This was one of three short plays by the tenth-century canoness Hrotsvit
produced in conjunction with the Southeast Medieval Association Annual
Conference in Daytona Beach, sponsored by Stetson University's English
Department. The other two, Calimachus and Dulcitius, were
directed by Dr. Julie Schmitt.
Hrotsvit (Hroswitha, Roswitha, etc., the “strong voice”) of Gandersheim
is renown as the first known female playwright and the first to address
Christian subjects through drama. Born
in the 10th century AD, she served as a canoness at the abbey of Gandersheim
in Germany. (The abbey stills stands today, in the German city of Bad-Gandersheim).
She was highly educated and familiar with many classic texts, including the
comedies of the Roman playwright Terence, whose form (though not content)
she sought to emulate, thus turning a Pagan entertainment to Christian
purposes. Hrotsvit set for herself the task of using the dramatic form as a means of
championing the strength of Christian women.
Inspired by the lives of saints
and martyrs, her plays champion the strength of Christian women while
examining themes of temptation,
conversion, sacrifice, and forgiveness. The three plays chosen for this
performance (out of the six she wrote) offered a unique perspective on the
experience of women through the lore of the early Middle Ages.
Abraham, the young virgin Mary is persuaded by her hermit uncle
Abraham and his "co-hermit" Effrem to pursue a life of chastity and worship.
When she yields to temptation and loses her virginity to a young man
disguised as a priest, her fear that her sin is so great as to be
unforgivable drives her to follow a life of prostitution. When Abraham
learns where she has fled, he disguises himself as a soldier in order that
he might procure some time alone with her, during which he appeals to her to
seek forgiveness and return to the fold. Through this play, a kind of
"learning piece," Hrotsvit transforms Mary's shame into a
testament to her character and the power of divine forgiveness.
production was attended by the primary translator of Hrotsvit's work, Dr.
Katharina Wilson from the University of Georgia. According to her, our
production was notable for introducing Hrotsvit as a character and staging
as direct address the preface and incipits (brief introductions to each play, that
served as "teasers").