The Challenge of the Medieval Text: Studies in Genre and Interpretation

By W. T. H. Jackson; Joan M. Ferrante et al. | Go to book overview

they perform the same function for space. There is, however, one important modification: there is no continuing linear movement in space as there is in time. There are no beginnings or endings in the sense that characters appear or disappear. The movement is entirely within a circle, so that, in spite of the action of the play, the universe as represented on stage remains unchanged in its relative physical relationships but, at the end of the play, is totally changed in its focus of attention and in the links which bind it. Instead of a number of separate centers a group is formed which concentrates on the Emperor, and attention moves to Jerusalem. The center is first shattered by the discursive and dispersing actions of Antichrist, then re-formed about him in a false sense. The concentration he effects, by moving all elements (except the audience) from points on the circumference to Jerusalem is simply a duplicate of the actions of the Emperor, with the important addition of Gentilitas, and it contributes to the final solution, when Antichrist is eliminated by divine action.

In both space and time the author represents the circularity of the world by his positioning and movement within space. In both space and time, the linear movement is always to attain an end within the circle, a circle of which the audience is an essential part.


NOTES
1.
I have used the expanded text given by Karl Langosch in his Geistliche Spiele (Darmstadt, 1957), pp. 181 ff., notes pp. 267 ff. The expansions, which seem to me sensible suggestions, play little or no role in my argument.
2.
For a convenient summary of the literature, see Paul Lehmann, Das literarische Bild Karls des Grossen ( Munich, 1934; reprinted 1959).
3.
For a detailed study of the theme as it appears in drama, see Klaus Aichele, Das Antichristdrama des Mittelalters, der Reformation und der Gegenreformation (Den Haag, 1974).
4.
Langosch assumes that they share the throne of the German emperor, but the text does not state this.
5.
Isidori Hispalensis episcopi Etymologiarum sive Originum Libri XX, W. M. Lindsay , ed. ( Oxford, 1911), xiii, 11.
6.
The language is not altogether clear. The German king says "Sic retinebimus/decus imperiale". Langosch, who translates Wir werden so den Glanz des Kaisers wieder erringen, appears to think that the King is talking in terms of the recovery of the imperial power he has given up, a reversion to earlier, secular, time. The passage could mean "these are the methods by which we shall keep up

-142-

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