This book explores English tragedy in relation to France with a frank concentration on Shakespeare. Three manifestations of the 'Shakespearean tragic' are singled out: Hamlet, Antony and Cleopatra and All's Well That Ends Well, a comedy with melancholic overtones whose French setting is shown to be richly significant. Hamlet has occasioned many books on its own, including a recent study by Margreta De Grazia, Hamlet without Hamlet, whose objective is to free the text from the 'Modern Hamlet'. The influence of Michel de Montaigne on Hamlet is usually assumed to have left its traces in more or less precise verbal or intellectual correspondences. The book proposes two further sources of French resonance accessible to auditors of the ultimate early modern English tragedy. It talks about two French Antonies. One is the steadfast friend of Caesar and avenging Triumvir, as heralded in Jacques Grévin's César and vividly evoked in Robert Garnier's Porcie. The other is the hedonist who ruins himself for Cleopatra, as first brought on stage in France by Étienne Jodelle in Cléopâtre captive, then substantially fleshed out in Garnier's own Marc Antoine. The distance between the tragedies and All's Well comes down to the difference between horizontal and vertical lifeless bodies. When he grafted the true-to-life histoire tragique of Hélène of Tournon onto the fairy-tale of Giletta of Narbonne, Shakespeare retained the latter's basic family situation. Shakespeare's Helena succeeds where the King has failed by exploiting her position as an outsider.
poised on the Shakespeareantragic threshold (probably facing forwards).
To cross that threshold, as with Macbeth and especially King
Lear, is to privilege apocalypse at midnight, the horror of
seeing the devil in the face (God having turned His face away). Here, it
is not yet midnight (and it will never be), but five minutes to, thanks
to the rear-guard action fought on behalf of the retreat, or
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in this book. The book extends the approach developed in French Origins of English Tragedy through a series of more sustained explorations centred on three plays of William Shakespeare: Hamlet, Antony and Cleopatra and All's Well That Ends Well. The basic difficulty is the overwhelming dominance of Plutarch's Life of Antony as the source of Shakespeare's play and all the significant prior dramatic 'sources' and 'analogues', as diligently assembled by Geoffrey Bullough, from G. B. Geraldi Cinthio's Cleopatra to Samuel Daniel's. A series of discussions of All's Well, a play that pushes broadly in the direction of French knowledge, illustrates the staying power of the idea of Shakespeare's rudimentary competence. By means of its generic disclaimers, All's Well may purport to reassure an audience, freeing it from, amongst other burdens, that of political engagement.
The metaphysical complications attached by William Shakespeare to the protagonist of Saxo/Belleforest are rooted in an essentially political dilemma. Hamlet's malcontent and menacing behaviour, projected into the Mousetrap, is presumed to revolve around his anomalous position vis-à-vis the throne of Denmark; the 'mystery' whose 'heart' his erstwhile friends would 'pluck out' is understood as his political intention. Most of the verbal correspondences belong to the meditations often termed 'philosophical' of the protagonist, to such a degree that Hamlet's thought has come to epitomize the influence of Montaigne on Shakespeare, and especially the impact of the 'Apologie de Raymond Sebond'. The relations among father, mother and uncle in the story of Gaston Phoebus anticipate 'young Hamlet' as wavering, if not torn, at a basic emotional level, the entire dimension, in short, that modern commentary tends to assimilate to Oedipal psychology.
French ripples within and beyond the ‘Pembroke Circle’
Étienne Jodelle dares to show kings descending to the level of clowns in a flagrantly indecorous manner for a sound French Humanist. The essence of the author's argument is that the English plays of Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke, Samuel Daniel and William Shakespeare are far from standing above or outside the Jodelle's dynamic. The theatrical image put into play by Jodelle becomes indispensable to Shakespeare's version, where the power mimetically to renew Cleopatra's humiliation would appropriate her 'infinite variety' as a reflection of Caesar's immortality. Apart from North's translation of Amyot's Plutarch, Antony and Cleopatra had re-entered the English discursive field by way of Herbert, whose translation of Robert Garnier's Marc Antoine was first published in 1592. The sense that Shakespeare reaches within and behind the text of Jodelle is sustained by Antony's ghost, who is as relentlessly moralistic and vengeful as he is garrulous.
will be arguing (in Chapter 3 ) that familiarity and exoticism interplay within them in roundabout ways. As for the farther removed forms of exoticism announced by settings more remote, and by the non-French models often identifiable as major influences – or indeed primary sources – I propose that even these may sometimes have come at least partially into view for contemporaries through literary and cultural filters in place just across the Channel.
1 Richard Hillman, French Reflections in the ShakespeareanTragic: Three Case Studies (Manchester
Representations of Irish political leaders in the ‘Haughey’ plays of Carr, Barry and Breen
which suggested itself, as much
on the political as on the theatrical stage, was the figure of the
Shakespeareantragic hero. Was Haughey a great man brought down
by the machinations of his political enemies, a figure of great intelligence and talent betrayed by a singular flaw in that same nature, or a
small man devoted to the street tactics of survival and deluded by his
When Haughey stepped down from the office of Taoiseach in 1992,
he did so by quoting from Othello: ‘I have done the state some service,
and they know’t; / No more of that.’6
French Reflections in the ShakespeareanTragic: Three Case
See Shakespeare, Marlowe and the Politics of
France , 2002 , esp. pp.
See French Reflections , Chapter 3
Richard II, La Guisiade and the invention of tragic heroes
plausible human one in the ‘mature’ Shakespeareantragic
mould. But then, on the other side of the Channel the English call their
own, that mould had yet to be moulded.
La Guisiade , ed. Lobbes, 1990 , p. 166 (‘Advertissement au
Lecteurs sur la continuation de ceste Tragedie’); trans.
Hillman 2005 , p. 269. I
Feminine fury and the contagiousness of theatrical passion
Justice and Political Power, 1558–1660 ( Cambridge : Cambridge
University Press , 2004 ).
Roach , J. R. , The Player’s Passion: Studies in the Science of
Acting ( Ann Arbor : University of Michigan Press , 1993 ).
Rowe , K. ,
‘ Minds in company: Shakespeareantragic
emotions ’, in A Companion to
Shakespeare’s Works, vol. 1: The