Though representations of alien languages on the early modern stage have usually been read as mocking, xenophobic, or at the very least extremely anxious, listening closely to these languages in the drama of Shakespeare and his contemporaries, Marianne Montgomery discerns a more complex reality. She argues instead that the drama of the early modern period holds up linguistic variety as a source of strength and offers playgoers a cosmopolitan engagement with the foreign that, while still sometimes anxious, complicates easy national distinctions. The study surveys six of the European languages heard on London's commercial stages during the three decades between 1590 and 1620-Welsh, French, Dutch, Spanish, Irish and Latin-and the distinct sets of cultural issues that they made audible. Exploring issues of culture and performance raised by representations of European languages on the stage, this book joins and advances two critical conversations on early modern drama. It both works to recover English relations with alien cultures in the period by looking at how such encounters were staged, and treats sound and performance as essential to understanding what Europe's languages meant in the theater. Europe's Languages on England's Stages, 1590-1620 contributes to our emerging sense of how local identities and global knowledge in early modern England were necessarily shaped by encounters with nearby lands, particularly encounters staged for aural consumption.
Marianne Montgomery is an associate professor of English at East Carolina University, where she teaches courses on Shakespeare, early modern drama, and medieval and Renaissance studies.
'Within a focused thirty-year period, Montgomery ambitiously attends to both the theatrical significance of spoken languages for early audiences, and the implications for an understanding of London’s conception of the ’foreign’. Across chapters predominantly dealing with French, Dutch, Spanish, and Latin, she teases out the complexities of the meanings presented by the staging of these languages, which go far beyond markers of national identity... The judicious attention to theatrical, historical, and political contexts reinforces prior work on early modern soundscapes, making a cogent case for attention not only to what is said, but how it sounds to early modern and modern ears.' Comparative Drama '... attention to detail is applied selectively and strategically so that the flow of the discussion never becomes dull, enabling the book to find something new to say even about well-tilled ground... Europe’s Languages on England’s Stages aims to appeal primarily to those working on Elizabethan and Jacobean drama, and specifically on its fascinating cosmopolitan filiations... the imaginative organization of the book, based on a combination of specific languages and plays, makes the individual chapters suitable as reading for both postgraduate and advanced undergraduate students...' English Text Construction 'This ambitious book caters to a wide range of interests, cultural, literary, and linguistic as well as theatrical.' Renaissance Quarterly 'Montgomery’s book offers a sustained argument for the theatrical representation of linguistic difference as the vehicle for exploring possibilities for cultural translation.' Studies in English Literature 1500-1900 ’This book makes a welcome contribution to the field and is a must-read for anyone interested in the representation of cultural identity in early modern England, as well as students of and specialists in theatricality and performativity.’ Journal of the Northern Renaissance