Performing Medieval Narrative Today

A Video Showcase

Lancelot: Queen Guinevere repents of her cruelty; Lancelot attempts suicide

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About the scene and clip:
The Queen, thinking that Lancelot has died, repents of her cruelty toward him. Then Lancelot, thinking that the Queen is dead, tries to kill himself in despair. The storyteller performs all the roles, in Old French.

About the work:
Lancelot is one of the five surviving romances by the great narrative poet Chrétien de Troyes; it is centrally concerned with the love affair between Guinevere, wife of King Arthur, and Lancelot, one of the knights of the Round Table. This unfinished romance contains many adventures of Lancelot and Gawain as they attempt to rescue Guinevere, who has been carried off by the evil Meleagant.

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 Le Chevalier de la charrette, ed. Charles Méla, in Romans de Chrétien de Troyes, eds./trans. J.M. Fritz et al, Paris, Classiques Modernes/Livre de Poche, 1994, pp. 624ff. English translation: Lancelot or the Knight of the Cart, trans. Ruth Harwood Cline, Athens, GA, University of Georgia Press, 1990.

About the performer/ensemble:
Michael Abourizk is a student in Dramatic Literature and Theatre History, with a minor in French, in the College of Arts and Science at New York University (2008).

About the production:
This performance was created for “Acting Medieval Literature,” taught by Prof. Timmie (E.B.) Vitz in spring 2008; it was videoed in the classroom.