The confraternities of fifteenth-century Florence lie somewhere in this field of meaning. They constitute a separate existence, circumscribed in time and space, but they adopt a structure that mimics the spiritual and ritual life of the convent. Their activities have an element of make-believe which goes beyond the business of mounting plays: there is a specific awareness of a second reality inside the broader reality of the outside world. Two elements normally associated with play may however be lacking: the faith of the confratelli renders their activities neither uncertain nor unproductive, for faith makes certain that penitent sinners will be saved, and ritual has evolved for the purpose of reinforcing that faith. But as Huizinga and others have pointed out, many of the features held to be characteristic of play are present in ritual: liturgy, one of its highest examples, may be seen as pointless yet significant. 34
Plays belong both to the fun-world of make-believe and to the business of making people believe: the alternative designation of the confraternities as "scuole" reminds us that ludus, at the root of "illusion," is not just play but also the space that contains "class," school," "instruction." In creating physical images of mysteries, the confraternities were playing with complex "realities" of Word-made-flesh. But I have no doubt that in their plays they, as well as their public and their patrons, also enjoyed themselves immensely.