Performing women takes on a key problem in the history of drama: the ‘exceptional’ staging of the life of Catherine of Siena by a female actor and a female patron in 1468 Metz. These two creators have remained anonymous, despite the perceived rarity of this familiar episode; this study of their lives and performances, however, brings the elusive figure of the female performer to centre stage. Beginning with the Catherine of Siena play and broadening outward, Performing women integrates new approaches to drama, gender, and patronage with a performance methodology to trace connections among the activities of the actor, the patron, their female family members, and peers. It shows that the women of fifteenth-century Metz enacted varied kinds of performance that included and extended beyond the theatre: decades before the 1468 play, for example, Joan of Arc returned from the grave in the form of a young woman named Claude, who was acknowledged formally in a series of civic ceremonies. This in-depth investigation of the full spectrum of evidence for female performance – drama, liturgy, impersonation, devotional practice, and documentary culture – both creates a unique portrait of the lives of individual women and reveals a framework of ubiquitous female performance. Performing women offers a new paradigm: women forming the core of public culture. Networks of gendered performance offered roles of expansive range and depth to the women of Metz, and positioned them as vital and integral contributors to the fabric of urban life.
saint within Metz. Dramatic
productions were commonplace in the city during the later Middle
Ages; more than twenty-five are recorded by civic chroniclers of
the era. However, in the spring of 1468, a special jeu – probably
taking the form of a theatrical representation in verse – was
mounted in the open courtyard of the Dominican convent, on the
south side of town. This performance portrayed the life of SaintCatherineofSiena, a charismatic urban visionary and reformer
who had been canonised just seven years before. Two living women
shaped the jeu as well, however
The Journal of Jehan Aubrion preserves the oldest surviving
record of the Catherine actor and her later marriage, describing
them in separate, annalistic entries that were composed contemporaneously with each of the two events:
 At Pentecost the jeu of SaintCatherineofSiena was done at
the Dominican house. And Saint Catherine was a young woman,
the daughter of Didier le Werriés, of Four du Cloître street.
 In the said year, in the month of October, a girl called SaintCatherineofSiena was married who was the daughter of Didier, le
resided at his order’s convent in Barcelona, named for SaintCatherineofSiena, O. P. Tertiary. 47 Although Catalonia had no métier that matched that of the wine porters, it did have a flourishing woollen cloth industry, so Cavitelli’s calling Alberto a cloth maker turned out to be useful.
The Dominican master-general’s appeal addressed to the pope came with a supporting document signed by a number of important individuals, starting with James III, the Stuart pretender to the throne of England, Scotland, and Ireland, then in residence in
(Milan: Società Tipografica de Classici italiani, 1864), 130.
71 Isidore of Seville, Etymologies , XI.i.35, ed. and trans. Barney et al., 233.
72 For Saint Irene of Thessalonica , see Hills, ‘How to Look Like a Counter-Reformation Saint’, 207–230.
73 Kohl, ‘Body, Mind, and Soul’, 44.
74 Saints in ecstasy or at the point of martyrdom are the pre-eminent examples of this, such as Gianlorenzo Bernini’s St Teresa in the Cornaro Chapel, Santa Maria della Vittoria, Melchiorre Caffà’s Ecstasy of SaintCatherineofSiena on the main altar of Santa