Performing Medieval Narrative Today

A Video Showcase

Silence: Minstrels arrive

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About the scene and clip:
Minstrels arrive at the court. The solo storyteller is accompanied at points by instrumentalists from the ensemble PanHarmonium.

About the work:
Silence tells the story of a girl whose parents raise her as a boy so that she can inherit their land. Silence, though inwardly conflicted over her true nature, becomes a successful knight and minstrel and unwittingly attracts the love of the queen. Silence is finally unmasked by the seer Merlin; now a woman, she wins the love of the king. This unusual romance contains major female characters whose names refer to speech (Silence and Euphemie) and the allegorical adversaries, Nature vs. Nurture. The website contains several clips from Silence that demonstrate some of the many different ways in which characters and scenes from this work can be performed.

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 and adapted from A Thirteenth-Century French Romance, Silence, ed./trans. Sarah Roche-Mahdi, East Lansing, MI, Colleagues Press, 1992.

About the performer/ensemble:
Dolores Hydock is an actress and story performer whose work has been featured at concerts, festivals, conferences, and special events throughout the United States. Details about her work can be found at

PanHarmonium is a trio made up of David Cantrell, Susan Marchant, and Gilbert Ritchie. The group plays reproductions of early instruments, and their repertoire includes music of the medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque periods. For more information about PanHarmonium, e-mail

About the production:
This performance of Silence was held at the Virginia Samford Theatre in Birmingham, Alabama in November, 2007. Dolores Hydock and PanHarmonium have also performed Silence at numerous other events.