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Poetics and beyond: noisy bodies and aural variations in medieval English outdoor performance

English Mystery PlaysPoetics and beyond: noisy bodies and aural variations in medieval English outdoor performance

Pamela M. King (Professor of Medieval Studies, and Director of the Centre for Medieval Studies, University of Bristol)

Papers given at the 14th Triennial Colloquium of the Société Internationale pour l’étude du Théâtre Médiéval: Poznań, Poland, 22nd – 27th July (2013)

Abstract

Pilate opens the Tapiters and Couchers guild’s pageant of Christ before Pilate I in the York Corpus Christi Play by asserting himself acoustically, threatening those who ‘cruelly are cryand’ (1). His manner of delivery both grabs the attention of the audience as a new pageant begins, and establishes him as one of the Play’s ranting tyrants. The whole ensuing pageant is redolent with references to sound. After splitting the ears of the audience, Pilate settles down to sleep, instructing his Beadle to ensure that ‘no myron of myne’ should ‘With no noyse be neghand me nere (138-9)’, to which the Beadle assures him that ‘what warlowe yow wakens with wordis full wilde, / Þat boy for his brawling were bettir be vnborne. (140) Pilate’s rejoinder is ‘Yha who chatteres, hym chastise, be he churle or childe…’(142), and, in case we haven’t got the message, ‘Yf skatheles he skape it wer a skorne./ What rebalde þat rudely will rore,/ I schall mete with þat Myron tomorne,/ And for his ledir lewdenes hym lerne to be lorne.’ (144-47).

A maid and the son help Pilate’s wife Procula to bed. She says ‘Nowe be yhe in pese, both youre carping and crye’. (157) This is immediately followed by Devil bursting on the scene with, the extra-metrical line 157a ‘Owte! Owte! Harrowe!’. This occurs within her dream – so the unconscious mind is as noisy as the conscious. As she wakes in a panic, her servant complains of being noisily awoken by her. In the meantime the party escorting Jesus waken Pilate’s Beadle with their noise, and he complains about that (232-35).

Click here to read this article from Papers given at the 14th Triennial Colloquium of the Société Internationale pour l’étude du Théâtre Médiéval



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