The Salting Down of Gertrude: Transgression and Preservation in Three Early German Carnival Plays

Stephen K. Wright


The purpose of this article is twofold. First, it introduces a subgenre of the German carnival play to a wider audience by providing editions and translations of three fifteenth-century Bavarian texts on the theme of preserving unmarried women during lent by packing them in salt. Second, it discusses the historical context focusing on ways in which modern notions of the ‘carnivalesque’ as a putative agent for positive social transformation are themselves subverted by the conservative nature of much late medieval comedy. Paradoxically, what begins as anti-authoritarian licence ends in the affirmation of a patriarchal status quo that regards the unmarried female body as a commodity preserved for future male delectation.

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