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Reviewed by:
  • Moralité de Fortune, Maleur, Eur, Povreté, Franc Arbitre et Destinee ed. by G. Matteo Roccati
  • Kathy M. Krause
Moralité de Fortune, Maleur, Eur, Povreté, Franc Arbitre et Destinee. Édition critique par G. Matteo Roccati. (Biblioteca di Studi Francesi.) Turin: Rosenberg & Sellier, 2018. ccxxvii + 240 pp.

G. Matteo Roccati has produced a handsome scholarly edition and translation (into modern French) of the Moralité from its single extant witness: Paris, BnF, MS 6218. A rare example of a non-religious French morality play from the later fifteenth century, this is a welcome addition to the corpus of edited medieval French theatrical texts. It is all the more welcome thanks to Roccati’s Introduction, as well as the quality of the edition and translation. The Moralité will be of interest not only as an addition to our understanding of fifteenth-century theatre, but more broadly as a witness to the philosophical and intellectual climate of the later Middle Ages. An adaptation of the certamen between Fortune and Poverty in the opening of De casibus virorum illustrium, the play will also interest scholars of Boccaccio and medieval humanism. Indeed, its abundant classical and biblical allusions make it a sort of snapshot of the intellectual culture of its milieu, and its intercalation of numerous lyric set pieces enlarges that snapshot to include the lyric practices of its day. Roccati’s edition itself is remarkably thorough. It begins by discussing in depth the various ‘dimensions’ of the text (pp. xliii–li) — including the use of mythological and biblical references, scholastic and juridical elements — and then moves to the stylistic aspects, such as the interplay of Latin and French or comedic elements. The exhaustivity makes for somewhat fastidious reading, but will be immensely helpful to anyone studying the Moralité. A consideration of the play’s staging focuses primarily on demonstrating that [End Page 621] the Moralité was written to be performed, and leads to a section on what we can know of the author and composition of the play and a discussion on how the text derives from Boccaccio’s De casibus. The Introduction’s second half focuses on linguistic aspects, including some sixty pages about the play’s language and prosody, but seems almost reluctant to draw any conclusions. The Introduction ends with comments on editorial practice, a bibliography, and two Annexes: the major divisions of the text and a remarkable schematic representation of the play. The edition of the Moralité itself is well laid out, and represents, Roccati tells us, an attempt to stay as close to the manuscript layout as possible in order to conserve ‘l’altérité [du texte] sans le “sacraliser”’ (p. clxxxiv). The choice of marginal arrows to signal the various notes is user-unfriendly: this reviewer kept forgetting which arrow direction referred to which notes; but that is a minor quibble. A fluid and careful translation into modern French follows the edition. Normally, a facing-page translation is to be preferred for teaching purposes; however, the Moralité’s many intertextual references are such that only the most advanced students will grasp even the modern French. The volume concludes with a useful series of indices: metrical forms, proverbs, proper names. In sum, this is an exemplary edition of a fascinating example of late-fifteenth-century French theatrical and philosophical practice.

Kathy M. Krause
University of Missouri–Kansas City


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