Jews in the Fleury Playbook


Theresa Tinkle


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

If the Saracens are to be detested . . . how much more are the Jews to be execrated and hated who, utterly insensible to Christ and the Christian faith, reject, blaspheme, and ridicule that Virgin Birth and all the sacraments of human redemption? Nor do I say this to incite royal or Christian sword to slay their wickedness. . . . God wishes them, not to be killed, but to be preserved in a life worse than death, like Cain the fratricide, for greater torment and greater ignominy. . . . I . . . exhort that they be punished in a way suitable to their wickedness. Peter the Venerable1

. . . the quality of hostility against Jews cannot be determined by premises about Jews, for it is a characteristic of the mentality of non-Jews, not of Jews, and it is determined, not by the objective reality of Jews, but by what the symbol "Jews" has signified to non-Jews. Gavin I. Langmuir2

The Fleury Playbook, a manuscript collection of ten Latin plays, includes a surprisingly broad range of medieval dramatic types: four miracles of Saint Nicholas, five episodes from Christ's life, and a conversion of Saint Paul. The Playbook covers a broad range of subjects, includes both liturgical and nonliturgical plays, suggests diverse performance conventions (both monastic and non-monastic), and employs several musical styles. The collection's heterogeneity arguably points to multiple authors and multiple points of origin (I in fact assume that there were multiple authors, though my argument does not depend on this point). After scrutinizing these aspects of the Playbook's diversity, C. Clifford Flanigan persuasively concludes that the only unifying principle is the redactor's interest in drama for its own sake, regardless of its subject matter or connection to the liturgy. In other words, the Fleury collection demonstrates one redactor's "horizon of expectations" about drama as a genre.3 Flanigan's conclusions are persuasive, his theoretical approach compelling. In fact, his argument has broader implications than he explicitly recognizes, for the "horizon of expectations" refers to the entire literary experience of readers, encompassing genres, styles, themes, and historical events.4 This and complementary theoretical models would encourage us to look at historically specific reader expectations other than genre in relation to the Playbook.5


1Quoted in translation, Gavin I. Langmuir, Toward a Definition of Antisemitism (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990), 201.

2Ibid., 315.

3"The Fleury Playbook, the Traditions of Medieval Latin Drama, and Modern Scholarship," in The Fleury APlaybook@: Essays and Studies, ed. Thomas P. Campbell and Clifford Davidson (Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute Publications, 1985), 1B25.

4Hans Robert Jauss, Toward an Aesthetic of Reception, trans. Timothy Bahti (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1982), 3B45, 76-109.

5I think, for example, of Edward Said's emphasis on a text's affiliation with a complex network of non-literary, social phenomena (The World, the Text and the Critic [Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1983]), and of Jerome J. McGann's focus on the interpretive implications of the reception and production history of texts (The Textual Condition [Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1991]).

Comparative Drama is carried by JSTOR and Project MUSE.