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Pavel Drábek discusses High Baroque dramaturgy as surviving in seventeenth-century scripts, arguing for a biblical teleology of the style. Among the plays he discusses are variants of the Esther play (English–German comedy and Czech puppet play), their variants in the Alcestis and Hercules myth (in Baroque opera, German plays and puppet plays), and in the popular Genevieve (or Jenovéfa) plays – all of which comprise multiple layers of early modern dramaturgies and performance practices within a biblical axiology.
This chapter analyses the specifics of the English Comedy (Englische Comedie) as a genre practised by the popular travelling English troupes and their inheritors, during the century between the 1580s and 1680s. Most scholarship has assumed that English travelling actors exported English plays, and performed them on the Continent with necessary adjustments. This chapter elaborates a different perspective: the methodological discussion of historical theatre aesthetics presented here analyses the English Comedy in its specificity, born on the Continent from predominantly indigenous material (stories, motifs, symbols), and presented in the innovative theatrical style imported from England. As such, it existed in-between – as a paradoxically local, idiosyncratic amalgam of numerous cultural identities. More specifically, I trace the characteristics of what was known throughout the seventeenth century as the English Comedy, and argue a unique, recognizable, dramaturgical style that was in itself a nexus of transnational influences. Theoretically, the essay evidences and analyses a certain historiographic paradox: the available evidence (mostly of a textual nature) testifies to a rich circulation of material and personnel, while the resulting theatre performances adopt local tastes and, as it were, reiterate local cultural identities.
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.
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.