The Medieval Theater in Castile

By Charlotte Stern | Go to book overview

Part Three literature As Performance

8 POETIC TEXTS TO 1400

Whereas bookkeeping ledgers continue to supply valuable information on religious performances in medieval Castile, it is literature that sheds light particularly on the secular theater. After all, in the Middle Ages what we call literary works were by and large performance texts, designed for oral delivery: read aloud, sung with or without musical accompaniment, or recited and brought to life by a group of actors mimicking the characters’ actions on stage. To my knowledge no one has yet examined medieval Castilian prose and verse in panoramic fashion as a string of performance texts, although in recent years medievalists have begun to study isolated works—particularly Poema de Mío Cid, Libro de buen amor, Tragicomedia de Calisto y Melibea—from this perspective. Yet a comprehensive undertaking is sorely needed and promises to expand tremendously our knowledge of the theater in medieval Castile.

In the Middle Ages some texts were both composed and performed orally; these were songs improvised by a singer at the time of performance as in present-day Yugoslavia where the oral poet is “not a mere carrier of a tradition but a creative artist making the tradition.”1 Such songs are markedly different from poetry composed in writing. Among their special features is the role of formulas which the skilled poet uses and also expands by incorporating new phrases that are indistinguishable from the traditional ones, as Albert B. Lord points out. Each song emerges then as a unique creation as the poet reworks the skeletal story he carries in his head. He may expand or shorten his song, shift the order of events, or even change the dénouement. These options

1 Lord, 13.

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The Medieval Theater in Castile
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Medieval & Renaissan Texts & Studies ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Part One Castile's Lost Heritage 1
  • Part Two Other Sources of Tbc Medieval Chester 53
  • Part Three Literature as Performance 145
  • Part Four Post-Medieval Evidence 201
  • Part Five Working Hypotheses for Future Research 243
  • References Cited Index 279
  • References Cited 281
  • Index 313
  • Mrts 324
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