Performing Medieval Narrative Today

A Video Showcase

Parzival: Wolfram speaks about himself and women

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About the scene and clip:
The performer reads aloud this very personal (and quite funny) passage, in which Wolfram von Eschenbach interrupts his narrative to speak about himself and about women. (This is sometimes called “Wolfram’s apology.”) Wolfram is angry at the woman who he says has mistreated him—but he offers his tale of adventure to the ladies (if they want it).

About the work:
Parzival is an early-13th-century German retelling of the romance about the great (and rather goofy) knight Perceval and about the Grail that was composed by Chrétien de Troyes: Perceval ou le conte du grail (see Perceval). Wolfram follows Chrétien’s storyline quite closely on the whole, and works within the rhymed couplet form, but he has a very distinctive voice: he can be quite pompous and is often very funny, and he makes a good many interesting changes and additions to the French version of the story.

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:
Parzival, trans. A.T. Hatto, London, Penguin, 1980. Original: Der Parzival des Wolfram von Eschenbach, ed. Dieter Kuhn, Frankfurt am Main, Insel Verlag, 1986, Vol.2.

About the performer/ensemble:
Kendrick Reinsch is a Drama student in the Stonestreet Studio at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts (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 Washington Square Park by Nitzan Rotschild.