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The Late Medieval Interlude

The Late Medieval Interlude: The Drama of Youth and Aristocratic Masculinity

Fiona S. Dunlop
Copyright Date: 2007
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 152
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  • Book Info
    The Late Medieval Interlude
    Book Description:

    The commercial theatre of the late sixteenth century is often credited with introducing its audiences to new modes of thought about the self, society and the nation, making them conscious that the self is performed, as an actor performs a role. Yet the earlier interlude drama, originally performed in households and other institutions of the late fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, indicates that the late medieval period was fully aware of the theatricality of identity. This book argues that ideas of performance inform the concepts of aristocratic masculinity developed in the plays 'Nature', 'Fulgens and Lucres', 'The Worlde and the Chylde', 'The Interlude of Youth' and 'Calisto and Melebea'. It examines how the depiction of young male aristocrats in these texts is shaped by ideas of male youth constituted in the middle ages, and shows them as failing or succeeding to perform an adult noble masculinity in the aristocratic body and in aristocratic household. The book also suggests ways in which the plays offer discreet praise and censure of the manner in which their noble patrons performed as aristocrats. Throughout, it brings out the subtle qualities of the interludes, which, the author shows, have been unjustly neglected. Dr FIONA S. DUNLOP is Research Associate of the Centre for Medieval Studies, University of York

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-561-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-vii)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. viii-viii)
    (pp. 1-8)

    The end of the fifteenth century has long been perceived by scholars of literature and history as a crucial turning point – as the frontier between the ‘medieval’ and ‘modern’.¹ This period of transition has been associated with political and administrative innovation, religious Reformation and literary Renaissance: in other words, with new modes of thinking about the self, society and the nation. Many scholars of the early modern period have explored the connections between the development of concepts of individuality and the development of the commercial theatre in the late sixteenth century. According to them, a new kind of drama...

  6. CHAPTER ONE Defining Youth
    (pp. 9-21)

    Early interludes did not invent a concept of youth. Their depiction of the young is informed by several intersecting traditions of thought about age and ageing, ideas so familiar to the audience that they do not need to be spelled out. The unspoken principles on which the representations rest have important implications for our understanding of the young men of the plays. Late medieval theories of the development of male bodies constituted youth first of all as a biological category.

    Late medieval knowledge about age and ageing was articulated most succinctly in schemes of the Ages of Man, a means...

  7. CHAPTER TWO Young Masculinity and Late Medieval Discourses of Youth
    (pp. 22-53)

    Derek Neal has recently defined a masculinity as ‘a set of meanings [. . .] grounded in the male body’.¹ As argued in the previous chapter, medieval descriptions of men’s development might start from the empirical observation of male bodies and attempts to account for the phenomena of ageing; but they do not end there. The interludes work from a more or less objective model of a typical male life-span (though the precise nature of the relationship between generalizing models and the ‘reality’ of individual bodies is open to debate); but they map onto that model other cultural and social...

  8. CHAPTER THREE Noble Masculinity in the Interludes
    (pp. 54-89)

    The young noblemen of the interludes Nature, Fulgens and Lucres, The Worlde and the Chylde, The Interlude of Youth and Calisto and Melebea are mature in physical terms – not only sexually mature, but they have clearly reached the end of their ‘ful incresing’, in the words of John Trevisa, and have attained the height of their physical powers.¹ Some of these plays also mark characters’ transitions to an adult aristocratic masculinity with decisive change in their circumstances, as they engage servants and enlarge households. These young men are socially mature, since they no longer have to live under the...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR Interludes and the Politics of Youth
    (pp. 90-121)

    The anxiety expressed in these interlude texts about young masculinity is an anxiety about political power, since noble masculinity is predicated on an ability to rule and govern others. The lack of moral self-discipline displayed by many of the young male characters is symptomatic of a wider political incompetence, further illustrated in the interludes by the failure of young men to govern their own household servants, and to evaluate counsel and counsellors effectively. The question of how to become an adult nobleman is therefore closely bound up with questions of good and bad government. The figures of young noblemen are...

    (pp. 122-126)

    The interludes Nature, Fulgens and Lucres, The Worlde and the Chylde, The Interlude of Youth and Calisto and Melebea contain finely nuanced discussions of what it means to be a noble and a man at the turn of the fifteenth century. The plays are highly conscious of different kinds of identity generated by the varying intersections of age, gender and status at this time. This book has considered only one of the identity categories represented in these texts in any detail, yet even this limited examination suggests important conclusions.

    First, the interludes are intensely aware of the performative nature of...

    (pp. 127-138)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 139-142)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 143-145)