Performing Medieval Narrative Today

A Video Showcase

Eustace: Disguises

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About the scene and clip:
The solo performer reads aloud, acting out scenes from the story of Eustace, who is a master of disguise. The performer does Eustace as a pot seller, a charcoal burner, a nightingale, and a woman of easy virtue.

About the work:
Wistasse li moine (Eustace the Monk) is an anonymous romance, composed in octosyllabic rhymed couplets, dating from the late 13th century. This highly unusual romance tells the adventures of a former monk turned brigand and pirate. Wistasse, or Eustace, is a character at once strongly comic and even rather sympathetic, but also at points disturbingly violent and cruel. His greatest desire is to humiliate and avenge himself on his feudal lord, the count of Boulogne. Frequently adopting some disguise, Eustace repeatedly succeeds in deceiving and infuriating the count—and other people as well. The story is based on the life of an historical figure from the north of France who died in 1217 at the Battle of Sandwich; at the end of the romance, he is decapitated as a pirate by the British: “No one who is always intent on evil can live for a long time.”

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 Eustace the Monk, in Two Medieval Outlaws: Eustace the Monk and Fouke Fitz Waryn, tr. Glyn Burgess, Woodbridge, Suffolk, D.S. Brewer, 1997, pp. 62ff. Original text: Le Roman d’Eustache le moine, tr. A.J. Holden & J. Monfrin, Louvain, Peeters, 2005.

About the performer/ensemble:
Dave Perlow is a Drama student in the CAP 21 Studio at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts (2005).

About the production:
This performance was created for a group independent study with Prof. Timmie (E.B.) Vitz in fall 2005. It took place on December 15, 2005, as part of an event titled “Making It Real: Performing the Middle Ages,” at an Off-off-Broadway venue in New York City—The American Place Theatre, 266 West 37th St (22nd floor). The performance was also sponsored by “Storytelling in Performance,” a workshop funded by the Humanities Council of New York University and co-directed by Profs. Timmie Vitz, Nancy Regalado and Martha Hodes. Gina Guadagnino was the videographer.