Fluminensia: Journal for Philological Research (Jan 2015)
SLOVO MEŠTRA POLIKARPA AS A “MONOLOGUE WITHIN A CONVERSATION” – ONE ASPECT
Slovo meštra Polikarpa is a contrast or a morality play translated from medieval Latin literature in which dialogues between a mortal human and Death personified were known in numerous versions, e.g. as Dialogus magistri Polycarpi cum morte, or as Colloquium de morte. The Croatian Glagolitic version of the text has been preserved in two miscellany manuscripts (the Petris miscellany and Ljubljana miscellany) dating from the 15th century. It is possible that these are the oldest extant translations of this Latin debate in the Slavic written tradition. Slovo meštra Polikarpa is interesting from the viewpoint of performability, because it is almost entirely composed as a dialogue between two characters. The monologues of the personified Death are much longer than the lines that the character of master Polikarp has, and as a result the text may seem more like a “monologue embedded in a conversation” than a real dialogue. This is the main feature which distinguishes Slovo meštra Polikarpa from other extant Croatian Glagolitic contrasts. Nonetheless, the discourses of Death are exciting, dramatic, colourful and full of emotional impulses, which allows for the possibility of prelection as a kind of subdued performance in front of an audience. Other performance features are also included in the written text, most notably in the dialogue and composition. The presented literary text highlights the need for moving away from the oral – written dichotomy pertaining to the Croatian medieval literature; it also points to some difficulties in the attempts to produce clear generic definitions of Croatian Glagolitic medieval texts.