Alsfeld Passion Play Text and Translation with Introduction

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This translation and introduction is intended to fill a crucial void in German literary and linguistic scholarship by 1) making the play available to an English-speaking audience; 2) examining its origins, development, staging, and unique contributions to the genre; and 3) providing a companion text for students of late Middle High German. The Alsfeld Passion Play represents the culmination, and perhaps the most complex stage of development of the German Passion Play tradition. The Alsfeld play was a three-day play, with performances in 1501, 1511, and 1517. With roles for 188 players it was presented on the open market square, and was conspicuous for its extensive devils' scenes, portrayal of Mary Magdalene before her conversion, and lengthy disputation scenes. At present there are no known translations of the Alsfeld play, in modern German or in English. The original manuscript, preserved at the Landesbibliothek in Kassel, contains 8095 lines of dialogue along with incipits, stage directions, and a rich variety of liturgical songs. Text and translations appear on facing pages. This book is available at a special text price. Call (716) 754-2788 for information on text orders.


“. . . will certainly encourage interest in the drama on an interdisciplinary basis. The detailed introduction reviews the content of the play, its background and relationship to its analogues, literary and dramatic qualities, performance, anti-Semitism, and important earlier scholarship. . . . The facing translation is generally successful in its intention primarily to capture the essence and mood of the original and uses a fusion of modern idiom and more archaic biblical language to achieve this, with occasional rhymes.” – The Year’s Work in Modern Language Studies

“Larry West’s English translation of the Alsfeld Passion Play is a massive undertaking and a unique accomplishment in the field of medieval religious drama. . . West has done an admirable job of carrying the meaning of the German script almost line for line into the English facing-age translation. The challenge with this kind of project is to strike a balance between a linguistically accurate, scholarly translation on one hand and a stageworthy dramatic script on the other. West has achieved a satisfactory middle ground, if not a happy medium. . . . a useful rendering of one of the longest and most complex of the German religious plays. It makes a German performance manuscript available for comparison to the English cycle plays, and the facing page format allows those with some German to understand the characteristics of the original.” – The Early Drama, Art, and Music Review

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