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Undoing the Dramatic History of the Riga Ludas Prophetarum Regula Meyer Evitt In Appendix D of The Drama of the Medieval Church,! Karl Young brings together a selection of what he considers to be "a few of the more striking records or mentions of plays or dramatic ceremonies associated with churches"—a total of nine excerpts from various municipal records and monastic chronicles from England as well as the continent.2 Young offers all of these with no critical exposition, leaving his readers to assess for themselves what is most "striking" in each example. Among these excerpts one in particular—a passage from the thirteentiicentury Chronicon Livoniae, written by Heinrich von Lettland (Henricus Lettus)3—has repeatedly caught die eye of historians of the drama. Even a partial listing of scholars who have referred to it is long and distinguished.4 The excerpt has been cited and discussed so frequently since the end of the nineteentii century tiiat it has achieved a critical life of its own. Heinrich's description in Chapter IX, section 14, of the Chronicon Livoniae of a no longer extant ludus prophetarum played in Riga at the beginning of the thirteenth century is a text known well to twentieth-century drama historians and critics. As a starting point for further discussion, I offer Young's version of the chronicle entry. Eadem hyeme factus est ludus prophetarum ordinatissimus, quem Latini Comoediam vocant, in media Riga, vt fidei Christianae rudimenta gentilitas fide etiam disceret oculata. Cuius ludi et comoediae materia tarn neophytis, quam paganis, qui aderant, per interpretem diligentissime exponebatur. Vbi autem armati Gedeonis cum Philistaeis pugnabant; pagani, timentes occidi, fugere REGULA MEYER EVITT, Assistant Professor of English at San Francisco State University, is currently working on a series of articles on the changing depiction of Jews in continental and English medieval religious drama from the high to the late Middle Ages. 242 Regula Meyer Evitt243 coeperunt, sed caute sunt reuocati. Sic ergo admodum breue tempus siluit Ecclesia, in pace quiescendo. Iste autem ludus quasi praeambulum, praeludium et praesagium erat futurorum malorum. Nam in eodem ludo erant bella, vtpote Dauid, Gedeonis , Herodis. Erat et doctrina Veteris et Noui Testamenti, quia nimirum per bella plurima, quae sequuntur, conuertenda erat gentilitas, et per doctrinam Veteris et Noui Testamenti erat instruenda, qualiter ad verum pacificum et ad vitam perueniat sempiternam.5 The description is tantalizing, its colorful detail couched in ambiguous language. It raises as many questions as it answers: Who performed the play? Who was the audience? Does "in media Riga" ("in the middle of Riga") imply an indoor or outdoor performance? Was the scope of the ludus more extensive than the four episodes explicitly mentioned? Critics have for die most part agreed that the ludus prophetarum to which reference is made here is related to die liturgical Ordo Prophetarum or prophet procession, a dramatized form of the Christmas season liturgical lectio derived from Quodvultdeus' fifth-century adversus Judaeos sermon, Contra Iudaeos, Paganos, et Arríanos.. Our earliest extant Ordo Prophetarum , dating from the end of the eleventii century, is contained in Bibliothèque Nationale MS. lat. 1139 from die abbey library of Saint-Martial de Limoges.7 Heinrich's description suggests die kind of later episodic use of die prophet procession that we are familiar with in "semi-liturgical" religious dramas like the Jeu d'Adam or the Benediktbeuern Ludus de Nativitateß Given the religious subject matter of die Riga play, drama scholars have focused most frequently—and sometimes to the exclusion of other interesting matters in the chronicle entry—on the first two sentences of the passage and quite consistently on one phrase in particular: "ludus prophetarum ordinatissimus, quern Latini Comoediam vocant."9 The excerpt has proven most intriguing to its critical audience over die past century because of its apparent analogy between secular and religious forms of drama, its use of "non-religious terminology" to characterize a religious play.10 Creizenach initiates die critical dialogue on this unusual phrase for twentieth-century drama scholars.? He refers to this passage from die Livonian chronicle in die context of his discussion of the medieval misconstruction of literary forms from classical antiquity and observes that attributions of classical genre terminology...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 242-256
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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