Article Title

The Birth of Reason from the Spirit of Carnival: Hans Sachs and Das Narren-Schneyden


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

Deum immortaleml quod theatrum est illud, quam stultorum tumultus? [Immortal God! What a scene is this, what a pack of fools?]-Erasmus, Praise of Folly

A play called Das Narren-schneyden (c.1536, publ. 1557)1 stands out as something of an oddity in the rather large canon of about eighty-five Fastnachtsspiele, Carnival plays of the cobbler and sometime poet Hans Sachs (1494-1576). Known mostly as a purveyor of harmless festival fare peopled by dullwitted peasants, Sachs here takes up the sharp thorn of the moralist and satirist. For several reasons, among them its unusual length and its unwonted didactic qualities, Das Narrenschneyden seems in my view to embody a novel tone quite characteristic for a moment in time that is epitomized perhaps most mightily by Luther's watershed rebellion against the power of the Church of Rome--in 1517 the man whom Sachs extolled with the winged epithet "Nightingale of Wittenberg" nailed his theses to the Pope's portal.

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