Seminar: “Thomas Chaundler's Libellus de laudibus duarum civitatum: Disputation or Drama?”
Elza C. Tiner (Lynchburg College)
In Trinity College, Cambridge, MS. R.14.5, fols. 34v-44r, the Libellus de laudibus duarum civitatum (Lampoon in Praise of Two Cities) is a dramatic dialogue performed in celebration of the elevation of Thomas Bekynton as Bishop of Bath and Wells in 1445. This text is a satiric cross between a disputation and a play, in which the characters, Andrew from Wells and Peter from Bath, representatives of churches from each city, present arguments urging the bishop to establish his seat at their city. Each character attacks his opponent by describing him and his location in biting, sarcastic language, with many references to specific geography of the region. In the form of a play, the manuscript provides marginal character identifications and rubrics that appear to be stage directions. However, the structure of the text also mirrors that of an academic disputation before a master of theology, where two disputants argue a question before a judge or master. As such it defies classification according to present-day dramatic genres and suggests the need for revision of our definition of performance texts from the late Middle Ages.
Dr. Elza C. Tiner is Professor of Latin & English at the School of Humanities & Social Sciences, Lynchburg College, Virginia.