Lessons from a Medieval Comedy: An Interactive Staged Reading of Babio | Newberry

Lessons from a Medieval Comedy: An Interactive Staged Reading of Babio

Detail, Augustinian Processional from Reims, 13th C. Newberry Case MS 181, f. 150r.

Detail from an Augustinian processional used in the archdiocese of Reims in the thirteenth century.

Friday, September 25, 2015

10 am to noon

Ruggles Hall

Directed by Kyle Thomas, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Please register by 10 am Thursday, September 24
Center for Renaissance Studies Programs
Medieval Studies Program

It's no long shot to guess what happens now.
What I saved up, he stole; I sowed, he reaped;
I beat the bushes, and he got the bird.
I live, though lack a soul: he took it with her.
I wonder how I'll live, inanimate.
I'm me and I am not; I'm dead, but speak.
From nothing back to nothing: that is me.
To be and not to be, that's my complaint.
Hamlet Babio

A lecherous priest, his insubordinate servant, his rapacious lord, his promiscuous wife, and her sexy daughter: these are the characters that make up the twelfth-century comedy Babio, a bawdy satire of everything sacred—virtue, loyalty, piety, love, and the classical tradition. Strange as it may seem, this irreverent play was one of the many comic texts devised for classroom use in the monastery and cathedral schools of medieval Europe. Based on the comedies of the Roman playwright Terence, they taught the finer points of Latin grammar and syntax, tested students on their knowledge of classical mythology, and trained them in the arts of public speaking. They also captured the humorous and unsettling dysfunctions of contemporary society while developing the fundamental dramatic techniques that would influence later playwrights like Ben Jonson, Christopher Marlowe, and William Shakespeare.

But how did medieval Latin comedies work in performance, and as pedagogical tools? This staged reading of Babio, in a vibrant new verse translation by Carol Symes, provides a unique opportunity for actors to experiment with different ways of unlocking the play's possibilities, with suggestions and feedback from the audience.

Readers: Casey Caldwell, Scott Dare, Megan Heffernan, Lee Benjamin Huttner, and Ann Kuzdale.

This staged reading is part of our larger symposium on New Approaches to Medieval Drama.

Faculty and graduate students of Center for Renaissance Studies consortium institutions may be eligible to apply for travel funds to attend CRS programs or to do research at the Newberry. Each member university sets its own policies and deadlines; contact your Representative Council member in advance for details.

Cost and Registration Information 

Registration is now closed.