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City Comedy across the Channel. Commerce, Charity and Carnival in the Comedies of Bredero | The Dutch Courtesan

The Dutch Courtesan

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 by the Dutch poet and playwright Bredero, yields a close comparison to London city comedy in its portrayal of urban life in comic-realist mode and in its delight in verbal wit and linguistic excess. The play’s relatively simple plot (Jerolimo, a bankrupt ‘nobleman’ from the Spanish Netherlands on the run from his creditors, flees to Amsterdam, where he teams up with the beggar boy Robbeknol, tricks everyone he meets into lending him money or goods, before disappearing without a trace) offers a panorama of urban life which, as well as voicing local social, political and cultural concerns, echoes London city comedy’s preoccupations with the city as a place of continuous commercial, sexual and consumptive transactions; a hybrid space that evokes and challenges the binaries of social satire.

    A city in transition. Amsterdam 1578-1617

    §2 For Amsterdam the later decades of the sixteenth century was a period of growth and expansion more steep and rapid even than that of London. During the 1570s, when many of the towns of Holland and Zeeland had experienced the horrors of war, including civil war, at first hand, the city had held out as a bastion of loyalty to King Philip II and Catholicism. Only in 1578, when the pro-Orange faction managed to oust the ruling city government, did the city come out in support of the Revolt. In the following decades, as the front shifted to the inland provinces, enabling the recovery of agriculture and trade in the economically more advanced maritime provinces, Amsterdam embarked on its meteoric rise. In addition to the trade in grain and timber with the Baltic, the mainstay of Holland’s wealth in the sixteenth century, came new and highly lucrative trade routes with the Levant, South America, Russia and the Far East; flooding the markets with luxury goods such as wine, glass, silk, sugar and spices. The fall of Antwerp and the closing of the Scheldt in 1585 gave the city’s economy a powerful boost, when many of its merchants and skilled artisans settled in Amsterdam, bringing their networks as well as new trades, such as the silk industry, sugar confectioning and diamond cutting. In the span of a few decades prosperous but provincial Amsterdam grew into the capital of international trade, a transformation that left no aspect of urban life untouched.[1] Within its medieval walls, Amsterdam was bursting at the seams. The city expanded twice, once in the 1580s, and again in 1610, creating the structure of canals for which the city is still famous. Looking back over these years, someone born around the 1550s would be hard put to recognise the city of his or her childhood after the changes it had witnessed: Reformation, rebellion, the abjuration of a king and the emergence of the Republic as an independent political entity, as well as the transformation of Amsterdam into the world’s trade emporium. No wonder, then, that ‘old’ Amsterdam, the Amsterdam that had disappeared, held the fascination of writers, just as much as the new city.

    §3 Culturally, too, the city with its expanding, highly literate population and its thriving printing industry partook of the general efflorescence of Dutch culture. In the late sixteenth century much of this energy still centred on the urban chambers of rhetoric, lay poetry societies dedicated to the production of plays as well as the staging of pageants and tableaux for urban festivals and royal entries. The Amsterdam chamber De Eglentier (The Eglantine or Sweetbrier) was closely involved in the endeavour to promote the status of the Dutch vernacular. One of its leading members, Hendrik Laurensz. Spiegel, wrote the first Dutch grammar, Twe-spraack vande Nederduitsche letterkunst (1584), as well as an introduction to dialectic. Spiegel’s friend, the great religious controversialist, popularizer and defender of religious toleration, Dirk Volckertsz. Coornhert, who had close links to the Eglantine, wrote a vernacular ethics; Spiegel followed suit with the allegorizing Mirror of the Soul (written around 1600, but published posthumously in 1614), a work that would influence authors and playwrights like Hooft, Bredero and Vondel.[2]

    §4 For all its patriotic, civic humanist aspirations, vernacular literary culture, like Dutch culture generally, was never homogenous or free of tension and controversy. Due to the particular nature of the Dutch Reformation, the Dutch Reformed Church was never able to exercise a complete monopoly on religious life but had to come to terms with the existence of rival confessions, notably Lutherans and Mennonites. In most towns the magistrate also connived at Catholic worship, as long as it happened discreetly, behind closed doors. Many authors such as the poet and playwright Joost van den Vondel, a child of Mennonite refugees from the Southern Netherlands, praised Amsterdam as a haven from religious persecution, linking the town’s policy of religious toleration to its economic prosperity.[3] Others viewed matters rather differently. The orthodox Calvinist Jan Willemsz. Boomgaert complained that from being ‘a sanctuary of the persecuted and a foster-mother of the true Religion’, Amsterdam had degenerated into ‘a Babel full of confusion, a dung-cart of licentious sects, a tavern for papists’.[4]

    §5 Attempts by the Reformed Church to enforce a stricter social and religious discipline met with dogged opposition, both from within the Church and from without, and these conflicts, which spanned the decades between 1580 and 1619, shaped Dutch literary culture in important ways. Coornhert spent much of his considerable energies in protracted polemics with the Reformed, while Spiegel, who retired from public life after 1578, remained a Catholic throughout his life. The controversy over the theology of Arminius, which polarized Dutch society in the decade between 1609 and 1619, leading to the fall and execution of Johan van Oldenbarnevelt and the convocation of the Synod of Dort, was fought out with particular acrimony in Amsterdam. The city was one of the most determined opponents of Oldenbarnevelt’s policy of toleration for the Arminians, yet also hosted a small, but highly vocal group of Arminians and Arminian sympathizers, including many leading members of the literary establishment. A conflict similar to that between London puritans and playwrights was here fought out in the domain of national politics and ‘high’ theology, galvanizing literary culture and public debate.[5]

    §6 This was the literary climate in which Bredero (1585-1618) came of age as a poet and a playwright. The son of a shoemaker who had made a fortune as an estate agent, Gerbrand Adriaensz. Bredero had been intended for a career as a painter, but chose poetry instead. His early plays, including the highly popular comedy Moortje (1615) were performed at the Eglantine, yet in 1617 Bredero was among the poets who left the Chamber, whose conventions were now seen as antiquated and a hindrance to literary innovation, to join Samuel Coster’s Nederduytsche Academie, a private enterprise combining a theatre and an auditorium, where public lectures were given in topics such as history, mathematics, astronomy, and even Hebrew.[6] Many of the poets and literati associated with the Nederduytsche Academie were Arminians or Arminian sympathizers and a number of the plays produced in its ambit, such as Coster’s tragedy Iphigenia served either directly polemical purposes, or like Hooft’s drama Baeto, reflect on questions such as religious toleration and the relation between the church and the civil magistrate. Needless to say, the very existence of the Academy was a thorn in the side of the consistory, whose stubborn opposition to Coster’s activities was one of the reasons why the Academy was forced to close its doors after only five years. Although we have no reason to assume Bredero viewed himself as anything other but Reformed, he was, temperamentally, as well as through his professional persona as a writer of comic plays, hardly inclined to regard the Calvinist opponents of the stage with any sympathy. With his adaptation of Hooft’s translation of Aretino’s L’ipocrito, Bredero contributed his share to the burgeoning genre of anti-Calvinist satire.[7] Vondel’s satirical poem The Poets against the Consistory (1628) even casts him as the leader of the poets’ ‘Gideon’s band’, bravely fighting off the attacks of the ‘consistorian madmen’.[8]

    §7 This polarized climate shaped Bredero’s activities as a playwright in several important ways. Bredero is often credited with being the first to put the resources of the vernacular, and of the dialect of Amsterdam in particular, to comic effect. Yet it was probably Bredero’s older friend and colleague, the Latinist and religious controversialist Reinier Telle (1554-1618), who had first experimented with comic uses of the vernacular in his anti-Calvinist satire.[9] Nevertheless, the comic-realist mode Bredero created in his farces, in Moortje and, above all, in The Spanish Brabanter, transcends the confines of the satirical to present the audience with a sweeping canvas of the comedy of urban life.

    Social satire or city comedy?

    §8 Even while it was beginning to break away from the institutional framework of the chambers of rhetoric, the Amsterdam stage remained nevertheless more firmly embedded within urban civic culture than its English counterpart. Coster’s academy did not function – to mention only the most striking difference – as a commercial, market-oriented enterprise: half of performance proceedings went to charity, divided between the city orphanage and a city hospital for elderly men. Viewed against this background of rhetoricians’ drama with its edifying and charitable purposes, it is perhaps not surprising that The Spanish Brabanter, too, has often been viewed as a social satire with a strongly didactic intent.[10] Whereas The Dutch Courtesan’s ‘Prologue’ cheerfully forestalls criticism by insisting on the play’s status as mere ‘play’, which aims only at delight, Bredero’s ‘To the reader’ has to work considerably harder to clear the Brabanter’s reputation. Like a satirist, Bredero claims, it is true, license to ‘picture forth for you, all nakedly, the infirmities of our age, the abuses of our times and of this depraved world…’.[11] Yet the statement is undercut by a lengthy digression about that all too common human fault of seeing the mote in one’s neighbour’s eye, rather than the beam in one’s own. Bredero’s rumbustious ‘apology’ quickly moves to the offensive with an out-and-out attack on the Brabanter’s critics, and in particular the ‘learned Doctors… who are held in high regard by dissembling hypocrites’.[12] The tropes of satirical decorum are heavily ironized as Bredero counters complaints about the loose language used by the prostitutes, Pale An and Tryntje Jans, with the insouciant remark that it would have been implausible if he had staged them conversing about Scripture. Similar things can also be read in Plautus, Terence and Aristophanes:

    whatever is placed upon the stage is damned by everyone as all but a deadly sin, while every day on the street and in their houses and elsewhere (God shield them) they hear and do worse. They are like scabby sheep who bleat the most, while those with warmer hearts can well allow a poet to take the godless and the deceitful somewhat to task.[13]

    The object of Bredero’s satirical animus however, remains a moving target, as the introduction continues to single out frauds and voluntary bankrupts as particularly reprehensible. Nevertheless, the author assures us that he does not have anyone particular in mind: ‘I have thrown my cudgel, hit and miss, at a pack of hundred. He who is hit might heed the rhyme: “The more the present pain, the more the future care”’.[14] As often in Bredero’s work, satire as a comic mode is continuously on the brink of veering off into carnivalesque rant.

    §9 There are further reasons, however, not to take the play’s supposed message (beware of smooth-talking deceivers, especially when they are from the Spanish Netherlands) at face value, which have to do with the play’s use of historical time as a distancing technique. Both Moortje and The Spanish Brabanter are set in the recent past, in the period before the Alteration of 1578, and invite the audience to look at the city as it was about forty years ago. What is shown, however, is hardly likely to give rise to feelings of pride or nostalgia. As René van Stipriaan has pointed out, the Brabanter’s presentation of ‘old’ Amsterdam is hardly flattering. Although there are signs that the times are in fact changing – the reform of charity and the outlawing of beggary referred to in the third act are the most conspicuous examples – pre-Reformation Amsterdam is a backward city, its inhabitants uncultured, boorish and simple-minded, willing targets for Jerolimo’s deceptions.[15] The city is still firmly wedded to the old faith, although here too, change is in the air: when the banning of beggary forces Robbeknol to seek a different livelihood, he decides to earn some money by reading out Scripture to the spinster women Els Kals, Trijn Snaps, and Jut Jans. In their enthusiasm, the women unwittingly betray their ignorance of the most basic matters of religion, as Els encourages Robbeknol to read them the story of St. George (III.1363). It is a highly ambiguous moment in the play, as Robbeknol, who appears to share his master’s talent for telling people exactly what they want to hear, continues to read unperturbed, a stage cue that suggests that the boy is at this point merely confabulating. Nor are there many virtuous characters to be found amongst the play’s cast of prostitutes, bawds, petty dealers, hoarders and gossips. While certain passages chime with contemporary anti-immigrant discourse, contrasting old Dutch honesty and simplicity with Southern extravagance and deceitfulness, such sentiments are almost straightaway undermined as those who voice them are themselves exposed by their interlocutors as drunkards, liars or wife beaters – or worse.[16]

    §10 The confrontation of Jerolimo’s guile with the gullibility of those around him furnishes much of the comic energy of the plot. When Jerolimo announces, in the opening monologue, his intentions to ‘play a little comedy on these blockheads’ (I.43-44), the metatheatrical joke creates a strong sense of complicity between the spectators and the rogue-trickster, with a similar effect to Cocledemoy’s playing to the audience in The Dutch Courtesan. Like Marston’s play, The Spanish Brabanter taps into the resources of anti-immigrant stereotype only to show the tenuousness of a moral geography of foreign versus native, market space versus domestic space, housewife versus whore, as well as the precariousness of such distinctions in a city where such boundaries are continuously being transgressed, and money, goods and reputations are equally commodified in a permanent cycle of acquisition and loss.[17] The Amsterdam of The Spanish Brabanter is a city obsessed with economic gain, in which everyone, from strumpet to sheriff, is seeking to make a profit. Beatrice, the aged prostitute turned panderer and junk dealer, and Gerrit Pennypinch, the hoarder who collects his urine and the clippings of his hair for profit merely embody the more grotesque sides of this capitalist market-economy, for even the games of the street-urchins playing with marbles enact a mock-variety of the adults’ more serious economic transactions.[18] Like the prostitute selling feigned love for money, the conman selling his (equally fictitious) reputation for money is merely an extended metaphor for the flawed transactions of the city market.

    Commerce, charity and carnival

    §11 Often, it is true, different characters blame immigrants for poisoning the urban economy, foreign merchants for their glitzy businesses and sly tricks, paupers from Germany and the eastern lands for overburdening the city’s charitable institutions and driving out the local poor. Yet the performative context in which such sentiments are voiced warns us not to take them at face value. A central moment in this respect is Act III, scene ii, when an official proclamation is read out, banning ‘beggars, vagabonds, idlers, pickpockets’ from the city on pain of public pillorying and whipping, and summoning the deserving poor to register their name, residence and condition, so that the authorities can establish their needs. Three bystanders, Harmen, Andries and Jan, discuss the merits of the decree, with Andries expressing some sympathy for the poor who will have no place to go, only to be silenced forcefully by Jan, who presents him with a whole catalogue of social problems caused by the undeserving poor. The scene cannot fail to have struck a familiar chord with the audience, since the reform of the system of poor relief was one of the most formidable challenges faced by Amsterdam’s city government in the decades after 1578. By restricting the number of those qualifying for aid, by making the individual churches, whether Calvinist, Mennonite or Lutheran, responsible for their own poor, and by calling into life a host of supporting institutions that dealt with vagrants and the criminal poor, such as workhouses, Amsterdam (like other cities in Holland) managed to create a system of poor relief that was rational, efficient, and by the standards of the day, relatively generous. More importantly, it transformed poor relief into an instrument of social discipline.[19]

    §12 Linked to two of the city’s major charitable institutions, the poets of the Academy were directly involved in questions concerning poor relief. In his preface to Bredero’s work, Coster calls to mind how the popularity of Bredero’s comedies had made the Academy’s coffers run over – all to the benefit of the orphans and the elderly.[20] Perhaps there is therefore a double joke in Bredero having the proclamation read out in the name of ‘Brederood’: a pun, perhaps, on his own name, as well as an allusion to Hendrik, Lord of Brederode (1531-1568), the flamboyant leader of the malcontent nobles during the first phase of the Revolt, who had served as capitaingeneral in Amsterdam in 1567.[21] At the same time, relations between the Academy and the Calvinist church, which viewed poor relief as part of a wider programme of social reform, including campaigns against adultery, swearing and drinking, as well as entertainments such as dancing, gambling, carnival, and play-going, were tense and conflict-ridden. Scattered through the play are allusions to the decline of charity, and there is a sense, in The Spanish Brabanter as well as in Moortje, that individual, spontaneous charity, with all its associations of communality, abundance and festivity, has forever become a thing of the past.[22] It is significant that one of the very few acts of genuine charity in the play occurs when the perpetually ravenous Robbeknol, out of sympathy with his master – who is equally famished, but too proud to show it – decides to share the food he has painstakingly gathered through begging. In the beggars’ banquet of tripe and cow’s hoof that follows, the merry-go-round of economic exchanges is temporarily suspended, replaced by a community of solidarity between two sympathetic scroungers.[23] It is because of such moments that Robbeknol’s decision to relinquish begging and take up Bible reading leaves us feeling uneasy. Is Robbeknol genuinely seeking an honest occupation, or is there a hint, perhaps, that in a community where free giving is outlawed, everything, even the Word of God, will be turned into a commodity? It is ironic, in this context, that where most other characters almost continuously claim to deal only ‘specie in manu’, because ‘to trust is to be deceived’, ‘faith is small’ and ‘who gives money in advance takes love on faith’ (V.ii.1094, II.i.601) – while still managing to get fooled by Jerolimo’s non-too-subtle deceptions – Jerolimo habitually expresses his trust that the Lord will provide, and that He extends his bounty with a gracious hand (I.61-63, I.171-173, III.1398-1399). Charity is thus subtly linked, not merely to plenty and abundance, but to copia in the widest possible sense, including, of course, the linguistic copiousness that marks Jerolimo’s advantage over the Dutch ‘blockheads’. For all Bredero’s claims that he wants to show the ‘haughty poverty’ of the Brabant dialect, and Robbeknol’s unimpressed rejoinders to Jerolimo’s claims for the superiority of Brabants over Dutch, insisting that the Brabantine dialect is a mongrel dialect strewn with foreign loan words (‘God’s nails, if I could winnow out your ugly Brabant speech as spice mongers do their spices, why, I’d wager that not half of what you babble would remain’ (I.i.190-192)), it is nevertheless through speech that Jerolimo manages to deceive almost everyone he meets. Just as Cocledemoy’s verbal dexterity cajoles Mrs Mulligrub into parting with the goblet, Jerolimo sweet-talks the prostitutes An and Tryn into carousing with him – until, of course, his lack of hard cash becomes apparent, and he makes a hasty exit (‘I kiss the flea, Madam, which sat upon your hand’, II.716). But it is only at the end of the play, when a whole cast of creditors, including the landlord, a goldsmith, a pewtersmith and a painter lines up in front of Jerolimo’s house, that the scale of his deceptions comes to light. In her work on the city comedies of Jonson, Middleton and Dekker, Heather Easterling interprets a number of sources, ranging from dictionaries, rhetorics and grammar handbooks to cony-catching pamphlets and John Stow’s Survey of London, to argue a close connection between representations of urban life and anxieties generated by the perceived linguistic copiousness and excess of the vernacular.[24] Jacobean city comedies, she argues, ‘are self-conscious responses to their society’s coincident preoccupation with proliferation and with language’.[25] The same could rightly be claimed for Amsterdam, the city which, because of its proliferation of languages, dialects and religious sects, was often compared to a modern day Babylon. The movement towards regulation and standardization that Easterling discovers in the transition from sixteenth century rhetorics to seventeenth century grammars, orthographies and dictionaries, has a parallel in the Dutch handbooks on the correct use of the vernacular. Famously, Spiegel’s Twee-spraack opens with two men greeting each other in trendy Frenchified Dutch: ‘Bonjours Neef’ / ‘ghoeden dagh Cozyn!’, an evident example, of what to avoid.[26] Yet the endeavour to discipline, purify and elevate the Dutch language does not mean, of course, a diminishing interest in dialect and slang, in the hybrid language of the market place, or the argot of the cony-catching pamphlets; indeed, quite the contrary. For all its catering to anti-Southern sentiment, and its protestations of the hollow loftiness of Brabants, the play would decidedly lack comic effect if there was not an edge of truth to the language-conflict it stages. If the audience was entirely unable to relate to its characters’ tendency to be impressed by Jerolimo’s grandiloquence, the joke would be feeble indeed. What is more, linguistic copiousness is very much the stuff of which The Spanish Brabanter, the play and the character, is made. In Bredero’s comedies, copia always has the upper hand over considerations of plot economy or dramaturgy. In comparison to its model, Terence’s Eunuchus, Bredero’s Moortje is a rather long play. The difference in length is almost exclusively due to amplification, digressions that take the form of verbal miniatures of city life. We hear the cris de la ville as the parasite Kackerlack (Cockroach) recounts his journeys across the city’s markets, the adventures of the prodigal sons of the merchants on their evening out, and the antics of people ice-skating. In The Spanish Brabanter this characteristic is even more pronounced. The story of the penniless nobleman and his servant, which Bredero took from the picaresque novel Lazarillo de Tormes, plays only a minor role in the original. Rather than developing the story into a tightly-knit plot, Bredero uses it as a frame onto which to latch countless smaller episodes: we hear prostitutes tell their life-stories, men and women gossiping, reminiscing and discussing local news, a woman flyting her neighbour, children at play. These scenes are strewn with grotesque bodies, with a heavy emphasis on sex, food and defecation, their tone exuberant and carnivalesque, with plenty of billingsgate. Copia itself is the source of the comic in this comedy. While there are objections to seeing The Spanish Brabanter as a carnivalesque comedy; notably the lack of a happy ending, or even some form of restitution, at the end of the play, as well as the fact that traditional topoi of the carnival are not thematized, as they are in Moortje, it moves towards the carnivalesque in its farcical structure, and in the way it depicts the follies of an entire community.[27] Viewed in this light, Jerolimo, who for all his canniness believes his own make-belief with an enthusiasm bordering on self-delusion, doubles his role of rogue-trickster with that of fool. Carnivalesque is also, as we have seen, the dominant mood of Bredero’s dedications. In the preface to Moortje, Bredero describes the literary process of translation, imitation and emulation in a series of carnivalesque metaphors of mock violence, dressing-up, cooking and eating. For kidnapping the story and racking it, he will surely be condemned as a murderer, but perhaps he can expect some clemency for having at least dressed him decently, rather than leaving him in a beggars’ gown of a different rags patched together, in which he had been rigged out in Brabant, over sixty years ago, that made it look like Aesop’s raven. ‘Did I torture him a bit, I am dearly sorry; I did not mean to treat him in such a harsh way: it would seem that, having been raised delicately, he couldn’t endure rough Amsterdam embraces, so that, despite my best intentions, he expired.’[28] The playful tone of the dedications do more than claim license and forestall criticism, they effectively set the boundaries of Bredero’s festive community. The comedies of Bredero do not unequivocally endorse the spirit of carnival, yet they also resist the condemnation that accompanied the puritan attack on carnival and other traditional pastimes.

    §13 Bredero’s activities as a playwright can be situated in the period when the gulf between élite- and popular culture was slowly beginning to widen. Gradually, the upper classes began to distance themselves from the entertainments of the common people. Increasingly, visiting a country fair was becoming a spectator sport, rather than an event to participate in. The puritan campaign against popular festivities was only moderately successful, as people continued to celebrate holidays like epiphany and St. Nicolas with great enthusiasm, and yet the nature of the festivities changed. What had once been communal, public holidays, encompassing the entire community, became more private, domestic events. Bredero’s attitude towards the popular-festive mode of the carnival appears to have been ambivalent. In his Boertigh, Amoreus en Aendachtigh Groot Liedboeck (1622), a collection of amorous, comic and spiritual songs, he describes the celebrations of peasants at a fair. He warns the reader, nevertheless, to be careful: these feasts hardly ever end without some blood being spilled. It would be safer if the reader would come round to the poet’s house, where they will share a jug of wine together instead.[29] As Andreas Mahler has argued in relation to Jonson’s Bartholomew Fair, what is captured here is the moment in which the spirit of the carnivalesque is loosened from its traditional cultural context of the carnival, and translated into the realm of literature.[30] At a time when carnival, together with other popular pastimes, was coming under increasing pressure and was losing its function as a yearly celebration that reunited and rejuvenated the community, Bredero’s plays temporarily recreate the festive community of the carnival with its levelling, fraternizing ethos, licensed folly and excess within the enclosed space of the theatre. In doing so, his comedies articulate and give free rein to carnival’s more subversive impulses, while at the same time containing them within the frame of literature.


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    Stuiveling, Garmt, Bachrach, Alfred G. H., Fontaine Verwey, Herman de la; and Keersmaekers, August, Rondom Bredero. Een viertal verkenningen. (Culemborg: Willink-Noorduijn, 1970).
    Verwey, Herman de la Fontaine, ‘Reinier Telle traducteur de Castellion et de Servet’, in Autour de Michel Servet et de Sébastien Castellio, ed. Bruno Becker. (Haarlem: s.n. 1953), 142-57.
    Verwey, Herman de la Fontaine, ‘Reinier Telle, hekeldichter, pamfletschrijver, vertaler’, Zestigste Jaarboek Genootschap Amstellodamum (1968), 53-73.
    Verwey, Herman de la Fontaine, ‘Bredero en zijn stad’, in Garmt Stuiveling et al., Rondom Bredero. Eeen viertal verkenningen. (Culemborg: Tjeen Willink-Noorduijn, 1970), 7-23.
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    Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

    1. 1) On the economic boom of late sixteenth century, see Jonathan Israel, The Dutch Republic: Its Rise, Its Greatness and Its Fall, 1477-1806 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), 307-327; for a slightly different view, see Maarten Prak, The Dutch Republic in The Seventeenth Century: The Golden Age (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005).
    2. 2) On new, civic culture of the young Republic, see Karel Porteman and Mieke B. Smits-Veldt, Een nieuw vaderland voor de muzen. Geschiedenis van de Nederlandse literatuur 1560-1700 (Amsterdam: Bert Bakker, 2008), 135-150. Israel, The Dutch Republic, 656-567 offers a concise introduction.
    3. 3) Joost van den Vondel, ‘Op Amsterdam’, De werken van Joost van den Vondel, eds J.F.M. Sterck et al., (1929), vol 3, 354.
    4. 4) R. B. Evenhuis, Ook dat was Amsterdam: De kerk der hervorming in de gouden eeuw (Amsterdam: Ten Have, 1965-1978), vol 1, 308-9.
    5. 5) For this topic see my as yet unpublished manuscript The Literary Culture of the Arminian Controversy: Religion, Politics and the Stage (forthcoming with Oxford University Press).
    6. 6) On the plays of Coster, and the context of the Nederduytsche Academy, see Mieke Smits-Veldt, Samuel Coster, ethicus-didacticus. Een onderzoek naar de opzet en morele instructie van Polyxena, Ithys en Iphigenia (Wolters Noordhof/Forsten: Groningen, 1986).
    7. 7) For the anti-Calvinist satire of the Arminian controversy, see my ‘The Rhetoric of Religious Dissent: Anti-Calvinism, Satire and the Arminian Controversy in the Dutch Republic’, Renaissance and Reformation Review, 12 (2010), 307-327.
    8. 8) Vondel, ‘De poeten tegens het consistorie’, De Werken van Vondel, 3, 180-181.
    9. 9) The work of Fontaine Verwey remains an indispensable introduction to this fascinating figure. See the following articles by Herman de la Fontaine Verwey: ‘Drie vrienden, Bredero, Telle, Le Blon’, Maandblad Amstelodamum, 58 (1971), 49-57; ‘Reinier Telle, hekeldichter, pamfletschrijver, vertaler’, Zestigste Jaarboek Genootschap Amstellodamum (1968), 53-73; ‘Reinier Telle traducteur de Castellion et de Servet’, in Autour de Michel Servet et de Sébastien Castellio, ed. Bruno Becker (Haarlem: s.n. 1953), 142-57.
    10. 10) For this view, which dominated the older historiography, see E.K Grootes, ‘De Spaansche Brabander’, Spiegel Historiael, 3 (1968), 466-472, and H. David Brumble, ‘G. A. Bredero’s Spaanschen Brabander’, Spektator, 5 (1975-76), 660-667; compare with M. A. Schenkeveld van der Dussen, ‘Moraal en karakter: lezingen van Moortje’, De Nieuwe Taalgids, 78 (1985), 224-234. It is a view which still finds adherents: see E.K. Groote’s remarks in his edition of the play, Moortje en Spaanschen Brabander, (Amsterdam: Athenaeum – Polak & Van Gennep, 1999), 407-410.
    11. 11) ‘To my obliging readers‘, G. A. Bredero, The Spanish Brabanter. A Seventeenth-Century Dutch Social Satire in Five Acts, trans. H. David Brumble, Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies, 2 (Binghamton, 1982), 39. While I have used E. K. Grootes’ edition of Spaanschen Brabander, I have relied on Brumble’s translation for English quotations. Most of Bredero’s work, as well as biographical references and secondary literature, can be found on the website of the Digitale Bibliotheek voor de Nederlandse Letteren,, a truly invaluable resource.
    12. 12) ‘To my obliging readers’, Bredero, The Spanish Brabanter, 39-40.
    13. 13) ‘To my obliging readers’, Bredero, The Spanish Brabanter, 40.
    14. 14) ‘To my obliging readers’, Bredero, The Spanish Brabanter, 41.
    15. 15) René van Stipriaan, ‘Historische distantie in de Spaanschen Brabander’, Nederlandse Letterkunde, 2 (1997), 105, 107, 109, 116, 119.
    16. 16) van Stipriaan, ‘Historische distantie’, 105.
    17. 17) See on the city as a place of exchange and hybridization Jean E. Howard, ‘Mastering Difference in the Dutch Courtesan’, Shakespeare Studies, 24 (1996), 105-116.
    18. 18) On the grotesque imagery of the market in Jacobean City Comedy, see Shannon Miller, ‘Consuming Mothers/Consuming Merchants: The Carnivalesque Economy of Jacobean City Comedy’, Modern Language Studies, 26 (1996), 73-97.
    19. 19) For an interpretation of the play’s position within the debate on the reform of poor relief, see van Stipriaan, ‘Historische distantie’, 111-114. On confessionalization, social discipline and urban charity, see Israel, The Dutch Republic, 353-360, 358. For an in depth study of the reform of social welfare, see Charles H. Parker, The Reformation of Community. Social Welfare and Calvinist Charity in Holland, 1572-1620 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998).
    20. 20) Herman de la Fontaine Verwey, ‘Bredero en zijn stad’, in Garmt Stuiveling et al., Rondom Bredero. Eeen viertal verkenningen (Culemborg: Tjeen Willink-Noorduijn, 1970), 18.
    21. 21) Van Stipriaan, ‘Historische distantie’, 114.
    22. 22) See Bredero, The Spanish Brabanter, III, 1323-8. Compare the nostalgic reminiscences of the nurse in Moortje, III.iii.2612-2683, (Bredero, Moortje en Spaanschen Brabander, 165-168).
    23. 23) Van Stipriaan also notes the sympathetic touches added to the characters of Jerolimo and Robbeknol; ‘Historische Distantie’, 106-107.
    24. 24) Heather C. Easterling, Parsing the City, Jonson, Middleton, Dekker, and City Comedy’s London as Language (London: Routledge, 2007), 17-45.
    25. 25) Easterling, Parsing the City, 18.
    26. 26) H. L. Spiegel, Twe-spraack. Ruygh-bewerp. Kort begrip. Rederijck-kunst, ed. W.J.H. Caron (Groningen: J.B. Wolters, 1962), 10.
    27. 27) The classic account of carnival and the carnivalesque remains of course that of Bakhtin; Mikhail Bakhtin, Rabelais and His World, trans. Helène Iswolsky, (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984). My interpretation here differs from the view of J.H. Meter, who sees carnivalesque elements strongly present in Bredero’s Moortje, but almost entirely absent from Spaanschen Brabander; Jan Hendrik Meter, ‘Bredero e il teatro carnevalesco’, Aion. Annali dell’Istituto Universitario Orientale, 30 (1988), 80. See René van Stipriaan on the elements of farce in The Spanish Brabanter, ‘De Spaanschen Brabander, een kluchtig spel’, Nederlandse Letterkunde, 2 (1997), 45-66.
    28. 28) ‘Reden Aande Latynsche-Geleerde’, Bredero, G.A.Bredero’s Moortje en Spaanschen Brabander, 11-28, 14-15; English translations of quotations from Moortje are my own.
    29. 29) Cited in Svetlana Alpers, ‘Realism as a Comic Mode: Low-Life Painting Seen through Bredero’s Eyes’, Simiolus: Netherlands Quarterly for the History of Art, 8 (1975 – 1976), 122.
    30. 30) Andreas Mahler, ‘Komödie, Karneval, Gedächtnis: Zur Frühneuzeitlichen Aufhebung des Karnevalesken in Ben Jonson’s Bartholomew Fair’, Poetica, 25 (1993), 92.
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