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Courtly Romances: Literature or Theatre?

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  1. Introduction
  2. Why is performance so often ignored as a subject of cultural study?
  3. Records of performance
  4. Scope
  5. The professional minstrel
  6. Narrative patterns
  7. Works cited

The definitions of theatre and, less specifically, performance, have been in constant flux since theorists set about trying to create them. Oscar Brockett, in his History of the Theatre, opens his text with the statement that ?performative elements are present in every society, no matter how complex or how unsophisticated the culture may be? (Brockett, 1). Human beings are constantly performing: in personal conversation, at large social gatherings, as paid entertainers. Acting, and in a more general sense, performance, is truly a part of an individual's life each and every day, and has been throughout time. Fundamental human behaviors have not changed since civilization developed, including the desire for attention.

[...] Some examples of direct audience address that appear in Erec and Enide are: ?Soon you will hear them come to blows? (862) should I give a long account?? (1080) Erec we must speak once more, still situated at the site where he had battled with the knight.? (1238) know about him and can tell his frame was small in every part? (3664-3665) first verse is concluded here? (1796) listen well, and I shall order the kings and counts, each one by name.? (1882-1883) what else ought to be disclosed?? (2001) ?Throughout the palace great joy reigned, but I shall spare you what remained.? (2015-2016) Similar quotes from The Knight's Tale include: indeed, if it were not too long to listen to, I would have wanted to tell you fully the way in which the realm of the Amazons was (17-19) may all say so and chiefly may (410) ask this question of you lovers: which has the worse part, Arcite or Palamon? [...]

[...] Continuation: Esays on Medieval French Literature and Language. Birmingham, AL: Summa Publications, Inc Green, D.H. The Beginnings of Medieval Romance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press Guyer, Foster Erwin. Chretien de Troyes: Inventor of the Modern Novel. New York: Bookman Associates Mermier, Guy R. and DuBruck, Edelgard E. (ed.). Courtly Romance: A Collection of Essays. Detroit, MI: Michigan Consortium for Medieval and Early Modern Studies Paxson, James J., Clopper, Lawrence M., and Tomasch, Sylvia (ed.). The Performance of Middle English Culture: Essays on Chaucer and the Drama. [...]

[...] Even today, at a time when screen actors are deified temporarily, fans are all too quick to tear them down for any small inadequacy or blunder. This scornful admiration for the theatre has been the partial cause for its lack of representation in historical study. The second and more important reason, at least for the topic to be broached in this essay, that theatrical events and performance have been overlooked is the fleeting nature of performance itself. Western culture is a culture of tangibles: things we can see, hear, and touch again and again. [...]

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