these two plays indicates his own interest in the idea of the primitive. In Antwerp and Brussels, this sympathy for the natural human being was becoming much more immediate and real, with the assertion of the rights of the common people in the Netherlands and the fight against the corruption of the Catholic Church. As is the case with Bruegel’s fascination with the peasant, the naturalness of the Dirty Bride and of Orson becomes an illustration of an acceptance of humanity’s weaknesses. Bruegel uses irony to advocate the inverse of the putative mocking message of the folk plays. “Vivent les Gueux” indeed! Seven years after depicting these two folk plays hidden in the bustling world of The Battle between Carnival and Lent, Bruegel returned to them, meaning to publish them in print form for wider dissemination. In the “Wonder Year” of 1566, when Antwerp, his hometown, was erupting in horrible violence and the Netherlands were essentially being occupied by hostile forces, he chose to pull these two vignettes out of his painting of a harmonious society in order to publish them for a wider audience. He could depict The Dirty Bride and Valentine and Orson, subversive images, by showing an aspect of an ideal society not torn apart by fanatics on both sides, a society where players could imagine and bring to life different ideas of the human condition in a playful celebration of our natural selves. Inside their masks of stupidity and humor, these comic rustics could hide messages of great hope for the Netherlanders. The Northern Renaissance delight in hidden meanings becomes, for Bruegel, a natural means of expressing his understanding of the opposing voices of his time, and for synthesizing the antitheses into a playful inclusiveness that seeks a universal humanity in the theatrum terrarum. Amid all the hidden symbolism and irony in his oeuvre, Bruegel did issue one clear and unambiguous warning to all his warring contemporaries in The Woman Taken in Adultery, one of his few finished drawings meant to stand alone, neither part of a series nor the model for an edition of engravings. He depicts the adulterous woman among her accusers and about to be stoned. Jesus kneels to write in the dust, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” Written in Flemish to ensure
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a wider audience, the message in the dust expresses the kind of Christian humility that counters an ideologically fixed point of view, a lesson of tolerance that appears more obliquely in many other works, including The Dirty Bride and Valentine and Orson. Perhaps Bruegel did, after all, reveal to us his position on the battles raging around him.
Staging the Thirty Years’ War: Jesuit Drama and the Politics of Duke Maximilian I of Bavaria, 1600–1625 William Bradford Smith Duke Maximilian I of Bavaria (1598–1651) was one of the most dynamic and influential princes of his day. During his long reign Bavaria emerged as the leading Catholic state in the Empire, after Austria, and a European power in its own right. 1 Maximilian viewed Bavaria as the bulwark of Catholicism north of the Alps; consequently, the reform and revival of the Catholic Church in Germany was central to his political aims. The first decades of his reign were marked by a single-minded commitment to the Counter-Reformation. Both his domestic and foreign policy were organized around this single goal. 2 One of his early accomplishments was the foundation of the Catholic League in Germany, one of the critical events leading to the outbreak of the Thirty Years’ War. 3 Under Maximilian’s leadership, the League 1 Dieter Albrecht, Maximilian I von Bayern, 1573–1651 (Munich: Oldenbourg, 1998); idem, Die Auswärtige Politik Maximilians von Bayern, 1618–1635, Schriftenreihe der historischen Kommission bei der Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Bd. 6 (Göttingen: Vandenhoek and Ruprecht, 1962); and Roberty Bireley, Maximilian von Bayern, Adam Contzen S.J. und die Gegenreformation in Deutschland, 1624–1635, Schriftenreihe der historischen Kommission bei der Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Bd. 13 (Göttingen: Vandenhoek and Ruprecht, 1975). 2 Albrecht, Maximilian I, 392; idem, Auswärtige Politik, 31–32. 3 Albrecht, Maximilian I, 391ff; idem, Auswärtige Politik, 32–35; Franziska NeuerLandfried, Die katholische Liga. Gründung, Neugründung, und Organisation eines Sonderbundes, 1608–1620, Münchener historischen Studien, Abteilung Bayerische Geschichte, Bd. 9 (Kallmünz: M. Lassleben, 1968); Andrea Litzenberger, Kurfürst Johann Schweikard von Kronberg als Erzkanzler, Geschichtliche Landeskunder, Bd. 26 (Mainz: Franz Steiner, 1985); and Axel Gotthard, “Protestantische ‘Union’ und Katholische ‘Liga.’ Subsidäre Strukturelement oder Alternativentwürfe?” in Alternative zur Reichsverfassung in der Frühen Neuzeit? ed. Volker Press (Munich: Oldenbourg, 1995), 81–112.
Performance and Theatricality in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, ed. by Mark Cruse, ASMAR 41 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2018), pp. 155–175.
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brought the most prominent Catholic states of the Holy Roman Empire together into a military union. The league’s armies played a key role in defeating Protestant rebels in Bohemia and upper Austria between 1618 and 1621 and provided the bulk of Catholic military strength in the early phases of the war. Nevertheless, there were many princes, Catholics as well as Protestants, who did not trust Duke Maximilian. Some questioned his larger motives; since the thirteenth century, the house of Wittelsbach had been the main competitors with the house of Habsburg for the imperial throne. In the early sixteenth century, Bavaria provided a focal point for anti-Habsburg sentiment in the Empire. Even after the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, Catholic Bavaria continued in active opposition to Emperor Charles V. In the second half of the century, Dukes Albrecht V and Wilhelm V styled themselves as champions of “German Liberty” against the house of Habsburg. 4 At least at the outset, Maximilian appeared to be playing the same political game as his ancestors. The Catholic League was arguably directed not merely against heretics but also against the Habsburg emperor Rudolf II, whose hostility to Rome and Spain, and general receptivity to the broadest range of intellectual and religious ideas, made him suspect in the eyes of champions of Catholic renewal. 5 Maximilian had one powerful ally in his quest for Catholic solidarity: the Society of Jesus. Both at the court in Munich and at the ducal university in Ingolstadt, the Jesuits enjoyed lavish patronage. Serving as jurists, counselors, theologians, historians, poets, and dramatists, they helped to articulate the ideals of the Bavarian brand of Counter-Reformation for audiences at home and abroad. Some of the most notable Jesuits of the age served Maximilian and his father Wilhelm V—Jacob Gretser, Adam Contzen, and Martin Becan. 6 One of the means by which the dukes of Bavaria justified their ambitions and policy was the production of Jesuit dramas in Bavaria and areas within the sphere of influence of Ingolstadt and Munich. In the years leading up to the Thirty Years’ War, a series of dramas offered historical justifications for Maximilian’s policy as well as suggestive parallels between the religious conflicts of the early seventeenth century and those of the past. In their commentary on current events as well as their persuasive arguments in support of militant Catholicism, these dramatic productions presented high diplomacy on the stage, thereby setting the stage for the war to come.
4 Albrecht, Auswärtige Politik, 29–30; Alfred Kohler, Antihabsburgische Politik in der Epoche Karls V, Schriftenreihe der historischen Kommission bei der Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Bd. 19 (Göttingen: Vandenhoek and Ruprecht, 1982); and Heinrich Lutz, “Karl V. und Bayern,” Zeitschrift für bayerische Landesgeschichte 22 (1959): 13–41. 5 R.J.W. Evans, Rudolf II and his World (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983); idem, The Making of the Habsburg Monarchy 1550–1700 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1979), esp. chapters 1–3; and Albrecht, Maximilian I, 365ff. 6 6 Bireley, Maximilian von Bayern, 18ff; and Albrecht, Auswärtige Politik, 20–22.
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Jesuit drama in Germany emerged from the interplay between traditional theatrical forms such as the Singspiele, mystery plays, and Renaissance drama. 7 The University of Louvain was the first center of Jesuit drama. 8 The first Jesuit drama produced there was Lewin Brecht’s Euripus, first presented in 1549 and in Munich and Vienna the following year. 9 The play was a version of the Everyman story with a distinct confessional twist, identifying Lutheranism with concupiscence and the love of earthly things over grace and true piety. In Brecht’s retelling of the story, a traditional morality play was transformed into both a tragedy in the Senecan tradition and a religious polemic. The intensely polemical and political character of Euripus and subsequent Jesuit dramas derived from the thought of St. Ignatius Loyola. Loyola perceived the struggle for the revival of the Church within the context of the post-Reformation political world. The Peasants’ War, the violent Anabaptist “Kingdom” of Münster, the Schmalkaldic War in Germany, the iconoclastic riots, religious violence, and the specter of religious civil war in France and the Netherlands gave greater urgency to the idea of religious reform. Rather than as a war between God and the devil, as in Erasmus’ Enchiridion, Loyola perceived this conflict in terms of contemporary social and political tensions. Loyola’s focus was much more on the transformation of the visible Church and political society, not on a distant mythical future or on the recesses of the heart. 10 In the religious and political tensions of his age, Loyola perceived the hand of God executing His
7 Ruprecht Wimmer, Jesuitentheater. Didaktik und Fest, Abendland, N.F. Bd. 13 (Frankfurt: Vittorio Klostermann, 1982), 23–33; Johannes Müller, S.J., Das Jesuitendrama in den Ländern deutscher Zunge vom Anfang (1555) bis zum Hochbarock (1665), 2 vols., Schriften zur deutschen Literature, Bde. 7–8 (Augsburg: Benno Filser, 1930), 1:6–12; Jean-Marie Valentin, Les Jésuites et le théâtre (1554–1680). Contribution à l’ histoire culterelle du monde catholique dans le Saint-Empire romain germanique (Paris: Editions Desjonquères, 2001), 51–56; Elida Maria Szarota, Geschichte, Politik, und Gesellschaft im Drama des 17. Jahrhundert (Bern: Franke, 1976), 7–8; and Eugene Devlin, Jacob Gretser and the German Jesuit Drama in the Seventeenth Century (Lexington, KY: Lexington Literature Series, 1973), 15–18. 8 Franz Körndle, “Between State and Divine Service: Jesuits and Theatrical Music,” in The Jesuits II: Cultures, Sciences, and the Arts, 1540–1773, vol. 2, ed. John O’Malley (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2006), 479–511; and Alexander Fischer, “Per mia particolare devotione: Orlando di Lasso’s Lagrime di San Pietro and Catholic Spirituality in Counter-Reformation Munich,” Journal of the Royal Musical Association 132 (2007): 167–220. 9 Euripus: Tragoedia Christiana (Louvain: Johannes Waen, 1566); Wimmer, Jesuitentheater, 106–17; Müller, Jesuitendrama in den Ländern deutscher Zunge, 8–9, 12–17; and Szarota, Geschichte, 9. 10 Valentin, Jésuites et le théâtre, 10–17; and Giles Constable, “The Ideal of the Imitation of Christ,” in Constable, Three Studies in Medieval Religious and Social Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 143–248, esp. 218ff.
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plan. Far from being the scourge of God, religious war could be seen as something providential, offering opportunities for the extension of the faith hic et nunc. 11 Thanks to the lavish patronage of Duke Wilhelm V, Bavaria quickly emerged as the focal point for the development of the new drama in Germany. During the 1550s, Jesuit dramas were staged in Munich and the Bavarian university at Ingolstadt. 12 In the context of the Munich court, the plays were transformed into public spectacles intended to demonstrate very specific and timely political points. Performances were not simply a matter of entertainment but were perceived as constituting a form of collective meditation wherein the audience could participate in the history of redemption, as presented on the stage. 13 The public nature of the ceremony — and the interplay between words, images and space — created community. 14 In the Munich productions of the 1560s and 1570s, the public and political character of Jesuit drama took center stage. Spectacle and display, symbol and allegory came to predominate in the productions. The nineteenth-century Catholic scholar Johannes Janssen described these works as constituting an early modern counterpart to Wagner’s ideal of the Gesamtkunstwerk. 15 On account of the longstanding ties between the court in Munich and northern Italy, Jesuit dramatists in Bavaria had access to all of the latest forms of modern stagecraft. Elaborate machines, lighting effects, and music, as well as a range of special effects, became hallmarks of the Munich performances of the later sixteenth century. One of the first large-scale productions, the Tragedy of Sampson, was given in Munich in 1568 to celebrate the marriage of Duke Wilhelm V of Bavaria and Renata of Lorraine. 16 The play was produced as part of a series of entertainments held over five days, including balls, feasts, fireworks, tournaments, and mock battles. The main theme of the play was the danger of “shameful and blasphemous” marriages between individuals of different religions. The ostensibly biblical drama included parts for a 11 Wimmer, Jesuitentheater, 17; see also Dieter Albrecht, Die Deutsche Politik Papst Gregors XV. 1621–1623, Schriftenreiehe zur Bayerische Landesgeschichte, Bd. 53 (Munich: C.H. Beck, 1956), 4, 107–8; and Robert Bireley, The Jesuits and the Thirty Years’ War: Kings, Courts, and Confessors (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 60–62. 12 William McCabe, An Introduction to the Jesuit Theater (St. Louis: Institute for Jesuit Sources, 1983). Editions of German Jesuit dramas have been published in Elida Maria Szarota, Das Jesuitendrama im deutschen Sprachgebiet. Eine Periochen-Edition, 4 vols. (Munich: Wilhelm Fink, 1979–87). 13 Wimmer, Jesuitentheater, 20; and Valentin, Jésuites et le théâtre, 98–101. 14 Valentin, Jésuites et le théâtre, 28–29, 32–36. 15 Johannes Janssen, Geschichte des deutschen Volkes seit Ausgang des Mittelalters, vol. 7 (Freiburg im Breisgau: Herder, 1893), 120–22. 16 Kurtze gegründete Beschreibung, des Durchleuchtigsten Hochgebornnen Fürsten unnd Herrn, Herrn Wilhalmen, Pfaltzgrauen bey Rhein . . . Vnd derselben geliebsten Gemahel, der Durchleuchtigsten Hochgebornnen Fürstin, Frewlein Renate, gebornne Hertzogin in Lottringen und Paris, etc., gehalten Hochzeitlichen Ehren Fests (Munich: Adam Berg, 1568); Valentin, Jésuites et le théâtre, 237–44; Szarota, Geschichte, 8–9; and Müller, Jesuitendrama in den Ländern deutscher Zunge, 18–20.
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number of classical figures such as Hercules, nymphs, and satyrs. 17 More elaborate productions followed. The 1574 staging of Constantine, Victor over Maxentius included 185 performers on stage as well as 400 horsemen for the triumphal entry of Constantine into Rome. Perhaps the most lavish of all the Munich productions was Esther (1577), which required a cast of 1,700 players. 18 The “Triumph and Celebration in Honor of the Holy Archangel Michael” was produced in Munich in 1597 to celebrate the opening of the Jesuit college and the dedication of the new Michaelskirche. The play exemplifies the connection between religious polemic and apocalyptic imagery that highlighted contemporary conflicts and demonstrated the religious and political authority of the Bavarian dukes. Insofar as the production also coincided with the abdication of Wilhelm V and the accession of his son Maximilian, the play may reveal something of the young prince’s views on politics and religion at the start of his reign. 19 The play was based on the story of the war in heaven from the twelfth chapter of the Apocalypse of St. John, and its scale was enormous. In addition to St. John the Evangelist (the narrator) and the protagonist, St. Michael, there were two choirs representing the moral and spiritual virtues, a choir of the vices, choirs of angels and demons, and a host of figures from sacred history. The structure of the drama might be compared to a festive tournament, where forces representing the twin hierarchies, divine and demonic — the Militia Christi and the Militia Diaboli — faced one another in a series of battles over the course of history. The culminating battle pitted the army of the angels (supported by the papal legate leading the Catholic armies of Germany, France, Spain, and other foreign lands) against an army of demons, heretics, magicians, spirits, and Mamluks. Satan himself led the diabolical armies, assisted by pagan gods and by such ancient villains as Nero, Decius, Diocletian, Maxentius, Julian the Apostate, and, for good measure, Attila the Hun. The grand finale included a scene where 300 demons were cast into hell. 20 In the prologue of the play, St. John explains how the Church had been persecuted by the forces of “tyranny, heresy, [and] the criminal and blasphemous living of some Christians.” At the root of these threats to the Church was the rebellion of Satan against God. But God had an honorable and loyal ally, the Archangel Michael, who also just happened to be the guardian angel of the dukes of Bavaria. The first act, set in heaven, shows the dragon’s rebellion against God and his Kurtze gegründete Beschreibung, 54. Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Clm. 524; Valentin, Jésuites et le théâtre, 230–34; Szarota, Geschichte, 10–18; Devlin, Jacob Gretser, 25–28; and Körndle, “Between State and Divine Service,” 480–81. 19 Albrecht, Maximilian I, 125–43. 20 Triumph und Freudenfest, zu Ehren dem Heiligen Ertzengel Michael (Munich: 1597). Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, 4o Bavar. 2193, I, 1.57; Szarota, Geschichte, 117; Valentin, Jésuites et le théâtre, 259–68; Jean-Marie Valentin, Theatrum Catholicum (Nancy: Presses Universitaires de Nancy, 1990), 86–87; and Müller, Jesuitendrama in den Ländern deutscher Zunge, 20–23. 17
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expulsion from heaven. In the following act, Satan creates first the heathen gods, then sorcery and idol worship, apostasy, and finally he sends the spirit of heresy into the world. The third act focuses on the emergence of a series of heresiarchs. Constantine suppresses their false teachings, but later emperors continue to persecute the true Church, leading to a series of scenes illustrating the sufferings of various early Christian martyrs. In act four, we are brought to the end of time, when the two armies assemble and the commanders plan their strategy. The heretics win the first round, and the powers of darkness appear triumphant. In the fifth and final act, however, the forces of the Church defeat their opponents and overthrow the power of the dragon. The play of St. Michael presents in perhaps its most extreme form the Jesuit dramatic vision. There are no shades of gray here, only the sharpest possible dichotomy between good and evil. The latter is clearly identified with heresy and rebellion; the former with the Church Militant, represented in all its power and might. The link between the house of Wittelsbach and the Archangel Michael, the general of the heavenly armies, is inescapable. Meanwhile the nature of the spectacle reminded the audience that they were all part of a “great, powerful, and invincible church community” that no enemy, no heretics, no rebels could ever defeat. 21 The confessional implications of the play were clear, especially given the growing tensions between Catholic and Protestant princes in Germany. Here, however, the struggle between Catholic rulers and Protestant rebels was presented in terms of the cosmic struggle between God and the devil. In that sense, contemporary confessional politics took on a world-historical, if not cosmological, significance far beyond its immediate import. 22 The range of topics covered in the Jesuit dramas of the early seventeenth century was extensive, but one particular story was uniquely suited to the political aims of Maximilian I. The sainted emperor Henry II (1002–24) was the last member of the Ottonian dynasty and had been duke of Bavaria prior to his accession to the imperial throne. Because Henry was a Bavarian prince, his deeds and the legends surrounding his reign could easily be used to excuse Maximilian’s frequent interventions in the affairs of neighboring states. A series of plays on the life of Henry II, produced between 1611 and 1625, may be linked to Bavarian involvement in the prince-bishopric of Bamberg and the Wittelsbach principality of Pfalz-Neuburg. In Bamberg, Maximilian played a crucial role in attempts to impeach one bishop and secure the election of his successor. In both instances, the duke’s goal was to ensure Bamberg’s entry into the Catholic League. Maximilian also sought the conversion of Duke Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg to Catholicism and the institution Szarota, Geschichte, 118–19. See William Bradford Smith, Reformation and the German Territorial State: Upper Franconia 1300–1630 (Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2008), 146–48; and idem, “Friedrich Förner, the Catholic Reformation, and Witch Hunting in Bamberg,” Sixteenth Century Journal 36 (2005): 115–28. 21
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of the Counter-Reformation in his realm. The life of Henry II, at least as it was presented in the dramas, provided a clear precedent for Maximilian’s rather forceful intervention into the internal affairs of both territories. The overtly political nature of Jesuit drama is well represented in a series of plays on the life of Henry II. Henry II has the honor of being the only Holy Roman Emperor to have been made a saint. The central figure in young Henry’s biography was his tutor, St. Wolfgang, bishop of Regensburg. After the saint’s death, Henry came to pray at this tomb, begging the holy man to remain with him. As he stood up and turned around, Henry saw two words written on the wall: “Nach Sechs” [after six]. Henry believed that the old man had predicted the time of his death; consequently, the prince devoted his energy over the next six days, then the next six months, and finally the next six years, to dispensing alms. What followed, though, was not his death but something entirely different. Six years after St. Wolfgang delivered his prophetic message, the Holy Roman Emperor Otto III died unexpectedly, and Henry of Bavaria was called upon by the princes of the Empire and the pope to assume the imperial office. 23 As emperor, Henry was mostly remembered for his monastic reforms and the consolidation of the eastern frontiers of the Empire. 24 These two projects came together in his establishment of the diocese of Bamberg in 1007. The old castle of the defunct counts of Babenberg was converted into an imperial palace, connected to the new cathedral. The city was meant to serve as a new Rome north of the Alps and a staging area for military campaigns to the east. The foundation of the diocese has been seen as perhaps Henry’s greatest accomplishment, marking the final consolidation of the Slavic frontiers. 25 Henry married Kunigunde of Luxemburg; according to the hagiographic tradition, the two subsequently took a vow of perpetual chastity, resolving to live together as did the Virgin Mary and Joseph. 26 Nevertheless, the devil saw that charges of infidelity were brought against her. To prove her innocence, the empress walked on white-hot shovel blades and, by remaining unharmed, defended her virtue. The image of her trial and ordeal is central to the iconography of saints Henry and Kunigunde. The two were ultimately buried in the cathedral in Bamberg, though their skulls, set on bejeweled cushions, are on display in the crypt and regularly trotted out for processions.
23 M. Martin Hofmann, Annales Bambergenses (1584), reprinted in J.P. Ludewig, Scriptores Rerum Episcopatus Bambergensis (Frankfort/Leipzig: Ludewig, 1718), 33–36; and Jacob Gretser, Divi Bambergenses (Ingolstadt: Adam Sartorius, 1611), 6–7. 24 For the general outlines of his reign, see Josef Fleckenstein and Marie Luise Bulst, Begründung und Aufstieg des deutschen Reiches (Nördlingen: C.H. Beck’sche Buchdruckerei, 1973), 121–45; and Robert Holtzmann, Geschichte der sächsischen Kaiserzeit (Munich: Verlag Georg D.W. Callwey, 1967), 364–462. 25 Holtzmann, Geschichte der sächsischen Kaiserzeit, 408–11. 26 Gretser, Divi Bambergenses, 107–11.
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Although Henry had been venerated as a saint since the twelfth century, his cult was largely a local affair, limited to the diocese of Bamberg. In the early seventeenth century, however, there was a sudden surge of interest in his life and reign. This revival was largely due to the publication in 1611 of Jacob Gretser’s Divi Bambergenses. 27 Gretser’s history was based on a variety of sources, the most important being Martin Hofmann’s Annales Bambergenses, books 5–8 of the chronicle of Thietmar of Merseburg, and a life of the emperor provided to him by Friedrich Förner, at the time Vicar General of Bamberg. 28 Förner’s prominent role in providing Gretser with his sources and in representing Bamberg in the Catholic League suggests that the publication of the book was not a matter of disinterested scholarship. Rather, the composition of the book was closely linked to the desire to draw Bamberg closer into the alliance forged by Maximilian of Bavaria and Julius Echter of Würzburg. Shortly after the publication of Divi Bambergenses, the story was adapted for the stage. Between 1611 and 1625, there were at least five productions of Jesuit dramas on the life of the Emperor Henry, all of which follow Gretser’s text rather closely. 29 The first play was produced in Graz in 1611 to celebrate a visit by the new bishop of Bamberg, Johann Gottfried von Aschhausen. Gretser had dedicated his history to Johann Gottfried; it is possible that he had a hand in the production of the play. Productions followed at Ingolstadt (1613), Neuburg (1618), Lucerne (1624), and Bamberg (1625). Thereafter, it was nearly a century before the subject was again put on the stage. The staging of these works on the early history of Bamberg coincided with the formation of the Catholic League and the first stage of the Thirty Years’ War. The plays may be seen as both an argument for and vindication of the use of military force against the Protestant rebels in Bohemia, as well for the natural leadership of the dukes of Bavaria in the struggle to restore Catholic orthodoxy in central Europe. Gretser, along with the authors of the Ingolstadt and Neuburg productions, had close ties to the ducal court in Munich and to the principal Catholic university in Bavaria at Ingolstadt. All three, moreover, were champions of the more vigorous forms of Catholic renewal. 30 Observing the growing chaos in Bohemia, Gretser and his associates saw the life and career of Henry II as foreshadowing the looming crisis in the Empire. The plays and history all placed special emphasis on Henry’s Bavarian roots, suggesting through their narratives that the salvation of Germany from the scourge of Calvinism must necessarily be achieved by a coalition of Catholic princes led by Bavaria. See above, note 19. Gretser, Divi Bambergenses, 79–81, 129–31. 29 Other sources frequently used included Hofmann’s Annales Bambergenses; Matthäus Rader, Bavaria Sancta (Munich: Adam Berg, 1615), as well as the chronicles of Thietmar of Merseburg and Helmold of Bosau, in Caesar Baronius, Annales Ecclesiastici (Rome: Vatican, 1588); and Carolus Sigonius, Historiarum de Regno Italiae (Hanover: Wechseliani, 1613). 30 Bireley, Jesuits and the Thirty Years’ War. 27
Staging the Thirty Years’ War
Bamberg played a special role in Duke Maximilian’s larger political scheme. The prince-bishopric stood at a strategic crossroad, marking the intersection of the major roads linking Bohemia with the Rhineland, Saxony, and Bavaria. Since the 1540s the diocese had also been the frontline of the Counter-Reformation in Germany. In the 1590s Bishop Neithard von Thüngen, a protégé of Bishop Julius Echter of Würzburg, had instituted the more aggressive form of re-Catholicization practiced by such princes as Echter, the dukes of Bavaria, and Ferdinand of Syria, the future Emperor Ferdinand II. Resistance from the nobility had resulted in the election of a more moderate bishop, Johann Philipp von Gebsattel 1599. 31 Both Maximilian and Julius Echter were horrified at the choice. 32 At the Imperial Diet in 1603, Gebsattel was one of only two Catholic princes to openly oppose Maximilian. 33 Over the next several years, the bishop sided with Protestant princes and nobles. When Maximilian began the negotiations that would ultimately lead to the establishment of the Catholic League, Gebsattel’s continued resistance became intolerable. In September 1608, Maximilian and Echter began lobbying for the bishop’s impeachment. Maximilian claimed that “the state of the church in [Gebsattel’s] diocese was in ever steeper decline.” 34 The bishop’s “wickedness, shameful living and various scandals were notorious and known throughout the land.” 35 In October 1608, Maximilian began secret negotiations with the curia about replacing Gebsattel with a prelate more amenable to the Catholic cause. As it turned out, these efforts proved unnecessary. Gebsattel died in June 1609 before the impeachment proceedings could be brought to a close. Johann Gottfried von Aschhausen, Julius Echter’s vicar general, was elected bishop of Bamberg and immediately joined the new league instituted by Maximilian “for the defense of the Catholic Religion and the majesty of the emperor.” 36 Smith, Reformation, 133–41; and Ernst Schubert, “Gegenreformation in Franken,” Jahrbuch für fränkische Landesforschung 28 (1968): 278–307. 32 Briefe und Akten zur Geschichte des Dreissigjährigen Krieges in den Zeiten des vorwaltenden Einflusses der Wittelsbacher, vols. 4–7, ed. Felix Stieve, Karle Mayr, and Anton Chroust (Munich: B.G. Teubner, 1878–1909) [hereafter B. u. A.], 4:381, 394; and Smith, Reformation, 138. 33 Litzenburger, Kurfürst, 224, 230–32; and Neuer-Landfried, Die katholische Liga, 45. The other opponent was from Salzburg, which had been involved in conflicts with the dukes of Bavaria since Carolingian times. 34 B. u. A. 4:401–3; Smith, Reformation, 142–43; Lothar Bauer, “Die Kurie und Johann Philipp von Gebsattel, 1608/1609,” Quellen und Forschungen aus Italienische Archive und Bibliotheken 40 (1960): 89–115; and Anton Ruland, “Briefe des Bamberger Dompredigers und späteren Weihbischofs Friedrich Förner,” Berichte des historischen Vereins Bamberg 34 (1871): 147–201. 35 Lother Bauer, “Die Rolle Herzog Maximilian von Bayern bei der Wahle des Bamberger Fürstbischofs Johann Gottfried von Aschhausen 1609,” Berichte des historischen Vereins Bamberg 25 (1967): Appendix 1, 568–69. 36 B. u. A. 6:489, 491, 535–36, and 7:290; Albrecht, Maximilian I, 413–14; Litzenburger, Kurfürst, 231; and Neuer-Landfried, Die katholische Liga, 83–84. 31
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As a descendant of Henry II, Maximilian was convinced of his right to intervene in the affairs of the diocese of Bamberg. 37 In his instructions to his ambassador in Prague, Maximilian stated that: Insofar as this ancient imperial see was founded and richly endowed by the sainted emperor Henry, duke of Bavaria, and our predecessor of most blessed memory, consequently as one of his successors as duke in Bavaria, it is our duty to take pains to ensure that his foundation be maintained in an appropriate state and dignity. 38
The special relationship between Bamberg and Bavaria forms the central theme in Gretser’s history of the foundation of the diocese. Earlier historians of the diocese had of course noted Henry’s Bavarian origin but had made little of it; certainly they did not see the Bavarian dukes as having any special claims over the Franconian see. For Gretser, the links between Bamberg and Bavaria were of fundamental significance. In his dedicatory epistle, addressed to the newly elected bishop, Johann Gottfried von Aschhausen, Gretser describes the virtues of the principal patron saints of Bamberg: Henry, the preacher-king of Ecclesiastes; his blessed wife Kunigunde, the new Judith; and St. Otto, great priest of the temple of God. All three were from Bavaria and had done great works for the benefit of the Church and the respublica. But the greatness of Bavaria had more ancient roots. Defenders and extenders of the faith, the rulers of Bavaria had planted the seeds of orthodox religion among many alien peoples. Queen Theudelinda had converted the Lombards from Arianism to Catholicism; Duke Tassilo II had converted the Vandals; Tassilo III had converted the Slavs of Carinthia; and Louis the German had brought Christianity to the Hungarians, the Avars, the Bulgars, the Vlachs, and, most importantly, the Bohemians. Henry and Otto together had brought the rebellious Slavs and Hungarians back into the fold, the first through his campaigns, the second through his missions. The spread of Christianity to the peoples of the East was the crowning glory of the house of Bavaria. 39 Turning to the question of the “heterodoxy” that had sundered the Church in Germany and the East, Gretser asks why there were no Lutherans and no Calvinists in the days of Saints Henry, Kunigunde, and Otto. The reasons are clear: they had campaigned against all false doctrines through vigorous reform of the Church. They had founded or reformed monasteries, raised the level of the clergy, enforced clerical discipline, and suppressed dangerous sects. 40 Gretser presents the foundation of the diocese of Bamberg as the supreme expression of the reforming activities of these Bavarian saints.
Albrecht, Maximilian I, 392–93. Bauer, “Die Rolle,” Appendix 1, 568–69. 39 Gretser, Divi Bambergenses, 4. 40 Gretser, Divi Bambergenses, 4. 37
Staging the Thirty Years’ War
Gretser’s Divi Bambergenses, the main source for the subsequent dramatic treatments of the life of Henry II, was essentially a much-elaborated version of Duke Maximilian’s own claims over Bamberg. Gretser’s rendering of the story, however, placed the current state of the Empire much more clearly within the larger context of the sacred history of Bavaria. Gretser presented a direct parallel between the situation in the early seventeenth century and that in the early eleventh century. Rebellious Slavs and Magyars had abandoned true Christianity and now threatened the peace of the Empire and the Catholic faith. Then as now, it had fallen to the dukes of Bavaria to defend the Empire against the eastern foe and to restore true religion. Gretser glosses over Henry’s relationship to the Ottonians, presenting him rather as successor to the ancient Agilofinger and Carolingian princes. He thus casts Saint Henry as a legitimate heir of Charlemagne — a mangling of history on a par with Maximilian’s attempts to present himself as a direct descendant of Henry II. 41 The inclusion of the prophecy of Saint Wolfgang — that after six years Henry would “be raised to the dignity of Caesar through consecration by the apostolic see” — points to the imperial destiny of the house of Bavaria. 42 After assuming the imperial purple, Henry goes on to defeat the Slavs, restore the see of Merseburg, and then, with the assistance of the bishop of Würzburg and the pope, found the see of Bamberg. 43 The general structure of the narrative, covering the opening years of the eleventh century, parallels the foundation of the League and the election of Johann Gottfried von Aschhausen as bishop of Bamberg. In this light, the subsequent biography of Henry II is presented as prophetic of the future glory of Duke Maximilian, his legitimate successor. While following the general narrative presented in Gretser, the Jesuit dramas take the story yet further. Although little is known about the first production in Graz in 1611, Andreas Angermayr published a summary of the 1613 Ingolstadt performance, and of nearly all of the works produced by Catholic authors from Bamberg in the early seventeenth century. 44 The Ingolstadt production has been described as fairly objective, closely following the traditional accounts of Henry’s reign. 45 Nonetheless, the connections between Bamberg and Bavaria are trumpeted from the beginning of the play. The prologue discusses the colors of the Bavarian coat of arms: white “on account of the unimpeachable snow-white purity of the Catholic faith,” and blue, “the color of heaven, on account of concern and zeal for heavenly things.” Bavaria is thus a little piece of heaven, “whose sun is Henry, and whose moon is Kunigunde.” The play will reveal to all their faith and trust in God, Gretser, Divi Bambergenses, 4–6. Gretser, Divi Bambergenses, 7. 43 Gretser, Divi Bambergenses, 8–31. 44 Summarischer Innhalt der Comoedi, Von dem Leben deß H. Heinrichen, Hertzogen in Bayern vnd Römischen Keysers (Ingolstadt: Andreas Angermeyr, 1613); and Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, 4o Bavar. 2193, I, 4, reprinted in Szarota, Jesuitendrama, I.IV.3, 973–95. 45 Szarota, Geschichte, 123. 41
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their chastity, and their promotion of true worship. Their virtuous light will stream outward, illuminating all princes. 46 The play opens with Henry hearing of the death of Otto III; meanwhile, “Fotoques, king of Hell” calls his commanders and discusses how to overthrow the power of the new emperor. A demon encourages the conflict between Henry and the archbishop of Cologne. Shortly thereafter, Kunigunde adopts the two children of a beggar named Codrus and presents them to the emperor, who vows to raise them as his own children. In commemoration of this act of mercy, Henry and Kunigunde vow to establish a new church in Bamberg. The last thirteen scenes of the first act involve the trials accompanying the construction of the church. Fotoques orders his demons to do all in their power to prevent the stone masons from completing their work. Behemoth arrives and chases the masons away; later, he and his followers steal the masons’ tools. Kunigunde recognizes that the spirits troubling the stone masons are demonic in origin and calls upon God for aid. An angel appears and promises to obey the empress in all ways. With the angel’s aid the masons are able to return to their work. Following Behemoth’s failure, Fotoques recalls him and sends a new demon, Nembroth, to take charge of the operation. Despite these renewed efforts, however, the saintly Kunigunde, assisted by the angel, is able to blunt their assaults and ensure completion of the new church. The act ends with the demons complaining about their failures and identifying the empress as the cause of their misfortune. Act two opens with a war against the Slavs. Boleslav Chobri, along with two other Slavic princes, invades the Empire and lays waste to the churches. After some difficulty Henry defeats them, assisted by the angel, Saint George, Saint Adrian, and Saint Lawrence, who go before his army. The third act opens with Fotoques and other demons trying to come up with a plan to defeat Henry. Ultimately they decide to take over the mind of a soldier who then accuses Kunigunde of infidelity. At this point, Fotoques is convinced that he is on the brink of victory, but in the end Kunigunde successfully endures the trial of walking on white-hot shovel blades. Henry now travels to Italy, where he is crowned by the pope. The emperor then leads his forces against the Greek fortress of Troia in Apulia. The siege goes poorly, and Henry retreats into the woods in sorrow over his failure. Shortly thereafter, the children of the town come before him and ask for clemency. He agrees to spare them and the town and lifts the siege after reconciling himself with the duke of Troia. Many of those in his company are deeply angered by his action, but Henry maintains that the greatest of all virtues is compassion. The overarching theme of the play is Henry’s submission to the authority of the Church, which brings him victory over the pagan Slavs and ultimately leads to his recognition by all as the rightful emperor. The narrative follows Gretser’s Divi Bambergenses closely, compressing and, at times, distorting historical events even more than Gretser tends to do. Henry conducted three major campaigns against Summarischer Bericht (1613), A4v.
Staging the Thirty Years’ War
the Slavs (1004–05, 1010–13, 1015–18); the play presents only one, which bears little resemblance to any but perhaps the first campaign. In all three, the major enemy was the Polish ruler Boleslav Chobri. 47 Although the name is mentioned in the play, Poland is never explicitly identified as the enemy. Only the last of Henry’s three Italian campaigns is presented, and here the actual conduct of the war is strangely misrepresented. For the most part, the campaign, directed against the Byzantines in the south, was a stunning success with one fairly significant exception: the siege of Troia. The attack on this border fortress was the only real failure of Henry’s three Italian campaigns. 48 The playwright, however, chose to make it central to the action of the third act, depicting Henry’s defeat as, in fact, a triumph of mercy over his heretical foes. The staging of the Ingolstadt play of 1613 was fairly modest compared to the Munich spectacles of the later sixteenth century. The 1618 Neuburg production, composed by the Bavarian court historian Andreas Brunner, S.J., was a rather different matter. It appears to have been quite a spectacle, involving 117 named characters along with choruses of angels, demons, and pagan gods. 49 The production was linked to the introduction of the Counter-Reformation in the formerly Protestant principality of Pfalz-Neuburg. Duke Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg, a Lutheran, was a highly cultured prince and a patron of the arts, music, and theater. He collected the works of Van Dyck and Rubens and staged one of the first operatic performances north of the Alps. For some years, Maximilian I had been trying to woo Wolfgang Wilhelm into an alliance, in part to smooth over conflicts between Bavaria and the Lutheran states. In 1612 Wolfgang Wilhelm married Maximilian’s sister Magdelena. A year later, following a series of theological disputations at his court, Wolfgang Wilhelm converted to Catholicism. 50 Wolfgang Wilhelm’s decision was largely political, occasioned by his concern over ensuring the inheritance of the duchy of Cleves. 51 Regardless of Wolfgang Wilhelm’s motives, his conversion Holtzmann, Geschichte der sächsischen Kaiserzeit, 366–74, 380–95, 425–30; and Fleckenstein and Bulst, Begründung, 123–24, 127–28, 137–40. 48 Holtzmann, Geschichte der sächsischen Kaiserzeit, 440–53; and Fleckenstein and Bulst, Begründung, 139–40. 49 Synopsis, Oder Summarischer Inhalt der Comoedie von S. Heinrichen Hertzogen in Bayrn, und Römischen Keyser, auch der heyligen Kunegunda (Neuburg: Lorenz Danhauser, 1618); Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, 4o Bavar. 2196, I, 13; reprinted in Szarota, Jesuitendrama, I.IV.3, 997–1030; and Valentin, Jésuites et le théâtre, 421–23. 50 Albrecht, Maximilian I, 465–71. 51 Ludwig Ried, “Die Gegenreformation unter Wolfgang Wilhelm: Sinnig darf sechs Jahre länger lutherisch bleiben,” Neuburger Kollektaneenblatt 159 (2011): 137–52; Andrew Thomas, A House Divided: Wittelsbach Confessional Court Cultures in the Holy Roman Empire c. 1550–1650 (Leiden: Brill, 2010), 44–46; Arno Herzig, Der Zwang zum wahren Glauben (Göttingen: Vandenhoek and Ruprecht, 2000), 59–62; Albrecht, Maximilian I, 471–72; Wilhelm Hauser, “Pfalz-Neuburg und dessen Herzog Philipp Ludwig (1547–1614),” Jahrbuch des historischen Vereins 47
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marked a significant coup for the house of Bavaria, as yet another line of the house of Wittelsbach had returned to the true faith. Their victory was made complete in 1617 when Wolfgang Wilhelm voided an earlier agreement he had made to guarantee Lutherans free exercise of religion and initiated the restoration of Catholicism in his territories. More than any other staging, the Neuburg production presents the house of Wittelsbach as the legitimate defenders of the Empire and of the Catholic faith and highlights their imperial destiny. 52 The play opens with Henry receiving news of the death of Otto III, killed with a poisoned glove. Henry responds to the news by going into his private chapel and placing his lands under the protection of God and the Blessed Virgin Mary. The next scene reveals his nemesis, the demon Leviathan, who declares his feud against the new emperor and details his plans to destroy him. At the same time, Leviathan is concerned about how to bring his plot to fruition, knowing that the emperor enjoys the protection of the blessed Virgin. In the third scene Henry has a vision of Saint Wolfgang surrounded by angels, which reminds him of Wolfgang’s prophecy. After several scenes, including a ballet depicting the funeral of Otto III, Leviathan returns and finds an ally in Menippus, “a deserter and dishonorable student” who is trying to sell his starving children into prostitution. Meanwhile, the demon uses his power to sow dissension between Henry and Archbishop Heribert of Cologne. Henry is given over to powerful anger against the archbishop, but Saint Wolfgang appears again with the angels, chastising him “in a fatherly manner” and calling on him to do penance. Henry sees his error and ransoms the two children of Menippus, adopting them as his own. Heribert and Henry reconcile, and the act closes with a chorus of angels praising the emperor before God. In the second act Henry orders the construction of new churches in Bamberg and Neuburg, but again the demons appear. They burn the scaffolding and send fires into the quarries, frightening off the stone masons. Through the prayers of Empress Kunigunde, the demon is buried in a cleft in the stone, and the masons are able to return to their work. 53 Leviathan then turns to seducing Henry’s siblings, Bruno and Gisela, encouraging them to hinder the construction of the church in Bamberg. 54 In scene seven the Virgin Mary begs her son to intervene so that Henry may finish the construction of the churches. In the final scene, Bruno has been struck down by divine wrath and has lost the use of his limbs. The act closes with a chorus of demons celebrating their apparent victory. Act three finds Henry faced with a rebellion of the Slavs. Saint Lawrence mourns the destruction of his church in Merseburg. He and the angels look upon von Dillingen 79 (1977): 132–56; and idem, “Die Rekatholisierung Lauingens unter Pfalzgraf Ludwig Wilhelm,” Jahrbuch des historischen Vereins von Dillingen 81 (1979): 233–52. 52 B. u. A. 12:343, 489; Thomas, A House Divided, 186; and Valentin, Jésuites et le théâtre, 422–23. 53 Hofmann, Annales Bambergenses, 47. 54 Gretser, Divi Bambergenses, 31.
Staging the Thirty Years’ War
the sacred artwork and church furnishings “violated” by the Slavs in their rage. Meanwhile, Margrave Dietrich, responsible for the failure to maintain order on the frontier, resigns his office to become a wandering preacher. Henry now rouses the troops and, aided by Saints George, Lawrence, and Adrian, crushes the rebellion. 55 Leviathan mourns his slaughtered servants, the Slavs, and then drags them with him back into Hell. St. Michael appears and brings Henry along with the saints to the mountain of God, where his virtues are celebrated by the saints and angels in a rousing finale. The final two acts deal with the miracle of Saint Kunigunde. Having failed in his previous attempts to undermine Henry’s efforts to reform the church, Leviathan tries to convince the emperor that his wife has been unfaithful to him. His first effort fails; meanwhile, through her marriage to the king of Hungary, Gisela helps secure the conversion of the Magyars to Christianity. The displaced heathen gods of the Hungarians complain to Leviathan about Henry and Gisela, demanding vengeance. Despite his labors, however, Leviathan is overthrown. Kunigunde proves her innocence with the help of the angels; the church in Bamberg is completed; and the church of Merseburg is restored (much to the joy of Saint Lawrence). 56 At the end of the emperor’s life, Leviathan again appears, demanding Henry’s soul. Saint Lawrence throws a golden chalice on the scale, tipping it in Henry’s favor. 57 The play ends with a dance and chorus where the Virgin Mary appears and prophesies that, once again, “after six” the house of Bavaria will be glorified. In this case, though, it is “post sexcentos annos” — after 600 years — that this destiny will be revealed. The prediction is pregnant: Henry II consecrated the cathedral in Merseburg in 1021; on 8 November 1620 the armies of the Catholic League under Duke Maximilian crushed the Bohemian rebels at the battle of White Mountain. The victory of the Catholic League marked the beginning of a new era. In April 1621, only a few months after White Mountain, newly elected Pope Gregory XV (1621–23) described the “happy moment” as presenting a “grandissimi opportunità” for the Catholic cause. 58 Maximilian, meanwhile, saw other opportunities before him. In payment for his support against the Bohemian rebels, Emperor Ferdinand II rewarded Maximilian with the Upper Palatinate and also allowed him to occupy the province of Upper Austria. Ferdinand had also given Maximilian verbal assurances that once the rebellious count palatine, Friedrich V, had been defeated, the electoral dignity would be passed from the Palatinate to Bavaria. For some time Catholic princes had worried about the shift in power to the Protestant side in the College of Electors. Maximilian’s elevation to the Electorate was the culmination of more than a century of dynastic politics, but it was not achieved without Hofmann, Annales Bambergenses, 37. Gretser, Divi Bambergenses, 32–33; and Hofmann, Annales Bambergenses, 52–53, 55. 57 Gretser, Divi Bambergenses, 43–45. 58 Instructions to the papal nuncio in Vienna, Carlo Carafa, reprinted in Albrecht, Deutsche Politik, 106–7; and idem, Auswärtige Politik, 63–64. 55
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difficulty. A number of states within the Empire opposed the move. Moreover, there was another claimant ahead of Maximilian. Since 1615, Wolfgang Wilhelm of Pfalz-Neuburg had been recognized by the emperor as heir presumptive to the deposed Elector Friedrich V. At the same time, the papacy supported Maximilian in his bid. Pope Paul V (1605–21) had already given his blessing at the beginning of the war. Pope Gregory XV was particularly outspoken in support of Maximilian, arguing that the Electorate should go to a born Catholic who had proven his devotion to the Church, rather than a convert. The papal pronouncement certainly had some moral weight, but in the end it was the emperor’s debts to Maximilian that carried the day. In February 1623, Maximilian of Bavaria was formally invested with the title Elector. 59 Maximilian had entered the war with a concrete set of goals. He wished to demonstrate his leadership of the Catholic cause within the Empire, defeat the Bohemian rebels and their leader, the count palatine, expand his territories, and acquire the electoral dignity. By the spring of 1623 he had accomplished all he aimed at. Thereafter, “the overwhelmingly cautious conservative foundations of his policy” reasserted themselves. 60 He became more concerned with consolidating his gains than with engaging in further expansionist ventures. The war had been costly, and Maximilian was facing difficulties in his newly won Austrian possessions. 61 But not all agreed with this course of action. The papacy was convinced that the moment had come to strike a final blow for the Catholic cause. This view was shared by the Spanish chief minister, the count-duke of Olivares, who wished for the armies of the Catholic League to support Spain in the Netherlands. Maximilian was uninterested but found himself faced with divisions within his own circle of advisors. Wilhelm Jocher, the leading personality in Maximilian’s Privy Council, recommended working with France, with Cardinal Richelieu acting as mediator in peace negotiations in the Empire. A Franco-Bavarian alliance, moreover, would provide a useful counterweight to growing Spanish influence in the Empire. Jocher was vehemently opposed by Adam Contzen, Maximilian’s Jesuit confessor, who supported the view that the victory at White Mountain had been nothing short of providential. God had given Bavaria specifically the opportunity to complete the reform of the Church in Germany. It was the Elector’s duty to take full advantage of the opportunity God had given him. 62 In the same wise, the general of the Jesuit 59 Irmgard Bezzel, “Wolfgang Wilhelm von Pfalz-Neuburg und die pfälzische Kur,” Neuburger Kollektaneenblatt 112 (1959): 3–20; Albrecht, Maximilian I, 539–73; idem, Deutsche Politik, 4–9, 112–13, 113–35; idem, Auswärtige Politik, 49–52; and Bireley, Maximilian, 60. 60 Albrecht, Maximilian I, 579. 61 Albrecht, Maximilian I, 581–87. The Upper Austrian peasants would rise in rebellion against the Bavarian occupation in 1626. See Felix Stieve, Der oberösterreichische Bauernaufstand des Jahres 1626 (Munich: Rieger, 1891); and Hans Sturmberger, Adam Graf Herberstorff. Herrschaft und Freiheit im konfessionellen Zeitalter (Munich: Oldenbourg, 1976). 62 Bireley, Maximilian, 36–34, 67–72; and Albrecht, Auswärtige Politik, 122–31.
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Order, Muzio Vitelleschi, wrote that divine providence was driving the Catholics forward, “not by human counsels and strength but by miracles and prodigies.” 63 It was during this time of uncertainty that the story of Saint Henry II was again performed, first in Lucerne in 1624 and in Bamberg the following year. The new version, like earlier productions, followed Gretser’s narrative closely, but it was also heavily indebted to Matthäus Räder’s recently published ecclesiastical history of Bavaria. 64 The prophetic elements in Henry’s early biography are brought to the fore. In the 1624/25 version, Henry does not hear of Otto III’s death until halfway through the second act; the entirety of the first act is devoted to his youth and upbringing, his relationship to Saint Wolfgang, and his marriage to Kunigunde. The sections dealing with the wars against the Slavs are likewise greatly amplified. The Slavs are accused of the worst sorts of idolatry and of plotting the complete destruction of the Empire. Here the influence of Räder is most keenly felt. The Slavs are “barbarians,” a term that never appears in the accounts of Thietmar of Merseburg or Gretser, the two main sources for the history of Henry’s reign. For Räder, the enemy faced by Henry comprises the full panoply of eastern hordes: Bohemians, Sarmatians, Vandals, and Slavs. The principal setting of the action becomes Bohemia, where, following the history of Henry’s second Slavic campaign, the emperor is called to restore the proper succession in the kingdom, which is undermined by outside barbaric forces. 65 The parallels to the Thirty Years’ War are obvious. Whereas in previous productions the Slavic war comprises only a few scenes, the whole of the third act is devoted to the violence of the raging Slavs, beginning with their destruction of the church in Merseburg and culminating in scene nine with them making sacrifices to Mars, who appears in their midst in the form of a sable. Henry receives communion and, falling to his knees, calls upon Saints Lawrence, George, and Adrian to aid him and fill his soldiers with courage that they might “fight like men.” The Slavs attack with wild abandon, screaming like beasts; meanwhile, Henry has a vision of the Holy Martyrs advancing with the banner of the cross. An angel appears and strikes the barbarians blind. Henry captures their leaders and makes them vassals of the Empire. It seems clear that the Slavic enemy is intended to represent the Protestants of Bohemia. But note the difference: in Gretser’s work and the early Jesuit dramas, the Slavic difficulties are presented as a symptom of the collapse of order in the Empire prior to Henry’s accession. Otto’s fruitless campaigns against the eastern Slavs and the general collapse of the frontiers may be likened to Rudolf II’s mismanagement of the growing Calvinist threat in Bohemia and the Empire. The resistance to Bireley, Jesuits and the Thirty Years’ War, 61. Summarischer innhalt der Comoedi von dem Heyligen Keyser Henrico. Gehalten in dem Gymnasio der löblichen Statt Lucern, in dem Jahr Christi 1624 (Constanz: Leonhardt Strauben, 1624); Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, 4o Bavar. 2193, I, 20; reprinted in Szarota, Jesuitendrama, 1:1031–41. 65 Räder, Bavaria Sacra, fols. 105–106; and Szarota, Geschichte, 123–24. 63
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Henry’s candidature could be seen to parallel the reticence with which some princes greeted the accession of Emperor Ferdinand II. Meanwhile, just as the Slavs had rebelled in the eleventh century, taking advantage of the interregnum following the death of Otto III, now Bohemia had risen in rebellion during a similar succession crisis following the death of the Emperor Matthias. The early plays necessarily focus their attention on the sense that a religious war was unavoidable; the later plays emphasize the war itself and its effects. In both cases, the goal was to use Henry’s struggles against and eventual conquest of the Slavs to demonstrate the inevitability of the Catholic League’s victory over the Calvinist rebels in Bohemia: in this sense, Maximilian becomes Henry II. His call to the throne by God, the Church, and the nobles could be said to parallel Maximilian’s “response” to the call of the Catholic estates of the Empire. In the absence of a strong orthodox emperor, Maximilian assumed leadership. The dramas presented God’s decision to choose a prince from the house of Bavaria to lead his armies as perfectly natural. As in the past, when the Empire was faced with heterodox foes from the East, Bavaria would defend the Empire and the Church. The first set of plays focuses on the legitimacy of Bavaria’s claim to leadership; the second set is a celebration of their triumphs in the early years of the war. The 1624/25 productions differed from their predecessors in another way. If one compares the character of the devil in the plays, there is a stark contrast between the comic demons of the Ingolstadt and Neuburg productions and those which appear in the Lucerne and Bamberg plays. In the latter case, the image is far more apocalyptic, paralleling the image of Satan found in the Saint Michael play of 1597. Meanwhile the Slavic enemies are thoroughly demonized — it is difficult to see the depiction of their religious rites as anything other than a play on conventional images of the witches’ Sabbath. This change in representation follows a shift in Catholic political theory after the outbreak of the Thirty Years’ War. Martin Becan, confessor to Ferdinand II before 1624, had argued for a policy emphasizing limited cooperation with Protestants, in part because open warfare and persecution would be injurious to the innocent as much as, if not more than, to the guilty. 66 His successor William Lamormaini, along with his Bavarian counterpart Adam Contzen, argued rather for a more activist policy. The war was not merely a just war but also a holy one; more than that, it was a providential war. God had provided the moment and the opportunity to deal with the Protestant heresy once and for all. Such a view was profoundly apocalyptic and was supported by a line of historical argument developed by several Catholic authors, among them Adam Tanner of Bavaria and Friedrich Förner of Bamberg. Tanner identified the gradual development of heresy and rebellion in Germany. First came Zwingli, then the This argument is developed in two of Becan’s works: Questiones miscellenae de fide haereticis servanda (Mainz: Johannes Albinus, 1605); and Manuele Controversiam huius temporis (Würzburg: Johannes Volmar, 1623). See Bireley, Jesuits and the Thirty Years’ War, 37, 62–64. 66
Staging the Thirty Years’ War
Anabaptists of Münster, then the Schmalkaldic League and the rebellion of the German princes in the Empire. Before these there had been the Hussites; now there were the Calvinists — the “Husso-Luthero-Calvinist” heresy had long been afoot, stirring up rebellion, particularly in Germany and Bavaria. The current struggles were but part of a larger cosmic struggle; the war was thus conceived in apocalyptic terms rather than simply as a rebellion in one province of the Empire. 67 This same idea of a sequence of heresies culminating in an apocalyptic struggle between the forces of Catholicism and the demonic enemy appears in the works of Friedrich Förner. Like Tanner, Förner saw the Calvinist rebels as but the latest incarnation of an ancient threat that he traces back to the Waldensians and Albigensians. But he goes further, lumping Rosicrucians and witches into the mix. According to Förner, Calvinists, Rosicrucians, and witches were the agents of Satan: the first two constituted an external threat to Catholic states; the witches constituted an internal threat. The defeat of the Calvinists and their Rosicrucian allies only led to greater desperation on the devil’s part; hence one should expect an upsurge of witchcraft and sorcery after the Calvinist armies had been defeated. 68 Ultimately, the concept of providential war and the progressive demonization of the enemy argued for a more heroic conception of leadership, in which political legitimacy was linked to religious orthodoxy and the war against the enemies of orthodoxy had to be conducted without mercy. 69 The most extreme presentation of the concept of providential war, in other words, included active persecution as well as defense of the faith. The question remains, however, whether or not this was Maximilian’s perspective as well. It would appear not. The negotiations over the electoral dignity had revealed deep cleavages among the Catholic powers. Spain seems to have preferred the candidature of Wolfgang Wilhelm, in part because he was more willing to let the Spanish use the Palatinate as a base of operations against the Netherlands. Saxony and the Lutheran states were likewise opposed to Maximilian’s electoral ambitions and actually joined with Catholic Neuburg (and hence indirectly with Spain) against Munich and Vienna. 70 By 1624, as we have seen, Maximilian was beginning to 67 Adam Tanner, Amuletum Castrense: Das ist Wolbewehrer Hertzschildt, vnd Kriegsartzney, wider dieser Zeit schedliche vnd vergiffte Lufft- und Schmachreden (Ingolstadt: Eder/Angermeyr, 1621); and Valentin, Jésuites et le théâtre, 450–51. 68 Friedrich Förner, Notwehr vnd Ehrnrettung, Der Catholischen Religions, vnd etlich ihrer fürnembsten Glaubens Articuln, als vom Ablaß und Iubilaeo (Ingolstadt: Andrea Angermeyr, 1600); idem, Vom Ablaß und Jubeljar (Ingolstadt: Andrea Angermeyr, 1599); idem, Palma Triumphalis Miraculorum Ecclesiae Catholicae (Ingolstadt: Wilhelm Eder, 1620); and Smith, “Friedrich Förner,” 125–28. 69 Valentin, Jésuites et le théâtre, 398–99, 407–8, 449–50; and Bireley, Jesuits and the Thirty Years’ War, 59ff. 70 Bezzel, “Wolfgang Wilhelm,” 5ff.; and J.H. Elliott, The Count-Duke of Olivares: The Statesman in an Age of Decline (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1986), 82–83.
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distance himself from his former allies. Maximilian seems to have decided that the social and political costs of providential war were too great, and this carried over into more tolerant policies in the domestic sphere. Yet there was a very strong persecution party among the Jesuits at Ingolstadt and at court, and on the matter of witchcraft Maximilian’s resolve to avoid violence failed. As Wolfgang Behringer has argued, Bavaria’s “Iron Duke . . . revealed himself to be a paper tiger on the question of witchcraft.” 71 When pressed by his counselors, his answers were vague and unpredictable — arguably witch-hunting continued during his reign only because of his indecisiveness. 72 So while the Henry II plays mimic Maximilian’s own rhetoric and policy by trumpeting his imperial destiny, the increasing emphasis on providential war and the inclusion of occultist elements, particularly in the later plays, cannot be seen as a reflection of either his policy or opinions. In light of Maximilian’s ambivalence, it is possible, if not likely, that the dramas had two purposes. On the one hand, they provided an apologia for his policies by elaborating on his argument that as Henry II’s heir he had the authority to lead the cause of Catholic restoration in the Empire. In this venture, he found strong support from popes, in particular Paul V and Gregory XV. 73 It is noteworthy that in each place the plays were performed, it was announced that the local churches had become objects of the emperor’s reforming efforts. In other words, the plays were adapted to apply the argument originally developed for Bamberg to nearly any place over which Maximilian wished to extend his authority. At the same time, the authors might well have been trying to force Maximilian in the directions they wished him to go, in part by using the power of the stage to convince him and his council to heed their advice, or to convince others that their policy, including the persecution of witches in the fight against heresy, was in fact Maximilian’s. 74 Here one can see the danger inherent in the use of the stage as a vehicle for political propaganda: the propaganda took on a life of its own, far exceeding the original objectives that inspired the first plays on the life of Henry II. A classic church-founding saint, he was transformed into a crusader against heresy — a role that, while not historically inaccurate, was for his biographers neither the principal contribution of his reign nor the reason for his canonization. 75 What had begun as an attempt to Wolfgang Behringer, Witchcraft Persecution in Bavaria: Popular Magic, Religious Zealotry, and Reason of State in Early Modern Europe, trans. J.C. Grayson and David Lederer (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 235. 72 Behringer, Witchcraft Persecution, 236. 73 Albrecht, Deutsche Politik, 4:101–3; and idem, Auswärtige Politik, 63–64. 74 Jonathan Pearl has noted a similar dynamic at work in France in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries: The Crime of Crimes: Demonology and Politics in France, 1560–1620 (Waterloo, ON: Wilfred Laurier University Press, 1999). 75 Gretser devotes only a couple of pages of his book to the military campaigns; nearly all of the Vita Henrici is devoted to the foundation of Bamberg, his posthumous miracles, and his canonization. 71
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provide legitimacy to the claims of Bavaria to leadership over the Catholic League became an elaborate apology for the persecutions of witches and the theory of providential war, an idea that enjoyed a brief vogue among some members of the Jesuit Order but which, in the long run, was rejected by both Maximilian and Emperor Ferdinand II. 76 But this is not to say that the propaganda was not completely successful. In Bamberg, the men who arranged the production of the comedy of Henry II in 1625 would one year later embark on perhaps the largest single witch hunt of the seventeenth century.
See Robert Bireley, Religion and Politics in the Age of the Counterreformation: Ferdinand II, William Lamormaini, S. J., and the Formation of Imperial Policy (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1982). 76
Musical Performance in Lope de Vega’s L a discordia en los casados [Discord between Spouses] Ivy Howell Walters Performance, as scholars in various disciplines have posited, takes place when a process or behavior is highlighted as an event to observe and experience. Theater in early modern Spain, as elsewhere in Europe, often played with performance conventions by including a second performative level through the incorporation of music and dance intended both for a play’s public and internal audience. This additional performative layer manifested itself as a form of metatheater, foregrounding the presence of a performance within a performance and a text within a text. 1 Musical interventions in dramatic works are metatheatrical by nature, but they exhibit varying degrees of metatheatricality depending on how they are performed and framed. These intratextual performances have an outer performative frame, a theatrical event put on for an external audience of spectators, as well as an inner performative frame, a theatrical event put on for an internal audience of characters in the dramatic text. In some cases, a third self-referential level exists when the internal audience discusses and comments on the performance witnessed. To date, however, a number of scholars have minimized the significance of these purposefully employed musical interventions by generalizing their inclusion to a single function or by noting their presence and number. 2 By doing so, they may well 1 Lionel Abel first employed the term “metatheater” as a way to classify a specific type of theater: a separate dramatic form revealing the illusory nature of life based on the concepts that life is a dream and the world is a stage. He identified the genre as “theatrical plays about life seen as already theatricalized”: Metatheatre: A New View of Dramatic Form (New York: Hill and Wang, 1963), 60. 2 Although early modern dramas throughout Europe included musical interpolations, playwrights tended to indicate the interpolations’ placement without specifying the particular song or performer. Instead, they allowed theatrical companies to select the song according to
Performance and Theatricality in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, ed. by Mark Cruse, ASMAR 41 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2018), pp. 177–187.
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underestimate the integral role that musical performance plays within a dramatic piece as well as music’s metafictional character. This paper will examine musical performance in Lope de Vega’s La discordia en los casados (Discord between Spouses, 1611) to demonstrate that a single musical intercalation often exhibits multiple distinct and noteworthy functions. I use the term “musical performance” to refer to the employment of intradiegetic music: musical interventions in which characters sing or play instruments in front of or to other characters in the course of the dramatic action. Musical interpolations of this sort pertain to the category of integrated music as opposed to incidental music, as they directly affect the dramatic work and do not serve solely to accompany the action as moments of entertainment and frivolity. 3 This study forms part of a larger project that aims to reveal the numerous ways in which early modern playwrights employed intradiegetic music in Spanish theater by highlighting the relationships between text and performance, music and drama, and drama and reality. Because the majority of early modern musical scores were destroyed in the 1734 fire at the Spanish royal palace, 4 I explore musical performance in La discordia en los casados by examining various performative components incorporated in the written play text for each musical intervention, which include the lyrics, the surrounding dialogue, the dramatic context, the performing agent, the intended audience, the effect of the song on the dramatic action, and the intratextual commentary by the internal audience, thereby approaching each instance of musical performance as a text. In order to understand the numerous significant ways in which Lope employed music in La discordia en los casados, it is necessary to consider intratextual musical performances in early modern Spanish theater as a whole. Several key theoretical and critical studies on metatheater and the nature of performance view such internal performances as self-referential, as they create a doubling sensation
their repertoire or the abilities of their cast. Spanish dramatists, in contrast, carefully selected the songs so that they would enhance the plot, characterization, atmosphere, etc. As a result, the manuscripts and printed editions of Spanish dramas include the lyrics for the songs and other significant information regarding their interpretation. 3 María Asunción Flórez defines incidental music as that which does not directly affect the work and functions as an accessory or ornament. Playwrights conventionally utilized incidental music for scene changes or to entertain the spectators during pauses. Integrated music, which she considers the only authentic form of theatrical music, affects the theatrical text in terms of plot and characterization. See Música teatral en el Madrid de los Austrias durante el Siglo de Oro (Madrid: ICCMU, 2006), 108–9. 4 The Alcázar, the royal palace of the Habsburgs, housed an extensive and extravagant collection of cultural treasures, including artistic masterpieces by Titian and Velázquez, and one of the largest compilations of Spanish music in existence at that time. The fire, which occurred on Christmas Eve, destroyed not only the musical collection but also several hundred works of art. Louise Stein, Songs of Mortals, Dialogues of the Gods: Music and Theatre in Seventeenth-Century Spain (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 7.
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through the presence of two distinct layers of performance. In Drama, Metadrama and Perception, Richard Hornby organizes the metatheatrical experience of “seeing double” into five categories: the play within the play, the ceremony within the play, role playing within the role, literary and real-life reference, and self reference. 5 Although intradiegetic examples of musical performance in early modern Spanish theater correspond to all five of Hornby’s metadramatic categories, it merits note that musical interventions are by their very nature texts within a text. In fact, they are frequently composed of allusions to pre-existing texts, in the form of melodic, poetic, and thematic material. Early modern dramatists tended to integrate preexisting popular songs in their entirety or in fragments, to alter the text of a wellknown melody to better reflect the dramatic action, or to create an original musical piece reminiscent of extant songs. 6 While early modern Spanish playwrights consistently intercalated music into their dramatic texts, Lope de Vega is known as the playwright who cultivated and normalized the ways in which early modern authors consciously employed musical interventions in the comedia. 7 The use of music in this genre was guided by certain conventions, such as decorum, theatrical verisimilitude, and dramatic situation. 8 Nevertheless, dramatists of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries continued to utilize musical elements and intercalations in such integrated and essential manners “hasta convertirse en parte tan importante del espectáculo teatral como para que en la mentalidad de los españoles del Siglo de Oro, música y teatro estén tan estrechamente unidos que hagan imposible una representación en la que no se interprete música” [to the point that it became such an important part of the theatrical spectacle that for the mentality of Spaniards of the Golden Age, music and theater were so tightly interwoven that it made representations without musical performance impossible]. 9 In fact, early modern theatrical texts revealed songs, musicians, and singers to be as crucial for a successful theatrical performance as the presence of famous actors and actresses to play the principal roles. 10 Music forms an essential part of Lope de Vega’s comedias, including La discordia en los casados. As the musical allusion in the title suggests, the play treats marital discord — or, more specifically, the division, decomposition, destruction, and ruin Richard Hornby, Drama, Metadrama and Perception (Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 1986), 32. 6 Flórez asserts that dramatists often adapted songs “de tal forma que parecen haber sido escritas expresamente para ella pero aprovechando su poder evocador sobre el público, ya que posiblemente se cantarían con sus melodías tradicionales” [in such a way that they seem to have been written specifically for the play but taking advantage of its evocative power over the public, since they were possibly sung with their traditional melodies]: Música teatral, 21–22. 7 Stein, Songs of Mortals, 19. 8 Stein, Songs of Mortals, 5. 9 Flórez, Música teatral, 13. 10 Flórez, Música teatral, 359. 5
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of marriage. 11 As the play begins, the duchess Elena prepares to marry Albano, the king of Frisia. Otón, a trusted member of the duchess’s household, objects to the wedding because of his son’s love for her. Otón and his son, Pinabelo, scheme to assassinate the king on the day of the wedding but are unsuccessful in their efforts. The duchess marries the king; however, Otón promises to create “discordia en los casados” so that Pinabelo may ultimately marry his beloved. 12 Six years later, Otón finally puts his plan into motion and successfully sows mistrust and doubt in the royal couple by falsely informing the duchess of the king’s plans to kill her and by lying to the king about the duchess’s infidelity. The two separate, creating a feud between their households; however, both the king and his wife are wary of Otón’s and Pinabelo’s involvement in their division. The couple happily reunites after confirming and punishing the deceit of the father and son. Lope de Vega incorporated two major musical performances into this play, each of which corresponds to the celebration of the social ritual of marriage by a group of villagers and affirms the social position of the intended internal listener. The first instance of intradiegetic music occurs in the first act upon the arrival of the king to Elena’s duchy. Townspeople and musicians welcome the king to their village by offering song and dance in his honor. They strive to recognize him as well as celebrate his approaching nuptials with the duchess. The spectacle greatly impresses the king because the villagers perform a fiesta, a courtly production including music, dancing, intermediary works, and a primary play. Theatrical productions of this sort were primarily performed by the nobility at court in royal palaces or ornate halls as part of anniversary, birthday, holiday, and wedding celebrations for royal figures. 13 Although this performance follows courtly convention by celebrating both the arrival of the foreign sovereign and the wedding through the use of allegorical figures, it deviates from early modern theatrical practice due
11 Sebastián de Covarrubias Orozco defines “discordia,” emphasizing that “ha descompuesto y assolado las Monarquias, los Reynos, las Ciudades, los linages, las casas, los hermanos; empezando por los primeros que hubo en el mundo . . . donde entra ella es la perdición” [it has divided and devastated the Monarchies, the Reigns, the Cities, the lineages, the houses, the siblings; beginning with the first ones that existed in the world . . . where she (Discord) enters is ruin]: Tesoro de la lengua castellana o española (Madrid: Luís Sanchez, 1611), 273. 12 Lope de Vega, La discordia en los casados (Barcelona: Linkgua, 2007), 67, 1. 907. 13 Scholarship describes fiestas as global representations in which each aspect of the production — including the loa (introductory work), primary play, intermediary works, music, dancing, costuming, and stage design — serves to create a single elaborate spectacle to commemorate a royal event. Fiestas evolved throughout the seventeenth century from their earliest manifestations in the form of court-centered spectacles to full-scale professional productions. Primitive fiestas, which arose during the reign of Philip III after Queen Margaret’s death in 1611, did not yet include the involvement of theater professionals, as members of court wrote these dramatic works for performance at court by other courtiers. Melveena McKendrick, Theatre in Spain: 1490–1700 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1984), 236.
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to its presentation in the forest by a group of rustics. At first glance, the villagers’ performance serves to express their blessings for a long and peaceful marriage for the duchess and the king. However, through the allegorical figures of Envy, Jealousy, and Discord it also warns of the challenges that every wedded couple must overcome. The dialogue surrounding the inset production both prefaces and highlights the cautionary purpose of the musical intercalation when Roselo, one of the king’s companions, directly refers to it as an omen. The rustic spectacle, a play within a play, contains four distinct musical interventions, each of which helps to frame the sections of the allegorical drama. The musicians’ first musical intercalation functions as a loa, preparing the king for the performance he is about to behold. Salen los albores Del sole del día; huyen las estrellas; la noche se iba; esmalta las flores blanca argentería; lágrimas del alba como prata fina. Júntanse las aves en las fuentes fridas: canciones que cantan el rey las oía. [White rays emerge from the day’s sun; the stars flee; the night departs; glazing the flowers white silver filigree; tears of dawn like fine silver. The birds unite in the frigid fountains: songs that they sing the King heard.] 14
This song illustrates courtly and dramatic conventions by revealing the communion of nature with the king as part of the performers’ effort to celebrate and recognize the noble figure. The text tells of the fleeing stars and fading night sky that prepare for the dawn and morning dew; the birds come together to sing so that the king
Lope de Vega, La discordia, 25, ll. 418–29.
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may hear them and awaken from his slumber. The song directly refers to the king, informing him that the provincial musicians and villagers create the allegory and the musical interventions with him in mind. As a result, the rustic performers offer a dramatic and musical contribution befitting a royal figure in both content and form. The peasants’ musical offering reflects Stanley Godlovitch’s assertion regarding the essential relationship between performer and spectator and the intentional character of musical performance. The performer conceives of and executes the performative event with the intended audience in mind, directly involving the listenerspectator in the performance process as inspiration, beneficiary, and recipient. 15 By emphasizing the king as the cause for the performance’s formation and execution, the loa establishes the superiority of the royal listener over the provincial performers, thereby reinforcing the social hierarchy through musical performance. In this sense, the spectacle highlights the relationship between the king and the peasants, demonstrating the villagers’ acceptance of the king as the duchess’s husband and their new lord. The opening song also affirms its courtly and self-referential nature by explicitly acknowledging the noble entity it means to honor and praise through its expression. The rustic spectacle continues with the second musical interpolation, which is in the form of a dance accompanied by song. The provincial musicians’ intervention, which embodies the song of the birds, prepares the external audience for their concert by providing the theme for both the internal performance and the play. The text resonates with the play’s title, and it becomes apparent that the birds come together in song as part of an effort to awaken the king’s consciousness to the threat of marital discord: Si te casas, zagala del prado, con los ojos del alma le mira, porque a veces las buenas caras encubren la alevosía. [If you marry, country girl, look around you using the eyes of the soul, because sometimes good faces conceal treachery.] 16
The lyrics convey a tone of alarm as they urge the song’s subject, the country bride, to be cautious of hidden malice that may appear if she gets married. It advises her to use los ojos del alma, allowing her to judge and perceive those around her based on Stanley Godlovitch, Musical Performance: A Philosophical Study (New York: Routledge, 1998), 30. 16 Lope de Vega, La discordia, 25, ll.430–33. 15
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their inner motives instead of their buenas caras. The cautionary tone of the lyrics is particularly significant because of their placement in the drama. In the previous scene, unbeknownst to the king, Otón has told the duchess of his objections to her upcoming wedding and boldly suggests that she marry his son instead of the king. The song’s warning asserts that the duchess needs to be wary of Otón and his intentions and underscores his impending deceit and treachery. The third musical intercalation in the villagers’ performance for the king, which begins directly after the appearance of the figure of Peace, expresses a positive and hopeful tone by referring to the blessings that the young women in the village have bestowed upon the groom: Bendiciones le daban al novio las zagalas de su pueblo; él será, si le alcanzan todas, el más dichoso del suelo. [Blessings they gave to the groom the girls of her village; he will be, if all the blessings reach him, the happiest on Earth.] 17
The song informs the king of the immense happiness and fortune that await him in his marriage with the duchess if the villagers’ blessings achieve their purpose. Yet the hope expressed in the allegory’s musical intervention quickly dissipates as the figures of Envy, Jealousy, and Discord appear with the sole intention of disturbing Peace and, with it, marital harmony. Discord asserts, “hacer pienso / más daño que todos juntos” [I think I will cause more harm than all (i.e., Envy, Jealousy, Discord) together], emphasizing the detrimental effect she plans to have on the royal couple’s relationship. 18 Jealousy equates their current situation to that of Troy. However, Peace quickly refutes that allusion, declaring that the disorder that Discord, Envy, and Jealousy intend to provoke will not triumph over Elena, the duchess, like they affected Helen of Troy. 19 Yet, like the rulers of Troy, the duchess and the king will have to confront treachery concealed within their own court. Pinabelo and Otón, like the soldiers hiding inside the wooden horse, must lie in wait until the right moment to put their treasonous plan into motion. The juxtaposition of “Bendiciones le daban al novio” and the tragic Trojan legend calls attention to significant connections among the three dramatic levels, creating a sense of foreboding that heightens the cautionary tone of the performance.
Lope de Vega, La discordia, 25, ll. 442–45. Lope de Vega, La discordia, 26, ll. 459–60. 19 Lope de Vega, La discordia, 26, ll. 474–75. 17
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The last musical intervention included in the allegory, which concludes the villagers’ performance for the king, symbolically depicts the defeat of Discord, Envy, and Jealousy by Peace while conveying the secret to a long and happy marriage: Quien sujeta con su cordura 20 la Discordia, la Envidia y los Celos, gozará por largos años su dichoso casamiento. [Whoever restrains with their good sense Discord, Envy, and Jealousy, will enjoy for many years their happy marriage.] 21
The lyrics advise the king to use his intellect to counteract doubt and suspicion so that those who intend to harm his relationship cannot succeed, thereby allowing him to maintain peace and balance in his love life. It merits note that cordura, as Covarrubias’ definition indicates, refers not only to logic but also to a state of equilibrium and even temperament. His definition evokes a connection to the musical term “concord,” reinforcing cordura as the remedy to discord. The juxtaposition of the notion of balance with musical terminology brings to light the Neoplatonic assertion that music possesses the ability to restore equilibrium to the human soul. 22 In this sense, by highlighting the importance of cordura musically, the provincial musicians doubly augment their message regarding the significance of equilibrium in highly emotional situations. The allegorical performance by the townspeople and musicians foretells the imminent disruption of social harmony and marital unity and thereby casts a shadow over the royal couple’s impending wedding ceremony and marriage. Although the intratextual performance urges the king to be wary of Discord, Envy, and Jealousy and to always to use his intellect to defend his marriage, he is unable to absorb its message. Instead of viewing the performance as a cautionary tale, the king dismisses its importance because of his familiarity with the conventions of performances at court. Nonetheless, he enjoys the provincial presentation as a fully engaged noble spectator and offers his appreciation of the production by attempting to reward the author of the spectacle and by inviting the villagers to perform 20 Covarrubias defines cordura as “buen seso, reposo, mansedumbre” [good sense, peace, mildness]: Tesoro, 238. 21 Lope de Vega, La discordia, 26, ll. 482–85. 22 Plato asserts that humans were given the ability to hear audible sound “for the sake of harmony, which has motions akin to the orbits of our soul . . . as a heaven-sent ally in reducing to order and harmony any disharmony in the revolutions within us. Rhythm . . . was given us from the same heavenly source to help us in the same way”: Timaeus (London: Penguin Classics, 1974), 65.
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at court. The king’s direct commentary on the quality of the internal performance adds a third metadramatic layer by accentuating its performative nature. The first inset performance, with its songs, dances, and allegorical tale, thus allowed the early modern audience to recognize connections and textual relationships on several levels by highlighting the similarities between the dramatic action, the internal performance, and the references incorporated therein. The spectacle additionally served as a prefiguring device in that the song’s warning against treachery and its lesson on the need for good sense immediately precedes the revelation of Otón’s plan to assassinate the king. The second major instance of musical performance in La discordia en los casados takes place in the play’s third act as part of the wedding celebration of two villagers, Celia and Siralbo, who played the parts of Peace and Jealousy in the earlier intratextual performance. The musical intercalation, performed by the musicians and villagers, echoes the earlier allegorical spectacle through the references to envy and jealousy in the context of a social ritual. Like the allegory, the rustic wedding song serves to honor the bride and groom by celebrating their union and by offering blessings of happiness while simultaneously warning of the jealousy that will endanger their marriage over time. In addition, a conversation between Pinabelo and Otón that includes repeated allusions to Troy immediately precedes the wedding song, reminding the external audience of the intertext incorporated in the allegory and of the role of the father and son in creating marital discord between the duchess and the king. The parallels between the two musical performances are significant, yet their differences are crucial in terms of the expression of social standing and power. The song for the rustic wedding emanates from popular tradition, revealing content and behavior suitable for such an event: Estad muy alegre, Dichosa y bella novia En tanto que coméis Los picos de la rosca. Huya toda tristeza De vuestro rostro agora, Que aún agora no es tiempo Para que estéis celosa. Poneos vuestras galas, Que hacéis mis envidiosas, En tanto que coméis Los picos de la rosca. [Be very happy, fortunate and beautiful bride, provided that you eat the wedding bread roll.
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All sadness must flee Now from your face, It isn’t yet time For you to be jealous. Put on your finery, Make others envious, provided that you eat the wedding bread roll.] 23
In addition to their contrasting registers, the musical interventions celebrating the nobles’ and the commoners’ weddings aptly reflect contrasting perspectives regarding the challenges to and attitudes about maintaining marital peace. Although the king failed to recognize the significance of the allegory and disregarded its crucial message, focusing instead on his enjoyment of the performance, Celia, the provincial bride, obsesses over the possibility of marital discord. After hearing her wedding song, instead of happily enjoying the celebration of her union with Siralbo, Celia openly communicates to her new husband her unease about the duchess’s situation and seeks reassurance that they will not experience the same turmoil. Sensing her distress, the musicians offer to sing to distract her from her concerns, repeating the first four verses of the newlyweds’ song. The lyrics, however, parodically approach the issue: instead of providing words of comfort or telling her the secret to defeating marital challenges, as they did in the case of the king, the musicians encourage her to eat picos de la rosca, a type of round bread roll traditionally eaten during Easter and Epiphany as a sign of good luck. The reference to the bread reflects the symbolic connections to the rites of the Eucharist and to fertility. Nevertheless, by responding to Celia’s marital concerns in this light-hearted manner, the song urges her to not worry about moral abstractions that are above her comprehension and station and instead focus solely on the wedding banquet. The bride’s explicit worries regarding potential discord in her marriage, juxtaposed with the king’s initial disregard of caution, amplify the parodic and metatheatrical character of this musical text. Although La discordia en los casados is one of Lope de Vega’s lesser-known comedias, music plays a significant role in the drama and offers a vision of multiple representative functions of musical performance in early modern Spanish theater. He employed musical elements and intercalations to treat marriage and discord on multiple levels, including the explicit musical allusion in the title of the play. The musical interventions, which participate in the execution and performance of social rituals, honor the sanctity of marriage and attempt to prevent marital discord while simultaneously suggesting the difficulties of married life. They parallel crucial aspects of the plot as part of the villagers’ warning against the potential disruption of matrimonial peace, thereby anticipating the devious plan of Otón and Lope de Vega, La discordia, 109–12, ll. 3.2338–49.
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Pinabelo. The musical performances also call attention to the distinct social registers of the nobility and the townspeople, reinforcing social and dramatic constructs by employing suitable content, conventions, form, and style. Furthermore, the two distinct instances of musical performance in La discordia en los casados demonstrate that Lope de Vega consciously incorporated intradiegetic music as a tool to underscore crucial social differences in early modern Spain, thereby reflecting the social diversity of the audience that frequented the corrales de comedias.
Drama in the Service of Orthodoxy: Dimitrii of Rostov’s Theatrical Investigation of the Schism J. Eugene Clay During the waning years of the reign of Tsar Alexis Mikhailovich Romanov (r. 1645–76), Muscovy witnessed both the birth of secular theater and a bitter religious schism that provoked a flood of polemical literature, as Orthodox clerics sought to demolish their “heretical” opponents. These two cultural processes were not independent of one another but indicated the beginnings of an important shift in the understanding of the use and place of drama among the Russian Orthodox elite and the Muscovite ruling class: drama was no longer to be confined to the sacred spaces of religious ritual and liturgy but was to become an instrument of education and propaganda in an increasingly secular public sphere. The Orthodox liturgy is a kind of sacred theater, a ritual performance in sacred space and time; drawing on a long history of patristic condemnation of secular theater, pious Russian religious reformers in the mid-seventeenth century tried to ensure the Church’s monopoly over all such performances by banning secular theater altogether. In the 1640s, Alexis prohibited not only the ribald shows of Russia’s itinerant minstrels (skomorokhi) but even the more serious liturgical dramas inherited from Byzantium. But in 1652, when Patriarch Nikon (Nikita Minin, 1605–81) of Moscow (r. 1652–58) insisted on making Russian practice conform to that of the Greeks and Ukrainians, he provoked a major schism that paved the way for a cultural secularization, including the birth of Russian theater. One of the figures at the forefront of both theater and religious polemic was Dimitrii (Daniil Savvich Tuptalo, 1651–1709), a Ukrainian monk and prolific author who ended his life as Metropolitan of Rostov (r. 1702–09) under Peter the Great (r. 1682–1725). Dimitrii, who wrote both school plays (influenced by the Jesuit approach to drama) and important polemical works against dissent, used his knowledge of the theater to help construct effective rhetorical attacks against the Performance and Theatricality in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, ed. by Mark Cruse, ASMAR 41 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2018), pp. 189–207.
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mass religious revolt that his church faced. As a dramatist, Dimitrii pictured the schismatic leaders as actors — hypocrites — who performed their good works publicly simply to hide the reality of their evil lives. He portrayed their religious rituals as a mere theatrical performance, designed once again to fool those who observed or participated in them. With his lively dialogues, Dimitrii created memorable vignettes that preachers and missionaries could use to warn their parishioners about the dangers of heterodoxy.
The Seventeenth-Century Schism and the Meanings of Ritual Performance In the mid-seventeenth century, the Russian Orthodox Church suffered a major schism that created the first mass movement of religious dissent in Russian history. The “Old Believers” (starovertsy) or Old Ritualists (staroobriadtsy), as the dissenters came to be called, objected to the liturgical and ecclesiastical reforms of Patriarch Nikon of Moscow, who sought to make Russian practice conform to that of the Greeks. Although many of the reforms involved apparently minor changes — the direction of church processions, the position of one’s fingers when making the sign of the cross, the number of loaves of bread on the altar — the reforms themselves were predicated on the superiority and primacy of the Greek Church. This angered Old Believers such as Archpriest Avvakum (1620/21–82), who insisted on the superiority of Russian Orthodoxy: Moscow was, after all, the only Orthodox nation that had an unbroken line of Orthodox rulers stretching back to the conversion of Rus’ in 988. For Avvakum and his followers, Muscovy, with its untarnished Orthodoxy, had to be the standard for the rest of Christianity — not the other way around. 1
1 A long and unresolved debate about the nature and significance of the schism continues to this day. Official Church historians, such as Metropolitan Makarii (Bulgakov), Nikolai Subbotin, and Petr Smirnov, often blamed the schism on the ignorance of the Old Believers and argued that proper education would cure this spiritual malady. More radical nineteenth-century students of the schism, including Afanasii Shchapov and Aleksandr Prugavin, believed that it expressed deep popular discontent. During the Soviet period, historians generally interpreted the schism as a form of class struggle against the “feudal” autocracy. While most cultural historians, such as Michael Cherniavsky, Nikolai Pokrovskii, and Natal’ia Gurianova, have insisted that the schism represented not only a religious but also a cultural split between the Muscovite elite and their subjects, the revisionist Georg Michels has argued that the schism was relatively small in the seventeenth century and that the Old Belief became a mass movement only in the later years of the reign of Peter the Great. See Georg Michels, At War with the Church: Religious Dissent in Seventeenth-Century Russia (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999). Robert O. Crummey provides an excellent discussion of these questions in The Old Believers and the World of Antichrist: The Vyg Community and the Russian State, 1694–1855 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1970) and Old Believers in a Changing World (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2011).
Drama in the Service of Orthodoxy
Avvakum also argued that the traditional Russian two-fingered sign of the cross was a re-enactment of the Christian story of Incarnation, Ascension, and Judgment. By changing the shape of the hand into a three-fingered cross, Nikon had changed the meaning of the performance as surely as if he had changed the words of the Nicene Creed. In one of his letters, Avvakum elaborated upon his interpretation of the sign of the cross. The thumb had to be joined with the ring and little fingers. The extended index and middle fingers represented the two natures of Christ, divine and human, confessed by the fathers of the Fourth Ecumenical Council, held in Chalcedon in 451. The index finger, which represented Christ’s human nature, was held erect, while the long middle finger, representing the divine nature, had to be slightly bent, a token of God’s humility as he became human in the Incarnation. With the fingers of the right hand properly placed, the Orthodox Christian moved his hand from forehead to abdomen, signifying Christ’s descent from heaven into the womb of the Virgin. The believer then lifted his hand to his right shoulder, even as Christ ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father. Finally, the Orthodox Christian brought his hand from his right shoulder to his left, even as Christ, at the Last Judgment, will place those whom he condemns to hell on his left. 2 Through the simple act of making the sign of the cross in the proper way, the Orthodox Christian proclaimed the gospel and re-enacted the central events of salvation history, at least by Avvakum’s reckoning. As the ritual theorist Catherine Bell puts it, the sign of the cross is an orchestrated event that “constructs people’s perceptions and interpretations” and helps to create the “holistic ordering . . . required for people to act in meaningful and effective ways.” 3 But by changing the position of the fingers — by ordering his spiritual children to join the thumb to the index and middle fingers — Nikon destroyed this carefully constructed testimony to the Christian faith and to Christ’s two natures. Worse yet, as Avvakum’s companion Avraamii pointed out, Nikon’s three-fingered cross was deeply heretical, for Nikon had placed the Trinity (represented by the joined thumb, index, and middle fingers) on the cross instead of the Son of God alone. 4 For the Old Believers, Nikon was guilty of the heresy of Patripassianism, in which the Father suffers on the cross with the Son. By changing the cross, Nikon and his followers confessed a heresy through their ritual actions: “By making the sign of the cross with the Trinity, they attribute the Passion to the Trice-Holy Trinity in their error . . . It was not the Trinity that suffered on the cross, but the Son of God alone of the Trinity; he suffered
Avvakum, “O slozhenii perst istinnogo krestnogo znameniia,” Materialy dlia istorii raskola za pervoe vremia ego sushchestvovaniia, ed. Nikolai Ivanovich Subbotin, 9 vols. (Moscow: Tipografiia T. Ris, 1875–94), 8:70–73. 3 Catherine Bell, “Performance,” in Critical Terms for Religious Studies, ed. Mark C. Taylor (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998), 205–24, at 208. 4 Crummey, Old Believers in a Changing World, 81. 2
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in his flesh, but not in his divinity, for his divinity remains impassible.” 5 Through the ritual performance of making the reformed sign of the cross, Nikon crucified the Trinity — at least according to Avraamii. For the Old Believers, Muscovy alone had kept the Orthodox faith and its ritual performance pure and undefiled. In his confrontation with the foreign patriarchs at the Moscow Council of 1666–67, Avvakum openly declared the superiority of the Russian Christian tradition over all others. In this passage, taken from his autobiography, Avvakum referred to the traditional Russian sign of the cross as a fivefingered cross, since the position of each finger had been carefully prescribed by the saints of the Church. Depicting himself as a martyr, Avvakum boldly defended Russian ritual as representing the true tradition of learned Orthodox monks: Ecumenical teachers! Rome fell away long ago and lies prostrate, and the Poles fell in like ruin with her, being to the end the enemies of the Christian. And your Orthodoxy has become spotted and impure from the violence of the Turk Mahmet. One should not wonder at you, for you have become impotent. From now on, come to us to learn. By the grace of God, we have autocracy; before the apostate Nikon, in our Russia under our pious princes and tsars, the Orthodox faith was pure and undefiled, and there was no rebellion in the church. That wolf Nikon and the devil ordained that men should cross themselves with three fingers, but our first shepherds made the sign of the cross and blessed men as of old with five fingers, according to the tradition of our holy fathers. 6
Unsurprisingly, Avvakum’s provocative and insulting speech failed to win over the visiting patriarchs, and the council ordered the archpriest to be defrocked and imprisoned in the far north. In 1682 he was executed for blasphemy by being burned to death in a cage. Despite this repression, Avvakum’s movement survived
Avraamii, “Kniga glagolemaia chelobitnaia,” Materialy dlia istorii raskola, 7:368. “Vselen”stii uchitelie! Rim davno upal i lezhit nevsklonno, i liakhi s nim zhe pogibli do kontsa vragi bysha khristiianom. A i u vas pravoslavie pestro stalo ot nasiliia tur”skago Magmeta, — da i divit’ na vas nel’zia: nemoshchni este stali. I vpred’ priezzhaite k nam uchittsa: u nas, bozhieiu blagodatiiu, samoder”zhstvo. Do Nikona otstupnika v nashei Rosii u blagochestivykh kniazei i tsarei vse bylo pravoslavie chisto i neporochno, i tserkov’ nemiatezhna. Nikon-vol”k so d’iavolom predali trema per”sty krestittsa, a pervye nashi pastyri, iako zhe sami piat’iu per”sty krestilis’, takozhe piat’iu persty i blagoslovliali po predaniiu sviatykh otets nashikh”: Zhizneopisanie Avvakuma i Epifaniia: Issledovaniia i teksty A.N. Robinsona (Moscow: Iz-dvo A.N. SSSR, 1963), 167–68; cf. Zhitie protopopa Avvakuma im samim napisannoe i drugie ego sochineniia, ed. N.K. Gudzii (Moscow: Akademiia nauk, 1934), 129–30. An English translation is available in “Life of Archpriest Avvakum by Himself,” in Medieval Russia’s Epics, Chronicles, and Tales, ed. and trans. Serge Zenkovsky (New York: Meridian, 1974), 441. 5 6
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and spread; Old Believers formed important communities in Poland, southern Russia, the Baltic, the far north, Siberia, and the Urals. Twenty years after Avvakum’s execution, when the Ukrainian monk Dimitrii was appointed to serve as Metropolitan of Rostov, one of the oldest and wealthiest sees in Muscovy, the new bishop was deeply alarmed by the large number of dissenters in his diocese and the evident weakness of the clergy. During the nearly eight years that he served as the bishop of Rostov, Dimitrii used all of his considerable literary talents to train his priests, educate his flock, and polemicize against the schismatics, whom he saw as dangerous, evil charlatans. In his effort to reach his parishioners, Dimitrii eschewed the stilted standard literary language of Old Church Slavonic, a form of Old Bulgarian, and turned instead to the vernacular. Using the commonly spoken language, he preached sermons, produced plays, and distributed tracts. In the last year of his life, Dimitrii also composed a massive volume attacking the Old Believers that drew on his dramaturgical abilities. Convinced that the schism was caused by ignorance, Dimitrii engaged in a tireless campaign of education. Included in this campaign was the preparation of a large catalogue of heresies, An Investigation of the Schismatic Faith in Brynsk, about Their Teaching, Their Deeds, and an Explanation that Their Faith Is Not True, Their Teaching Is Harmful to the Soul, and Their Deeds Are Not Pleasing to God. 7 Peppering his account of the evil deeds of the “schismatics” with pithy anecdotes and lively dialogue, Dimitrii employed his skills as a playwright to provide the priests and missionaries of his diocese with a useful tool for confronting religious dissent. In these respects, Dimitrii was helping to chart a new course for Russian literature and drama.
The Orthodox Church and the Theater The Orthodox Church has had a complicated relationship to the dramatic arts. On the one hand, the Church long was actively hostile toward the theater and managed to ban it completely in Byzantium by the end of the seventh century. 8 John Chrysostom (ca. 347–407), archbishop of Constantinople (r. 398–404) and the traditional author of the most widely celebrated version of the Orthodox liturgy, condemned the secular theater as immoral: For when you go up to the theater, and sit feasting your eyes with the naked limbs of women, for the time indeed you are delighted, but afterwards, you 7 Dimitrii (Daniil Savvich Tuptalo) of Rostov, Rozysk o raskol’nicheskoi brynskoi vere, o uchenii ikh, o delakh ikh, i iziavlenie iako vera ikh neprava, uchenie ikh dushevredno, i dela ikh ne Bogougodna, 4th ed. (Moscow: Sinodal’naia tipografiia, 1847). 8 The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), 3:2031, q.v. “Theater.”
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have nourished thence a mighty fever. When you see women exhibited as it were in the form of their bodies and spectacles and songs containing nothing else but irregular loves: such a woman, it is said, loved such a man, and not obtaining him, hanged herself; and unlawful loves having mothers for their object; when you receive these things by hearing also, and through women, and through figures, yea, and even through old men (for many there put masks upon their faces and play the parts of women), tell me, how will you be able to continue chaste afterwards, these narratives, these spectacles, these songs occupying your soul, and dreams of this sort henceforth succeeding? For it is the nature of the soul for the most part to raise visions of such things, as it wishes for and desires in the daytime. Therefore when you there both see base actions, and hear baser words, and receive indeed the wounds but do not apply the remedies, how will not the sore naturally be increased? How will not the disease become more intense; and in a much greater degree than in our bodies? 9
“When you spend whole days upon the devil’s pageants, do you think that you are doing nothing wrong?” he thundered in one of his sermons on the Gospel of John. 10 In another homily, the golden-tongued patriarch declared, “He who converses of theaters and actors does not benefit the soul, but inflames it more, and renders it more careless.” 11 Instead, John advised his parishioners to think about divine judgment and the eternal fires of hell. But at the same time, the Orthodox liturgy used dramatic techniques to proclaim the Christian gospel to the faithful. 12 The very structure of an Orthodox church, where the iconostasis and its curtain separate the raised altar from the congregation, provided important dramatic possibilities. As in a theater, Orthodox clerics had “their exits and their entrances”: the liturgy includes the Small Entrance, the procession in which the clerics carry the gospel from behind the altar into the nave of the church, and the Great Entrance, in which the communion elements Homily 5 on 1 Thessalonians 4:1–3 in A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, ed. Philip Schaff, first series, 14 vols. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1956), 13:347 [hereafter NPNF]. 10 Homily 58 on John 9:17–18, NPNF, 14:209. 11 Homily 2 on II Thess. 1:1–2, NPNF, 13:383. 12 There is a vast literature on the relationship between the Christian Church and the theater: P.E. Kretzmann, The Liturgical Element in the Earliest Forms of the Medieval Drama with Special Reference to the English and German Plays (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1916); J.W. Harris, The Medieval Theatre in Context (New York: Routledge, 1992); O.B. Hardison, Christian Rite and Christian Drama in the Middle Ages (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1965); Christine C. Schnusenberg, The Relationship between the Church and the Theatre Exemplified by Selected Writings of the Church Fathers and by Liturgical Texts until Amalarius of Metz, 775–852 a.d. (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1988); Karl Young, The Drama of the Medieval Church (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1933); and E.K. Chambers, The Medieval Stage, 2 vols. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1903). 9
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are ceremoniously transferred from the prothesis altar to the main altar. The Orthodox liturgy also dramatically and symbolically re-enacted Christ’s life, Passion, and Resurrection. According to the Primary Chronicle, the aesthetic element of the Orthodox liturgy proved to be an important reason for the conversion of Grand Prince Vladimir in 988. After traveling to Constantinople and visiting the Church of Holy Wisdom, Vladimir’s ambassadors urged their ruler to accept Christianity: The Greeks led us to edifices where they worship their God, and we knew not whether we were in heaven or on earth. For on earth there is no such splendour or such beauty, and we are at a loss how to describe it. We know only that God dwells there among men and that their service is fairer than the ceremonies of other nations. 13
Moreover, by the tenth century, the Byzantine theater had partially recovered from its ecclesiastical restrictions. When the Grand Duchess Ol’ga of Kiev visited Constantinople in 957, she enjoyed a theatrical spectacle, complete with a choral performance and a troupe of musicians, dancers, and acrobats. 14 By the fourteenth century, the Church had become the locus of liturgical dramas such as The Three Children in the Furnace. The play, performed on the Sunday before Christmas, re-enacted the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, companions of the prophet Daniel, who chose to be cast into a burning, fiery furnace rather than commit idolatry (Daniel 3). Miraculously rescued by an angel — represented in the liturgical drama by an icon — the three children dramatically demonstrated God’s saving power. 15 This Byzantine tradition was brought to Russia, and the Furnace Play was regularly performed as a liturgical drama in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. 13 Povest’ vremennykh let, ed. and trans. Dmitrii Sergeevich Likhachev and V.P. AdrianovaPerets, 2nd ed. rev. (St. Petersburg: Nauka, 1996), 49, 186; The Povest’ Vremennykh Let: An Interlinear Collation and Paradosis, ed. Donald Ostrowski, Harvard Library of Early Ukrainian Literature, 10, 3 vols. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute, 2003), 2:832– 34; The Russian Primary Chronicle: Laurentian Text, trans. and ed. Samuel Hazzard Cross and Olgerd P. Sherbowitz-Wetzor (Cambridge, MA: The Medieval Academy of America, 1953), 111; and Medieval Russia’s Epics, ed. Zenkovsky, 67. 14 Simon Karlinsky, Russian Drama from Its Beginnings to the Age of Pushkin (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985), 1. 15 When Ignatii of Smolensk visited the Hagia Sophia Cathedral in Constantinople in 1389, he saw “how they prepared the furnace of the three holy children.” A few decades later, Bertrandon de la Broquière (ca. 1400–59) witnessed a similar performance in 1432. See Miloš M. Velimirović, “Liturgical Drama in Byzantium and Russia,” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 16 (1962): 349–85; George La Piana, “The Byzantine Theatre,” Speculum 11.2 (April 1936): 171–211; Marina Swoboda, “The Furnace Play and the Development of Liturgical Drama in Russia,” Russian Review 61 (April 2002): 220–34; and Bertha Malnick, “The Origin and Early History of the Theatre in Russia,” Slavonic and East European Review 19.53/54 (1939–40): 203–27.
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During his pious youth, Tsar Alexis — perhaps recalling Chrysostom’s condemnations — banned even this liturgical drama. But as he aged — and after facing the uncompromising opposition of both Old Believers and Patriarch Nikon — Alexis turned away from a sterile rejection of art to fully embrace the theater. In October 1672 he had a secular play, the Comedy of Artaxerxes (Artakserksovo deistvo), staged for the Muscovite court in the Moscow suburb of Preobrazhenskoe. 16 Alexis also began to invite into his realm the Ukrainian churchmen and scholars who came to dominate the Russian Orthodox Church leadership in the coming decades. More westernized than the Old Believers or Patriarch Nikon, these Ukrainian thinkers freely borrowed intellectual tools and practices from both Protestants and Catholics. As a propaganda tool, Jesuits had developed the “school play” in the middle of the sixteenth century. They sought to portray Catholic doctrine about the necessity of human cooperation with divine grace in the attainment of salvation. The Jesuit fathers used drama to communicate Catholic teaching and attack Protestant errors. These elaborately staged plays, sometimes lasting an entire day, drew large audiences; they were often performed outside, with baroque churches as backdrops. 17 Increasingly aware of the power of drama to move the hearts of believers, in 1629 Metropolitan Iov (Boretskii) of Kiev (r. 1620–31) allowed miracle plays to be performed, and the Kievan Theological Academy, founded in 1632, adopted drama as one way that the Orthodox Church could bring souls back into its fold. 18 Iogann Gotfrid Gregori (Johann Gottfried Gregory), I.M. Kudriavtsev, and V.P. Adrianova-Peretts, Artakserksovo deistvo: pervaia p’esa russkogo teatra XVII v. (Moscow: Akademii nauk SSSR, 1957); Iogann Gotfrid Gregori, André Mazon, and Frédéric Cocron, La comédie d’Artaxerxès = Artakserksovo deistvo: présentée en 1672 au Tsar Alexis (Paris: Institut d’Études Slaves de l’Université de Paris, 1954); Claudia R. Jensen, “Music for the Tsar: A Preliminary Study of the Music of the Muscovite Court Theatre,” Musical Quarterly 79.2 (Summer 1995): 368–401; and idem, Musical Cultures in Seventeenth-Century Russia (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009), 163–210. 17 William H. McCabe, An Introduction to the Jesuit Theatre, ed. Louis J. Oldani, S.J. (St. Louis: The Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1983); James Lukens McConaughy, The School Drama: Including Palsgrave’s Introduction to Acolastus (New York: Teachers College, Columbia University, 1913); V.I. Rezanov, Iz istorii russkoi dramy. Shkol’nye deistva XVII–XVIII vv. i teatr iezuitov (Moscow: Sinodal’naia tipografiia, 1910); Nigel Griffin, Jesuit School Drama: A Checklist of Critical Literature (London: Grant and Cutler, 1976); idem, Jesuit School Drama: A Checklist of Critical Literature: Supplement no. 1 (London: Grant and Cutler, 1986); and Jan IJ. van der Meer, “The Impact of the Jesuit School Theatre on the National Comedies of the Polish Enlightenment (1764–1795),” in Theatre and Religion, ed. Günter Ahrends and Hans-Jürgen Diller (Tübingen, Germany: Narr, 1998), 51–68. 18 Paulina Lewin, “The Staging of Plays at the Kiev Mohyla Academy in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries,” Harvard Ukrainian Studies 5.3 (September 1981): 320–34; idem, Ukrainian Drama and Theater in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries (Toronto: Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies Press, 2008); and Ihor Ševčenko, “The Many Worlds of Peter Mohyla,” Harvard Ukrainian Studies 8.1–2 (June 1984): 9–44. 16
Drama in the Service of Orthodoxy
Ukrainian clerics also actively revived the art of the sermon, borrowing and popularizing many techniques designed to communicate the Church’s message in an attractive manner to a broad audience. 19 Born in 1651 in the home of a devoutly Orthodox Cossack non-commissioned officer (a sotnik or centurion), Daniil Savvich Tuptalo, the future Metropolitan Dimitrii of Rostov, was exposed very early to this westernized Ukrainian education, which shaped the rest of his life. At age eleven Daniil began studying in a monastic school, and six years later he was tonsured as the monk Dimitrii in the St. Cyril Monastery in Kiev. In 1675, freshly ordained as a hieromonk, Dimitrii became a traveling preacher in the region of Chernihiv. As he moved from one village to another Dimitrii kept a diary, recording the rapidly changing politics of the region as Moscow became an increasingly powerful and important player. By 1684 he returned to Kiev, where he was given the task of revising the Menaion — the collection of saints’ lives used in the Church. So successful was his revision that Dimitrii’s version of the Menaion is still a bestseller today. 20 Toward the end of the seventeenth century, Dimitrii also experimented with theater and wrote several “school plays” in the spirit of the Jesuits. Two of these plays are still available, and they both illustrate Dimitrii’s abilities as a dramatist. The Nativity Play (Rozhdestvenskaia drama) provided a dramatization of the Christmas story found in the gospels of Matthew and Luke, and the Dormition Play (Uspenskaia drama) celebrated the Dormition Feast (August 15). 21 In the judgment of the eminent literary critic Simon Karlinsky, Dimitrii “was the single most gifted and interesting playwright of the Russian religious tradition.” 22 Although he wrote in the allegorical style of the Jesuit school play, he was able to humanize his characters, making, for example, the figure of Conscience, in the Dormition Play, a fully believable woman who desperately pleads with the recalcitrant sinner. Likewise, in the Nativity Play — populated with alle Ioanykii Haliatovs’kyi (Ioannikii Galiatovskii) (1620–88), for example, in 1659 penned the book The Key to Understanding (Kliuch rozuminnia), with a special section on the science of writing sermons. Aimed at a clerical audience, the book encouraged would-be preachers to find easily grasped illustrations and examples that demonstrated the main point of the homily. Ioanykii Haliatovs’kyi, Kliuch rozuminnia, ed. I.P. Chepiha, Pam’iatky ukraïns’koï movy XVII st. Seriia publitsystychnoï literatury (Kiyv: Nauk. dumka, 1985); and Paul Bushkovitch, Religion and Society in Russia: The Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992), 128–75. 20 Il’ia Aleksandrovich Shliapkin, Sv. Dimitrii Rostovskii i ego vremia, 1651–1709 g. (St. Petersburg: Tip. A. Transhel’, 1891); Dushan Bednarsky, “The Spiritual Alphabet: St. Dymytrii, Metropolitan of Rostov’s Rhetorical Program for Inward Knowledge” (unpublished PhD diss., University of Alberta, 1998). 21 These two plays were republished in Russkaia dramaturgiia poslednei chetverti XVII i nachala XVIII v., ed. Ol’ga Aleksandrovna Derzhavina (Moscow: Nauka, 1972), 172–274. 22 Karlinsky, Russian Drama, 22. 19
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gorical characters such as Human Nature, Love, Deceptive Hope, Rage, Anger, Weeping, and Envy — Dimitrii portrayed the three shepherds Boris, Avram, and Afonia as Ukrainian peasants, with whom his audience could easily identify. As they eat supper, for example, the shepherds wonder whether they will need to bribe Christ to get an audience with him — just as they would have to do back home to see the local prince. 23 Dimitrii’s extraordinary talents, manifested by his edition of the Menaion, helped to bring him to the attention of Tsar Peter the Great, who appointed him Metropolitan of Rostov in January 1702. When he took up his new post, Dimitrii was especially concerned about the large numbers of schismatics in his diocese. Moreover, he complained that the clergy were simply not up to the challenges of a movement of mass dissent: “kliritsy chtut i poiut bez vnimaniia, sviashchenniki so diakony vo oltari skvernosloviat, a inogda i derutsia” [The clergy recites and sings (the liturgy) without (the appropriate) attention; priests and deacons swear at the altar, and sometimes they even fight]. 24 As the new bishop, Dimitrii received complaints from priests about their spiritual flock and vice versa. A priest of the Church of the Resurrection in the nearby town of Uglich reported to the Metropolitan in October 1702, just a few months after Dimitrii’s installation, that his parishioners “drink until they are intoxicated, do not go to the church of God, do not obey him, the priest, in anything, and insult him, the priest, with unseemly words.” In their defense, the parishioners complained that their priest behaved badly, that he refused to make house calls, and that he had even engaged in a fistfight with a member of his congregation. 25 A village priest, who suffered the misfortune of an episcopal visit in the same year, provided the Metropolitan with a particularly poignant example of the low educational level of at least some of the parish clergy when Dimitrii asked him where he kept the reserved sacrament, the consecrated elements of communion that Orthodox theology regarded as the body and blood of Christ: I asked the local priest, “Where are the life-giving Sacraments of Christ?” The priest did not understand my words and stood silent, as if he had not finished thinking. I again said, “Where is the body of Christ?” The priest could not understand these words either. Then one of the experienced priests who was with me said to him, “Where is your reserve supply?” Then he took a rather disgusting vessel from the corner and showed us the most holy object that he kept so carelessly within it. 26
Derzhavina, Russkaia dramaturgiia, 234–35. V.N. Peretts, Istoriko-literaturnye issledovaniia i materialy iz istorii russkoi pesni, 3 vols. (St. Petersburg: Tipografiia F. Vaisberga i P. Gershunina, 1900), 1:109. 25 Shliapkin, Sv. Dimitrii Rostovskii, 296. 26 “Egda zhe voprosikh tamoshniago popa: gde sut’ zhivotvoriashchyia Khristovy Tainy? Pop toi ne urazume slovese moego i iako nedomyshliaiai stoiashe, molcha. Paki rekh: gde telo Khristovo? — pop zhe ni sego slovesi poznati mozhashe. Egda zhe edin ot so mnoiiu byvshikh 23
Drama in the Service of Orthodoxy
Confronted by such ignorance, Dimitrii launched a tireless campaign to educate and uplift his spiritual children. As an attractive means of communicating his didactic message, the theater played an important role in this campaign. Shortly after his arrival in Rostov, Dimitrii staged one of his own plays, The Repentant Sinner, which proved to be one of his most popular compositions. Although the text of this morality play is unfortunately no longer extant, the eighteenth-century actor Ivan Nosov provided a synopsis of the work, which hints at its powerful influence on its audience: The stage represents a desert. In the centre of it stand three beings; the Sinner, his Guardian Angel, the Devil. The Sinner is in a white garment concealed by black veils on which are inscribed all his sins. The speeches of the Angel are supplemented by two invisible choruses. The chorus exalts the goodness of God and the Sinner is about to repent, but he looks at his garments and is horrified at the abysmal depths of his sins and blasphemies. Hell rejoices in her prize. But the Angel sings of the pardon of the robber and this lightens the despair of the Sinner, who begins to pray with all his heart. As he prays, his black veils fall one after another and reveal a white garment, symbol of innocence. But the struggle has wearied him; death is near; he dies and his soul is carried to heaven to the accompaniment of angels’ songs. From Hell are heard desperate shrieks and the gnashing of teeth. 27
Dimitrii freely used the theater as a form of moral education for Orthodox believers. He also incorporated theatrical techniques into his polemic against the Old Believers, his Investigation of the Schismatic Faith. Dimitrii’s Investigation represented another element, alongside his morality plays and his supervision of the clergy, in a broad program to raise the moral and spiritual level of both priest and parishioner in his diocese. Dimitrii was seeking a wide audience; in the introduction to his Investigation he explicitly compared himself to John Chrysostom, who used the simple vernacular to persuade ordinary people of the truth. In a Russia that was largely illiterate, Dimitrii intended this work as a helpful guide to Orthodox priests and missionaries, who could draw from its arguments and anecdotes in their debates with local schismatics. He dedicated the book first of all to his fellow clergy members. 28 In the preface Dimitrii complained that polemical works defending the Orthodox point of view against the Old Believers were not available in Rostov and added, “Dolzhnost’ arkhiereiskaia ne molchati, no zashchishchati chest’ tainstva povelevaet. Nel’zia ogranichitsia odnimi ustnymi propovediami . . . no i pisanie poleznaia besedovati podobaet” [The bishop’s duty iskusnykh iereov reche k nemu: gde zapas? Togda on izem ot ugla sosudets zelo gnusnyi, pokaza v nem khramimuiu onuiu tol’ veliiu sviatyniu”: Shliapkin, Sv. Dimitrii Rostovskii, 325–26. 27 Malnick, “Origin,” 208–9. Following her source, Malnick mistakenly attributes this description to Prince A.A. Shakhovskoi: Derzhavina, Russkaia dramaturgiia, 336–37. 28 Dimitrii, Rozysk, xiii.
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commands (him) not to remain silent but to defend the honor of the sacrament. This defence should not be limited to oral preaching alone; . . . writing is also useful and aids (spiritual) conversation]. 29 Despite Dimitrii’s desire to disseminate his arguments for orthodoxy as widely as possible, the Investigation was first published only in 1745, although it was extensively circulated in manuscript. 30 In his Investigation Dimitrii presented some of the heretical rituals as a kind of theater designed to bolster the false claims that the schismatic leaders made for themselves. For example, Dimitrii described one peasant movement whose leader claimed to be Christ. Headquartered in Pavlov Perevoz, an important village on the Oka River, the false Christ had appointed twelve apostles and a beautiful girl, who played the role of Mary, the Theotokos (Bogoroditsa) or God-bearer: We learned about these things from the monk Pakhomii, who heard it from an eyewitness who saw this false christ and who was taken to worship him by one of his disciples. At that time, this christ was on the Volga in the village called Rabotki about forty versts (twenty-seven miles) below Nizhnii Novgorod on the Volga. In this village on the bank of the river, there is an old empty church, and those people who believed in him gathered for prayer in that church. This christ came from the altar toward the people who were in the church and the refectory. He appeared to have something wrapped on his head, like a crown painted on icons, and certain beautiful small faces flew like birds around his head. They called them cherubim. We think that either devils appeared to the people in such imaginary forms or that the cherubim were drawn with paints on paper and then stuck to the crown. When he took his seat, all the people gathered there fell bowing to the ground before him as if he were the true Christ. They constantly bowed and prayed for several hours until exhausted from prayer. They call to him in prayer, saying, “Lord have mercy on me,” or “O, our Creator, have mercy on us.” He speaks certain words of prophecy to them saying what will happen, predicting changes in the wind, and urging them to believe in him without doubt. 31 Cited in Shliapkin, Sv. Dimitrii Rostovskii, 447 from the 1745 edition; cf. Dimitrii, Rozysk, vii. 30 Shliapkin, Sv. Dimitrii Rostovskii, 445, n. 1. 31 “Povedavyi zhe nam sie monakh Pakhomii, slysha ot samovidtsa, videvsha onago khrista lzhivago, priveden bo be k nemu ot uchenika ego na poklonenie. Be zhe togda toi khristos na reke Volge, v sele Rabotki glagolemom, za Nizhnim Novgorodom verst 40, po Volge vniz. Est’ zhe v tom sele na breze reki tserkov’ vetkha i pusta, i sobrashasia togda k nemu liudie veruiushchii v on na mol’bu v tserkve onoi. Izyde zhe khristov onyi iz oltaria k liudem v tserkov’ i v trapezu, i zriashesia na glave ego nechto veliko obvercheno po podobiiu ventsa, na ikonakh pishemago, i nekiia malyia litsa krasnyia, po podobiiu ptits letakhu okolo glavy ego, ikhzhe glagoliut byti kheruvimy; (nam zhe mnitsia, iako ili besi v podobiiakh takovykh mechtatel’no liudem zriakhusia, ili kraskami pisany biakhu kheruvimy na pischei bumage, i okrest ventsa pritsepleny.) Sedshu zhe emu, vsi liudie tamo sobravshiisia padshe poklonishasia tomu do zemli, aki istinnomu Khristu; i klaniakhusia neprestanno moliashchesia na mnog chas, dondezhe iznemoshchi im ot molitvy. V 29
Drama in the Service of Orthodoxy
In this story, the liturgy of the heretics serves as a carefully designed drama that seeks to reinforce the heresiarch’s claims. Dimitrii provides an outline of the theatrical script that the false Christ followed. First of all, the christ meets his followers in a once-consecrated space, an abandoned church. Coming from the altar to the people, the christ wears a crown, which is either a supernatural demonic trick or a theatrical prop. When the false christ sits down, his followers bow before him as if he were truly the Son of God. They then exhaust themselves in praying some version of the traditional Orthodox Jesus prayer (Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner). Finally, the christ prophesies, making both exhortations to faith and meteorological predictions. Like many of his fellow bishops, Dimitrii believed that ignorance was the ultimate cause of the Church schism, and he wrote the Investigation in an effort to demolish what he regarded as the foolish obstinacy of the Old Believers, who refused to accept Nikon’s reforms. Needless to say, Dimitrii’s catalogue was not an objective exploration of the phenomenon of religious dissent but a highly tendentious, slanderous attack, filled with gossip and hearsay. Completed in March 1709, a few months before the Metropolitan’s death, the carefully constructed Investigation was divided into three parts that attacked the schismatics’ faith, teaching, and deeds respectively. Over the course of his term as Metropolitan, Dimitrii scoured Old Believer manuscripts and Orthodox missionary reports for shocking stories that could buttress his case. In the third section of the Investigation, which criticized the schismatics’ deeds, Dimitrii drew on his skill as a playwright to craft the secondhand information from missionary reports into lively vignettes with direct dialogue that brought to life some of the most disturbing rumors about the dissenters. Although freely admitting that he had little direct knowledge of the local Old Believers, Dimitrii fashions the accounts of “reliable witnesses” into memorable anecdotes. Dimitrii is especially anxious to prove that the Old Believers engage in sexual immorality and sorcery, using enchanted food to win converts and get them to participate in mass suicides. In the late seventeenth century, many communities of Old Believers, convinced that the world was already in the hands of the Antichrist, committed mass suicide, often by convening in buildings filled with inflammable materials that they then set alight. 32 In the 1680s, during a period of intense persecution, thousands of Old Believers committed collective suicide, a
molitve zhe vzyvakhu k nemu ovii: gospodi, pomilui mia, glagoliushche; ovii zhe: o sozdateliiu nash, pomilui nas. On zhe k nim prorocheskaia nekaia slovesa glagolashe, skazuiushchi chto budet, kakovoe vozdukha premenenie, i utverzhdashe ikh veriti v on nesumnenno”: Dimitrii, Rozysk, 599–600. The monk Pakhomii may have been Abbot Pakhomii of Isaac’s hermitage in Poshekhon’e: Shliapkin, Sv. Dimitrii Rostovskii, 450. 32 D.I. Sapozhnikov, Samosozhzhenie v russkom raskole (so vtoroi poloviny XVII veka do kontsa XVIII) (Moscow: Univ. tip., 1891); and Thomas Robbins, “Religious Mass Suicide before Jonestown: The Russian Old Believers,” Sociological Analysis 47.1 (Spring 1986): 1–20.
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phenomenon that Dimitrii found deeply troubling — and which could be explained only by witchcraft. As proof that Old Believer preachers used enchantments to bewitch their victims into committing suicide, Dimitrii refers to a letter he had received from the monk Ignatii of the Monastery of the Resurrection in the town of Uglich. Ignatii’s letter recounts an incident that had occurred twenty-six years earlier, when he was still a parish priest serving in Poshekhon’e district, some 200 km north of Rostov: the mass suicide of nearly 2,000 of his parishioners who had burned themselves to death in the 1680s. In retelling the story, Dimitrii effectively uses direct dialogue to convey the horror of the event. He explains that when one of the Old Believer preachers, Ivan Desiatina, was arrested, he threw three berries “made from some kind of flour” from his pocket onto the ground and tried to crush them with his feet before his captors could examine them. A priest succeeded in recovering one of the berries, but when he touched his lips with the fingers that still had some remnants of the berry, he immediately went mad and threw himself into a burning stove. Only the quick action of the prince’s men, who pulled the priest from the fire and restrained him, saved his life. Days later, when the effects of the berry had finally worn off, the priest thanked his companions and explained his behavior: When I saw the burning stove, the stove seemed to me to be like paradise, and the opening of the stove like the door of paradise. I saw a brilliantly shining group of young men sitting in the fire in the stove, and they called to me, saying, “Come to us.” I immediately leapt toward them. 33
Ignatii’s story, as retold by Dimitrii, suggests a demonic version of the Byzantine Furnace Play, in which the righteous Hebrew children have been replaced by devils posing as angels of light. In another lively vignette, Dimitrii creates a mini-drama using direct dialogue by re-enacting the exchange between the Old Believers of the northern Olonets province and the missionary priest Iosif. Dimitrii equates the Old Believers with the hated Jews of Poland: both heterodox groups stoop to black magic to accomplish their fiendish ends. Dimitrii has Iosif begin his oral attack on the Old Believers by comparing them to the Jews of Cracow who, he says, employ deceit and witchcraft to hurt their Christian neighbors. Drawing on a story recorded in Sebastian Miczynski’s anti-Semitic Mirror of the Polish Crown, first published in 1618, Iosif tells the Old Believers how the Jews tried to purchase breast milk from a Christian woman, who gave them cow milk instead. 34 Hiring a man to take the milk and 33 “Uzrekh peshch’ goriashchuiu, pokazas’ia mne peshch’ iako rai, a ustye peshchi iako dver’ raiskaia. V peshchi zhe vo ogne videkh sediashchiia presvetlyia iunoshi, izhe prizyvakhu mia k sebe, glagoliushche: poidi k nam; az zhe abie k nim vergokhsia”: Dimitrii, Rozysk, 585–87. 34 Sebastian Miczynski, Zwierciadło korony polskiej urazy ciezkie i utrapienia wielkie, ktore ponosi od zydow, wyrazajace (Cracow: W Drukarniey Macieia Jędrzeiowczyka, 1618).
Drama in the Service of Orthodoxy
pour it into the ear of an executed criminal hanging from the gallows, the Jews then told him to place his ear against the corpse’s ear. “What do you hear?” they asked him. “Cattle lowing,” he responded. Saddened by this answer, the Jews returned to complain to the woman about her deception. As a result of the Jews’ magical ritual, the cattle throughout the whole kingdom of Poland suffer a severe epidemic; but if the woman had sold her human Christian milk to the Jews, Iosif explains to the Old Believers, then the Christians, rather than the cows, would have died from the plague. Dimitrii has Iosif conclude with this admonition: You schismatics, who have wandered away from piety, also act in the same way as these Jews. You go from home to home, charming the flesh of simple people. And if your charms do not work, you resort to sorcery, just as reliable witnesses have testified. 35
Iosif goes on to provide examples of just such sorcery. Forewarned about the evils of the neighboring schismatics, Grigorii, a prosperous peasant in Olonets, refuses their blandishments. But when a group of schismatics spends the night on his farm, Grigorii notices too late that they have sprinkled a flour-like powder into his well. His wife, daughter-in-law, and some of the children in the household have already drunk from the well, and although he tries to stop them, soon they join the Old Believers to perish in a mass suicide. Iosif triumphantly concludes: “Behold, you accursed ones . . . behold the cunning trick of your charm: if you cannot seduce someone with words, then you resort to sorcery, you bewitch and destroy. That is the kind of holiness that you have.” 36 For Dimitrii, the holiness of the Old Believers is no holiness at all. Dimitrii seeks to awaken in his audience a sense of visceral repulsion to the imagined crimes of the schismatic teachers. Well aware that many of the Old Believer monks enjoyed a reputation as holy ascetics, Dimitrii presents them on the contrary as hypocritical actors, who seek to publicize their good deeds. Those Old Believers who appear to be devout and prayerful are simply playing a role. Some good deeds, Dimitrii insists, did not bring the fruit of salvation. In particular, those deeds that were performed “not from love of God but from self-love” have no salvific value. 37 Using his skill as a dramatist, Dimitrii sometimes places his reader in the position of unwitting observer of the crimes of the Old Believer leaders. For example, in one vignette, two beekeepers accidentally witness an attempted “Tako i vy raskol’nitsy, nad otstuplenie blagochestie, charovaniem iakozhe i zhidy deistvuete, khodiashche po domom, i oboeia ploti prostykh chelovek prel’shchaiushche, i kotorii prelesti vashei ne vozsledstvuiut, tekh charovaniem oboiaete, iakozhe izvestikhomsia ot dostovernykh svidetelei sitse”: Dimitrii, Rozysk, 589. 36 “Zrite okaiannii, . . . zrite prelesti vasheia kozn’, idezhe slovesy ne mozhete prel’stiti, tamo vy charodeistv, upotrebivshe, obaiete i pogubliaete: takoga vasha sviatost”: Dimitrii, Rozysk, 589. 37 Dimitrii, Rozysk, 551. 35
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rape of their parish priest’s wife. Hidden inside an abandoned church, where they have spent the night, the beekeepers see the Old Believers bring the priest’s wife near their hiding place. She had agreed to join the schismatics only because they promised her that she could save her soul by entering their monastic community in the Brynsk forests. But now, far from the safety of home, the innocent priest’s wife finds herself instead suffering the dissenters’ sexual advances. Inside the abandoned church, the two accidental witnesses attend a play of Dimitrii’s creation — a play that unmasks the hypocritical and lecherous schismatics, who try to seduce their victim: “Sotvori sestro, s nami Khristovu liubov’” [Sister, make Christ’s love with us]. Puzzled, the priest’s wife asks, “Kakovu liubov’ Khristovu s vami imam tvoriti?” [What kind of Christ’s love am I to make with you?]. The schismatics respond, “Budi s nami sovokupleniem plotskim, to bo est’ liubov’ Khristova” [Have carnal intercourse with us; that is the love of Christ]. Shocked, the priest’s wife berates her tormentors: “Togo li radi vy mene ot muzha moego podgovorili este? Az chaiakh spasenie dushi moei vami poluchiti, i posledovakh vam, iako sviatym i dushepoleznym nastavnikom i uchitelem, vy zhe izvedoste mia oskverniti: i ne soizvoliashe im na grekh” [Was it for this that you convinced me to separate from my husband? I had hoped to receive the salvation of my soul, and I followed you as holy teachers and preceptors who would benefit my soul, but you have led me here only to defile me, and you do not consider this a sin]. 38 Just as the schismatics are about to rape the woman, the two beekeepers intervene, firing their weapons into the air to frighten away the schismatic teachers. By having his readers see the schismatic teachers through the eyes of the beekeepers, accidental observers of a horrible truth, Dimitrii tries to induce an emotional reaction against the Old Believers. Identifying with the beekeepers, the reader watches Dimitrii’s play of dialogue, with its dramatic revelation about the true character of the hypocritical ascetics of the Brynsk forest. Dimitrii’s account, of course, cannot be taken as accurate and unbiased history; on the contrary, he uses every literary device at his disposal to create a convincing piece of propaganda against the enemies of his church. Dimitrii likewise recounts the story of a self-styled holy monk who lived somewhere on the road between Vologda and Kargopol’. Unnamed in the account, the monk preached the Old Belief and had established both a reputation for sanctity and a community of like-minded disciples. He told one visitor to the hermitage: Beloved brother, you have done well to come to us, for now there is no church of God on earth; they sing and read in the churches in a new way, but we here are still covered by God’s grace. We accept no innovations, we cross ourselves
Dimitrii, Rozysk, 595–96.
Drama in the Service of Orthodoxy
according to the tradition of the Blessed Theodoret, but we do not accept the tradition of Nikon. You have done well to flee from the Antichrist. 39
Of course Dimitrii explains that this self-styled teacher and ascetic is really a hypocrite. In his opposition to sacramental marriage, the unnamed monk openly encourages fornication and free love, as long as the couples do not defile themselves through marriage. Clearly Dimitrii is here attacking the doctrines of the priestless Old Believers who denied the possibility of the sacrament of marriage after the Nikonian apostasy. 40 Moreover, in contravention of the canons, the false teacher includes men and women together in his community. Even worse, however, is what one erstwhile disciple discovers after entering the hermitage. After three days of probationary fasting in a locked cell next to the false abbot, the novice witnesses the arrival of two men who report that an unmarried girl has given birth. The false teacher responds, “Ne rekh li vam prezhde sego, da egda ta devitsa rodit’ otrocha, abie u novorozhdennago mladentsa nozhem podniav grudi, izmete serdtse, i da prinesete na bliude ko mne? Idite ubo, i sotvorite, iako zhe rekh vam” [Did I not tell you before that when the girl gives birth, you should plunge a knife into the infant’s breast, remove the heart, and bring it to me on a plate? Go and do as I have said]. In less than an hour, the two men return with the child’s heart — still beating — on a wooden plate. The false teacher takes the knife, divides the heart into four pieces, and orders his disciples to dry them in an oven and to pulverize the remains into a powder. Sprinkling the powder onto small pieces of paper, the false teacher orders his disciples to use the remains of the child’s heart as a magic potion when they preach the Old Belief: Take these papers with this holy item — he called the charm a holy item — and go into the towns and villages and enter into the homes and tell the people 39 “Brate liubimyi, dobre prishel esi k nam, nyne bo nest’ uzhe na zemli tserkvi Bozhiia, vsi uklonishasia i nepotrebni bysha; ponezhe v tserkvakh poiut i chitaiut po novomu, a u nas eshche zde milost’ Bozhiia pokryvaet, i novosti nikakovoi ne priemlem, i krestimsia po predaniiu blazhennago Feodorita, a Nikonova predaniia ne priemlem; dobre ubo sotvoril esi izbezhav ot antikhrista”: Dimitrii, Rozysk, 575. Bishop Theodoret (390–466) of Cyrrhus (r. 423–58) in ancient Syria (in an area now part of Turkey) was thought to have written a sermon that commended the two-fingered, Old Believer form of the cross; manuscript copies of this sermon date to the fifteenth century, and Old Believers cited it despite the best efforts of the state church to prove it a forgery: Zhizneopisanie Avvakuma, 278. 40 I.F. Nil’skii, Semeinaia zhizn’ v russkom raskole istoricheskii ocherk raskol’nicheskogo ucheniia o brake, 2 vols. (St. Petersburg: Pechatano v tip. departamenta Udelov, 1869); Pia Giuseppina Pera, “Theoretical and Practical Aspects of the Debate on Marriage among the Priestless Old Believers from the End of the Seventeenth Century to the Mid-Nineteenth Century” (unpublished PhD diss., School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University of London, 1986); Irina Paert, Old Believers: Religious Dissent and Gender in Russia, 1760–1850 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2003); and Crummey, Old Believers and the World of Antichrist.
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that they should not go to church and that they should not accept the blessing of the priest, and that they should not go to confession, and that they should not partake of any type of church communion. Tell them that they should make the sign of the cross with two fingers, but in no way should they accept the three-fingered cross, for that is the seal of the Antichrist. If they listen to you or if they do not listen to you, you should secretly put some of this powder into their drink or food or dishes, or into the water that they have in the house or into the well. When they have tasted of this, they will turn to us in truth, and they will become martyrs voluntarily. 41
Naturally horrified by what he had just witnessed, the novice locked in his cell abandoned the two-fingered cross and the doctrines of his false teacher. In the absence of the false teacher, the novice was able to escape by attracting the attention of some passing merchants. Moved by the novice’s story, the merchants convinced the false abbot that his novice was in fact their runaway slave and so obtained his release. Afterwards, however, the false teacher’s magical craft proved deadly in its effectiveness, for despite the gentle exhortations of Metropolitan Kornilii of Novgorod (r. 1673–95), the false teacher and his followers fled to the Paleostrov Monastery, where they committed mass suicide. Dimitrii places his reader inside the cell with the deluded novice. Together, the reader of the Investigation and the novice look through the chink in the wall. Together with horror they learn of the abbot’s true nature; the scene that plays out before them leads both reader and novice to the recognition and reversal that Aristotle had said constituted essential elements of good drama. The monk’s cruel infanticide — undertaken simply to make a magic powder — awakens the unnamed novice to the true state of affairs in this schismatic monastery. At the same time, the reader, who sees everything through the eyes of the novice, experiences the same recognition and the same sense of horror at the evil of heresy.
Conclusion Unwittingly, Patriarch Nikon, through his reform of the Russian liturgy, helped to provoke a major schism in the Church. By putting the sacrality and validity of the Church’s rites into question, Nikon’s reforms also damaged the Church’s efforts to 41 “Vozmite bumazhki siia so sviatyneiu (charovanie svoe sviatyneiu narek) i idite vo grady i vesi i derevni, i vkhodiashche v domy glagolite liudem, chtob otniud ne khodili v tserkov’, i u popov nyneshnikh blagosloveniia ne prinimali by, i k nim by ne ispovedyvalisia, i nikakovoi sviatyni tserkovnoi ne prichashchalisia by, a krest by na sebia tvorili dvema persty, a troeperstnago slozheniia da nikakozhe priemliut, to bo est’ pechat’ antikhristova. I ashche vas poslushaiut ili ne poslushaiut, vy ot sego dannago vam istolcheniia taino vlagaite in v brashno ili v pitie ili v sosud, idezheu nikh voda byvaet v domu ili v kladiaz’. Egda ot togo vkusiat, togda k nam obratiatsia na istinu, i imut veru slovesam vashim, a samoizvol’nii mucheniki budut”: Dimitrii, Rozysk, 577.
Drama in the Service of Orthodoxy
gain a monopoly over ritual performance. But for the new westernized Ukrainian intellectuals who, like Dimitrii, poured into Muscovy after Russia’s victory in the Thirteen Years’ War (1654–67), the broken monopoly provided a new opportunity to bring the Church’s message out of the temple and into the theater and the public square. Using the power of drama and of vernacular speech, aimed at the ordinary person, Dimitrii was not afraid to turn to the theater — and to theatrical literary moves — to make his point and to win over his flock. A skillful author, playwright, and polemicist, Dimitrii drew on his knowledge of the theater to create a strong sense of revulsion against heresy in the minds and hearts of his readers. Although in many respects Dimitrii’s so-called Investigation did not provide an objective account of the dissenting movements in Rostov diocese (it slandered the Old Believers and relied on hearsay and tendentious arguments to attack the schismatics), the Metropolitan’s skill as a playwright nevertheless makes his book a powerful tool against religious dissent, one which the Church continued to reprint down to the middle of the nineteenth century. In his Investigation, Dimitrii created powerful images — of the hypocritical and lecherous Old Believer monk, of the fanatical sacrifice of infants, and of orgiastic lust — that shaped Russian attitudes toward religious dissent in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and that continue to dog Russian religious minorities to the present day. 42
See, for example, Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Panchenko, Khristovshchina i skopchestvo: Fol’ klor i traditsionnaia kul’tura russkikh misticheskikh sekt, 2nd ed. (Moscow: Ob’edinennoe gumanitarnoe izdatel’stvo, 2004), 107–9, 154–56. 42