Literature and Theatre

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This chapter brings three principal French intertexts (and some secondary ones) to bear on A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It first argues that Dream evokes a recent play comically adapting Italianate pastoral conventions, La Diane, by Nicolas de Montreux (1594). The next key intertext explored is Le proumenoir (1594), by Marie de Gournay, which offers a feminist slant on the histoire tragique as exemplified by her source, the Champs faëz of Claude de Taillemont. Gournay’s novel presents love as tragic, particularly for women as victims of male inconstancy, as in the legend of Theseus and Ariadne. Gournay introduces this exemplum through the Epithalamium of Catullus, where it counterpoints celebration of a mythical marriage – an effect matching the intrusion of sombre overtones on Shakespeare’s representation of marriage as comic fulfilment. Finally foregrounded is the relation between the burlesque ‘tragedy’ of Pyramus and Thisbe staged by Shakespeare’s Mechanicals and an anonymous Moralité, which illuminates the Mechanicals’ absurd approach to theatrical challenges. Also considered is a poetic reworking of Ovid’s narrative by Antoine de Baïf, which anticipates Shakespeare’s embellishment of this material with humanist trappings. These intertexts highlight the parodic potential Shakespeare exploited in insinuating the fragility of generic boundaries.

in The Shakespearean comic and tragicomic
Love’s Labour’s Lost and As You Like It

This chapter proposes that the three Shakespearean comedies set in France (Love’s Labour’s Lost, As You Like It, All’s Well That Ends Well) depend for their effect on particular perceptions and forms of knowledge concerning France on the part of contemporary audiences. The focus is on the earlier two plays, since All’s Well has been considered elsewhere. Love’s Labour’s Lost introduces insistent political allusions (mainly through the names of the characters), which nevertheless resist all efforts to detach them from their romantic-comic frame. The consequence is an unresolvable tension between comic and tragic tendencies that is focused in the unconventional conclusion. As You Like It might be supposed to reject the realistic in favour of the romantic by way of its exotic ‘French’ pastoral source – Thomas Lodge’s novel Rosalynde – but Lodge actually presents his setting with an insistence on material realities. Conversely, even as he downplays Lodge’s French specificity in favour of recognisable elements of ‘Englishness’, Shakespeare attaches to the French setting and characters a dimension of romance resulting in a destabilising doubleness: Arden/Ardennes, Robin Hood/Rowland de Boys.

in The Shakespearean comic and tragicomic
The Merchant of Venice, Measure for Measure, Twelfth Night

This chapter treats three comedies dating from between 1596 (roughly) and 1604 as experiments in tragicomedy, broadly understood here as an uneasy juxtaposition of comic patterns fulfilled with an affirmation of tragic potential as encoded in the human condition and left suspended at the conclusions. The comic patterns are mainly of Italian origin, but certain tragically tending elements emerge more clearly through hitherto neglected French intertexts. One bearing especially on both Merchant and Measure is a Protestant allegorical morality by Henri de Barran, L’Homme justifié par Foy (1554), which dramatises the Reformation reading of Mankind as doomed by sinfulness according to the Old (Mosaic) Law and redeemable only by the New Law of Mercy. Mankind’s struggle is staged in terms especially evocative of the confrontation between Antonio and Shylock, but light is also shed on the fall, suffering and forgiveness of Angelo. The potentially tragic fate of the latter is also illuminated by the tragedy of Philanire, by Claude Roillet, whose French version presents particular intersections with Measure. Finally, it is argued that the tragicomic associations of Malvolio in Twelfth Night may have been enriched for audiences by knowledge of the contemporary life and writings of Pierre Victor Palma Cayet.

in The Shakespearean comic and tragicomic
French inflections

This book discusses Shakespeare’s deployment of French material within genres whose dominant Italian models and affinities might seem to leave little scope for French ones. It proposes specific, and unsuspected, points of contact but also a broad tendency to draw on French intertexts, both dramatic and non-dramatic, to inflect comic forms in potentially tragic directions. The resulting tensions within the genre are evident from the earliest comedies to the latest tragicomedies (or ‘romances’). An introduction establishes the French inflection of Italian modes and models, beginning with The Taming of the Shrew, as a compositional paradigm and the basis for an intertextual critical approach. Next, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is related to three French intertexts highlighting, respectively, its use of pastoral dramatic convention, its colouration by the histoire tragique and its parodic dramatisation of the Pyramus and Thisbe story. The third chapter interrogates the ‘French’ settings found in the romantic comedies, while the fourth applies French intertexts to three middle-to-late comedies as experiments in tragicomedy. Finally, the distinctive form given tragicomedy (or ‘romance’) in Shakespeare’s late production is set against the evolution of tragicomedy in France and related to French intertexts that shed new light on the generic synthesis achieved—and the degree of bricolage employed in achieving it.

Making room for France

This introduction establishes the French inflection of Italian modes and models in Shakespearean comedy as a compositional paradigm and the basis for an intertextual critical approach. After discussion of the broad theoretical principles of such an approach, The Taming of the Shrew is set off against its anonymous analogue, The Taming of a Shrew, so as to throw into relief the latter’s incorporation, in the key passage presenting the heroine’s acceptance of her ‘taming’, of a translation from Guillaume Du Bartas’s La création du monde. The intertextual dynamic thereby set in motion is then applied to Shakespeare’s text, with attention to the different interpretative possibilities thereby made available, given the uncertain relation between the two plays with regard to chronology and authorship.

in The Shakespearean comic and tragicomic
The view through French spectacles

This culminating chapter shifts the focus to Shakespeare’s late plays, notably the generically pivotal Pericles (almost certainly a collaboration with George Wilkins) and that supreme instance of Shakespearean tragicomic romance, The Winter’s Tale. The now-dominant critical view of Italian influence is qualified with reference to the diverse kinds and origins of tragicomedy in English, including those with French analogues and those mediated by French sources, notably French versions of the antique novel. The redaction of the Apollonius of Tyre story incorporated by François de Belleforest in his Histoires tragiques receives close attention as an intertext for both Pericles and The Winter’s Tale. Its importance extends to recuperating from the antique romance tradition a notion of tragicomedy as being, in effect, tragédie à fin heureuse. Shakespeare’s use of Michel de Montaigne’s Essais in the translation of John Florio is also reviewed from this perspective – not merely the well-known passage from ‘Of the Caniballes’ adapted in The Tempest, but several textual traces from other essays, previously unnoticed, that arguably shed light on the movement in Shakespeare’s final plays (including Cymbeline and The Two Noble Kinsmen, a collaboration with John Fletcher) towards a generic synthesis mirroring an all-inclusive vision of human experience.

in The Shakespearean comic and tragicomic
Playing black in late seventeenth-century France and Spain

This chapter examines the emergence and significance of the theatregram of the African ambassador in 1660s French theatre, in plays like Le Mort Vivant, by Edmé Boursault (1662), L’Ambassadeur d’Affrique, by Du Perche (1666), Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme by Molière (1670), and Le Mariage de la reine de Monomotapa by Bel-Isle (1682). Reading this theatregram in conversation with contemporary policies in the French Caribbean colonies, I argue that African ambassadors on stage contributed to the development and dissemination of a solidifying racial discourse in late seventeenth-century France. A thorough examination of the transnational component in Boursault’s play, more specifically, of the play’s all-out and multilayered Spanishness, brings to light the play’s ambivalence towards the notion of hybridity. The internal evolution of the theatregram between 1662 and 1682, however, marks a departure from Boursault’s take: the later plays of the African ambassador corpus are devoid of such ideological ambivalence. This denotes a hardening of racial thinking over the course of those twenty years. Ultimately, that approach promotes the integration of transnational foci and comparative methods into early modern race studies.

in Transnational connections in early modern theatre
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This afterword places the volume and the research presented in it into the context of the Theater Without Borders research collective and reflects on recent developments of research in early modern theatre exchanges and connections. Written by the co-editor of two previous volumes that came out of the Theater Without Borders initiative (Transnational Exchange in Early Modern Theater (2008) and Transnational Mobilities in Early Modern Theater (2014), both edited by Robert Henke and Eric Nicholson), the afterword highlights the continuities and developments in the methodologies of early modern theatre and performance as a rich transnational phenomenon.

in Transnational connections in early modern theatre

This chapter explores the ways in which Jews and Ottoman Turks participated in theatre-making in early modern northern Italian cities, notably Mantua and Venice. Embraced for their economic and commercial contribution, the religiously and culturally distinctive minorities were also segregated into separate living quarters, taxed as foreigners and visually branded in order to clearly mark their difference. Despite the separation of minority populations, the Turks, and to a greater extent the Jews were incorporated in civic events and encouraged to participate in theatrical spectacles and performances. The subject of Jewish and Turkish participation in theatrical and civic performances has received little attention considering the vast archival trace they left behind. This essay brings to light the Turkish acrobatic performances which took place in Venice and in Prague and offers an analysis of their importance in the context of civic rituals. In addition, the chapter offers many examples of Jewish performances in the Venetian and Mantuan context, including several never before mentioned examples taken from the Mantua state archives.

in Transnational connections in early modern theatre
The ‘jest unseen’ of love letters in Two Gentlemen of Verona and El perro del

This chapter explores the transnational use of a theatregram in an English and a Spanish play, in which a woman of higher rank instructs her ‘servant’ to write a love letter for her which she in fact intends for the writer himself, unbeknownst to him. Through this ruse, Silvia (of Shakespeare’s Two Gentlemen of Verona, c. 1593) and Diana (of Lope de Vega’s El perro del hortelano, c. 1615) get around the limitations that should prevent them, as women of high rank, from courting men of lower standing. This essay looks at the way such a theatrical scenario transports within its own structure and aesthetic logic a disruption to the play’s aristocratic hierarchy, and argues that a parallel critique of social hierarchy, aristocratic distinction, and of ‘hierarchical service’ (Schalkwyk) is embedded in the theatregram. This theatrical dynamic suggests a different way in which radical political ideas may have travelled in early modern Europe through dramatic scenarios. This transnational theatre practice also challenges notions of the purity of national literary traditions, and suggests that the canons of Spanish, English or European drama in this period cannot be truly separable or national.

in Transnational connections in early modern theatre