"What's in a name?
that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;"
--Romeo and Juliet, II.ii.45-46
Aristotle's second book of the Poetics
The second book of Aristotle's Poetics was supposed to be a treatise on theatrical comedy, just as the first book of the Poetics treated the subject of tragedy (circa 355 B.C.). However, despite Aristotle's reference to this second book at the end of the first book, no extant copy exists. It has been assumed for centuries that it either never was written or disappeared in ancient times. This and other missing books from the ancient world serve as constant reminders of the fragility of manuscripts and the disturbing ease with which the shared wisdom of great men and women can be so easily lost.
the aesthetic of the film
the grotesque is a bizarre combination of ugly or frightening things or people with comical attributes
Laughter / Comedy
see Aristotle's Poetics above.
William and the Venerable Jorge debating comedy and laughter:
At the scriptorium:
Jorge: I trust my words didn't offend you brother William, but I
heard the persons laughing at laughable things. You, Franciscans,
however, belong to an Order where merriment is viewed with indulgence.
William: Yes, it's true. Saint Francis was much disposed to laughter.
Jorge: Laughter is a devilish wind which deforms the lineaments of the face and makes men look like monkeys.
Monkeys do not laugh.
Laughter is particular to man.
Jorge: As is sin. Christ never laughed.
William: Can we be so sure?
Jorge: There is nothing in the Scriptures to say that He did.
William: And there's nothing there to say that He did not. Even the saints have been known to employ comedy to ridicule the enemies of the faith. For example, when the pagans plunged Saint Maurus into the boiling water, he complained that his bath was cold. The Sultan put his hand in and scalded himself.
Jorge: A saint
immersed in boiling water
does not play childish tricks.
He restrains his cries
and suffers for the truth.
William: And yet, Aristotle devoted his second book of poetics to comedy as an instrument of truth.
In the labyrinth:
William: Venerable brother, there are many books
that speak of comedy. Why does this one fill you with such fear?
Jorge: Because it's by Aristotle.
William: But what is so alarming about laughter?
Jorge: Laughter kills fear and without fear there can't be any faith. Because without fear of the devil there is no more need of God.
William: But you will not eliminate laughter by eliminating that book.
Jorge: No, to be sure. Laughter will remain the common man's recreation but what would happen if, because of this book learned men work to pronounce it permissible to laugh at everything? Can we laugh at God? The world would relapse into chaos.
Knowledge and Reason
Adso's "classical education" helps them escapee the labyrinth.
William sees the pursuit of knowledge (in books, in the astrolabe, in the mystery at the abbey) and the use of reason as paths to the Truth.
Jorge argues that knowledge should be preserved but not advanced.
Let us return to what was, and
ever should be the office of this abbey: The preservation of
knowledge. Preservation, I say. Not search for because there is no progress in the history of knowledge merely a continuous and sublime recapitulation.
The "lost book" is written in Greek, meaning only readers of Greek had access to its "forbidden knowledge".
The Bible and the monks' rules are read and spoken in Latin.
Of Salvatore's bizarre language, William says he speaks "all languages and none."
The unnamed girl "speaks" in grunts and whimpers.
Belief in and fear of the Devil and witchcraft prevents everyone but William and Adso from accepting William's logical conclusions.
Faith stands somewhere between superstition and fanaticism. Or as William says, "The step between ecstatic vision and sinful frenzy is all to brief."
The heresy of the Dulcinites who hated wealthy priests and bishops
The Inquisition which saw heresy where none existed
Jorge's murderous fanatical hatred of laughter
The rejection of logic in preference to a fanatical belief in the Devil leads to the unjust arrests of William, Remigio, Salvatore, and the unnamed girl.
Williams fanatical obsession with books and mysteries
The Madonna-whore dichotomy
A very limiting view of female sexuality which sees women either as virgins (asexual, nonsexual, or untouched) or as whores (sexually active or expressive).
Ubertino, speaking of the statue of the Virgin Mary, says, "When a female, by nature so perverse becomes sublimed by holiness then she can be the noblest vehicle of grace."
There are 2 women in this film:
A cold marble statue of the Virgin Mary
An unnamed, living whore
Poverty of Christ
The Franciscans are gathering at he abbey to meet with a papal delegation and engage in a debate regarding the poverty of Christ.
Wealth of the Church
The Franciscans risked being declared heretics for their insistence that the church should be as poor as Christ.
from beginning of film: "A palimpsest of the novel by Umberto Eco"
OED definition: a
manuscript or piece of writing material on which the original writing has
been effaced to make room for later writing but of which traces remain.
something reused or altered but still bearing visible traces of its earlier form:
Sutton Place is a palimpsest of the taste of successive owners
self-mortification of the flesh: men who did the practice thought they were being like Christ, imitating his torture during the Passion.
OED definition: the action of flogging oneself, especially as a form of religious discipline.
The Benedictine Order comprises monks living under the Rule of St. Benedict, and commonly known as "black monks" (Catholic Encyclopedia). They are a monastic order (meaning they lived separate from the world in monasteries and abbeys).
The Franciscan Order (or Friars Minor or Grey Friars) were a mendicant order (meaning they took a vow of poverty and held no private or common property and depended upon charity) founded by St. Francis of Assisi in 1209). Franciscans are an evangelical order (meaning the travel and preach and teach the Word of God)
By this term is usually meant a special ecclesiastical institution for combating or suppressing heresy. Its characteristic mark seems to be the bestowal on special judges of judicial powers in matters of faith, and this by supreme ecclesiastical authority, not temporal or for individual cases, but as a universal and permanent office. Moderns experience difficulty in understanding this institution, because they have, to no small extent, lost sight of two facts.
On the one hand they have ceased to grasp religious belief as something objective, as the gift of God, and therefore outside the realm of free private judgment; on the other they no longer see in the Church a society perfect and sovereign, based substantially on a pure and authentic Revelation, whose first most important duty must naturally be to retain unsullied this original deposit of faith. Before the religious revolution of the sixteenth century these views were still common to all Christians; that orthodoxy should be maintained at any cost seemed self-evident." (Catholic Encyclopedia)
The gargoyles were granite statues of monsters scattered around the abbey.
Gargoyles were used on Catholic buildings especially in gothic architecture as:
visual reminders of evil
wards against evil spirits entering the building
The gargoyles are an important motif for conveying the gothic and grotesque aesthetics of the film.
OED: an instrument formerly used to make astronomical measurements, typically of the altitudes of celestial bodies, and in navigation for calculating latitude, before the development of the sextant. In its basic form (known from classical times), it consists of a disk with the edge marked in degrees and a pivoted pointer.
Used by William of Baskerville to view the stars
OED: a model of the celestial globe constructed from rings and hoops representing the equator, the tropics, and other celestial circles, and able to revolve on its axis.
Used by Malachia to kill Severinus the herbalist
In the Middle Ages, translations and copies of manuscripts were almost always decorated with paintings.
Initial letters and marginalia (the page borders)
A monk-cellarer tasting wine from a barrel while filling a jug. From Li Livres dou Santé by Aldobrandino of Siena (France, late 13th century).
The illuminated letter P (for Petrus, Latin for Peter) in the Malmesbury Bible. (England, 1407)
The 11th century Tyniec Sacramentary: note that the page is taken up mostly by the gold leaf, with very little actual text.
The decoration of this page from a French Book of Hours, ca.1400, includes a miniature, initials, and borders.
The "place for writing": these rooms in monasteries across medieval Europe were dedicated to the purpose of copying, translating, writing, and illuminating. In the later middle ages, these activities were treated as separate specialties.
The practice throughout medieval Europe of transferring all entailed lands and titles to the eldest son. Any unentailed lands could be willed to other members of the family but was rarely done. Second and third sons were therefore destined for life in the military or the church.
In the film, Adso, the youngest son of the Baron of Melk, was forced by the practice of primogeniture in a clerical life.
Why is Adso narrating this film? What are the advantages and disadvantages of following this mystery through his eyes? Is there any significance to the fact that Adso narrates the tale as an old man looking back?
Compare / Contrast Sherlock Holmes and William of Baskerville. Do you think this comparison in any way is meant to make William a "mockable" figure?
Are reason and faith incompatible in this film?
Identify the characters who most often get "carried away" by their irrational fear of "the devil"?
Discuss the use of sound in this film. For instance, why is there no music during the infamous (and uncomfortable) sex scene between the unnamed girl and Adso? What is the meaning behind the oft repeated, deafening and discordant sound?
Why does Annaud (the director) allow the unnamed girl, who in the book died at the stake, to live?
Why does William say of Ubertino, "There is a side of Ubertino that I truly envy." Following Ubertino's farewell speech?
Farewell William. You're mad and arrogant. But I love you and I'll never cease to pray for you. Goodbye, dear child. Try not to learn too many bad examples from your master. He thinks too much. Relying always on the deductions of his head. Instead of trusting in the prophetic capacities of his heart. Learn to mortify your intelligence. Weep over the wounds of our Lord. Oh, and do throw away those books!
Adelmo: suicide; jumped from the tower BEFORE William and Adso arrive at the monastery
Venantius: murdered by Jorge's poisoned pages; deposited by Berengar in the blood vat
Berengar: murdered by Jorge's poisoned pages; found in the bath
Severinus: murdered by Malachia; hit on the head with an Italian Armillary Sphere
Malachia: murdered by Jorge's poisoned pages
Salvatore: burned at the stake for heresy
Remigio de Varagine: burned at the stake for heresy
Unnamed girl: in the novel she is taken away from the abbey and eventually she dies at the stake fro witchcraft; in the movie she escapes and lives
Venerable Jorge: suicide by his own poisoned pages
Bernardo Gui: died in carriage "accident"; impaled on spikes