Images of Englishmen and Foreigners in the Drama of Shakespeare and His Contemporaries: A Study of Stage Characters and National Identity in English Renaissance Drama, 1558-1642
The emergent national awareness in Europe during the early modern period revealed itself as patriotism and xenophobia during the age of Elizabeth. These sentiments were mainly induced by England's stance in the politico-religious debate that divided Europe, and by the arrival of refugees from abroad who placed a burden on the national economy. The popular feeling led to a multifaceted crystallization of matters native and foreign on the London stage. One manifestation of the new preoccupation was the presentation of stage characters with distinct nationalities. Drawing on stock traits, the dramatists initially created a stage world in which the Englishman was almost invariably superior to the foreigner, both in the native environment and in a continental setting.
The glorification of the nation's self-image at the expense of others, however, was not to persist. English society largely absorbed the original shock induced by the influx of foreigners, and toward the end of the 1590s xenophobia lost its strident tone. Patriotism, too, was modified. The year 1588 became a historical date as James I's peace policy grew into the most popular news topic of his reign. These sociopolitical changes challenged the original images of Englishmen and foreigners in the drama. Under a climate with England ignominiously vacating the European political stage, it was difficult to uphold the once unquestioned self-image of the warlike nation. One group of dramatists, therefore, came to present the image as a forsaken ideal that could only be realized if the nation resumed its international duties. Other dramatists presented it as a past ideal and accepted it as an object for nostalgic self-gratification. The favorable self-image also became a target for the satirists. They attacked the old definition of the English and assigned to their own countrymen those properties which had previously been attributed to the foreigner. The caustic speculation on national character traits in Stuart drama was not only induced by the playwrights' discontent with the anachronistic and complimentary Elizabethan self-image. It also represented a budding skepticism with regard to the generalizing tendency involved in the definitions of national character.
Inevitably, the image of the foreigner in the drama profited from the redefinition of the Englishman's auto-stereotyped image. As the satire which had previously been aimed at the foreigner came to be largely directed against the Englishman, a degree of rapprochement was established. There was a new exchange, as Richard Brome formulated it in the subtitle to his New Academy. Until the closing of the theaters in 1642, the satirical redefinition of the English national character persisted alongside the nostalgic confirmation of the favorable Elizabethan self-image. These divergent views expressed on the London stage bring into focus a national identity crisis. It parallels the growing contemporary conviction that the nation had traded in its decisive role on the European political scene for that of a passive onlooker.
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الصفحة 80 - But to my mind, though I am native here And to the manner born, it is a custom More honour'd in the breach than the observance.
الصفحة 32 - This England never did, (nor never shall,) Lie at the proud foot of a conqueror, But when it first did help to wound itself. Now these her princes are come home again, Come the three corners of the world in arms, And we shall shock them : Nought shall make us rue, If England to itself do rest but true.
الصفحة 94 - How would it have joyed brave Talbot (the terror of the French) to thinke that after he had lyne two hundred yeares in his Tombe, hee should triumphe againe on the Stage, and have his bones newe embalmed with the teares of ten thousand spectators at least (at severall times), who, in the Tragedian that represents his person, imagine they behold him fresh bleeding.
الصفحة 290 - Crudities. Hastily gobled up in five Moneths travells in France, Savoy, Italy, Rhetia, commonly called the Grisons country, Helvetia, alias Switzerland, some parts of high Germany, and the Netherlands ; Newly digested in the hungry aire of Odcombe in the County of Somerset, & now dispersed to the nourishment of the travelling Members of this Kingdome &c.
الصفحة 51 - Why you must needs be strangers : would you be pleased To find a nation of such barbarous temper That breaking out in hideous violence Would not afford you an abode on earth, Whet their detested knives against your throats, Spurn you like dogs, and like as if that God 1 Dyco supplied the blank with
الصفحة 296 - The Ball / A / Comedy, / As it was presented by her / Majesties Servants, at the private / House in Drury Lane.
الصفحة 136 - No country's mirth is better than our own: No clime breeds better matter for your whore, Bawd, squire, impostor, many persons more, Whose manners, now call'd humours, feed the stage; And which have still been subject for the rage Or spleen of comic writers.
الصفحة 163 - Besides, I have a lady of my own In merry England, for whose virtuous sake I took these arms ; and Susan is her name, A cobbler's maid in Milk Street; whom I vow Ne'er to forsake whilst life and Pestle last.
الصفحة 153 - Thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper, Thy head, thy sovereign; one that cares for thee, And for thy maintenance commits his body To painful labour both by sea and land...