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Saints at Play

The Performance Features of French Hagiographic Mystery Plays

Vicki L. Hamblin

Publication Year: 2013

In the introduction to Saints at Play, Hamblin notes that "this approach is intended to strengthen a comparative analysis of relatively similar texts created within a particular cultural setting. [The plays'] somewhat parallel narratives and performative structures facilitate their comparison as performance remnants. . . . To that end, the first three chapters will investigate the cultural contexts in which these plays were produced and performed, as well as the cultural content that spoke to and for the communities that created them. In two subsequent chapters, the performance features of these remnants, verbal and nonverbal, textual and supratextual, will be compared in search of evidence of a collective performance history. Anomalies and questions regarding these texts as reminiscent of a performative past will be posited and conclusions drawn as to how these texts expressed contemporary social perspectives at both localized and generic levels.

Published by: Medieval Institute Publications


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-7


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pp. vii-9


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pp. ix-xiii

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pp. 1-8

French religious theater took many forms and served many functions in a period that stretched from the twelfth through the sixteenth centuries. Performed in clerical schools and in church naves by religious communities, in banquet halls and city squares by lay confraternities and municipal leaders, the religious theater of the Middle Ages was less...

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1. “Grans et petis vueillez vous taire”: Communities at Play

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pp. 9-27

Theater is both community-driven and community-focused. Whether defined as art form, teaching device, public forum, or entertainment venue, theater requires a community. Literary critics, performance theoreticians, and medieval historians all seem to agree on this primary characteristic of the theater. Alan Knight’s valuable contribution redefining medieval...

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2. “Entendés si voulés aprandre”: Genre, Content, Identity

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pp. 28-68

It may prove useful to examine more closely the contents of French saints’ plays and the relationship between the contents of the plays and the communities in which the plays were created, especially in light of the fact that these plays were locally produced by a variety of social groups. To a great extent, the plays’ thematic content has defined them to date...

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3. “Tout cecy sera récité”: Texts and Contexts

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pp. 69-124

The hagiographic sources of the plays in this study-set were part of an evolving discourse on several levels, as acknowledged in the previous chapter.1 Some saints’ lives had been transformed into a liturgical format as early as the fifth century, according to Thomas Heffernan, while others, as in Sulpicius Severus’s...

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4. “Vous pouez veoir en ce repaire”: Theatrical Spaces and Places

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pp. 125-160

Two modern theorists of medieval theater, Elie Konigson and Henri Rey- Flaud, have elaborated approaches for reconstructing the performance spaces and features of mystery plays in Europe. Both scholars base their respective proposals on textual and iconographic evidence from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. That evidence included, on one...

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5. “Et qui doyt commencer commence”: Performing the Plays

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pp. 161-221

In a study published in 1994, Graham Runnalls asks whether medieval audiences were listening to or watching the mystery plays they attended, referring to the unequal financial awards offered to the writer-compilers and to the peintres who designed or subcontracted out the construction of the décors, pyrotechnics, and other...

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Conclusion: “Que voiz cy le livre achevé”: Reading Performance

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pp. 223-230

Brigitte Bedos-Rezak describes the act of writing as a public spectacle that was eventually consolidated in medieval cities in order to control the validity of records.1 She also acknowledges that writing occupied a particular place in urban theater of the era as part and parcel of what she terms “the equation of writing and memory.”2 Indeed, as corroborated...


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pp. 231-242


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pp. 243-253

E-ISBN-13: 9781580441919
E-ISBN-10: 1580441912
Print-ISBN-13: 9781580441674
Print-ISBN-10: 158044167X

Page Count: 271
Illustrations: 2 halftones
Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 859687065
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Saints at Play

Research Areas


Subject Headings

  • Mysteries and miracle-plays, French -- History and criticism.
  • Christian saints in literature.
  • Christian drama, French -- History and criticism.
  • French drama -- To 1500 -- History and criticism.
  • Theater -- France -- History -- Medieval, 500-1500.
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