Performing Medieval Narrative Today

A Video Showcase

Perceval: Grail appears, Perceval silent

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About the scene and clip:
Perceval sees the mysterious Grail procession arrive in the hall, but he fails to ask important questions that he should have asked about the grail.

About the work:
Perceval is the last of the five surviving romances by Chrétien de Troyes who is often considered the father of Arthurian romance. This unfinished work, in octosyllabic rhymed couplets, was composed for Philippe of Alsace, Count of Flanders, around 1180. The romance recounts the adventures of Perceval, a noble youth who was raised in ignorance of knighthood in the woods of Wales by his widowed mother, but who gets himself knighted by King Arthur and progressively learns about knighthood; this romance also tells of adventures of Gawain, always given as a paragon of chivalry. In this work the Grail makes its first appearance in medieval literature; there will be many more.

About the genre:
Medieval romances are typically long narratives of love and adventure in which an aristocratic hero (or occasionally a heroine) proves himself in combat and courtship. Medieval romance arose in France and Anglo-Norman England in the 12th century and spread through Western and even Eastern Europe. Many early romances tell the stories of knights and ladies at King Arthur’s court. In the 12th and 13th centuries, romances are composed in verse (typically octosyllabic rhymed couplets), and are commonly performed aloud from memory by minstrels; romances are also sometimes read aloud. In the 13th century, some romances begin to be written in prose; public and private readings become more frequent.

About the edition/translation:
Perceval: The Story of the Grail, trans. Burton Raffel, New Haven, Yale University Press, 1999. Original text: Le conte du Graal, ed./trans. Charles Méla, in Romans, eds./trans. J.M. Fritz et al., Paris, Classiques Modernes/ Livre de Poche, 1994.

About the performer/ensemble:
Justin Fair is a Drama Student in the Atlantic Acting School at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts (2003).

About the production:
This performance was created as part of an Independent Study with Prof. Timmie (E.B.) Vitz in fall 2003. This video was made in December 2003 at the Maison Française of New York University at a private performance.