What the heck is a Mummer’s Farce anyway?

Nov 29, 11 What the heck is a Mummer’s Farce anyway?

The term “mummers” originates from medieval England  probably with roots in pagan winter solstice rituals depicting death and rebirth. They can be loosely interpreted as describing performers, troupes of actors or acrobats, costumed or otherwise. Mummers  were bands of villagers who would perform their Mummers plays in return for food or money, Mummers plays had loose plots with plenty of scope for ad-libs and the introduction of strange characters as suited the occasion. There was always a battle between light and darkness (or good and evil). The disguised performers wore masks (the name ‘mummer’s play’ may come from the Greek word for mask) and originally there would have been a silent performance (from the middle-English word ‘mum’ meaning silent) often including a Morris Dance.

The “farce” is a theatrical comedy that can be characterized by improbable situations, chases, word play and misdirection and physical humour.

In Martin’s novels you could interpret this to mean that the situation is an absurd comedy put on by fools and actors, a transparent pretense, a situation that not real but an act to fool people.

Martin likes to use this term over and over again. Here are some excerpts from A Dance with Dragons:

Chapter: Davos -”Do you have any more to say to me, Onion Knight, or can we put an end to this mummer’s farce?

Chapter: Reek -”The whole pageant that Lady Melisandre had orchestrated beyond the Wall suddenly seemed as empty as a  mummer’s farce?

Chapter: Davos-”The rancor I showed you in Merman’s Court was a mummer’s farce put on to please our friends of Frey?

Chapter: The Prince of Winterfell -”That was why Roose Bolton had clothed him as a lord again, to play a part in this mummer’s farce?


Mummers and more mummers

1 Comment

  1. The popular idea of mummers as a relic of ancient pagan death and rebirth rituals has been shown to be a scholastic invention by James Frazer (The Golden Bough) and the Myth and Ritual School.

    Research has now shown that mummers first appear as an entertainment amongst the highest people in the land. There is no evidence of early pagan connections.

    The death and revival theme of some mummers plays first appears in the early C18th, and was promulgated throughout the country through publishing in Chapbooks.

    Early mummers text take their theme from classical Greek dramas.

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