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Historicizing Performance: The Case of the Jeu de Robin et Marion


Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 October 2017

Ardis Butterfield
University College London
Cynthia J. Brown
Professor of French, Department of French and Italian, University of California, Santa Barbara
Ardis Butterfield
Professor of English, UCL
Mark Cruse
Assistant Professor of French, School of International Letters and Cultures, Arizona State University (possibly Associate Professor by publication date)
Kathryn A. Duys
Associate Professor, Department of English and Foreign Languages, University of St. Francis
Sylvia Huot
Reader in Medieval French Literature and Fellow of Pembroke College, Cambridge University
Marilyn Lawrence
Marilyn Lawrence is a Visiting Scholar of the French Department at New York University, USA.
E. Jane Burns
Curriculum in Women's Studies, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
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Adam de la Halle's Jeu de Robin et Marion is a work that raises issues of performance in both unsubtle and subtle ways. It has gained archetypal status by being not only a rare example of pre-1300 vernacular and secular “theater,” but also apparently the only dramatized version of pastourelle and bergerie in the period. Less obviously, it stands out from the bulk of Adam's works by having a possible connection with the Angevin court at Naples, a connection that has seemed hard to make with the rest of his more directly urban, Arrageois work. The courtly context of Naples poses a conundrum that might be felt to apply more broadly to our interpretation of medieval drama. For on the one hand it temptingly provides a historicizable context for performance, and thereby a means of locating the jeu quite precisely within a certain social and cultural nexus. Yet on the other, Robin et Marion draws so directly on a highly characterizable genre that it resists such specification. It encourages us, by contrast, to think of its qualities as a work in performance in more abstract terms, ones that are posited and defined more by transhistorical generic expectations than by the singular immediacy of a particular occasion and audience. This creates stark differences in the interpretative history of the work. What does it mean to be Angevin in Naples in the thirteenth century? I will try to connect this question to certain features of Adam's Jeu in performance. The attempt represents a case study in the complexities of historicizing performance.

As is well known, Adam's connection to Naples was brought about by Robert II, Count of Artois. Against the background of impending social disorder created by the Sicilian uprising in 1282, Charles, the Angevin ruler, sought literary and musical as well as martial and financial aid from his two nephews, Robert d'Artois and Pierre d'Alençon. Poets and musicians were brought over from France, including many from the Arras region such as Perrin d'Angicourt, Rutebeuf, Raoul de Soissons, and Adam de la Halle himself, specifically to provide a highly visible cultural profile for the displaced and newly vulnerable court. This initiative is worth further investigation on both political and literary grounds: although these poets have been individually studied, much work remains to be done on their cumulative role in defining a contemporary image of Angevin rule.

Cultural Performances in Medieval France
Essays in Honor of Nancy Freeman Regalado
, pp. 99 - 108
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2007

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