"The Farce of the Fart" and other Ribaldries: Twelve Medieval French Plays in Modern English

"The Farce of the Fart" and other Ribaldries: Twelve Medieval French Plays in Modern English

"The Farce of the Fart" and other Ribaldries: Twelve Medieval French Plays in Modern English

"The Farce of the Fart" and other Ribaldries: Twelve Medieval French Plays in Modern English


Was there more to medieval and Renaissance comedy than Chaucer and Shakespeare? Bien sar. For a real taste of saucy early European humor, one must cross the Channel to France. There, in the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, the sophisticated met the scatological in popular performances presented by roving troupes in public squares that skewered sex, politics, and religion. For centuries, the scripts for these outrageous, anonymously written shows were available only in French editions gathered from scattered print and manuscript sources. Now prize-winning theater historian Jody Enders brings twelve of the funniest of these farces to contemporary English-speaking audiences in "The Farce of the Fart" and Other Ribaldries. Enders's translation captures the full richness of the colorful characters, irreverent humor, and over-the-top plotlines, all in a refreshingly uncensored American vernacular.

Those who have never heard the one about the Cobbler, the Monk, the Wife, and the Gatekeeper should prepare to be shocked and entertained. "The Farce of the Fart" and Other Ribaldries is populated by hilarious characters high and low. For medievalists, theater practitioners, and classic comedy lovers alike, Enders provides a wealth of information about the plays and their history. Helpful details abound for each play about plot, character development, sets, staging, costumes, and props. This performance-friendly collection offers in-depth guidance to actors, directors, dramaturges, teachers, and their students.

"The Farce of the Fart" and Other Ribaldries puts fifteenth-century French farce in its rightful place alongside Chaucer, Shakespeare, commedia dell'arte, and Molière--not to mention Monty Python. Vive la Farce!


It all began in the fall of 2007 when I could take it no longer. Was I really going to teach comparative medieval drama one more time without teaching the anonymous fifteenth-century Farce of the Fart? Was I really?

My undergraduates at the University of California, Santa Barbara, were mostly theater majors and English majors. At best, they had perhaps read Everyman and the Second Shepherds’ Play. They might even have heard vague rumblings about everybody’s beloved Shakespeare having drawn heavily on medieval traditions of farce (as M. L. Radoff had noticed as early as 1933). Sure, there were plenty of English plays available in a variety of anthologies: unfortunately, David Bevington’s marvelous Medieval Drama was out of print, but there was now Greg Walker’s Medieval Drama: An Anthology, a hefty tome of over six hundred pages. and yet, the rest of the medieval dramatic picture—that vast and vastly enjoyable repertoire of French farce— was virtually unknown in the English language. Although scores of French plays had first been edited in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries by some of the greats of French theater history—Gustave Cohen, Eugénie Droz, Édouard Fournier, Emmanuel Philipot, M. Viollet le Duc, and, later, André Tissier, Bernard Faivre, and Jelle Koopmans—those painstakingly preserved farces had yet to reach the larger audiences that they so richly deserved because, for one thing, the vast majority had never been translated. What about all the English speakers out there? We weren’t going to leave all the fun to the French, were we?

I think not. So let’s start with a dozen in English.

To be fair, there have been some pioneering translations of medieval French farce—of about a dozen from the hundreds extant—most notably by Barnard and Rose Hewitt, Oscar Mandel, and Alan E. Knight. These are listed in the Bibliography, and I’ll be alluding to them briefly in About This Translation. But, for the moment, what about my pedagogical dilemma about The Farce of the Fart? I wondered: What if I just translated it myself?

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