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.
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
Television Today 1 November 1973), ‘the house [was] hushed
as it can only be when a master talent is at work’ ( Daily
Express 23 October 1973). These comments function like cinematic
close-ups, revealing not simply Williamson’s performance but what
the reviewers desired in Shakespeareantragic theatre. That is, to the
extent that critics narrowed down their response to Coriolanus to
an analysis of a
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
Reflections on the narrative mode of Fools of Fortune
that calls forth a self-defining
answer. The phrase ‘as little chance for any one of us’ has as its most evident
meaning the idea that all three are ‘fools of fortune’. But it also suggests that, in
each case, they have been taken out of the world of ‘chance’ into a place where
they are chosen by (and yet also choose) their destiny. The novel’s engagement
with Shakespeareantragic drama is here most apparent. The ending is a space of
duplicitous possibility: if Willie and Marianne are fugitives from an awareness of
fatedness, the novel makes it clear such an impulse
The Merchant of Venice, Measure for Measure, Twelfth Night
symbolically is obviated by comic plot mechanisms. Certainly, the Law of Mercy is given its eloquent spokesperson in Portia-Bellario (anticipating Isabella in Measure for Measure ), but the lawyer’s trick by which she applies it merely justifies Antonio as a purely innocent victim of diabolical malice. His argosies are subsequently restored by a dramatic universe complicit with the magic of Belmont. The entire weight of fallen human nature, the capacity for suffering from the standard Shakespeareantragic causes – disillusion, in justice – is shifted onto the
: Clarendon, 1971),
On this three-part structure of
Macbeth , see Jones, Scenic Form ,
195–224. On Shakespeareantragic structure as three
stages of self-discovery, see M. Mack, ‘The Jacobean
Shakespeare: Some Observations of the Construction of the