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150 Reviews is a useful tool for awakening an interest in Jewish studies and introducing novices to the complexities of the hermeneutical construction of medieval Jews. Mirielle Mazzocato Division ofHumanities Macquarie University Davidson, Clifford and Peter Happe, eds, The Worlde and the Chylde (Early Drama, Art, and Music Monograph Series 26), Kalamazoo, Michigan, Western Michigan University, Medieval Institute Publications, 1999; pp. ix, 130; 17 b/w illustrations, 1 map; R R P not known; ISBN 1-58044-051-7 (cloth), 1-58044-052-5 (paper). The Worlde and the Chylde (Mundus et Infans) is a lively theatrical tour-d skilfully constructed for performance by a cast of two. Re-reading it for this review reminded m e of how accomplished much pre-Elizabethan English drama is. A single early copy of the play survives, from Wynkyn de Worde's edition of 1522. One can only regret the likely loss of works of similar quality from this period. As a late morality play, produced on the cusp of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, The Worlde and the Chylde tends to fall between the topics for discussion delimited in standard studies. For example, Pamela M . King's account in The Cambridge Companion to Medieval English Theatre (1994) defines the morality genre through an examination offiveplays, the last ofwhich, Everyman, was probably writtten, like The Worlde and the Chylde, between 1500 and 1520. The insights offered by such plays challenge any view of the moralities as an unsophisticated genre. For example, The Worlde and the Chylde dramatises the subtle distinction between the child's natural need for nurturing by society, and a chosen adult subservience to social pressures. Audiences attending modem revivals of the play appreciate its recreation of developmental stages from babyhood to old age, and its performance of a medieval tradition by which Age learns to bypass despair and follow the path of spiritual wisdom. Since The Worlde and the Chylde was almost certainly intended for performance in the hall of a great house, it can equally be classified as a Tudor interlude, but is seldom included in considerations of this mostly secular genre. The present edition is therefore especially welcome, asfillinga gap in literary Reviews 151 and theatrical history. The resonances set up by the editors nevertheless extend far beyond these obvious interests, as they examine the play's connections with other allegorical and didactic writing, with manuscript illustrations and stained glass, with iconography, and with contemporary London life. The introduction finds a contemporary analogue for the figure of Folye in Sebastian Brant's Narrenschiff the English translation of which by Alexander Barclay was reissued by de Worde in 1517 (p. 15). It traces sources for the fundamental allegory of the Ages of M a n in thefifteenth-centurypoems, The Mirror of the Periods of Man's Life and Of pe Seuen Ages, but notes earlier appearances ofthe tradition in Augustine, Isidore of Seville and Thomas Aquinas (pp. 6-7, 16). The peripheral deployment of the allegory of the Ages, in Will's account of his progress in Piers Plowman and in Jaques's lament in As You Like It, 2.7, involve The Worlde and the Chylde in a wider network of cross-genre and cross-period associations. Even more evocative of extended historical and literary connections, however, is the manner in which the accoutrements of allegorical kingship in the play move fluidly among various personifications and figures. These are, Worlde as an ambivalent representation of society; each of the seven deadly sins; Manhode as an emblem of prideful prime of life and military splendour; Conscyence; Covetousness in doing good; and Christ. The discontinuity reflects both earlier and subsequent English history, in which the symbols of kingship also shifted, seemingly at times at the whim of Fortune, from one more or less worthy aspirant to another. Thefinalconsequence of such shifts, ideological only in The Worlde and the Chylde but realised in history, was to destabilise the authority of the royal office itself, except in so far as this was seen to reside eternally in Christ. The multi-faceted expositions ofkingship in later drama, most notably Shakespeare's history plays, reveal that questions on the subject, raised implicitly at...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1832-8334
Print ISSN
0313-6221
Pages
pp. 150-152
Launched on MUSE
2013-04-03
Open Access
No
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