Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Sixt Birck (Betulius) (1500-1554)

Sierra Club


Terence, our liveliest poet, who complains in all his comedies about his critics (and that indeed is no wonder because he still has his envious enemies), Terence, I say, demands that by study of him, I should reply to a serious calumny. Thus we are now saints, God willing; to us belongs that holy obligation, that no tender youth, dedicated to Christ, should imbibe any love potion from the clear springs of the chaste Muses. He snarls and the attack is started. Alas, I will speak quite modestly and I will say what will please you very much: your troublesome persistence has wrung this concession from us, that we are acting a sacred comedy instead of the plays of Terence. The impurity of the pimp does not please you, nor the youth as lost in debauchery as Aeschinus, nor this indeed, the young girl suffering from her sorrows. But you will not be pleased here, whatever anyone says, because it is not fitting to fashion good characters from bad ones. The bad will always remain bad. These old men are more corrupt than any Terence or Plautus introduced. Each of these miserable creatures exudes such wicked lust. Will Acolastus please more agreeably? I think so. But he does not yield to Aeschinus or to Pamphilus in his debauchery. Will you approve more of Christ, who will reign for ever as victor from his cross? Indeed this is a moral drama. But in the meantime the wicked Judas the traitor is detrimental to your boy. Let him not learn from this to betray his teachers. I pass over in silence that he will be corrupted by the morals of the crowd which in an abominable punishment raised the son of God on the wood of the Cross. In good faith I assert this good, that Sophocles gave us nothing more cruel and the whole of antiquity does not mention any crime more barbarous, not even a Scythian one. Is it a pleasure for Joseph to hear more? But Terence does not bring onto the stage any prostitute more impudent or more wanton than is Sephirach. Come. Our customary play is to be performed for you. Look, you have a sacred play. But compromise with us: do not drive us with dogs' teeth to tear up any further the good Terence. But now you, boy, tell the plot in a few words. - Prologue from Susanna


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The founder of the school drama in Germany was Sixt Birk (Xistus Betulius): his "Susanna",; "Judith", and "Eva" have primarily an educative aim, but are coupled with Protestant tendencies. His example was followed by a fair number of imitators: by George Buchanan (1582), a Scotchman, wrote "Jephthe" and "Baptistes" and the bellicose Naogeorgus treats with still more bitterness the differences between Catholics and Protestants in his "Hamanus", "Jeremias", and "Judas Iscariot". [Adapted from Catholic Encyclopedia (1910)]

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