Striking a Pose: Performance Cues in Four French Hagiographic Mystery Plays


French hagiographic mystery plays, like the broader genre of authoritative plays of the late medieval period, include both textual (spoken) and non-textual (marginal) references to performance that distinguish them from literary works. Among identifiable performance features are cues which are embedded in the characters’ spoken discourse, marginal notations that guide the performance, and direct textual references to staging. By using ‘fuzzy-set’ analysis to schematize these three features across a select set of plays, it is possible not only to better distinguish among surviving manuscript functions, but also to differentiate among staging venues. The presence of a substantial number of embedded visual cues and mid-speech salutations but few spoken or marginal staging notations, for example, single out the Mystère de saint Crépin et saint Crépinien as a talisman text that was safeguarded by its sponsoring community for repeated but restrained productions. The Mystère de saint Laurent, despite being an early edition that retains many marginal notations in commemoration of a singular performance, shares with the S. Crépin text a significant reliance on embedded cues that guide its visual narrative. Neither the Vie et passion de monseigneur saint Didier nor the Mystère de saint Bernard is heavily reliant on embedded cues. However, the latter play, with few mid-speech salutations, a relatively small number of staging notations, and a higher percentage of musical interludes, distinguishes its scholastic intention from Saint Didier which, with the highest number of non-verbal staging notations but little reliance on music or embedded cues, focuses instead on the kind of protracted sequences which are characteristic of civic performances held in an open arena.

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