The Theater of Scholastic Erudition


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

For centuries now, the suspense created by the anticipation of a verdict coaxed from arguments pro and contra has kept audiences spellbound as readers and/or spectators awaited that most crucial of dénouements: the rendering of judgment. It should not be surprising, then, that during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries a similar disputational spectacle was drawing numerous and varied observers to the Parisian rue du Fouarre. Twice a year at Advent and Lent, all classes were canceled at the University of Paris so that the maximum number of university personnel might attend one of the most intriguing shows of the Middle Ages: the quodlibet.1 Students and teachers, civil and religious authorities all flocked to the streets surrounding the Sorbonne as other university activities ground to a halt to allow them to witness and participate in this academic rite of passage for students of theology.2 If, however, the quodlibet did indeed inspire the public to turn out in droves, then the operative question is why: what was the appeal?

Comparative Drama is carried by JSTOR and Project MUSE.