Der Tod als Trottel : Zum Dialog mit dem Tod in mittelalterlichen Texten

Mit der Darstellung des Todes in mittelalterlichen Texten befasst sich Nine Miedemas Beitrag. Sie arbeitet vier unterschiedliche Typen des Dialogs mit dem personifiziertenTod heraus.

During the Middle Ages, the danse macabre was a popular way to imag-ine death. Intended as a warning for those unprepared to die, it person-ifies Death as a triumphant figure, drawing helpless and irrevocably doomed people into an involuntary round dance. An unsubstantial, transitional event is thus transformed into an anthropomorphic figure, able to speak with his victims. In the danse macabre, the dialogues between Death and the human beings he leads away reflect their asymmetrical relationship. Analyzed from a linguistic point of view, it becomes clear that Death dominates and commands his victims without mercy. There are, however, other types of medieval literary dialogues between Death and Man, which show different adaptations of the subject. A second type (represented for example by ‘Everyman’) leads Man to repentance and thus to redemption: the human figure discusses his life with Death and realizes his sins. Such dialogues are less asymmetrical, although even here, Death is superior to Man, who is persuaded by Death and finally subordinates himself. The third type (which in Germany is represented only by Johann von Tepl’s ‘Ackermann aus Böhmen’) shows Death and Man as equals in a rhetorically highly sophisticated disputation about the meaning of death. The fourth type shows Death as a simpleton. Several late-medieval texts, such as the anonymous ‘Historia von Sancto’ and a number of Meisterlieder by Hans Sachs, invert the traditional roles of Death and Man. Sanctus for example leaves Death unable to defend himself, helplessly captured on a tree and silenced by Sanctus’ sagacity. Such literary and verbal triumphs over Death should be interpreted in the context of the widespread notion that art can conquer Death. Not only within the text itself is Death as a literary character overruled, but the fact that Hans Sachs’ name is mentioned in his Meisterlieder as someone who will also be seized by Death, paradoxically grants immortality to the author as a text-external entity.

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