- Miracles de Notre-Dame par personnages trans. by Gérard Bezançon and Pierre Kunstmann
This is the first of three volumes presenting a translation into modern French of the forty Miracles composed and performed by the Saint-Éloi confrérie of goldsmiths between 1339 and 1382. This remarkably rich corpus is found in the Cangé manuscript, Paris, BnF, MS f.fr. 819–20. The variety, wealth, and ingenuity of the stories is astonishing. Although most stories do not originate with these authors, they are very much plays about the fourteenth-century world. The Miracles have attracted some scholarly attention but editions and translations have largely been of individual plays. The translations are based on Gaston Paris and Ulysse Robert’s edition (Paris: Firmin Didot et cie, 1876–93), later studies by Rudolf Glutz, François Bonnardot, and Pierre Kunstmann, and consultation of the manuscript (available via Gallica and the Laboratoire de français ancien (LFA, <www.francaisancien.net> [accessed 1 July 2019])). Line numbers given here are those found on the LFA website. There is a general introduction giving political, cultural, religious, and dramatic/theatrical background, followed by translations of the first sixteen miracles. Each miracle is preceded by its own brief introduction (description, sources, context, and particularities of the miracle). The book includes an index of proper nouns, index of place names, and a bibliography. Although it is usually preferable to have edition and translation presented together, this is not possible in this case: the amount of material is clearly far too large for the medieval French to be presented in a practical (and affordable) facing-page format. Already the first volume of sixteen plays, covering the years 1339–55, runs to 714 pages. This in no way takes away from the value of this handsome book. The translators have gone to great lengths both to present the texts appealingly for those new to the miracles, and also to make sure that readers interested in the original text are able to locate passages easily. A great deal of work, skill, and time has gone into this volume. The forty miracles are on average around two thousand lines each and, in the main, originally in octosyllabic rhyming couplets. Whilst remaining faithful to the original, the translations and stage instructions are translated into prose. The plays are readable, lively where possible, and give the occasional footnote if further clarification is necessary. With the benefit of the introductions, readers unfamiliar with medieval theatre can still enjoy vivid stories of royalty, history, martyrdom, adventure, murder, apostasy and other Church matters, and a wide range of carnal matters. There is a varied and often entertaining dramatis personae including popes and bishops, nuns and monks, saints and emperors, women in childbirth and erring husbands, angels and demons, historical figures and recognizable fourteenth-century personalities. The introductions and translations succeed in presenting a once-remote world in an extremely accessible, attractive, teachable fashion. Medieval scholars of many disciplines, and potentially even those wishing to put on an authentic medieval play, will find that there are great riches here. Gérard Bezançon, Pierre Kunstmann, and Françoise Paradis are to be both thanked and congratulated on such fine work.