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chapter two Transmission and Transformation Liturgical Allegory and the Idea of Theater as christianity took institutional hold in Western Europe, churches, monasteries, ceremonies, iconography, and texts began to create distinctly Christian modes of representation. Elaborations on the liturgies of the Mass and of‹ces yielded what twentieth-century scholars have come to recognize as the emergence of a dramatic tradition in the Quem quaeritis trope and Visitatio sepulchri ceremonies of the tenth- and eleventh-century liturgies.1 Also by the late tenth century, the plays of Terence (conceived as literature or poetry) were adapted without the masks, cothurni, stage buildings, professional actors, or prostitutes associated with the ancient pagan stages. Hrotswitha of Gandersheim (ca. 935–1002) depicted virtuous Christian women in literary dramas for which she used Terence’s plays as her model, and an anonymous poet produced a Latin verse prologue in which Terence is a character.2 But while performers entertained in what many scholars consider the continuation of the Roman theatrical tradition,3 the idea of theater as a distinctive mode of representation, a cultural practice, and a social institution remained bound to the ancient world. Even as knowledge from that distant culture was transmitted and integrated into Christian intellectual practice, the characteristics of theatrum were evoked but not replicated.4 This chapter looks at adaptations of the idea of pagan theater in Christian texts. For Rabanus Maurus (ca. 780–856) and Remigius of Auxerre (ca. 841–908), ancient theater becomes part of the typology of the pre-Christian world. Each interprets ancient theater through Christianity’s triumph over the pagan past, wrapping their information with Christian analogies, metaphors, and interpretations, but not changing theater’s fundamental alterity to Christianity.5 The liturgical allegories of Amalarius of Metz 43 (775/80–850), however, raised the specter of theatricality amid concerns for ongoing paganism, Christian materialism or worldliness, and the limits of human interpretation.6 Writing in a tradition of liturgical commentary that can easily be traced to Isidore’s De ecclesiasticis of‹ciis, Amalarius was part of an entire genre of learned re›ection on the Mass and its meanings. In this case, however, comparisons with ancient theater provided Amalarius’s critics with a cipher for accusations of theological transgressions.7 The set of texts discussed in this chapter demonstrates the distinction made in Christian thought between the idea of ancient theater and Christian intellectual or ritual practices.8 In a sense, the writings of Rabanus Maurus and Remigius moved the medieval discussion of theater in the opposite direction from that of Amalarius and his critics. Rabanus Maurus and Remigius actively tried to ‹nd analogues for pagan history in Christian experience. The suggestion of experiential symbolism in Amalarius’s liturgical allegories, however, brought to light differences between Christian hermeneutic strategies and the entertainments of the pagan past, as well as an uncomfortable relationship between scriptural exegesis and its sensual representation. Rabanus Maurus: Theater as Metaphor The Carolingian interest in the liberal arts—their use in inquiries into Christian faith and history as well as their value in speculation—shifted the interpretation of ancient theater in relationship to Christian thought and practice. John Marenbon recognizes the Carolingian emphasis on the liberal arts and education in general as an ongoing Neoplatonic inquiry into knowledge, its methods and objects.9 In this intellectual climate, Rabanus Maurus produced what Marcia L. Colish refers to as a “user-friendly” version of Isidore’s Etymologiae , including its descriptions of the ancient theaters.10 As a pedagogical supplement to liberal arts studies, Maurus’s De universo guided a student through edited entries modeled on those of the Etymologiae but reorganized. Working in a missionary context, Rabanus Maurus also cast Isidore’s factual documentation of pagan theater in a language of Christian mysticism. The pagan past, as Isidore had laid it out, became a lens through which Christianity could be understood and taught as an evolutionary process moving from Christ’s birth to his redemption of the physical world. Without suggesting that Christian representation might actually use ancient theatrical techniques , Rabanus Maurus mined records of Greco-Roman entertainments for 44 The Idea of the Theater in Latin Christian Thought their latent Christian symbolism and meaning in the broader effort to promote Christian faith over the beliefs of barbarian paganism. Following book 18 of the Etymologiae, De universo’s book 21 continued the classi‹cation of theater with competitions and sports—rather than with language , literary forms, dialectic or rhetoric, as would be the case in...


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