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REVIEWS Paulson, Michael G. The Queens' Encounter. The Mary Stuart Anachronism in Dramas by Diamante, Boursault. Schiller and Donizetti. Currents in Comparative Romance Languages and Literatures , 1. New York/Bern: Peter Lang, 1987. Hardback, viii + 235 pp. $37.00. This volume, which initiates a new series of monographs and editions within the comparative field of Romance studies, is one among several books completed by Professor Paulson to assist scholarly understanding of Mary Queen of Scots, as she has been represented, since her execution in 1587, during three centuries of European literature. The author is particularly concerned to examine the way in which one of history's 'great might-have-beens' (92) has been treated on the European stage. The meeting of Mary Queen of Scots with Queen Elizabeth I, which he describes, perhaps inappropriately, as 'The Mary Stuart anachronism', for it never took place in any period of Mary's historical life, was inventively dramatized by numerous playwrights, understandably eager to exploit the theatrical possibilities of an on-the-stage encounter between two such notoriously opposed sovereigns.Though he refers to many works, Paulson chooses to concentrate on four principal dramas composed, in the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, by different authors in different countries. Undeniably, his book has many scholarly merits, but its ambitious purpose, to assist us 'to formulate an overall picture [of Mary Stuart] within the framework of world literature' (1) is not entirely fulfilled. The first chapters offer ? Biography of Mary Stuart', and usefully discuss 'Mary Stuart and her Letters'. A tendency to oversimplify complicated reasons for historical events is observed in some passages. With regard to Anne Boleyn, for instance, Paulson simply believes that 'despite any legal charges pressed against her, she was in fact executed for her failure to produce a male heir' (13) . Objectivity slips perceptibly when "Knox's lunatic ravings' and 'his perverted religious doctrine' are mentioned (16, 18). Paulson's pages of imaginative speculation (107-11) as to how Mary and Elizabeth might have reacted had they 155 156BCom, Vol. 42, No. 1 (Summer 1990) ever met in reality (Mary, according to Paulson, 'would have impatiently pushed her demands' and 'the cool, calculating Queen of England would have lost her composure') , suggest that his scholarly judgement is too much influenced by the invented scenes of royal confrontation contained in the dramas which he studies. The style is sometimes awkward or confused, occasionally imprecise or obscure, and from time to time even irritating, as, for example, when he comments that the controversy involving Mary 'lay in whether she should presently occupy the queenship' (14). More irritating still are the forced comparisons which he draws between customs, conditions and attitudes dominant in the Tudor-Stuart age and those now existing in our modern times. Do we need to be informed that in the sixteenth century there were 'no photocopy machines to reproduce legitimate testimony' (42)? Do we really need to be reminded that sovereigns in the sixteenth century had to rely on messengers or letters, to communicate with fellow sovereigns, because 'there were no telephones, automobiles , trains or airplanes to make frequent travel to another country possible' (93)? Nevertheless, these introductory chapters contain valuable commentary about the life and times of Mary Stuart, take admirable account of recent histories and biographies, supply interesting extracts from her letters (to the Duke of Norfolk, to Philip II, to Elizabeth I); and, indeed, represent a major part of the book's scholarly achievement. Regrettably, in other sections the book shows signs of research less carefully conducted, and suffers, in quality, from inadequately detailed analyses of the primary dramatic texts. Professor Paulson mentions a play, entitled La reina María Estuarda, composed, in Spanish, by the Portuguese playwright, Manuel de Gallegos (or Galhegos), which the critic dates, imprecisely, as 'before 1660', the year in which Diamante composed his drama on the same subject. Paulson does not appear to know that a play with the title Tragedia de Ia reina de Escocia was performed in Madrid, at the royal palace, in 1628. Probably this play was Gallegos' now lost drama, and the main source of Diamante's La reina María Estuarda. More seriously, Paulson has not studied...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1944-0928
Print ISSN
0007-5108
Pages
pp. 155-157
Launched on MUSE
2014-01-08
Open Access
No
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