Selected Papers from the IAUPE Malta Conference in 2010
Staging the Mediterranean:Developing Views in English Drama: Christopher Innes
Staging the Mediterranean: Developing Views in English Drama Christopher Innes York University, Toronto From the very first, for Renaissance dramatists, the Mediterranean held a fasci- nation because of two factors: first on the historical and cultural level – Rome as the source of Classical heritage, and Troy, for its epic myths. Second: because on the political level, the Mediterranean encapsulated crucial contemporary issues – in particular the influence of Machiavelli and the on-going battles between the Muslim Empire of the Turks and Christian Europe (a defining conflict which is still very much with us). There were – thanks almost exclusively to Shakespeare – more Elizabethan plays about classical Rome than about any other Mediterranean country or pe- riod. However, in general, Rome is seen as part of a common European history, in contrast to the ‘Orientalism’ of the Levant, Egypt or North Africa. Rome is also represented as specifically male, representing rationality, the bravery of war (a specifically masculine trade), and moral purity – even if this can be taken to excess, as in the figures of Titus Andronicus or Coriolanus: both representing extremes of masculinity in their disastrous actions. Alternatively in Ben Jonson’s more sardonic vision, which he promoted as historically accurate, Rome is a site of vicious and corrupt power-politics. Similarly for Shakespeare, as well as other Elizabethan – and particularly for the Jacobean – playwrights, contemporary Italy is presented as a violent and lawless state, where family feuds kill young lovers, a Duchess is terrorized and murdered on the orders of her jealous brother,...
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