Performing Medieval Narrative Today

A Video Showcase

St. Peter and Jongleur: Satan finds all his souls gone

video platform video management video solutions video player

Flash Logo Viewing our videos requires the free Adobe Flash player.
(No need for Flash on mobile devices.)

About the scene and clip:
The performer plays both Satan—furious to discover, on his return to hell, that all his souls are gone—and the terrified jongleur who has lost them at dice.

About the work:
This fabliau tells how St. Peter rescued all the souls from hell by winning at dice against a bumbling minstrel who had been left in charge while Satan was busy elsewhere; it may well be a parody of the Harrowing of Hell in which Christ rescued the souls of the just from Hell.

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:
Abridged and adapted from Fabliaux, Fair and Foul, trans. John DuVal, Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies, Binghamton, NY, 1992, pp. 130-139; French edition: “St. Pierre et le jongleur,” inNouveau Recueil des Fabliaux, eds. Willem Noomen and Nico van den Boogaard, Assen: Van Gorcum, Vol. I (1983).

About the performer/ensemble:
Stephane Cantave is a student of Dramatic Literature and Chemistry 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.