Performing Medieval Narrative Today

A Video Showcase

Three Women: Drinking in tavern

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About the scene and clip:
The performer performs part of the scene in the tavern, where the women drink—and get increasingly drunk.

About the work:
This fabliau tells about three women who go out drinking together. They have a grand time eating and drinking—but they get so drunk that they pass out naked in the street. Taken for dead, they are mourned by their husbands and are buried in the Cemetery of the Innocents. But the women revive and, filthy and covered with worms, they crawl out of their graves and head home. To some degree, this fabliau is a parody of a resurrection miracle.

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:
Gallic Salt, ed./trans Robert L. Harrison, Berkeley, CA, University of California Press, 1974, pp. 398-417.

About the performer/ensemble:
Suzie Masser is a student in Dramatic Literature and Psychology 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.