Comic Drama in the Low Countries, c.1450-1560

Comic Drama in the Low Countries, c.1450-1560

A Critical Anthology

Edited by Ben Parsons, Bas Jongenelen





Text and translation of comic plays sheds light on a fascinating era of theatrical production.
`(Opens) up an entirely new corpus of texts for scholars and readers familar with and interested in European dramatic texts from this period, but who have heretofore not had access to them due to the language barrier.' Professor David F. Johnson, Florida State University, Tallahassee

During the Middle Ages and early modern period, a dramatic culture of astonishing vitality developed in the Low Countries. Owing to the activities of organisations known as rederijkerskamers, or "chambers of rhetoric", drama became a central aspect of public life in the cities of the Netherlands. The comedies produced by these groups are particularly interesting. Drawing their forms and narratives from folklore and popular ritual, and entertaining in their own right, they also bring together a range of important concerns; they respond directly to some of the key developments in the period, reflecting the political and religious turmoil of the Reformation and Dutch Revolt, the emergence of humanism, and the appearance of an early capitalist economy.
This collection brings together the original Middle Dutch text of ten of these comic plays, with facing translation into modern English. The selection is divided evenly between formal stage-plays and monologues, and provides a representation of the full range of rederijker drama, from the sophisticated Farce of the Fisherman, with its sly undermining of audience expectation, to the hearty scatology of A Mock-Sermon on Saint Nobody, and the grim gallows humour of The Farce of the Beggar. An introduction and notes place the plays in their context and elucidate difficulties of interpretation.

Ben Parsons is Teaching Fellow at the University of Leicester; Bas Jongenelen is teacher of Dutch Literature at Fontys Lerarenopleiding in Tilburg.


March 2012
5 black and white illustrations
308 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
ISBN: 9781843842910
Format: Hardback
BIC DD, 1DN, 2AB, 3H
BISAC LCO017000, DRA018000, DRA004000
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Table of Contents

Translators' Note
Introduction: The Older the Hollander the More Foolish: Comedy, Foolery and the Chambers of Rhetoric in the Medieval Low Countries
Part I: Dramatic Monologues
This is the Madness
The Guild of the Blue Barge
A Mock Sermon on Saint Nobody
The Oath of Master Pawnbroker
A Wise and Wonderful Prognostication
Part II: Farces
The Farce of the Beggar
A Play of Three Lovers
The Farce of the Fisherman
Jack Sweet-tooth
A Farce of the Barefoot Brothers


This volume is a rich source for getting acquainted with the vast comic literature of the Low Countries, providing material and thought for further study and, in so doing (and who could gainsay the benefit of that?), making us readers laugh. SPECULUM

A very welcome addition to the existing literature. FOLKLORE

(Makes) an important part of the Dutch literary heritage accessible to scholars from the Anglophone world. EDITIONEN IN DER KRITIK

Provides a useful window into the Renaissance theatrical tradition (...) The editors have tapped a rich vein in the vital and diverse tradition of vernacular Dutch comic drama. COMITATUS