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Iconographie Contexts of the Swedish De uno peccatore qui promeruit gratiam Stephen K. Wright The De uno peccatore qui promeruit gratiam—the play of the sinner who found mercy—is the oldest surviving play in any Scandinavian language.1 The Latin title is misleading, for the work is written entirely in the vernacular. Compared with the vast multi-day spectacles of late medieval France and Germany, the Swedish De uno peccatore is a compact work indeed, running to a mere 362 lines of four-stress couplets. Despite its modest scale, however, this anonymous miracle play offers useful examples of some of the ways in which verbal and pictorial image-making interacted on the late medieval stage. Curiously enough, the De uno peccatore qui promeruit gratiam owes its survival to a priest's willingness to skirt the rules of his order. In the closing years of the fifteenth century, a certain Johannes Gerardus served as chaplain to abbess Sigrid Birgersdotter and the Cistercian nuns at a small convent in Askaby, about fifteen kilometers east of Linköping in what is now the southeastern Swedish province of Östergötland. Gerardus was also a passionate bibliophile. Although the rules governing Cistercian libraries discouraged such practices, he compiled for his private use a large anthology of vernacular chronicles, romances, lyrics, and devotional pieces. Dated colophons in the manuscript, now known as the Askaby Codex (Copenhagen, Det Arnamagnaeanske Institut, AM 191 fol.), indicate that Gerardus acquired the text of the De uno peccatore around 1492.2 The play itself is clearly somewhat older; estimates of the date of its composition range from the mid-fourteenth to the mid-fifteenth century.3 Dialectal evidence confirms that the work was composed not far from Askaby.4 Two kinds of internal evidence establish that the De uno Stephen K. Wright5 peccatore qui promeruit gratiam was designed for actual performance by a cast of four actors. First, the play is framed by a brief prologue and an epilogue addressed to a lay audience ("Alt got folk" [1. I]) consisting of both women and men ("bade quinnor ok men" [1. 361]). Second, the text includes not only speech prefixes, but also detailed stage directions which specify the actors' movements, gestures, and even facial expressions (s.d. at 11. 34, 124, 138, 154, 170, 188, 204, 334, 344). Nevertheless, it is extremely unlikely that the text preserved in the Askaby Codex was itself ever used as an acting script. It is possible that Johannes Gerardus may have seen a version of the De uno peccatore performed in Linköping or another nearby town before acquiring the text for his anthology, but there is no evidence to suggest that the work was ever staged at Askaby. Since the De uno peccatore is virtually unknown to modern readers, it is perhaps best to begin with a brief synopsis. The work opens with a prologue (U. 1-34) in which an unnamed speaker greets the audience, outlines the events that they are about to see, and asks them to remain silent and not disrupt the action in the playing area. The play itself begins with the confession of a certain Vratislaus, who comes to St. Procopius and laments that he has sinned so grievously that he is sure he can never be forgiven. St. Procopius agrees that he has never before encountered such a consummate sinner, but nonetheless encourages Vratislaus to seek the help of the Virgin. The sinner fears Mary will refuse, but Procopius insists that she will protect him even if he is possessed by demons. As it turns out, the sinner is a better prophet than the saint. When Vratislaus approaches the Virgin, stage directions inform us that she literally turns her back on him: "Her tiger jomfrw maria ok wänder baken aat honom" ("Now the Virgin Mary remains silent and turns her back to him" [1. I38sd]). In utter despair, Vratislaus threatens to stab himself with his dagger, thus condemning his soul to hell once and for all. At this, Mary relents and turns his hand aside. She takes Vratislaus to the throne of the domare—Christ the Judge—and implores her son to forgive her penitent devotee. Like...

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