Carnivalesque Rhetoric: Alterity and the Critique of the Nobility in »Des Turken Vasnachtspil«
A close investigation of Des Turken Vasnachtspil, likely written by Hans Rosenplüt between 1454 and 1456, refutes the current assumptions of scholars regarding the work. Whereas the portrayal of the “Other” in early Nuremberg carnival plays such as Der Herzog von Burgund is exclusively xenophobic and effectively negates the “poetics of ambiguity” noted by Germanists for the Fastnachtspiel, the representation of the Turk alternates between praise and punishment, fully exploiting the bivalence of the genre. In treating the play as an example of a “Turkish hope” for improvement of the Holy Roman Empire, however, historians consider only the positive half of this bivalence. A complete interpretation of the play must consider the full ambiguity inherent in the carnivalesque portrayal of the Ottoman sultan. On the one hand, the sultan serves as a mask for the play’s bourgeois performers, allowing them to criticize the nobility of the empire. On the other, the scatological abuse suffered by the sultan gives expression to fears following the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453.