Representing France and the French in Early Modern English Drama

Representing France and the French in Early Modern English Drama

Representing France and the French in Early Modern English Drama

Representing France and the French in Early Modern English Drama

Synopsis

Brings together previously unpublished evidence of France's role and importance in the early modern English literary and dramatic fields. The collection covers many genres and provides insights into the work of a large number of early modern dramatists, including major playwrights as well as lesser-known writers.

Excerpt

This collection of essays looks at the image of france as it may be reconstructed from English Renaissance drama written between 1558 and 1642, an image of France that already during the Renaissance was the residue of centuries of close and sometimes rather too close relations between the countries facing one another across the narrow Channel. As long as there have been “nations” there have also been “images” of nations. Yet some images are more central to the cultural experience of a particular era or a geographical area than others. in the archaeology of European culture the developing impact and its resulting English image of France, as captured in the drama of Shakespeare and his contemporaries (including Marlowe, Jonson, Beaumont and Fletcher, and Brome), significantly precedes the arrival of the Italian Renaissance in England. As a consequence (to rephrase the argument of Henry V before setting off on what has become known as the Agincourt campaign), he that would understand the Renaissance in England must begin with France.

Images of nations—here defined as constructions or “mirages” — rarely if ever exist in a vacuum. They nearly always tend to come into focus between at least two nations. On one level, there is the generally self-congratulatory image that one particular nation develops of itself and will adhere by for centuries. On another level, there is the tendency to legitimate such practices by propagating a corresponding definition of another nation as its anchoring counterpart. in the national imagination, English chastity sets itself off against French promiscuity, simple plainness against decadence and arrogance.

However, images of nations do not simply come into focus between the narrow catalogs of classical as well as Christian virtues or vices propagated by normative poetics like those of Aristotle, Horace, or Scaliger. Images of nations also tend to develop more subtly through the dissemination of historical materials and the interpretation of those materials with assumptions about the humors or a theory on climatological determinants, as developed by Jean Bodin, among . . .

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