Performing Medieval Narrative Today

A Video Showcase

Yvain: Yvain meets the Lion

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About the scene and clip:
In this scene, the hero, Yvain, meets for the first time the lion who will be his constant companion for the remainder of the romance. A puppet expresses the charm and appeal of the lion, despite Yvain’s initial concerns about leonine ferocity.

About the work:
Yvain is one of the five surviving romances by Chrétien de Troyes, who is often considered the father of Arthurian romance. This great work, in octosyllabic rhymed couplets, was composed for Marie, Countess of Champagne, around 1170. The romance recounts the adventures of Yvain, a knight of King Arthur’s court, who wins the beautiful Laudine in marriage (having killed her husband in single combat). He then loses both her love and his honor through his failure to keep a vow to return home from his knightly activities by an agreed-upon date. The second half of the romance is devoted to adventures in which Yvain, accompanied by a lion, creates a new name for himself (the “Knight with the Lion”), recovers his honor through a series of good deeds, and finally wins back his wife.

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:
Abridged from Yvain or The Knight with the Lion, trans. Ruth Harwood Cline, Athens, GA, University of Georgia Press, 1975, pp. 94-96. Old French: Le Chevalier au Lion (Yvain), ed./trans. David F. Hult, inRomans de Chrétien de Troyes, eds./trans. J.M. Fritz et al, Paris, Classiques Modernes/ Livre de Poche, 1994.

About the performer/ensemble:
Jenn Jordan is majoring in Medieval and Renaissance Studies in the College of Arts and Science at New York University (2004).

About the production:
This performance was created as part of an Independent Study with Prof. Timmie (E.B.) Vitz in fall 2003. The clip comes from a performance that took place in May 2004 in the Great Hall of 19 University Place, at a public performance. The performance was videoed by NYU-TV.