Performing Medieval Narrative Today

A Video Showcase

Hebrew Arthur: Author speaks; Merlin’s trick

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About the scene and clip:
This clip is in three parts. First, the solo performer reads aloud in English the opening passages of the work. Next, he reads aloud in English the scene where the enchanter Merlin arranges for Uther Pendragon to spend a night with the beautiful Duchess Yzerna (Ygerna), in the likeness of her husband. The performer then does the same scene again, but in Hebrew, from memory.

About the work:
King Artus is an adaptation into Hebrew of parts of the story of King Arthur. It was written in 1279 by an anonymous Italian Jew.

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:
A Hebrew Arthurian Romance of 1279: King Artus, ed. /trans. Curt Leviant, Syracuse NY, Syracuse University Press, 2003, pp. 8-11; 16-19.

About the performer/ensemble:
Nitzan Rotschild is a student in Film & Television at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts (2008).

About the production:
This clip was created for this website, for pleasure. It was videoed in a meeting room at New York University in spring 2008.