Mistero Buffo

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AT: Comic Mysteries A: Dario Fo Pf: 1969, Milan Pb: 1970 Tr: 1988 G: 13 linked one-act monologues and dramas; Italian prose and some verse S: Various locations, 1st c. ad and medieval period C: (4) 2m; (10) 4m, 2f; (12) 6m(1) The Actor, using slides, introduces the tradition of mistero buffo (comic mystery plays). There follow (2) The Flagellant's Laude and (3) The Slaughter of the Innocents. (4) The Morality Play of the Blind Man and the Cripple. A blind man and a cripple are appealing for alms. Becoming aware of each other, the cripple mounts the blind man's back, so that they can both get about more easily. They see Jesus being scourged and then forced to carry his cross. As the procession passes by, both beggars are cured. The blind man is jubilant, but the cripple realizes that he must now suffer: ‘I'll have to go and work for an employer, sweating blood in order to eat.’ (5–9) The Marriage at Cana; The Birth of the Jongleur; The Birth of the Villeyn; The Resurrection of Lazarus; Boniface VIII. (10) Death and the Fool. In a tavern Matazone the Fool is winning at cards, when a group of people sit down to dine in the next room: it is Christ with the 12 apostles. Death enters, a pale young woman, and the Fool's fellow players flee. The Fool welcomes her and praises her beauty. She reveals that she has come for Christ, who knows of his fate. The fool concludes that Christ, who still loves those that will betray him, must be crazier than him. (11) Mary Hears of the Sentence Imposed on her Son. (12) The Fool Beneath the Cross Laying a Wager. Jesus is nailed to the cross, and the Fool joins the Crucifiers gambling with dice and tarot. When he wins, he offers to hand back all his gains if the Crucifiers will give him Jesus in exchange. He suggests that they replace Jesus with the corpse of Judas hanging from a nearby tree, and even offers to give them the 30 pieces of silver that the Fool found nearby. However, when the Fool goes to take Jesus from the cross, Jesus refuses, because he must die to redeem mankind. The Fool warns him how his sacrifice will be exploited by the rich and powerful, but Jesus remains determined. The Fool once again concludes that the Son of Man is mad, and that he was sane only when he drove the moneychangers from the temple. (13) The Passion: Mary at the Cross.Assuming the role of the giullare (‘jester’ or jongleur), Fo performed this series of short pieces with tremendous vitality and physical energy (‘The jongleur was a figure who came from the people, and who from the people drew anger and transmitted it through the medium of the grotesque’). These monologues and playlets, of which three are summarized above, serve to humanize the figure of Christ while propagating a socialist message regarded as too gentle by Fo's more militant comrades.


Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).

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