The Dutch Courtesan

Research Essays

The Dutch Courtesan is a much-discussed play, about which there is little agreement on key matters of substance. This part of our website is designed to host a scholarly conversation about it, which will, we hope, develop our understanding of this provocative and remarkable comedy further.

We are deeply grateful to the scholars who have generously agreed to contribute essays. As we launch the site in March 2013, seven such contributions have already been posted. Each explores a different aspect of The Dutch Courtesan; and, over the months ahead, the range of the areas explored will be further expanded.

Our opening line-up includes a detailed examination, by Charles Cathcart, of the teasing complexity of the prologue Marston penned for this comedy – an essay which forms a natural companion piece to Peter Kirwan’s exploration of the implications of the layers of prefatory material, including that prologue, which adorn the play’s first printing in 1605. Freya Sierhuis places Marston’s city comedy in intriguing dialogue with Dutch comedies on kindred themes, and Duncan Salkeld contrasts its representation of the worlds of Franceschina, Cockledemoy, et al., with the vivid glimpses of early modern prostitution in London to be gleaned from surviving court records. Richard Danson Brown compares the play’s tone and perspectives with the characteristic tactics of contemporary non-dramatic satire and epigram, while Neil Rhodes explores the ideas of the common and of the private which he argues to be central to Marston’s comic design. I have personally contributed two essays to this initial line-up - one principally focused on some aspects of Marston's handling of Freevill, and the other exploring Franceschina's accent and questioning some traditional accounts of it. Further papers covering a range of topics will continue to be posted here throughout the project.

These pages are designed to provoke dialogue, debate, and further discussion. So we will be pleased to hear from anyone who would like to respond to any of the essays appearing here or, indeed, offer essays of their own.

Michael Cordner, April 2013

232m

‘Such ungodly terms’: style, taste, verse satire and epigram in The Dutch Courtesan

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§1 The Dutch Courtesan encompasses a wide range of styles and registers. This is a play whose supreme linguistic artefact is the dizzying, street-wise, fart-obsessed patois of Cocledemoy – a micro-language which repurposes scraps of Latin, bogus Greek, a dangerously satiric Scots accent, alongside seemingly meaningless cant phrases (‘Hang toasts!’ (I.ii.25, & passim)), terminology from [read more…]

19m

“Passionate man in his slight play”: John Marston’s prologues and epilogues

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§1 One afternoon in 1604 or 1605, a young actor stepped on to the stage at the indoor theatre in the Blackfriars. He uttered eighteen lines of verse. In doing so, he made an appeal to the first spectators to witness a new comedy: The Dutch Courtesan. This is what the actor said: Slight hasty [read more…]

33m

Mapping The Dutch Courtesan

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§1[*] The Dutch Courtesan divides opinion.  For one scholar, it is Marston’s only “masterpiece in dramatic portraiture” (Bradbrook, 162), while, for another, it exemplifies the terminal “deliquescence of his talent” in the final phases of his playwriting career (Ure, 77). If views of the script’s quality diverge so radically, so do accounts of its major characters. [read more…]

162m

Franceschina’s Voice

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§1[*] Scholarship on The Dutch Courtesan has been fascinated by its title character’s idiosyncratic and wayward accent and, with very few exceptions, has expressed decisive views about its likely effect on audiences. According to one observer, Marston has burdened Franceschina with a “grotesque foreign lingo”, which irreparably cuts her “off from normal life” (Hunter, 320). [read more…]

9m

The Dutch Courtesan, 1964

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§1[*] In summer 1964 the newly established National Theatre made its first venture into the non-Shakespearean early modern repertoire with a production, by William Gaskill and Piers Haggard, of John Marston’s The Dutch Courtesan. Across the preceding century those advocating the establishment of such a flagship enterprise had consistently featured in their propaganda a requirement [read more…]

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Prefacing The Dutch Courtesan

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A preface may also be an act of direction, an act of misdirection, or both at the same time.[1] §1 While John Marston’s The Dutch Courtesan speaks for itself, this essay is concerned with the ways in which the play is also spoken for. As Marie Maclean points out, the prefaces attached to a printed [read more…]

21m

Age and Ageing in The Dutch Courtesan

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§1 In the fourth act of The Dutch Courtesan, Sir Lionel Freevill comments to Beatrice of her sister, Crispinella, ‘I like your sister well; she’s quick and lively. Would she would marry, faith!’. Crispinella responds, ‘Marry? nay, and I would marry, methinks an old man’s a quiet thing’ (4.4.6-10).[1] For a fleeting moment, Marston’s play [read more…]

178m

Marriage in The Dutch Courtesan

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§1 Quite aside from the choice of not marrying at all, Marston offers three models for early modern marriage, as demonstrated by three couples who are about to marry or already married:  Freevill and Beatrice, Crispinella and Tysefew, and the Mulligrubs. Each couple illustrates the drawbacks of the model they offer, especially for a modern [read more…]

7m

Marston’s Common Ground

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§1 The first thing that somebody coming to The Dutch Courtesan for the first time might notice, either reading it on the page or hearing it in the theatre, is quite what a Eurodrama it is. The speech of its title character mixes French and Italian along with the imitation Dutch, and this is reflected [read more…]

211m

Comedy, Realism and History in The Dutch Courtesan

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Introduction §1 So full of japes is The Dutch Courtesan that it is unclear whether Marston meant his audience to take any part of it seriously. Relying on quick entrances and exits, plus a number of costume changes, Marston has Cocledemoy dress variously as a barber, a French pedlar, a servingman, a bellman, and a [read more…]

jerkin1

City Comedy and Material Life: Things in The Dutch Courtesan

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§1 Take a moment to imagine yourself amongst the audience for this play at the Blackfriars theatre, a few years into the reign of James I. You might be a wealthy merchant playgoer, dealing in the commodities on which London’s prosperity was based and sensitive to the value of things. The city outside the theatre [read more…]

233m

Northern barbers and fallen women: The Dutch Courtesan and the 1604-5 repertoire

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§1 James Shapiro’s engaging study 1599 encouraged us to think about a single year as a moment in early modern experience that we might zoom in on and unpack in specific ways.[1] If we apply these ideas to a repertoire as opposed to a year, a repertoire stretching across the years of 1604-5, to which [read more…]

spanbrab

City Comedy across the Channel. Commerce, Charity and Carnival in the Comedies of Bredero

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§1 City comedy is often viewed as inextricably bound to the dizzying growth and transformation of London in the later sixteenth century. Yet elsewhere in Europe, too, urbanization, immigration and the development of a capitalist market economy produced an intense fascination with the city in all its colourful complexity. The Spanish Brabanter (1617), a comedy [read more…]

11m

‘Go your ways for an Apostata’: religion and inconstancy in The Dutch Courtesan

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§1 In Act two, scene two of Marston’s The Dutch Courtesan, a distraught Franceschina turns on her bawd, Mary Faugh, exclaiming: ‘God’s sacrament, ten tousand divels take you! You ha’ brought mine love, mine honour, mine body, all to noting!’ (2.2.6-8).[1] For the audience, Franceschina’s distress is undercut by Freevill’s pre-emptive mocking: in the preceding [read more…]

kinksarthur

Imagining Marston, or, If Shakespeare is the Beatles, Marston is the Kinks

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As Horace, Lucilius, Iuuenall, Persius & Lucullus are the best for Satyre among the Latines: so with vs in the same faculty these are chiefe, Piers Plowman, Lodge, Hall of Imanuel Colledge in Cambridge; the Authour of Pigmalions Image, and certaine Satyrs; the Author of Skialetheia.[1] §1 Francis Meres’s book Palladis Tamia (1598) is best [read more…]

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