Performing Medieval Narrative Today

A Video Showcase

Fables: Monkey King

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About the scene and clip:
Doing all the roles, the performer tells about the king, the monkey and his family, and the dishonest and the honest man.

About the work:
Marie de France, a major literary figure from the Middle Ages, is one of the few women writers of the period whose work has survived. Little is known of her, except that she was almost certainly of the nobility. She wrote in England apparently in the 1160s and ‘70s; her work is in French (or “Anglo-Norman”: the French language as spoken and written in medieval England). She wrote lais—a dozen short narrative poems with Breton roots, composed in octosyllabic rhymed couplets, and bearing on love in its many forms. The lais circulated separately, and also together in a volume that she dedicated to King Henry (probably English King Henry II). She also wrote Espurgatoire seint Patriz (St. Patrick’s Purgatory), about a pilgrimage down to the afterlife, based on Latin sources; and Fables, also based largely on Latin sources. She is now widely believed also to have been the author of the Anglo-NormanVie seinte Audree (Life of Saint Audrey).

About the genre:
A fable is a short tale, frequently featuring animals; most fables have a clear moral point, often stated explicitly at the beginning or end. Medieval European fables generally draw heavily on those of Aesop, who in turn was influenced by Indian and other Eastern fables and moral tales.

About the edition/translation:
The Fables of Marie de France, ed. and English translation, Mary Lou Martin, Birmingham, Ala., Summa Publications, 1984, pp. 107-9.

About the performer/ensemble:
Sasha Orr is an Economics Major in the College of Arts and Science at New York University (2005).

About the production:
This performance was created for an Independent Study with Prof. Timmie (E.B.) Vitz in fall 2005; it was a final performance for the course, and was videoed in December 2005 at the Maison Française of New York University by Nick Spangler.