Article Title

Rubin and Mercator: Grotesque Comedy in the German Easter Play


Martin W. Walsh


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

On the rather slim basis of the antiphon for Mark 16:1—“Dum transisset sabbatum Maria Magdalena et Maria Iacobi et Salome emerunt aromata” (When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magela, Mary the Mother of James, and Salome bought aromatic oils)—a character known as Mercator or Institor entered the Latin liturgical drama as early as the eleventh century. He was the first nonbiblical character to do so. Addressing the members of the audience as if they were potential customers, Mercator claimed to possess an ointment that would prevent putrefaction and the generation of worms in dead bodies. For a gold coin from each of the women he sells this powerful salve to the Three Holy Women, and they rejoice at now being able to anoint Christ’s wounded body. For some curious reason, Mercator became firmly lodged between the fact of the Resurrection (previously witnessed by the audience) and the gentle human comedies of its discovery by the sorrowing disciples of Jesus. Initially, he is not “comic relief.” Neither does he particularly build up anticipation of the miraculous discovery soon to be made. Once introduced, however, he begin to join him. In the fourteenth-century Passion Provençale, for example, the Marys are about to purchase enguent from a mercader when the latter’s son appears to advise his father to lower the price for the Holy Women.

Comparative Drama is carried by JSTOR and Project MUSE.