When discussing A Feast During the Plague in class, we briefly went over some reasons why the group might be throwing a feast in the middle of the street during a plague. We talked about how it was a way for them to mourn their loved ones that they lost and to forget about their sorrows through hedonistic indulgence. We (sort of) concluded that Walsingham was probably a madman and that the translation didn’t do a great job of showing that.
We did briefly mention how in Walsingham’s hymn, he sings about a war against “queen” pestilence. It seems like he is challenging the plague to battle, with the rest of his group as his fearless soldiers who are ready to die.
In this photo is a young gent who’s ready to party, who seems like he’ll fit right into Walsingham’s feast, standing amidst rubble. In June 2021, a tornado struck the Czech Republic and caused much damage. Despite the carnage, Moravská Nová Ves, the town in the image that was severely affected by the tornado, still held the Feast of St. Jacob, with the family of the boy featured in the image having lost their home to the tornado. Despite the damage, they throw a (Christian) feast to restore people’s spirits, as if challenging nature itself (or maybe God) to battle.
Similarly, Walsingham and the others also seem to be showing off a defiance of sorts — to prove to either society, the dead, or God that nothing can stop them. They seem to want to represent a hope that life can be lived normally and with joy.
It could also be that the Czech feast was a way for people to forget their sorrows brought about by disaster, similar to what Walsingham seems to be doing in the play, or maybe as a plea to God (which is definitely not what happens in the play, as we can see from the priest that gets driven out).
Maybe defiance, hope, raising morale, and forgetting sorrows are just excuses for people to get drunk and party. No matter what, feasting in the face of disaster seems to be a human thing to do. Living life with hedonistic pursuits even when it is dangerous to do so is something that has happened before, and will happen again.
Walsingham: a model of resilience! *tears emoji*.
I really like how you frame feasting/partying/attending festivals in the time of disaster as a representation of hope for people. It is true that it can save us from falling and drowning in the spiral of despair. However, the fundamental condition of the A Feast during a Plague year and the Feast of St. Jacob differ. In Moravská Nová Ves, attending the feast would not further the damage from the tornado. On the contrary, eating and conversing with others in public spaces during a pandemic does spread the disease around. Therefore, is it really acceptable in this case to perform the act of defiance if it harms others more? Just a question hehe
You’re definitely right — and we did discuss in class how Walsingham and the others are irresponsible (and even that they seemed crazy in their exchange with the priest) for engaging in such escapism with no respect for others who are also affected by the plague and no regard for public safety.
The point still stands though that they represent some kind of hope for people, as irresponsible as they are being. Yes, their act of defiance will most likely result in them harming themselves and others, but I don’t think it takes away from the viewpoint that they are still sort of (in a slightly twisted way) “a model of resilience.” But yes, even then, the takeaway is that they are irresponsible jerks who don’t care about others. It’s not like they are feasting in order to represent some kind of great hope for people, they probably just want to get drunk and drown their sorrows. I just present an alternative viewpoint that in being the jerks that they are, they achieve something slightly noble in the process.
Thanks for your response 🙂