Esmoreit and Lippijn: A New Translation for Performance of Two Plays from the Van Hulthem Manuscript


Mandy L. Albert


Esmoreit and Lippijn, translations of fourteenth-century Middle Dutch texts, were commissioned by Western Michigan University’s inaugural Mostly Medieval Theatre Festival in 2017, and directed and produced by Lofton L. Durham. The productions were stage managed by Alexandra Oparka with assistance from Anna Brockway. Set and props were designed by Alejandro Treccani, costumes by Kathleen MacKenzie, lighting by Evan Carlson and Bryson Kiser, and sound by Thomas Sinshack. The plays opened in Kalamazoo at the Gilmore Theatre Complex on May 12, 2017.

In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the author's introduction to these new translations follows:

Esmoreit is one of four serious plays compiled, along with six farces, in the early fifteenth-century Van Hulthem manuscript under the designation abele spelen (“goodly plays”). Each of the four serious plays is paired with a suggested companion farce. The play itself is from the mid-fourteenth century, making it one of the oldest surviving examples of serious secular vernacular drama. Like the other three abele spelen, its chief concern is courtly love: in this case, the love between the King and Queen of Sicily, and that of their kidnapped son Esmoreit for his adoptive sister, the Saracen princess Damiet. Lippijn, in the meantime, subverts the emotional core and moral assurances—“pure hearts, those of virtue and faith, will wear crowns”—of its companion play. The courtly characters are replaced by unmannerly peasants, and the triumph of love over adversity is twisted into a sick sort of love-generated blindness on the part of a cuckolded husband.1 To see the two plays together is to watch a dialogue between one tale of courage and another of caution, in which good hearts—no matter whom they belong to—are elevated through the persistence of love and bad hearts are punished for their failures of virtue.


1. For an exploration of the possibility of portraying literal blindness in a performance of Lippijn, see Mandy L. Albert, “Lippijn,” in Sourcebook for the Study of Disability in the Middle Ages, ed. Cameron Hunt McNabb (Brooklyn, NY: Punctum Books, forthcoming).ng).

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