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Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

English

Year Degree Awarded

2017

Month Degree Awarded

September

First Advisor

Jane Hwang Degenhardt

Second Advisor

Adam Zucker

Third Advisor

Harley Erdman

Fourth Advisor

Joseph Black

Subject Categories

Literature in English, British Isles | Spanish Literature | Translation Studies

Abstract

The critical origin story for early modern English stage tragicomedy has frequently centered around Italian playwright and theorist Giambattista Guarini, who offered a tragicomic model in his play Il pastor fido (The Faithful Shepherd) and in his treatises on the genre. While Guarini’s impact on playwrights such as John Fletcher is undeniable, tragicomic critics have generally ignored the pervasive influence of Miguel de Cervantes’ work on seventeenth-century English playwrights. This project is the first sustained study of the influence of Cervantean prose romance on the development of early modern English tragicomedy. By looking at English tragicomedies with Spanish sources – particularly Cervantes’ Novelas ejemplares (1613) – I propose a genealogy for the genre that deviates from the traditional understanding of English tragicomedy as derived from Italian drama. I argue that, in many of their solo and collaborative transpositions of Cervantean material, John Fletcher, Francis Beaumont, William Shakespeare, Philip Massinger, and John Webster crafted a form of stage tragicomedy different from earlier pastoral iterations of the genre, of which Fletcher’s The Faithful Shepherdess (1609) is the prime example. After the theatrical failure of this Guarinian-inspired play, Fletcher and his frequent collaborators turned their attention to Cervantes and began transposing the Spanish author’s novellas into a form of tragicomedy characterized by more cosmopolitan settings and interactions, an interest in cross-cultural exchange (both formally and thematically), a remarkable generic flexibility, and an investment in a distinct form of audience engagement. Stage tragicomedies transposed from Cervantean material also attempted to teach theatergoers how to become savvy interpreters and consumers of dramatized events and, in the world beyond the theater, of cultural production and political spectacle.

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