Intermede

Intermede (Ukrainian: intermediia). A short comic or satiric sketch that was performed between acts of serious plays. The first known intermede was performed in 15th-century England during a play by Henry Medwall.

The first two intermedes in Ukraine are found in the publication of J. Gawatowicz's Polish tragedy about the death of John the Baptist (1619). The plots of intermedes were not related to the subject of the plays in which they occurred and were often written by different authors. Reflecting the social, political, and religious relations of their time, they were mostly anecdotes with one-dimensional, stereotyped characters: Cossacks, peasants, Gypsies, Poles, Jews, Russian soldiers, and Belarusians. The characters often spoke a mixture of various languages, although the Ukrainian ones spoke in the pure vernacular. Mytrofan Dovhalevsky was a master of Ukrainian intermedes; he wrote up to five versified intermedes for each of his Christmas and Easter dramas (1736–7). Five intermedes were performed during Heorhii Konysky's tragic comedy Voskresenie mertvykh (Resurrection of the Dead, 1747), and seven or eight during the anonymous Ukrainian play Stefanotokos staged in Novgorod in 1742. References to other non-extant intermedes exist. The influence of intermedes is seen in the works of Ivan Nekrashevych, in Christmas puppet plays (the vertep), in humorous verses of the 18th century, and in 19th-century Ukrainian comedies. An analysis and a selection of texts is found in Mykhailo Vozniak's Pochatky ukraïns’koï komediï (Beginnings of Ukrainian Comedy, 1919, repr 1955).

Dmytro Chyzhevsky

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 2 (1989).]




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