Academic journal article The Seventeenth Century

Spectaculum Europaeum: Theatre and Spectacle in Europe from the End of the 16th to the Middle of the 18th Century - Manuel De l'Histoire Du Spectacle En Europe De la Fin Du XVIe Au Milieu Du XVIIIe Siècle

Academic journal article The Seventeenth Century

Spectaculum Europaeum: Theatre and Spectacle in Europe from the End of the 16th to the Middle of the 18th Century - Manuel De l'Histoire Du Spectacle En Europe De la Fin Du XVIe Au Milieu Du XVIIIe Siècle

Article excerpt

Pierre Béhar and Helen Watanabe-O'Kelly (eds), Spectaculum Europaeum: Theatre and Spectacle in Europe from the End of the 16th to the Middle of the 18th Century - Manuel de l'Histoire du Spectacle en Europe de la fin du XVIe au milieu du XVIIIe siècle, Wiesbaden, Harrassowitz, 1999, pp. x + 818, hb. DM 298, ISBN: 3447040394

The idea for this substantial, not to mention handsome, volume of 39 essays was conceived during a conference held in 1989 at Tours, where participants working in the field of early modern theatrical studies noted the need to 'transcend boundaries between the various disciplines and national traditions' (vii). The editors are to be congratulated for translating this complaint into a remedy, in an offering by 19 contributors divided into drama, opera, tournaments, and entries and festivals. Each of these sections contains articles dealing with aspects of each theme across nations (with the exception of an extended essay by Helen Watanabe-O'Kelly entitled 'Tournaments in Europe'). Contributions are in either French or English, a reflection of the interdisciplinary nature of the collection, with French being reserved for the Romance-speaking world.

The work is intended as a handbook (ix). As such, it is evidently not as comprehensive as an encyclopaedia, nor as concise as a text book. If the intended readership is a student one, then it will be well served by a wide-ranging coverage of early modern theatrical forms in Europe. Researchers, too, will occasionally find there is more to this volume than a reference work. Pierre Béhar's study of drama in Crete, for example, is informative and stimulating, demonstrating that an overview of the evolution of local trends during the period can yield valuable insights. Béhar argues that the development of classical ideals during the Renaissance and seventeenth century allowed Crete to hold on to its Hellenist heritage without falling out of step with cultural trends in the rest of Europe (338). Each article is followed by a bibliography, a sensible alternative to one extended bibliography for the entire volume. It is here that the variable quality of some of the contributions comes into play. The bibliography provided for the Ruprecht Wimmer's contribution on neo-Latin European theatre is impressively thorough, an ideal resource to encourage further research (51-77). Readers consulting the recommended works following Pierre Béhar's essay on 'la tragédie et la comédie en France et leurs variantes', however, will be frustrated by the erratic arrangement of works into themes and authors (though only one mention each for tragi-comedy and opera), and in chronological rather than alphabetical order (188-196). This is compounded by notable absences, such as Perry Gethner (Rotrou), Mitchell Greenberg (Corneille), as well as some typographical errors (Patrick Dandrey instead of Dandray, 194). The differences in bibliographical layout will hinder, though ultimately not impede, the work's utility as a research tool.

Generalisations, inevitable in a work of this scope, are occasionally misleading. Surely the impact of the Reformation deserves more than a mere paragraph (5-6)? While many hagiographic legends dramatised in the early modern period date from the beginning of the Church's history, Hermenigildus, martyred by Arians in 576, is rather late to be classed as an early Church martyr (17), and Baronius revised and edited the Martyrologium Romanum, he did not create it (44). The 1548 interdiction of the mystery-play by the Parlement of Paris only named the capital and environs, so did not banish such performances from the provinces, as suggested by Béhar (164). Louis XIII's edict of 1641 absolving actors of the charge of infamy, authored largely by Richelieu, is surprisingly not mentioned in an account of the development of the theatre in France (164). Despite the bibliographies contained in the volume suffering from a lack of a consistent format, and stylistic infelicities, the work's strength lies in its parts. …

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