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The Fleury Playbook and the Traditions of Medieval Latin Drama C. Clifford Flanigan The Fleury Playbook, containing verbal and musical texts for ten plays and now a portion of MS. 201 in the Orléans Municipal Library, is the most extensive surviving collection of medieval Latin music-dramas. Four of these plays have as their subjects episodes from the St. Nicholas legend, while the remain­ ing six include the Herod and Innocents plays made famous by the New York Pro Musica productions, a Lazarus play, extensive Visitatio and Peregrinus plays, and a play about the conversion of St. Paul. All have received a great deal of previous attention. Five of them are included in David Bevington’s anthology Medieval Drama, and Fletcher Collins has edited all ten plays in his book of performing versions of seventeen plays from the music-drama repertory. Similarly, Gustave Cohen devoted more than forty percent of his collection of French liturgical drama to plays from the Fleury collection. Indeed, among the anthol­ ogists of the Latin music-drama of the past half-century, only Karl Langosch, with his evident bias for German culture, has chosen to omit the Fleury dramas from his book. Clearly these plays are among the most favored of all medieval dramas.1 This predisposition for the Fleury plays is understandable; by any standard they are extraordinary creations. The very excellence of the individual plays has in fact tended to draw attention away from the collection as a whole. It is true that Giampiero Tintori edited the collection in 1958, and that a continuing controversy had grown up around Solange Corbin’s claim that the manuscript was not written at the monastery of St. Benoit-sur-Loire.2 But these scholarly works are only excep­ tions that point to the relative lack of attention to the collection C. CLIFFORD FLANIGAN teaches in the Comparative Literature program at Indiana University. Professor Flanigan has published widely on medieval drama. 348 C. Clifford Flanigan 349 as a whole. The present essay seeks to redress this imbalance. I shall argue that the Fleury Playbook, when understood in context, is one of the most significant documents in the history of European drama not only because of the quality of its con­ tents, but also especially because of what it teaches us about at least one twelfth-century scribe’s understanding of the nature and character of drama. Medieval Latin music-drama has long been the object of intense scrutiny by musical and literary historians, and it may seem an act of critical hybris on my part to argue that the Playbook has great historical significance which has eluded earlier scholarship. There is, however, a readily available expla­ nation for this omission—an explanation which stems from the way that the study of medieval Latin music-drama has tradi­ tionally proceeded. In Karl Young’s Drama of the Medieval Church as well as in its predecessors and successors, plays have been edited and discussed according to their subject matter. However different their contents, musical and literary forms, and places of origin, all Christmas plays, for example, have been lumped together in the standard histories. This practice has several unfortunate results. In the first place, the plays’ textual histories have been obscured. Young found it impossible to con­ struct textual stemmae for the Easter plays.3 Happily, this deficiency in Young’s work has been corrected by Helmut deBoor’s study of the Osterfeiern in which the broad lines of the textual dissemination of this enormous mass of material are sketched.4 Other scholars have also contributed to our under­ standing of the manuscript tradition.5 Such studies have now culminated in Walther Lipphardt’s magnificent six-volume edi­ tion of the Easter ordines and plays.6 These important develop­ ments make necessary a complete revaluation of our knowledge about Latin music-drama, including the plays in the Fleury collection—a fact that seems not yet sufficiently recognized by Anglo-American scholars. At least with Lipphardt’s edition a beginning has been made which will take seriously questions of textual relationships and manuscript study. But another difficulty arising from the persis­ tent tendency to edit and study these texts...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 348-372
Launched on MUSE
2018-07-11
Open Access
No
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