Northern lights and shadows
Transcultural encounters in early modern Italian theatre
in Transnational connections in early modern theatre
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Drawing on comparative and imagologist methodologies, this essay assesses how Italian playwrights and actors represented Germans, Scandinavians and English people in ways that often modified and sometimes challenged ethnic stereotypes. Analysis of playscripts in relation to their specific historical contexts, such as the influence of Erasmus and of the Grand Tour, reveals the ambivalent fascination that Northern European culture held for early modern Venetians, Sienese and other Italians. Material exchanges vis-à-vis figurative representations form the core of this chapter, drawing on examples from Tasso’s Il Re Torrismondo (1587), through satirical musical comedies (Banchieri, Fasolo), the comedies of the Accademia degli Intronati of Siena, to Goldoni’s La vedova scaltra (1748). This essay argues that the notable variety of tone and purpose in theatrical figurations of the cultural other calls for a nuanced reassessment that counters the assumed xenophobia prevailing on early modern European stages.

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