Session 332: Renewal in Medieval Spanish and English Theatre
Monday 6 July 2015, 16.30-18.00
|Moderator/Chair:||Lenke Kovács, Departament de Filologia Catalana, Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Tarragona|
|Paper 332-a||The Budding Rod: Renewing the Old Husband in the York Joseph's Trouble about Mary|
|Paper 332-b||Religious Renewal in Medieval Shepherds' Plays from England and Castile|
Index terms: Language and Literature - Middle English, Language and Literature - Spanish or Portuguese, Performance Arts - Drama
|Paper 332-c||Renewal and Its Discourses in the N-Town Nativity Play|
Index terms: Medicine, Performance Arts - Drama, Religious Life
The Joseph who addresses us directly and who, later, interacts with his unrepentant young wife and her two saucy handmaidens, is anything but vigorous, however much his rod sprouted that day in the temple. Not only does he exist in a sort of permanent state of dithering, but he complains over and over again to Mary that all she has to do is look at him to know that he could never have been the father of a child. He couldn’t have done because he couldn’t do it. After his frustrating, drawn-out verbal sparring with the three women, Joseph retires to take a nap when he is visited by an angel. We know the story. He is convinced and reconciles with Mary.
Although many have rightly pointed out the poignant ending of the play, with Joseph’s humble prayer for forgiveness and Mary’s refusal to consider that he even needs to ask her (a sort of conduct book for young wives of foolish husbands, if you will), what is often overlooked is the renewal of old Joseph, both spiritually and physically. The play’s final scene depicts the obvious message of renewal through submission and humility (albeit somewhat surprisingly with a husband submitting to his wife). But the abundant recompense for old Joseph is a kind of physical renewal clearly marked in his language and actions, in stark contrast with his mumbling and grumbling and dithering earlier. So much so that he insists she pack all their gear immediately so he can carry it all the way to Bethlehem, a journey not even previously mentioned in the play by Joseph, Mary, or the angel of the Lord. His final words insisting that he will have to carry the load since ‘little thing will women dere,’ suggest that he is recharged, if not supercharged, and ready to go. We know from doctrine that his renewal did not extend to doing it with the mother of God, but the ending of the play more than suggests, especially given the doubly ironic transformation of the comic impotent old cock that he would have and he could have if the old old story had allowed.