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

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