Performing quacks at court

The final tournament entry of a court festival of February 1638 at The Hague: ‘The knights of the dromedary and alchemists’, features actual farces and plays performed by a genuine troupe of street charlatans, and noblemen disguised as named healers, including two well-known quacks of the time, Mondor and Braguette. Drawing on English and Dutch images, and influences from London court masques and other European court festival, the Parisian stage, Spanish literature, and Italian commedia dell’arte, many previously disregarded in this context, this essay considers the itinerant charlatan, quack or street healer as a theme in early modern court festival, with particular reference to medical and theatrical influences on the stage names of the six courtiers of the 1638 tournament entry.

in Transnational connections in early modern theatre

This volume considers transnational and intercultural aspects of early modern theatre, drama and performance. Its twelve chapters, loosely cosmographically grouped into West, North and South, compose a complex image of early modern theatre connections as a socially, economically, politically and culturally realised tissue of links, networks, influences and paths of exchange. With particular attention to itinerant performers, court festival, and the significant black, Muslim and Jewish impact, they combine disciplines and methods to place Shakespeare and his contemporaries in the wider context of early performance culture in English, Spanish, French, Dutch, German, Czech and Italian speaking Europe. Their shared methodological approach examines transnational connections by linking abstract notions of wider theatre historical significance to concrete historical facts: archaeological findings, archival records, visual artefacts, and textual evidence. Crucial to the volume is this systematic yoking of theories with surviving historical evidence for the performative event – whether as material object, text, performative routine, theatregrams, rituals, festivities, genres, archival evidence or visual documentation. This approach enables it to explore the infinite variety of early modern performance culture by expanding the discourse, questioning the received canon, and rethinking the national restrictions of conventional maps to reveal a theatre that truly is without borders.

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An introduction to the volume, outlining the methodologies and the conceptual framing. The essay addresses issues of theatre historiography, the material evidence, the historical fact, and the theoretical and historical views of interpreting them. The introduction is divided into three sections: (1) Maps and Theories, reflecting on historiographical attempts at offering views and portrayals of early modern theatre history; (2) Contexts and Connections, itemizing the types of connections that are drawn by individual contributions, theorizing their implications for a contextual understanding; and (3) Theater Without Borders, capitalizing on the interdisciplinarity of the volume and rethinking the concepts of transnationality, early modernity, and the culturally conditioned concepts of theatre and performance.

in Transnational connections in early modern theatre