Written in the beginning of the 13th century, on the Archbishop Pierre de Corbeil’s initiative, the office of the Circumcision from Sens contains the liturgical repertory for the 1st January, embellished by poems in Latin. In the cathedral of Sens, as well as in many places in the Middle Ages, the days following Christmas were the occasion of special celebrations where young clerics acted as prelates. The 1st January was not only at the same time the liturgical festival for the Circumcision of Christ, but also the feast of fools led by the Precentor of the fools. This manuscript is thus in the junction of these two celebrations. But does it represent a testimony of the musical repertory sung during the feast of fools, or is it a substitute created by Pierre in the aim of channelling subversive deeds?
Contemporary literary criticism has increasingly pointed out the inseparable connection between François Villon’s work and the secular theatre of the end of the 15th century, particularly the comic forms of drama, such as farces, sotties, moralities, and dramatic monologues. At first glance, this connection might seem a mere consequence of the shift produced by ‘la nouvelle critique‘ in France, which turned one’s interest in ‘François Villon’s biography’ towards the poetic construction of the villain character. But, other than being based on textual evidence, such as the systematic use of theatre’s stylistic features and, above all, on imitations of the villain character by several burlesque genres in that period, this articulation is also based on strong historical evidence, such as a significant amount of anthologies, manuscripts, and old editions of Villon’s corpus, along with medieval farces, as well as unanimous testimonies and anecdotes referring to Villon as a ‘farcer’ [farseur]. Nevertheless, such a connection bears a possible contradiction: how could a last will be played by an actor, if it is a written genre by definition? Assuming that Villon’s Testament is indeed a dramatic monologue, we argue that, as soon as the actor puts on the mask of the deceased testator character, he simply transmits the words actually spoken in the first person by the repentant villain’s soul that lies beyond.