Research Essays

The Dutch Courtesan, 1964

§1 0This article was read, in draft form, by Richard Rowland and Mark Smith. I am deeply indebted to both of them for their helpful comments and corrections. Any errors which remain are my responsibility. 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 that the eventual company should stage “whatever else is vital in English classical drama” beyond the Shakespearean inheritance (Elsom and Tomalin, 43). The wealth of the pre-1642 drama, in particular, made it appear self-evident that a truly national theatre must necessarily reflect those riches in its choice of repertoire; and this left those charged with bringing the new institution into being with the task of determining what was truly “vital” in that inheritance and developing the resources needed to restore it to energetic stage life.

§2 The scale of the challenge this represented should not be underestimated. In the early 1960s the English theatre offered little precedent for high profile and ambitious sorties into the pre-1642 drama. The liveliest, and most encouraging, recent model was provided by Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop productions in the 1950s. Although “the company arrived with no subsidy or official support” (Holdsworth, 2006, 24), Littlewood, in addition to her brilliant sponsorship of new writing, relished the demands and excitements of the early seventeenth-century repertoire and won a domestic reputation, and international acclaim (Tynan, 1975, 258), for her productions of such plays as Arden of Faversham, Volpone, Edward II – and The Dutch Courtesan, which she directed twice.1For information on the reception of Joan Littlewood’s second Dutch Courtesan, in 1959, see Holdsworth, 2011, 107-108.. She was, she proclaimed in retrospect, attracted by “the jeweled English of that Jacobean genius, John Marston” (Littlewood, 546), and one of her actors also later testified to her players’ delight in Marston’s “extravagant characters and vocabulary and his wonderful sense of theatre” (Goorney, 115).

§3 Key members of the National Theatre hierarchy in 1963-1964 were admirers of Littlewood’s work. Kenneth Tynan, the National Theatre’s Literary Manager, had, in his previous life as The Observer’s theatre critic, richly praised her achievements (Tynan, 1975, 179-181, 225-228, 256-258). He also fostered an ambition, in the end unfulfilled, that Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop stagings of both parts of Shakespeare’s Henry IV plays should visit the Old Vic, the National Theatre’s first home (Tynan, 1994, 286), in August 1964, while the National Theatre company would itself be playing a summer season at the Chichester Festival Theatre, where one of the productions premiered would be The Dutch Courtesan.

§4 The idea of including the Marston play in the repertoire originated with Tynan (Tynan, 1994, 507); but Gaskill, one of the directorial triumvirate at the heart of the National Theatre’s planning, was also an enthusiast for Littlewood’s achievements – in particular, her ability to assemble and shape “ a dedicated group of young actors”, “a true collective”, which “would not have existed without her powerful personality and vision”, but which “was still a group with a shared political viewpoint and with a social purpose”. He also celebrated her inventive yoking together of “music, movement and, above all, improvisation to create the final experience”, and her refusal to accept that work on a production was ever complete: she “would go to every performance, give notes and make changes all through the run of the play” (Gaskill, 2010, 4).

§5 While admiring her intensely, Gaskill located his own directorial loyalties elsewhere: “I was on the other side. I believed in the exactness of writing, the importance of the choice of words” (Gaskill, 2010, 5). Yet he told an interviewer, while rehearsing The Dutch Courtesan, that his commitment to the play had partly been inspired by seeing Littlewood’s production of it, an experience which had alerted him to the fact that its “narrative line is very strong and very straightforward, absolutely clear and uncluttered”; but, most importantly, Littlewood’s handling of the play had also identified for him the unruly energies and brilliant idiosyncrasy of its dialogue:

There are some extraordinary bits of inventive writing in the play, too, which are way out, even for the Elizabethan audience. Cockledemoy’s language, for example, is pure skat, real Ella Fitzgerald stuff. And it’s all original, not just a record of thieves’ cant of the period. (Styan, 10)

“Jeweled English” on one side, “pure skat” on the other. Littlewood and Gaskill may have responded to different aspects of Marston’s writing for the human voice, but they were at one in their enthusiasm for that writing’s theatrical promise.

§6 Their working circumstances, however, radically diverged. Littlewood’s triumphs were rooted in the fierce concentration and single-mindedness with which a relatively small, hand-chosen team could work together to a common end. By definition, the embryonic National Theatre, with its commitment to a wide and disparate repertoire – which had ranged, in its first season, from Sophocles to Harold Brighouse, and from Samuel Beckett to George Farquhar – and its consequent need to marshal much larger bodies of collaborators in order to interpret and deliver that repertoire, could never hope to match such a sense of united purpose. In a memo to Laurence Olivier, the National Theatre’s Artistic Director, in October 1964, Tynan observed that “Most permanent companies are specialists”, but that the remit a National Theatre must obey effectively forbade such clarity of focus and conviction of shared endeavour. Its inaugural year, he argued, had driven home “the immense difficulty of creating a permanent ensemble when the terms of reference are so wide”. He specifically instanced The Dutch Courtesan as a misfortune arising from this impasse. Among the major errors of the season he listed this production’s “direction and casting” (Tynan, 1994, 306-307).

§7 Tynan was not alone in this view. The show’s critical reception was at best lukewarm, though some of the notices when it moved from Chichester to the Old Vic detected welcome improvements in specific areas of the production. Invidious comparisons were also drawn with the “delight… discovered when Joan Littlewood revived” the play a few years earlier (Roberts, September, 27). Tynan’s claim, made while specifically justifying the decision to stage The Dutch Courtesan, that one part of the National Theatre’s mission was to “test the stamina of plays… praised in the fairly recent past” (Tynan, 1975, 362) had rebounded on him. A poor press response was matched by disappointing ticket sales. At Chichester attendance averaged 54 per cent, at the Old Vic 49 per cent.2These statistics, as well as those about relative running times in the next paragraph, are drawn from the production papers kept in the National Theatre Archive, where I also examined the prompt copy for the 1964 production. I am deeply indebted to the National Theatre Archive for permission to read these materials and to the Archive staff for their unfailing helpfulness.

§8 The production accordingly underwent detailed reconsideration and re-rehearsal between Chichester and London. This included a marked reduction in its running time. On the opening night in Chichester it came in at two hours thirty-six minutes (including interval); by the final Old Vic performance it lasted two hours eighteen minutes (also including interval). The largest contribution to this end was the sacrifice of a character, Caqueteur, played originally by Raymond Clarke, and with that character the excision of a minor sub-plot. Edward Petherbridge, then at the start of an illustrious career, had been cast to take over this role for the Old Vic run and was preparing himself to take full advantage of “opportunities which” he “believed had not been exploited by” his predecessor, only to find himself consigned to walk-on duties instead – a slight he still recollected vividly when he published his memoirs forty-seven years later (Petherbridge, 115-116).

§9 The surviving prompt-copy for the production in the National Theatre Archives belongs to the short sequence of thirteen performances the production was accorded at the Old Vic between 13 October and 14 November 1964. It is fully marked up for performance, including the systematic listing of actors’ calls and cues for stage crew to be ready to handle the movement of the onstage trucks. All traces of Caqueteur have been thoroughly purged from it. Not only his appearances, but the references to him by other characters in his absence, have been removed. These changes must have been made between the Chichester and London runs. Which of the other foreshortenings and alterations were always part of the production, and which postdate Chichester, there is no way of telling. According to one reviewer, the use of the “Old Vic revolve which simultaneously accommodates all the play’s different locations in full view of the audience” contributed greatly to “At least the impression of fast-moving staging”, something not characteristic of its Chichester version. He also thought that the “brisker and… shorter evening” now on offer probably meant that “the main Freevil/Francischina plot”, which he had earlier judged particularly problematic, must have been firmly curtailed (Roberts, December, 43). The surviving prompt-book includes especially substantial cuts in those scenes, but, again, there is no certain way of establishing if any of these predate the production’s post-Chichester trimming. What follows, therefore, relates to the script Old Vic audiences will have heard performed in October and November 1964.

§10 The prompt-book, disappointingly, records nothing about stage action, movement or groupings. What it does allow us to track is the pattern of omissions and alterations to Marston’s script made to the text by the time the production opened in London that autumn. In practice, of course, actors’ fallible memories or inventiveness may have introduced other changes in the course of performance, and additional small cuts may have been made during the Old Vic run and not recorded; but the prompt-book, one can assume, gives us a reliable overview of the major alterations made by that date.

§11 Their sheer length means that almost all c.1600 playscripts undergo some degree of foreshortening as they are prepared for modern performance. In addition, small adjustments to phrasing are often made in order to make key moments more comprehensible to audiences unacquainted with early modern vocabulary or word usages which are now archaic. The rehearsal script for our forthcoming production contains both these kinds of change. Exploring the interventions and reorderings in the 1964 National Theatre prompt-book is, therefore, especially fascinating as we embark on our own matching venture. What Gaskill and Haggard did is, at least at the time of writing, much more drastic than anything we are currently contemplating and sometimes challenges the decisions we have so far made. Seeking to discern the logic behind their alterations also throws up fascinating questions about the detail and design of Marston’s play.

§12 As I write, Nicholas Hytner’s National Theatre production of Othello has just opened to extremely enthusiastic reviews. In a Guardian article a week before its premiere he justified the need gently to emend passages where contemporary spectators are likely to find the original phrasings mystifying at critical moments. His predecessors almost half a century earlier had the same intentions, but their choice of moments at which to intervene is sometimes puzzling. Putifer’s “my conceiving days be done” (III i, 55), for instance, becomes “my conceiving days be over”, where the original seems sufficiently transparent. A slightly better case can be made for some other minor changes of this kind. For example, Malheureux’ “How was the plate lost? How did it vanish?” (I i, 10) is changed to “How were the goblets lost? How did they vanish?”, presumably because the stolen goods have previously been referred to as “a nest of goblets” (5-6), and because “plate” meaning “gold or silver vessels or utensils” is a secondary sense of the word to modern ears.

§13 Making either of these switches, however, seems odd, when much more perplexing passages are left untouched. For instance, Crispinella’s litany of the ills wives “must bear” from their husbands climaxes with the lament that, “if a loose liver, we must live upon unwholesome reversions” (IV i, 32, 34-35) – i.e., if the husband is unfaithful, the wife risks inheriting the venereal disease he may bring back from his extra-marital adventures. The phrasing and wordplay here will be incomprehensible to most modern spectators; yet it matters that audiences register the weight and darkness of what she is saying. So, on the face of it, this might seem a more urgent candidate for helpful rephrasing than the passages above, which are, in fact, given that treatment.

§14 Instead, another speech by Crispinella is accorded more radical revision. At the end of V ii, she turns on her voluble wooer to rebuke and instruct him:

Come, come, turn not a man of time, to make all ill
Whose goodness you conceive not, since the worst of chance
Is to crave grace for heedless ignorance. (137-139)

This is not as opaque as the “unwholesome reversions” line, and in context performance may be able to make lucid what on the page looks elusive. But one can imagine a case for attempting a tactful clarification here. The prompt-book, however, takes more drastic action. It removes all three lines and bewilderingly replaces them with this interpolation:

Oh, we can lie in many ways.
T’is our vocation.
T’is as but a jest; not an invitation

This is both doggerel and a questionable addition to the dialogue of a character who has earlier affirmed that “She whose honest freeness makes it her virtue to speak what she thinks, will make it her necessity to think what is good” (III i, 38-40). But then that earlier line is also cut. So a kind of consistency appears to be operating here. An inattentive reading might seek to justify the latter excision by arguing that the discarded sentence largely reprises its immediate predecessor (“I give thoughts words, and words truth, and truth boldness” (37-38)); but that proposal will not survive scrutiny, because the second sentence introduces the fresh idea that commitment to speaking frankly all that you think will bring with it acceptance of a need to shape and train your thinking so that all your thoughts are capable of being freely and unblushingly expressed. Removing this line seems to me to entail palpable loss.

§15 Two other sizeable omissions in Crispinella’s dialogue are more explicable. In unveiling her Montaigne-derived philosophy on her first appearance, she embarks on two extended analogies – one between a husband’s behaviour before and after marriage and the growth of coral, and the other between rider and horse, and virtue and marriage (III i, 71-81 and 85-90). Neither is managed with perfect fluency by Marston, and both passages feel a little bookish and over-premeditated as a result. It is therefore understandable that they were both excised in 1964. But the cuts still come at a cost, since with the first of them we lose Crispinella’s phallic mockery of the unyielding absolutism of a husband – “hard, stiff, not to be bowed but burst” (75), her most explicit foray of this kind – and with the second her resonant rejection of her sister’s belief in the supreme importance, for a woman, of “a virtuous marriage” (83). The passages remain tricky, however, and a performer of the role might well be pleased to be relieved of one or both of them.

§16 Another Crispinella cut, however, seems less comprehensible. In her intricate duet with Tysefew in IV i, which concludes in their agreeing to marry, she enumerates the burdens a wife must bear from the unthinking exercise of a husband’s authority and then concludes:

Where, on the contrary side, our husbands – because they may, and we must – care not for us. Things hoped with fear and got with strugglings are men’s high pleasures when duty pales and flats their appetite. (IV i, 35-39)

The abstract phrasing of the second sentence here will render its meaning opaque to most spectators today; but its predecessor still communicates to us with absolute clarity and expresses a thought, and a fear, which Crispinella nowhere else encapsulates with such precision. I would be reluctant to part with it and can conceive no compelling reason which would lead a director to do so.

§17 The Cocledemoy/Mulligrub action, in its later stages, is affected by only relatively minor, mainly uncontroversial, excisions. But Cocledemoy’s role suffers a swingeing cut in his first scene. His opening duologue with Mary Faugh is left undisturbed until his “Hang toasts! I rail at thee…”, and from those words onwards, for thirty-six lines, all of their exchanges are removed (I ii, 21-56). This means that his expansive “oration” in praise of bawds has disappeared, and with it a striking feature of the play’s initial tactics – i.e. that both its opening scenes contain mischievous rhetorical improvisations by different characters, celebrating two key participants in the capital’s sexual underworld.

§18 Presumably it is this very fact which may have provoked the deletion. Having first Freevill, then Cocledemoy, wax lyrical in this manner on what could be construed to be essentially the same theme might be thought to carry the evident parallelism between their characters too far. In their respective plots each manipulates others, and the prime recipients of their devious attentions – Malheureux and Mulligrub respectively – are as a result brought within an inch of death by hanging in the play’s final scene. Throughout its span, The Dutch Courtesan rhymes Freevill’s actions against Cocledemoy’s in a way that commentary on the play has often observed. But what is the dramatic gain in launching each of them into the play with a similarly ironic panegyric of those who trade in sex?

§19 The subjects of their speeches diverge to the extent that Freevill’s focuses on women who sell their own bodies, and Cocledemoy’s on the women who live by bartering other women’s services to the men who wish to use them. Equally, Cocledemoy preaches his to his lover, who is herself a bawd, while Freevill’s is targeted at a friend who considers a man who is subjugated to “loose lasciviousness” as someone who courts damnation (I i, 90). Similarly, Freevill’s initial argument stresses the economic necessity which enforces the women he describes to embrace their “occupation” (I i, 101), while Cocledemoy playfully proposes that the bawd’s craft “is most worshipful of all the twelve companies”, since, in trading “divine virtues, such as virginity, modesty, and such rare gems”, its wares easily outdistance the value of those of the bawd’s more traditionally respectable rivals (I ii, 30-31, 37-38). And, finally, each ends on a darker note, which again is nuanced differently. Freevill claims to justify the prostitute’s choice of life by the argument that others do much worse: “They sell their bodies; do not better persons sell their souls?” (I i, 124-125), while Cocledemoy professes to believe that the bawd’s death must be good, “since their wickedness is always before their eyes, and a death’s head most commonly on their middle finger” (I ii, 51-53).

§20 We do not know at what stage Cocledemoy’s display piece was cut from the 1964 production. It may have been deleted from the start. Or early rehearsals may have proceeded hopefully, sustained by a faith that the differences between the two arias would prove sufficient in practice to make them function as provocative foils to one another; and then, gradually, explorations in the rehearsal room winnowed away that faith and triggered the decision to make the cut. For the present we, in our turn, are setting out hopefully. Marston’s decision to pose the one oration against the other is idiosyncratic and striking enough to encourage us to trust in his judgment and see what rehearsal experiment may reveal.

§21 The most extensive elisions, however, in the National Theatre production involve the Freevill/Malheureux/Franceschina plot. This was also the area of the play which was received least well in the contemporary reviews. In addition, Billie Whitelaw, who played Franceschina, has written about her unhappiness in the role and her discomfort and discontent at Gaskill’s direction of her (Whitelaw, 197-198).

§22 In the first encounter between Freevill and Malheureux in I i, for instance, the cutting takes several forms. Numerous short phrases are removed – the evocation of lust as “The wise man’s folly and the fool’s wisdom” (89), for instance, the description of Franceschina as “an honest, soft-hearted impropriation” (148), and Freevill’s “Wilt go to the Family of Love?” (146-147). Lengthier cuts include the removal of Freevill’s claim that, since his intention to marry, he has prayed for the “continuance” (63) of brothels, for the same reason that “Englishmen love the Low Countries: wish war should be maintained there lest it should come home to their own doors” (66-68). Modern commentary is inclined to see this moment as potentially revelatory (Cordner, 13), but that was clearly not the directors’ view in 1964.

§23 Malheureux’ mini-sermon on lust was also abbreviated by five lines (93-97), and Freevill’s defence of prostitution suffered numerous trimmings. His “do you rise, they’ll fall; do you fall, they’ll rise” (122) punning went, as did the sexual wordplay at “So you know no alderman would pity such a woman’s case?” (109-110), where one of the meanings in play for “case” is “vagina”. The speech’s concluding phase was also excised, from “Why do men scrape” to “Give me my fee” (130-135), depriving Freevill of his mock bow-out, as if he were a feed lawyer, exercising his skill because a client has required it, and therefore owning no personal commitment to the views he has so agilely defended. The oration now ends more conventionally on an ironic verse moralization: “Ay, what base ignobleness is it / To sell the pleasure of a wanton bed?” (128-129).

§24 Throughout the play Freevill’s role, in particular, undergoes surgery of this kind, which deprives him of some of his most quirky and tangy contributions. His two soliloquies in V i, for example, traverse similar ground and, between them, total thirty-one lines. The case for some trimming here may accordingly look strong. But the 1964 solution was to remove the lengthier one (60-79) in its entirety, thus excising in the process Freevill’s most bilious evocation of the horror of prostitution and disgust at the relationship which has so recently (as he has earlier confessed) caused him extreme joy. So, we lose the contrast between his admission that “I loved her [i.e. Franceschina] with my heart” (1 ii, 92-93) and his V i nausea at “the unhealthful loins of common loves, / The prostituted impudence of things / Senseless like those by cataracts of Nile” (73-75).

§25 At the contrary extreme of the role and the play, his early praise of Franceschina as being innocent of the grasping, exploitative qualities stereotypically associated with the courtesan is deprived of a key passage (from “nor any of your Curtian gulfs” to “thrown into them” (I ii, 91-92)). In the same sequence, his undignified acknowledgement that he is deliberately concealing his betrothal from Franceschina, because “if this short-heels knew, there were no being for me with eyes before her face” (95-96), also goes. So we are left without this glimpse of evasive tactical thinking, as he disengages himself from a relationship he once esteemed.

§26 Similarly, his first scene with Beatrice is simplified in matching ways. His testimony before she appears that the feelings she arouses in him have removed from him “all those weak under-branches / Of base affections and unfruitful heats” (II i, 6-7) are excised, so that the Beatrice/Freevill portion of this scene now contains no reference to his past life. Similarly, the passage in which he reveals his anxious wish to hide her from other men’s gaze, lest they steal her from him (32-37) – a sequence I have written about elsewhere on this website (Cordner, 19) – is cut. The complexity of Marston’s portrait of him is consistently pared away by this kind of intervention in the 1964 performance script.

§27 One of the most idiosyncratic features of Marston’s disposition of this plot is his treatment of Malheureux’ solo moments. Stricken by longing for Franceschina on his first sighting of her, Malheureux lingers onstage at the end of the encounter and starts to unpack his confused feelings to the audience. On the early modern stage, a character in soliloquy is usually accorded sole possession of our attention for that time. But here, even as Malheureux edges his way into speech, Freevill is cued to return and overhear him. Malheureux’ perturbed self-examination lasts eighteen lines, but his paragraphs of thought are interspersed with mocking comments “aside” by Freevill (I ii, 129-148). The National Theatre prompt-copy undermines Malheureux further by cutting six of his lines, so that Freevill’s incursions recur more swiftly.

§28 Marston then repeats the effect when he next sets Malheureux to soliloquise. This time he is allowed to speak without interruption, for twenty-six lines (II i, 63-88). But once again he is stalked by Freevill, who is already onstage, unobserved, when Malheureux enters; and, also once again, the soliloquy is followed by a duologue in which Freevill challenges and mocks his friend for the feelings and thoughts he has unveiled in his soliloquy. As with his pair of parallel soliloquies in praise of sex workers, Marston is going for a very unusual echo effect here. Invading the traditional privacy of the soliloquiser once is an intriguing move for a playwright to make. Doing it twice, in quick succession, and with the same characters, raises the stakes yet higher.

§29 Not content with this, Marston proceeds to adventure further. Freevill is onstage when Malheureux arrives, because he has just completed his dawn duet with Beatrice, which ends with him tenderly bidding her farewell with “Myself and all content rest with you” (62). Next he silently observes his forlorn friend’s emotional distress, only to greet him, as his meditations end, with a derisory “Diaboli virtus in lumbis est” (89), meaning “The strength of the devil is in our loins”. He then proceeds to chafe Malheureux both for his transformed attitudes and for the tangle of contradictory impulses in which he is now ensnared. The transition Marston has contrived for Freevill here – in an extended moment of stage silence, he mutates, as it were, from Romeo to Lucio – will test any actor’s mettle; but the contrast is so stark that it seems reasonable to assume it is integral to Marston’s conception of his reformed libertine’s identity.

§30 John Stride, the 1964 Freevill, was not, however, allowed to show how he might have coped with that extraordinary challenge. All twenty-six lines of Malheureux’ soliloquy are excised from the prompt-book, and instead of this sequence flowing out of the preceding Beatrice/Freevill duet, Malheureux and Freevill now enter as if at the end of an offstage conversation to which we have not been privy, and during which Freevill has caught up with the latest agonies Malheureux is enduring. So the test set by Marston is shirked, and Freevill in the process becomes tamer, less odd, less interesting and taxing to perform.

§31 In the National Theatre’s first season, Gaskill had scored a major, historically significant, success with his celebrated production of Farquhar’s The Recruiting Officer, in which his direction was underpinned by his encouragement of the actors to trust the text: “Only when it’s been proved that a line doesn’t work can you afford to regard it as less than pure gold” (Farquhar, 15).3Cp. Gaskill’s comments elsewhere, in connection with his National Theatre Farquhar productions, on the necessity of “working directly at the text and getting the maximum from it” and the need to “teach” actors “how a line is made up, and that they must say the line through without stopping” (Gaskill, 1971, 17). The evidence of the Dutch Courtesan prompt-book suggests that, in his collaboration with Piers Haggard half a year later on the Marston, those principles were not securely applied. Certainly, in the eventual production no matching trust was placed in Marston’s dramaturgical judgment4The 1964 adjustments to the original at one point extends to reversing the order of the scenes. II iii precedes II ii in the prompt-book – a change to which I find it impossible to assign a convincing reason. or the detailed nuancing of his writing. At some points, the resulting cuts and alterations tame the play so drastically that much that is quirky, idiosyncratic, tantalizingly bizarre in the original has been purged away.

§32 Bamber Gascoigne, Tynan’s successor as the Observer theatre critic, hailed the promising start the new company, under Gaskill’s direction, had made, with The Recruiting Officer, towards fulfilling “one important part of its purpose – the establishment of a classical British repertoire” (Farquhar, 141). With The Dutch Courtesan, however, the attempt to extend that ambition to the pre-Civil War repertoire came a poor second to the applause Littlewood’s adventures with Marston had generated only a few years earlier.

Works Cited

Michael Cordner, “Mapping The Dutch Courtesan”,
John Elsom and Nicholas Tomalin, The History of the National Theatre (London: Jonathan Cape, 1978).
George Farquhar, The Recruiting Officer: The National Theatre Production, ed. Kenneth Tynan (London: Rupert Hart-Davis, 1965).
William Gaskill, “Finding a Style for Farquhar”, Theatre Quarterly, 1 (1971), 15-20.
William Gaskill, Words into Action: Finding the Life of the Play (London: Nick Hern, 2010).
Howard Goorney, The Theatre Workshop Story (London: Eyre Methuen, 1981).
Nadine Holdsworth, Joan Littlewood (London and New York: Routledge, 2006).
Nadine Holdsworth, Joan Littlewood’s Theatre (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011).
Nicholas Hytner, “With Shakespeare, the play is just a starting point”, The Guardian, 12 April 2013 (
Joan Littlewood, Joan’s Book: Joan Littlewood’s Peculiar History As She Tells It (London: Methuen, 1994).
John Marston, The Dutch Courtesan, ed. David Crane (London: A & C Black, 1997).
Edward Petherbridge, Slim Chances and Unscheduled Appearances (Brighton: Indepenpress Publishing Ltd., 2011).
Peter Roberts, “After the Fanfare”, Plays and Players, September 1964, 26-28.
Peter Roberts, review of The Dutch Courtesan at the Old Vic, Plays and Players, December 1964, 43-44.
J. L. Styan, “Dwarfed by Shakespeare?”, Plays and Players, June 1964, 8-12.
Kenneth Tynan, A View of the English Stage 1944-63 (London: Davis-Poynter, 1975).
Kenneth Tynan, Letters, ed. Kathleen Tynan (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1994).
Billie Whitelaw, Billie Whitelaw . . . Who He?: An Autobiography (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1995).


  • 0
    This article was read, in draft form, by Richard Rowland and Mark Smith. I am deeply indebted to both of them for their helpful comments and corrections. Any errors which remain are my responsibility.
  • 1
    For information on the reception of Joan Littlewood’s second Dutch Courtesan, in 1959, see Holdsworth, 2011, 107-108.
  • 2
    These statistics, as well as those about relative running times in the next paragraph, are drawn from the production papers kept in the National Theatre Archive, where I also examined the prompt copy for the 1964 production. I am deeply indebted to the National Theatre Archive for permission to read these materials and to the Archive staff for their unfailing helpfulness.
  • 3
    Cp. Gaskill’s comments elsewhere, in connection with his National Theatre Farquhar productions, on the necessity of “working directly at the text and getting the maximum from it” and the need to “teach” actors “how a line is made up, and that they must say the line through without stopping” (Gaskill, 1971, 17).
  • 4
    The 1964 adjustments to the original at one point extends to reversing the order of the scenes. II iii precedes II ii in the prompt-book – a change to which I find it impossible to assign a convincing reason.

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