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chapter three Renaissance and Reorientation Ancient Theater Revisited in the Twelfth Century R carolingian writers had carried the idea of ancient theater forward from the Fathers as a denigrated and false mode of representation (whatever Christian values might be imposed on the historical records). The revival of focus on classical texts in the eleventh century, as they both matched and challenged Christian beliefs, allowed for a more complex representation of ancient theater in Christian writings from the twelfth century. Terence’s comedies continued to provide literature for study, as they had for Hrotswitha of Gandersheim (ca. 935–ca. 1002), who had reworked them as demonstrations of Christian morality and female virtue. School comedies based on Roman plays were composed in France; some of them commented on current events, such as the scandal of Peter Abelard, and may have received performances at court. These comedies include Vitalis of Blois’s Geta, William of Blois’s Alda, the anonymous Pamphilus, and Babio.1 While they were treated and referred to as literature, that Terence’s plays were mentioned in other kinds of writing suggests that the idea of a theatrical mise-ensc ène was not entirely anathema to Christian thinking. The tradition of literary dialogue, allegorical and nonallegorical, also ›ourished in the twelfth century.2 The Young Woman in the epistolary dialogues attributed to Heloise goes so far as to liken her own feelings to those of Antiphilia in Terence’s Heautontimorumenos (The self-torturer). 3 By the early twelfth century, the expressive conventions of Christian worship had expanded to include what is now generally recognized as liturgical drama.4 With liturgical drama and vernacular preaching bringing Christian 72 learning more directly to laypeople and with new devotional forms proliferating , the hermeneutics of embodiment discussed in chapter 2 entered discussions of Christian spirituality. Far from registering an “antitheatrical” bias, however, critiques of liturgical developments spoke across different registers . With the emergence of impersonated characters in ritual settings, the issues of persona and masking raised a practical concern for maintaining the integrity of a Christian body and its soul in the ‹ctional portrayal of a less than Christian person.5 Some criticisms focused on the dangers of role-playing . The polyphonic settings of traditional chants, which introduced combinatory musical structures into the Mass and of‹ces, earned criticism for heightening emotion through excessive gesturing that called attention to the performer instead of the worship.6 In tandem with liturgical experimentation and its discontents, vitality in the liberal arts shifted the reception and use of classical learning. The educational reforms that blurred categorical distinctions between pagan, Christian, and vernacular literature generated new applications for the poetry, literature, and philosophy of the ancient world— and for its theater.7 The theaters and performances of the ancient world, however, remained a matter of conjecture. The theatrical conventions of the ancients were not directly imitated, nor were liturgical dramas discussed according to what was known of ancient theater. But Christian thought in the twelfth century began to adapt the idea of ancient theater without the stigma of Roman or barbarian paganism. Rather than being rejected, adapted, or explained in relationship to Christian thought, the idea of ancient theater was integrated into and, more important, as this chapter will show, compared favorably with Christian thought and practices. The twelfth-century move to extract from ancient texts the ethical principles of Christianity differed, as Richard Southern famously argued, from the “literary humanism” of the Renaissance, which valued classical texts apart from their importance to Christian theology.8 But the awareness of human dignity emerging in the twelfth century can quite properly be called a kind of humanism oriented toward restoring a closer likeness between God and man, whether the effort is to make God more human or humans more godlike.9 Ancient theater, its aura of paganism growing dimmer and dimmer, offered twelfth-century thinkers a template for notions that spirituality might unfold from human beings.10 In this changing relationship to the pagan past and with embodiment of biblical events an increasing force in Christian worship, references to GrecoRoman theater (the performance practice attached to, but distinct from, litrenaissance and reorientation 73 erary drama) appear in distinct registers. In the twelfth century emerge thinkers who treat theater with more ›exibility in relation to both the classical past and the Christian present. Honorius Augustodunensis of Regensburg used the image of a theatrical tragedian in his allegorical explanation of the Mass in the Gemma animae of 1100. In the Didascalicon...


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