Friday, May 1, 2009

Introducing Dulcitus

What is Dulcitus?

Dulcitus is the first show in our 2009 Ennotville Summer Theatre Season. It is a boisterous little farce, and it was written by the world's first known woman playwright, the abbess Hroswitha of Gandershiem, in or around 960AD (our best guesses for Hroswitha's life and death are c935 - c975), and concerns the fate of three Christian martyrs at the hands of an unscrupulous but comically inept Roman prefect named Dulcitus.

Besides being remarkable as the first female dramatist that we know of, Hroswitha's work is also remarkable in that it provides a very rare glimpse into the world of Medieaval Drama - after the fall of the Roman Empire but before the start of the Rennaissance. While it's true we do have drama from that period (the cycle plays, Everyman, etc), most of it is closer to the end of the period than the start of the period. Hroswitha is closer to Rome. She wrote in Latin, and admittedly copies her style from the Roman playwright Terrence, in who's works she saw the talent but lamented the waywardness, and so sought to copy his style in the hopes of using an accessible format to promote Christian ideals. Unwittingly or not, Hroswitha also seems to have been a very early feminist, with her work portraying women characters as both strong and intelligent, in contrast with the often weak and stereotypical depictions of Roman comedies.

In Dulcitus we have, quite probably, the only one of her seven plays that seems to be designed with audience laughter in mind. Indeed, there is a lot of very funny situations, and plenty of slapstick humor, especially when Dulcitus, blind with passion, lusts after the pots in the kitchen as if they were the Christian martyrs. In the end the Christians meet their deaths, but even in that there is comedy, for while they have been saved Dulcitus has not, and is doomed to continue his own bungling existence, at least for a little while more.

We don't know if this play or any other of her works were performed in Hroswitha's lifetime, let alone whether or not she intended the works to be performed, or if they were performed whether or not she had any hand in the staging and production. The plays leave a few tantalizing clues that hint at a post-production revision, but we can't be sure.

In any case, I hope you'll join us for this special event, the first play in our Ennotville Summer Theatre season, opening June 11th and running for three weekends. Tickets are available online now - just click on the "Buy Tickets" icon right here on the blog.

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