About the scene and clip:
The performer tells—and rather freely adapts—the fabliau. This performance contains many elements: the performer uses a variety of accents; he juggles; he has recourse to numerous props and costume elements, and to recorded music; he pulls in a member of the audience. (The clip is missing a few seconds, during which “PB” is revealed as meaning “Perfect Bosom” and the wife criticizes her husband.)
About the work:
A poet named Guerin, about whom nothing is known, wrote this famous fabliau and several others. Berangier of the Long Ass tells of an impoverished knight who marries a wealthy wife from the bourgeoisie. The knight is lazy and cowardly, but he pretends to be courageous and successful in battle, and mocks his wife’s lack of noble ancestry. She proves that he is a liar by dressing up as a knight herself and challenging him; when he is afraid to fight, she humiliates him.
About the genre:
Fabliaux are short comic tales. This narrative genre was extremely popular in the 13th and 14th centuries in France and elsewhere in Europe (Chaucer’s Miller’s Tale is a sophisticated fabliau). Fabliaux almost invariably deal with the passions of lust, gluttony, avarice–and with attempts to trick or deceive others. Characters are typically bourgeois, clerks and monks, or peasants–and often women. The treatment is comic or satirical. But fabliaux vary considerably. Some are extremely vulgar in language and treatment, inviting crude gestures in performance. Other fabliaux are based on puns or wordplay. Many have a moral at the end and some have ethical overtones throughout. A few fabliaux are refined and courtly in language and themes. Many fabliaux are anonymous, but a few are by known poets. Performance styles and strategies for the fabliaux probably varied considerably in the Middle Ages, according to the subject matter and characters, the poet, the performer(s), the occasion, and the kind of audience present.
About the edition/translation:
Fabliaux Fair and Foul, trans. John Duval, Pegasus/ Medieval & Renaissance Texts, Binghamton, NY, 1992, pp. 99-106. French edition: Nouveau Recueil des Fabliaux, eds. Willem Noomen and Nico van den Boogaard, Assen, Van Gorcum, Vol. IV (1983).
About the performer/ensemble:
Michael Ritchie is a PhD student in the French Department at New York University (2005).
About the production:
This is one of two fabliau performances by Michael Ritchie at the Kentucky Foreign Language Conference in April 2005, in a session devoted to performance of medieval narrative organized by Timmie (E.B.) Vitz. The videography was done by Faith Young, a student of Prof. Simonetta Cochia at Transylvania College in Lexington, Kentucky.