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Taverner as the Umpire

TAVERNER: “Hey, hey, you there! No need for that./ Calm down, Raoul! And you, Connart!/ Let me decide the issue for you./ You’ll both be better off for it.” (626-629)TAVERNER: “What’s this, Cliquet? Is it a fight?/ Let go of him! You too, leave off!/ Go sit down, the pair of you,/ And each will get what he deserves./ Rasoir, tell us the cause of this--/ You must know who was in the wrong.” (926-931)TAVERNER: “What’s up? Pincede, are you mad?/ Let go at once-- you too, Rasoir./ Come over here and sit down quiet./ I know how the quarrel arose./ Now bind yourselves over to me on oath--/ I don’t want to victimize.” (1166-1171) Three times, the Taverner steps in to stop or avoid physical violence in his bar. Three times, the Taverner intervenes with questions about the situations. And three times, the Taverner provides a solution. Why does Jean Bodel place so much weight on the authority of the Taverner? There are other characters in this play that, based on history, should have more emphasis on their dominance. Yet, much of Le Jeu de Saint Nicolas takes place in the tavern, and not, as anticipated in the Prologue, on the topic of Saracen versus Christians. Bodel’s attention to the gamblers and thieves is comparable, if not prioritized, over the crusaders.Specifically, when Connart, the town caller, calls “Oyez, oyez, oyez, good men,/ Your honour and your interests!/ Summons from the King of Africa:/ That all men come, both poor and rich,/ Furnished with arms as is requires.” (225-229), he is calling about the crusades, making a call to war. The audience would have know the reference to the “King of Africa,” and what was entailed when taking up arms. Then, using the same pattern of speech, Connart runs through the “place,” calling ““Oyez, oyez, oyez, gentlemen all,/ Come along, give me your hearing!/ On the King’s behalf I have to tell you/ That as from now his treasure hoard/ Will not be under lock and key” (579-583). Perhaps this is the formula for a town caller, first summoning attention with praise to listeners, then delivering a zealous message. Even so, the parallel of the town caller’s cries hint to the audience the association of crusaders and thieves.When the Taverner resolves conflicts through reason, Bodel is making this direct comparison to solving conflicts of the Fourth Crusade. Could Bodel, who avoids violent battles on the stage, be deterring his audience from political warfare? The signals of battle “King, never, since Noah built the ark,/ Was such an army, such a force,/ As the one which has invaded us” (126-128). He promotes judicious arbitration through the representation of the Taverner. At the same time, the Taverner never missed a chance to turn a profit. For him, the coin is significant, the “ultimate medium of exchange” (Symes, 59).The coin, as described by Symes, is also the manifestation of Paris rule, French expansion, and of King Philip Augustus. With the Taverner upholding banking, forestalling fraud, and umpiring gambles, he represents the position of law and order. This representation positions itself in the framework that Symes describes on symbolic signification. Symes teaches us that the coinage is the material symbol of language. Here, the Taverner is the symbol of fairness and statute.

DLCL 121: Performing the Middle Ages (FRENCH 151)
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