The Staging of Religious Drama in Europe in the Later Middle Ages: Texts and Documents in English Translation ed. by Peter Meredith, John E. Tailby (review)
- Comparative Drama
- Western Michigan University
- Volume 18, Number 4, Winter 1984-1985
- pp. 374-377
- View Citation
- Additional Information
374 Comparative Drama The survey of Beolco/Ruzanti’s plays and their qualities of realism and violence will, I suspect, not surprise the Italianists, but biographical material on the clown Joe Grimaldi, the “English Joey” of the early nineteenth century, and a man of “daemonic energy,” will surely fascinate the reader. An attempt to resurrect the possible dramatic attributions to the Tudor playwrigjht Richard Edwards (on the recommendation of Francis Meres as being among “the best for comedy”) is worthily done when measured “against the dreary moralities, translations, and slapstick which are the norm of our dramatic heritage through the sixities” (p. 49). The Old Wives Tale comes up fresh again in a discussion of its structural cohesiveness as “a masterpiece of plotting” (p. 50), together with specu lation about its role as “a touring text.” The Dido paper makes a curious assumption about the physical size of the boy actor playing Aeneas who, it is thought, must have been smaller than his lover Dido, an uncomfort able basis for finding comedy in the play; nor do I believe that Cupid periodically jabs his golden arrow into Dido’s paps. Profanity and absurdity are sought out in Bartholomew Fair, with Jonson named as “a daemon plotter gone mad” (p. 72) because of his apparent creation of a madcap fair which seems to defy order: comic daemons surely inhabit here, but there are those readers who will refuse to accept that Jonson was not following a typically elaborate plan. The burlesque in Farquhar’s parodistic language and situation in The Constant Couple does not per haps sit easily in the company of Littlewit, Troubleall, Ursula the pig woman, et al. But the book concludes triumphantly by returning to Harlequin and his transmutation into the Venetian realism of Carlo Goldoni. Dramaturgy of the Daemonic is a highly idiosyncratic work, therefore, but in its intention to explore and explode the common expectations that accompany the comic genre it succeeds. If that genre ever was cohesive, it is properly less so now. J. L. STYAN Northwestern University Peter Meredith and John E. Tailby, eds. The Staging of Religious Drama in Europe in the Later Middle Ages: Texts and Documents in English Translation. Early Drama, Art, and Music Monograph Series, 4. Kal amazoo: Medieval Institute Publications, 1982. Pp. 301. $24.95; paper, $14.95. An historical source-book is a tool useful to the degree that its princi ples of inclusion, its accuracy of translation and references, and its clarity of organization serve its readers’ needs in introductory research. The very least that can be said of The Staging of Religious Drama in Europe in the Later Middle Ages is that it will probably become indis pensable. It can be superseded only by its own expansion, and even on that score there seem to be relatively few documents begging to be added to future editions. I can easily imagine a time, a few years hence, when students will take their “Meredith and Tailby” utterly for granted, as if the days before its availability were as unthinkably benighted as . . . well, Reviews 375 as those before 1952, when A. M. Nagler’s Sources of Theatrical History first came out. What—to get it over with—do I myself wish that the compilers had extended themselves to include? I wish that we had been given entries about the Frankfurt Passionplay of 1450, the evidence that Julius Peter sen used in 1921 to deduce a reconstruction that as recently as 1976 Nagler could call “a model of its kind” (The Medieval Religious Stage, p. 16). I wish too that we could have at our fingertips the accounts of the Viennese Passionplay during Wilhelm Rollinger’s directorship ( 14861519 ). Here I have a special concern. That Passionplay included a vivid Ausführung along the five blocks between the New Market (where the scenes of Maundy Thursday night were staged) and the courtyard of St. Stephan’s Church (where the crucifixion and entombment were en acted). Documented examples of ambulatory staging are unusual, even though one such Way-of-the-Cross play actually survives in southern Poland, still performed yearly on a course, dotted with small “chapels” as stations, laid out between...