Emplacing the Local


Secret Marriage, Revenge Murder, & Divas: Lope, Webster, and the Early Modern Theatrical Revolution in Spain and England

Wesleyan University

With the first permanent commercial theaters in Europe, Madrid and London launched a theatrical revolution from the 1570s. Socially mixed audiences avid for entertainment drove a demand for novelty that gave rise to a huge dramatic repertory, notorious for breaking rules and flouting decorum. Regularly attacked by moralists, these plays are now considered canonical in both Spain and England. This talk looks at that theatrical revolution first through two tragedies by Lope de Vega (1606) and John Webster (1613) on the early 16th-century Duchess of Amalfi. Dramatizing a taboo-shattering story about a cross-rank clandestine marriage initiated by a woman that ends in revenge murder by her brothers, they cut usefully against the grain of comparative (literary and historical) narratives about early modern Spain and England. Lope and Webster differ from their more misogynistic sources in promoting sympathy for the Duchess. And yet Lope’s rewriting of the Duchess’s story in the deliciously subversive comedy The Dog in the Manger (1615) offers the occasion to think about significant differences in the two traditions, particularly those shaped by the fact that actresses ruled the Spanish stage in the kinds of roles played by boy-actors in England.

MONDAY, APRIL 22, 2013  |  6 P.M.  |  RUSSELL HOUSE