Performing Medieval Narrative Today

A Video Showcase

Greed and Envy: The ending

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About the scene and clip:
The solo performer acts out all the characters—St. Martin, the greedy man, and the envious man—as the story draws to a close.

About the work:
This short fabliau, by the important poet and storyteller Jean Bodel, tells how a greedy (or covetous) man and an envious man meet up with St. Martin of Tours, who offers them a boon: the first one to make a wish will get whatever he asks for; the other will get double that amount. The two sinful men are in a terrible quandary since both are selfish and grasping. Finally, the envious man makes his wish: that he may lose one of his eyes—that way, the greedy man will lose both of his eyes! Done! Of their four eyes, only one is left. (This is what Greed and Envy do to human beings.)

About the genre:
Fabliaux are short comic tales. This narrative genre was extremely popular in the 13th and 14th centuries in France and elsewhere in Europe (Chaucer’s Miller’s Tale is a sophisticated fabliau). Fabliaux almost invariably deal with the passions of lust, gluttony, avarice–and with attempts to trick or deceive others. Characters are typically bourgeois, clerks and monks, or peasants–and often women. The treatment is comic or satirical. But fabliaux vary considerably. Some are extremely vulgar in language and treatment, inviting crude gestures in performance. Other fabliaux are based on puns or wordplay. Many have a moral at the end and some have ethical overtones throughout. A few fabliaux are refined and courtly in language and themes. Many fabliaux are anonymous, but a few are by known poets. Performance styles and strategies for the fabliaux probably varied considerably in the Middle Ages, according to the subject matter and characters, the poet, the performer(s), the occasion, and the kind of audience present.

About the edition/translation:
“Greed and Envy,” in Fabliaux Fair and Foul, trans. John Duval, Pegasus/ Medieval & Renaissance Texts, Binghamton, NY, 1992. French: “Du convoiteux et de l’envieux,” in Jean Bodel, Fabliaux, in Le Nouveau recueil complet des fabliaux, eds. Willem Noomen & Nico van den Boogaard, Assen, Van Gorcum.

About the performer/ensemble:
Anna Chazelle is a student in Dramatic Literature in the College of Arts and Science at New York University (2009).

About the production:
This performance was created for “Acting Medieval Literature,” taught by Prof. Timmie (E.B.) Vitz in spring 2009. It was videoed in the classroom by a fellow student.