Performing Medieval Narrative Today

A Video Showcase

Rose or Dole: Scenes

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About the scene and clip:
This clip shows five scenes from the “Teaching Medieval Romance through Video Performance” video of The Romance of the Rose or of Guillaume de Dole. The first scene shows rejoicing, dancing and singing in the court of the Emperor Conrad. In the second scene, Conrad has just fallen madly in love with Lienor after hearing her beauty and virtue praised by Jouglet, and he sings about his love while Jouglet plays the vielle. The third scene shows Lienor singing a “chanson de toile” (a weaving song) for her family and guests. These three scenes emphasize the ways in which songs sung by the characters in the romance, along with instrumental music and dancing, have been inserted by the poet into the narrative. This video takes special interest in the musical dimension of The Romance of the Rose or of Guillaume de Dole. In the fifth scene, the narrator (Jouglet) reads the text aloud while manuscript illuminations illustrate the romance account of a great tournament at St. Trond and instrumental music creates the appropriate ambiance of sound.

About the work:
The Romance of the Rose or of Guillaume de Dole is a verse romance in octosyllabic rhymed couplets, composed by Jean Renart in northern France early in the 13th century. This is apparently the first romance into which songs were inserted. These songs, representing some thirty-five lyric genres, are represented as sung by the minstrel Jouglet and by various characters. The romance itself recounts the love from afar of the Emperor Conrad for Lienor and his desire to marry her; it also tells of his friendship for her brother, Guillaume. False accusations by the evil seneschal (a high court official) threaten Lienor’s marriage to the Emperor, but she cleverly foils the seneschal, regains her honor, and contrives her wedding and a happy ending.

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:
Text translated and abridged by Switten. Original: Le roman de la Rose ou de Guillaume de Dole, ed. Félix Lecoy, Paris, Champion, 1966. See also the dual-language (Old French/English) edition, Le roman de la rose ou de Guillaume de Dole/The Romance of the Rose or of Guillaume de Dole, ed./trans. Regina Psaki, New York, Garland, 1995.

About the performer/ensemble:
The Folger Consort, based in Washington DC and associated with the Folger Library, is a chamber music ensemble which plays music from the 12th to the 18th century; the instrumentalists are often joined by guest singers. The performers were (1993) and remain (2004) professional actors and singers who perform widely, often with ensembles such as the Folger Consort and Hesperus. Their updated bios are available online.

About the production:
This multi-scene clip is drawn from “Teaching Medieval Romance through Video Performance,” a project supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities and Mount Holyoke College. Project directors were Margaret Switten and Robert Eisenstein; stage direction was by Michael Tolaydo. Production: Sheffield Audio-Video Productions, 1993; Robert Bender, video producer. A copy of this video is available at the Avery Fisher Center in Bobst Library at New York University.