A group of flaggelants bemoan the slaughter of the innocents, which is itself portrayed onstage. The slaughter is followed by a maddened mother addressing a wooden figurine representing the Madonna. The mother asks God how many innocents, including her child, need be slaughtered so Jesus can live. Then she spots what she says is her child, who has survived, and shows him to the wooden Madonna. It is a lamb.
Two beggars, one blind and one crippled, cooperate. The blind man carries the cripple, who spots Christ being flagellated. The cripple has heard that Jesus performs miraculous cures, so he wants to get away to avoid losing his affliction, which enables him to beg successfully. The blind man will not move, however, and both are cured as Christ passes. One rhapsodizes about his restored vision; the other bemoans his repaired legs.
A print of Christ as a Bacchus-like figure appears beside an angel recounting Christ’s first miracle at the marriage at Cana. The angel is interrupted by a drunk, who says Jesus transformed water not for the benefit of others but simply to enjoy the wine himself. The drunk describes a semi-inebriated Christ jumping on the table and exhorting the wedding guests to drink up.
A peasant successfully plants fallow land. A priest rules that the land belongs to a noble, but the peasant refuses to yield the land he has planted. His barn and animals are burned; his wife is raped before his children, who go on to die. Despondent, the peasant decides to hang himself. Christ passes by and asks for water, however, and, when he is sated, he gives the peasant the wit and eloquence to convey Christ’s message. He uses this power and intelligence to become a jongleur, or itinerant folk-actor
A peasant is born to sleep on the floor. His months of toil are prescribed in poetry: January, muck out the barn; February, sweat in the fields; and so forth. All he owns or does is taxed. A postscript informs the audience that paradise on earth is for bosses; for farmers or laborers, paradise comes after death. In the next scene, based on a picture of a pickpocket at the opening of Lazarus’s tomb, a bet is taken on whether Christ can revive Lazarus, and when he succeeds, the loser goes to pay, only to find his purse stolen. As the crowd cheers, the loser yells, “Stop, thief!”
Pope Boniface VIII, richly attired, lamely conducts a liturgical chant while carrying a crucifix. The Christ comes to life. The pope struggles to hide his finery, but Jesus kicks him in the posterior, leading Boniface to say he relishes Christ’s crucifixion, which he will celebrate by drinking, dancing, and whoring, because he is Boniface.
The Fool is at an inn. The landlady announces Christ’s arrival for what will be the Last Supper. Death appears as a woman, come for Jesus. The Fool waylays her in conversation and says he likes Death’s smell of chrysanthemums and would happily go with her to death. She deems him either mad or a poet. Replying that every poet is a fool and every fool a poet, he sets about seducing her.
The Madonna meets friends on the street who try to block her from a crowd. Mary sees three crosses, and one friend tells her that two are to be used to crucify thieves. Mary sympathizes for the thieves’ mothers, who probably do not know their sons’ fate. Mary Magdalene enters and starts talking about Jesus before the friend silences her. The friend blurts that Magdalene is a prostitute and protests Jesus’ pity for such undesirables. Mary replies that Christ works to give such people hope. Veronica enters, carrying a bloody cloth. She says that when she used it to wipe the face of the third condemned person, an imprint formed. Seeing it, Mary recognizes her son. The friend berates Veronica for upsetting Mary.
The Fool is working as a barker at the crucifixion. He helps the crucifiers when they say they will throw dice with him. After he...
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- Critical Essays