Les Mystères dans les provinces françaises: en Savoie et en Poitou, à Amiens et à Reims
Since the work of Petit de Julleville in the 1880s, no-one has contributed more to the study of medieval French theatre history than Graham Runnalls. Over the last thirty years, his editions of plays have greatly expanded the corpus of early French theatre available to researchers. More recently, his studies of manuscript typology and printing practices have enabled critics to view that corpus in a fuller historical context. Moreover, his editions of archival materials relating to the production and staging of the great mystery plays have shed new light on all aspects of that complex process. The volume under review combines Runnalls's long experience in all these domains, resulting in an exceptionally rich collection of historical and textual materials. Framed by a prologue and an epilogue, the work is comprised of six 'études', which can be read in succession or independently with full comprehension. The first three studies concern the region of Savoy, where mystery plays were staged as late as the eighteenth century. The chapters deal with a group of Savoyard plays and documents collected in the nineteenth century by a native of that region, but which were presumably lost after his death. Having recently been rediscovered, however, these texts are now described in detail by Runnalls. They include not only the unique Mystère de l'Antéchrist, but also two reworkings of Jean Michel's Passion, which contain several original scenes written by the revisers. Runnalls [End Page 378] includes these in his second study. Among the Savoyard documents is the Registre of the Passion staged in Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne in 1573. It is a detailed record of all the preparations made for that play during each phase of the production. Only four other Registres are known to have survived, which makes Runnalls's publication of this document an extremely valuable contribution to the study of late medieval theatre. The fourth 'étude' brings together all known archival references to mystery plays in the province of Poitou, as well as all such references in the works of Jean Bouchet, who was an enthusiastic promoter of theatre in Poitou in the early sixteenth century. The fifth essay concerns the Passion staged in Amiens in 1500. It has long been known that the city of Mons borrowed that play from Amiens to stage their own Passion in 1501, but no-one before now has thoroughly examined the records of the Amiens production. This study, which is an example of archival research at its best, gives us a much fuller picture of the play and its staging. The final study deals with the Passion staged in Reims in 1490 and extracts what can be learned about that event from the memoires of Jean Foulquart. Runnalls here provides us with many previously unedited documents that greatly enrich our knowledge of mystery play production in France. Although the documents contain a profusion of details, Runnalls admits that sometimes 'leur interprétation pose de nombreux problèmes' (p. 147). Throughout the book, however, his interpretations of the archival material seem always to be justified and wholly reliable.