Carol Symes

title.none: Hüe, Mainte belle oeuvre faicte (Carol Symes)

identifier.other: baj9928.0704.002 07.04.02

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Carol Symes, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2007

identifier.citation: Hüe, Denis, Mario Longtin, and Lynette Muir. Mainte belle oeuvre faicte: Études sur le théâtre médiéval offertes à Graham A. Runnalls. Medievalia 54. Orleans: Paradigme, 2005. Pp. 531. $75.00 2-86878-213-0. ISBN: .

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 07.04.02

Hüe, Denis, Mario Longtin, and Lynette Muir. Mainte belle oeuvre faicte: Études sur le théâtre médiéval offertes à Graham A. Runnalls. Medievalia 54. Orleans: Paradigme, 2005. Pp. 531. $75.00 2-86878-213-0. ISBN: .

Reviewed by:

Carol Symes
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

The title of this volume is drawn from the Mystère de saincte Venice, one of the many late-medieval French plays brought to light, edited, and analyzed by Graham Runnalls in the course of a long and influential career in which "so much fine work was wrought." This is apt, for the achievements of Professor Runnalls were not only personal ones: they include the forging of a collaborative network centered on the University of Edinburgh which united industrious students and admiring colleagues from the British Isles, the Continent, and North America in the study of dramatic documents from all the Francophone lands of the Middle Ages. For the first time since the eighteenth century, under Runnalls' leadership, the vast corpus of French drama surviving from the fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries became the province of scholars whose interests reached beyond the philological, the national, and the literary, to become archival, comparative, and site-specific.

A number of these scholars have made contributions to this book, which displays--rather more haphazardly than it should--the range of approaches, topics, and projects inspired by Runnalls, as well as the extent of the labors still remaining to be done. Some papers are in French, some in English; a few are generous, many are perfunctory. Editorial intervention has been slight: there is no introduction either to the essays or to the major themes and problems which Runnalls dealt with in his academic lifetime, which the essays are presumably intended to represent. Instead, some thirty articles of disparate length and quality are described on the title page as having been "brought together and published" with no apparent attempt to impose a unifying stylistic schema and according to no discernible set of organizing principles. One cannot help but feel that a more concerted effort on the part of the hosts would have yielded more harmonious party-pieces, or at least resulted in a seating-plan which placed like-minded interlocutors in conversation with one another.

For example, Peter Meredith's meditation on the relative poverty of contemporary Middle English material and the paradoxical over-production of scholarship in that field ("A Tale of Two Plays") could have served as an immediate commentary on the bibliography of Runnalls' writings printed at the beginning of the collection, since it so economically highlights the disparities between insular and continental treatments of medieval theatre and throws into relief the significance of Runnalls' work: he was, as Lynette Muir puts it in a preface, a "one-man Records of Early French Drama," pioneering--in his own person, from a Franco-Scotian perspective--initiatives of a kind which have attracted legions of researchers to the more limited resources of England. It could then have been followed by a group of essays on the manuscript transmission of plays and the relationships of text to performance, the area in which Runnalls himself first published: Élizabeth Lalou's "Fragments d'un Mystère de saint Blaise: Étude et édition critique," Xavier Leroux's "Les Remaniements dans quelques pièces du Ms. 1131 de la Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève," Vicki L. Hamblin's "Performing the Text: A Comparative Analysis of Three French Mystery Plays," and Jelle Koopmans' "La fin de Banquet." These might have been succeeded by reflections on the emergence of late-medieval dramatic genres, another of Runnalls' precoccupations: Francesc Massip's "Le drame de l'Assomption en France et en Belgique," Silvère Menegaldo's "Théâtre et musique: Le cas exemplaire du Jeu de Robin et [de] Marion," Mario Longtin's "Le Mystère de sainte Barbe en cinq journées et sa farce," and Michel Rousse's "Comment la farce conquit le théâtre."

Another coherent grouping might have exposed the value of exploring the changes rung on particular dramatic tropes and stock characters: Pascale Dumont on "Les voyages en bateau dans le théâtre des VIVe et XVe siècles," Claude Thiry on "Discours de diables, discours de païens: Même combat dans le Mystère de saint Martin," élyse Dupras on "Le diables disent la verité! Le dire-vrai des personnages de diables dans quelques mystères hagiographiques français," Gérard Gros on "De Dieu estre da pastorelle: étude sur l'acquiescement de Jeanne au message archangélique dans le Mistere du Siege d'Orleans," Véronique Dominguez on "Le Rusticus de la Passion de Semur," Lenke Kovács on "The Dramatisation of the Parable of the Prodigal Son in Catalan and European Sixteenth-Century Drama," Lynette Muir on "The Sufferings of Impatient Job," and Bruno Roy on "Guillaume Josseaume et Françoise d'Assise: L'éloge du père dans le Pathelin." The practical aspects of dramatic production would make up another useful section: Alan E. Knight on "Staging the Lille Plays," Marie Bouhaïk-Gironès on "Le théâtre sur la place de la marché: La répresentation du mystère de sainte Catherine à Rouen en 1454," and Richard Rastall on "Young Wives Played by Males: The Case of Percula in York Play 30." Several essays illuminate the artistry of particular dramatists: Denis Hüe's "Un poète dans sa ville: La Moralité sur l'Assomption de Notre Dame de Jean Parmentier," Alan Hindley's "Une moralité peu connue de Jean d'Abundance: Le Monde qui tourne le doz à Chascun (1541)," Jean Subrenat's Verbum caro factum est: Quelques réflexions sur le Prologue capital au Mistere de la Passion Jesucrist de Jean Michel," and Jean-Pierre Bordier's "La composition de la Vengeance de Nostre Seigneur," on Eustache Mercadé. And one could also group together those essays dealing with modern revivals of, or debts to, medieval French drama: Robert Clark's "Raising the Devil: Robert le Diable on the Nineteenth-Century Stage," Alain Corbellari's "Frank Martin, compositeur médiéval," and Charles Mazouer's "Henri Ghéon et le mystère médiéval."

Were I--a latecomer to this symposium, and an interloper at that--licensed to tamper with the menu, these would be the removes to which I would assign the offerings presented to Graham Runnalls. And I would, moreover, single out three for special notice, as substantive interventions in the study of late-medieval drama. The first of these, having almost nothing to do with French theatre but bringing together a rich collection of sources which does credit to the author's magnanimity, is Philip Butterworth's "Juggling and Staging Tricks in Early Theatre," an inventory of the often death-defying stunts of conjuring, sleight-of-hand, and mimetic violence which were subsumed under the rubric of "juggling" in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, especially in England and Scotland. While Butterworth does not link these practices to the jongleurie of the earlier Middle Ages, the evidence suggests that much more attention should be paid to the shared vocabularies and professions of acting, acrobatics, magic, and witchcraft, so often conjoined in contemporary plays--and in the treatises that condemned them. The second very interesting article is Estelle Doudet's "Finis allegoriae: Un trope problématique sur la scène profane française," which traces the continuity of medieval performance practices into the early modern period, and thereby complicates the received narrative of neo-classical triumphalism in France during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Her argument is both reinforced and illustrated by a third impressive essay, K. Janet Ritch's "Eloy du Mont: A Case for Continuity between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance," which follows the fortunes of a poet, university professor, philosopher, and playwright who, in the first half of the sixteenth century, blended the precepts of Aristotle's Poetics with the conventions of the mystère, in the simultaneous service of rigorous scholasticism and Counter-Reformation dogmatics. As Ritch reminds us, Graham Runnalls' most recent work had begun to dismantle the supposed division between late-medieval and humanist theatre, and all three of these essays demonstrate how very perceptive he was in this.