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The Elder Edda Revisited: Past and Present Performances of the Icelandic Eddic Poems

Eva Nielsen

Master of Arts, School of Theatre, Florida State University, March 15, (2005)


The historical, national, and academic values of the Icelandic Eddic poems—or Elder Edda—have received much scholarly attention in the past. Yet, there is another aspect of these poems that deserves more exploration and consideration: that of their theatrical history.

In this thesis, I argue that the Eddic poems were used in some type of dramatic performances in the early Middle Ages. My main criteria include the inherent dramatic dialogue of the poems as well as the suggested performer-audience relationships that lie within. While conducting an investigation of some basic medieval performance theories, including modes and places of performance, I will also examine the coexistence of the, relatively pagan, mythological Eddic poems and Christianity—which was introduced to the Icelanders at the turn of the eleventh century. Finally, I will utilize the abovementioned research and develop a contemporary production proposal of my own. In doing so, I will be drawing upon historical context, not in the interests of constructing a historically accurate production but to provide insight into the cultural context from which the poems emerged.

Essentially, I argue that the Elder Edda holds a prominent place in theatre history, and this thesis will highlight the poems’ past and present contributions to the field.

Click here to read this thesis from Florida State University

(via Medievalists)