Old Age, Masculinity, and Early Modern Drama: Comic Elders on the Italian and Shakespearean Stage, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Old Age, Masculinity, and Early Modern Drama

Comic Elders on the Italian and Shakespearean Stage, 1st Edition

By Anthony Ellis


202 pages

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This first book-length study to trace the evolution of the comic old man in Italian and English Renaissance comedy shows how English dramatists adopted and reimagined an Italian model to reflect native concerns about and attitudes toward growing old. Anthony Ellis provides an in-depth study of the comic old man in the erudite comedy of sixteenth-century Florence; the character's parallel development in early modern Venice, including the commedia dell'arte; and, along with a consideration of Anglo-Italian intertextuality, the character's subsequent flourishing on the Elizabethan and Jacobean stage. In outlining the character's development, Ellis identifies and describes the physical and behavioral characteristics of the comic old man and situates these traits within early modern society by considering prevailing medical theories, sexual myths, and intergenerational conflict over political and economic circumstances. The plays examined include Italian dramas by Bernardo Dovizi da Bibbiena, Niccolò Machiavelli, Donato Giannotti, Lorenzino de' Medici, Andrea Calmo, and Flaminio Scala, and English works by William Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, and Thomas Dekker, along with Middleton, Rowley, and Heywood's The Old Law. Besides providing insight into stage representations of aging, this book illuminates how early modern people conceived of and responded to the experience of growing old and its social, economic, and physical challenges.


’…informative, engaging…work on aging in early modern comedies…Ellis does a marvelous job not only of discussing the way in which beliefs and concerns about aging are played out in Italian drama, but also of unearthing the political subtext of many of these works…many of the readings of individual plays are intelligent and fresh…Recommended.’ Choice 'Anthony Ellis's comparative study of the way old age is depicted in Italian and English Renaissance comedy has the merits of solid scholarship, linguistic mastery, wide historical and literary reading, and fertile juxtapositions… This is a book likely to be used for its essays on individual authors, but its success is greater than the sum of its parts.' Times Literary Supplement '… there is much to admire in Ellis’s fluid prose, and his book will prove to be a valuable aid to scholarship on attitudes towards, and medical advice upon, the aging process in the early modern period. Moreover, the book is important in providing the first full-length study of concepts and depictions of the senex character in early modern English and Italian dramatic output, and this research will undoubtedly lend itself to further studies in this rich and interesting area.' Journal of the Northern Renaissance ’The immediate value of Anthony Ellis’s volume is its deeply researched review of the intellectual and scientific history of ideas about male senescence. In accomplishing this, he goes well beyond the kinds of genre - and influence - study that has long dominated comparisons of English and Italian theatre.’ Text & Presentation '… solid research, thought provoking juxtapositions and elegant prose. This book will no doubt be regarded as essential reading for any consideration of Anglo-Italian intertextuality.' Notes and Queries 'Anthony Ellis’s engagingly original subject is the way elderly characters in select English and Italian Renaissance comedies provide depth and substance to the social, political a

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction; 'All the world is of this humor': senescence and melancholy in Shakespeare's England and the case of King Lear; Old age and the uses of comedy: Bibbiena's Calandra and Shakespeare's Merry Wives of Windsor; Comedy and Florentine politics: the problem of generations; Andrea Calmo, Renaissance Venice, and the challenge of the gerontocratic ideal; 'Caso unico nel mondo delle Maschere' the comic mutations of the Pantalone mask in Flaminio Scala's Commedia dell' Arte scenarios; Jonson's Alchemist and Dekker's Old Fortunatus: magic, mortality and the debasement of (the golden) age; Old age and the Utopian project: The Tempest and The Old Law; Bibliography; Index.

About the Author

Anthony Ellis is an associate professor of English at Western Michigan University, USA, where he teaches Shakespeare and other Renaissance literature. He serves as associate editor of the journal Comparative Drama.

About the Series

Anglo-Italian Renaissance Studies

Anglo-Italian Renaissance Studies
This series places early modern English drama within the context of the European Renaissance and, more specifically, within the context of Italian cultural, dramatic, and literary traditions, with reference to the impact and influence of both classical and contemporary culture. Among the various forms of influence, the series considers early modern Italian novellas, theatre, and discourses as direct or indirect sources, analogues and paralogues for the construction of Shakespeare's drama, particularly in the comedies, romances, and other Italianate plays. Critical analysis focusing on other cultural transactions, such as travel and courtesy books, the arts, fencing, dancing, and fashion, will also be encompassed within the scope of the series. Special attention is paid to the manner in which early modern English dramatists adapted Italian materials to suit their theatrical agendas, creating new forms, and stretching the Renaissance practice of contaminatio to achieve, even if unconsciously, a process of rewriting, remaking, and refashioning of 'alien' cultures. The series welcomes both single-author studies and collections of essays and invites proposals that take into account the transition of cultures between the two countries as a bilateral process, paying attention also to the penetration of early modern English culture into the Italian world.

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