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L 'Escole au deable: Tavern Scenes in the Old French Moralité Alan Hindley To study the drama of thirteenth-century Arras is to be immediately aware ofthe significance ofthe tavern as a representation of the world of sin into which characters are drawn, be it the robbers of Jean Bodel's Le Jeu de Saint Nicolas, the prodigal son of the anonymous Courtois d 'Arras, or the motley crowd onstage at the end of Adam de la Halle's Le Jeu de lafeuillée. Such scenes have attracted critical attention in recent years: Jane B. Dozer has shown how the tavern came to be identified in the popular consciousness as the appropriate dramatic locus for nonChristian comic scenes, and usefully reproduces Canon and Civil interdictions levelled at tavern-based activities.1 More recently, Jean Dufournet's study of the tavern scenes in the Arras plays highlights a number of recurring themes with their variations both goliardic and moralizing.2 In these plays the tavern is a place of sin and temptation, presided over by a tavern-keeper who fleeces his customers, lured there by the wine that gives them courage to consort with prostitutes or to indulge in fraud, depicted most tellingly in the extensive gambling episodes. This heritage, however, is somewhat subverted in the closing scenes of Le Jeu de la Feuillée, where there is no joy of salvation, or even of inebriation—only madness and despair. The aim of this article is to show how the traditional locus of the tavern came to be adapted in the morality plays of the later Middle Ages in France. In the farces, where the interplay between fool and knave is an important thematic and structural element, the tavern sometimes features as a focus for tricksters (occasionally the tavern-keeper himself, as in Le Chaudronnier, le savetier et le tavernier,3 for instance) and their dupes, its clientele providing the realism which is a feature ofthe genre.4 And in the mystères, too, characters occasionally repair for refreshment to their local hostelry, as for instance in the Mystère de Saint Sébastien, where the fool attempts to seduce the innkeeper 's wife.5 But it is in the late medieval French moralités, 454 Alan Hindley455 plays that depict mankind's moral journey through life to death and redemption, that the tavern and its associated activities take on a meaning that is every bit as significant as in the Arras plays. In the Jeu de Saint Nicolas the tavern represents both a tempting paradise on earth and a den of iniquity, in Henri Rey-Flaud's words: "un lieu clos, une sorte d'Enfer fermé sur lui-même [. . .] le monde de l'échec. . ." [a closed world ... a sort of Hell turned in on itself ... a world of failure].6 In the later moralités, the reemergence of the dramatic and symbolic value of the tavern as the place of sin and temptation comes as no surprise. In many respects the morality plays drew their subject matter from a long tradition of moralizing texts depicting mankind's moral pilgrimage through life, with vices and virtues in constant competition for his soul.7 It is clear that such moral handbooks were not, for the men and women of the later Middle Ages, the little-read texts of distant generations, but remained widely available from booksellers who were clearly responding to public demand. For example, the celebrated publisher Anthoine Verard issued in 1490 a version of La Somme du Roy, originally written by the Dominican Friar Laurent for Philippe the Bold in 1279. In a section on the importance of fasting, the text thunders against the tavern as the "fountaine de pechié," where the devil, too, wreaks his miracles: La taverne est l'escole au diable ou ses disciples l'estudient; et la chappelle ou l'en fait ses services et ses miracles telz comme il affiert au dyable a montrer. Quant Dieu veult ses miracles et vertus faire, il fait les aveugles enluminer, les contrefaitz redrecier, rendre le sens aux forsenez, la parole aux muets, l'ouye aux sours; mais le diable fait tout le contraire. Le glouton va en...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 454-473
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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