Article Title

The Narrator within the Performance: Problems with Two Medieval "Plays"


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

There are two medieval English texts which. commentators have been reluctant to describe as "plays," mainly because of the presence within them of narrators. The thirteenth-century fabliau Dame Sirith is closely related to the lnterludium de Clerico et Puella, but whereas all are in agreement ,that the latter text is a "play," there has been some unease about the dramatic status of Dame Sirith. Bennett and Smithers, for example, conclude that "Dame Sirith is evidently not a full-blown drama."1 Similarly, The Harrowing of Hell, which appears in three manuscripts ( designated here as Digby, Harley, and Auchinleck),2 is described by Chambers as a text meant for dramatic "recitation" and not for "dramatic representation."3 This unease about dramatic status exists in spite of the fact that for about half of its text Dame Sirith has marginal abbreviations for its characters,. and that the Harley and Auchinleck versions of The Harrowing of Hell have marginal initials or names next to the speeches of its characters. The dominant opinion, however, is that these are texts intended for performance by a single performer.4

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