Nine Medieval Latin Plays.
All the plays have been previously edited, and four previously translated. Some of Dronke's texts depart significantly from earlier editions. In other cases, his emendations are less substantial. The critical apparatus of the present volume is serviceable, although, in the absence of any explicit statement of layout conventions, I occasionally found its presentation confusingly laconic, for example in the notes on p. 38 to lines in the Officium stelle. Now and then, it is unclear why an essentially textual note has been included among the explanatory endnotes, or conversely, an interpretative matter placed in the critical apparatus.
Dronke's strong commitment to the imaginative recreation of original performances informs his translations, but the English versions are not always entirely idiomatic: Dronke sometimes renders participial and adjectival phrases with a syntactic literalism some readers will find grating. In other instances, one might object to the implications of interpretative recastings, for example in Hildegard's Ordo virtutum, where the English of ll. 30, 32, 50-8, 108, 169, 172, 179, and 203-4 takes particular, and debatable, liberty with the Latin.
Dronke, moreover, renders the rubrics of Hildegard's play as affective stage directions and so presents them in a form which bolsters his assertion that the Ordo was performed in Hildegard's cloister. He thus opposes Eckehard Simon's recent denial of such possibilities. Dronke's debate with Simon implicitly engages, among other issues, modern scholarly delimitations of the cultural possibilities open to medieval women. But whatever the merits of Dronke's larger argument for Hildegard's dramatic intentions and their realization, 'felix anima' and 'infelix anima' are just as plausibly rendered 'a happy soul', and 'an unhappy soul' as they are (in Dronke's translation) 'Anima (happily)' and 'Anima (unhappily)'. A whole chorus of souls is present. There may be much attraction in the possibility that the rubrics represent something like 'modern' stage directions, and that, attendant on this, the characterization of a single allegorical 'Anima' may show a depth and internal complexity foreshadowing later developments of the morality as a genre. Nothing in Hildegard's text, however, argues substantially for such a translation, and the consistent use of the demonstrative 'ilia', in rubrics where 'anima' is not accompanied by an adjective, might well suggest that a distinction is being made between one soul - that which has spoken most recently - and the rest in a group.
Such caveats aside, this volume is likely to prove useful for a range of students. At those points where the straightforwardness of interpretative claims may raise a desire for qualification, it will provide a stimulus to further discussion of the corpus, thus fulfilling one of the editor's declared intentions.
DAVID TOWNSEND Centre for Medieval Studies University of Toronto
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Publication:||The Review of English Studies|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Aug 1, 1996|
|Previous Article:||Beowulf: A Student Edition.|
|Next Article:||Popular and Practical Science of Medieval England.|