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Drummond of Hawthornden: The Season at Bourges, 1607 Robert H. MacDonald I In 1607 the Scottish poet William Drummond of Hawthornden was in France; like many of his fellow-countrymen he had gone there to attend a university. Drummond’s subject was law and his university was Bourges, but his interests in things other than his chosen profession led him to the playhouse. With industry but a certain naivety he re­ corded what he saw in great detail: more than twenty productions— tragedies, tragicomedies, comedies and some farces— put on over several weeks. His notes have survived ;1 they are closely written and at times illegible, but though we might on first sight be tempted to pass them by, they are of much interest, for they add to our knowledge of the French theatre of the early seventeenth century. They are in fact a unique record of the repertory of the most important troupe of the time, and as such, they are quite without rival either in detail or completeness. They handsomely fill a gap in French theatrical history. Our knowledge of this period has hitherto been at the best frag­ mentary. The names of the actors and actresses have been preserved, and we know the companies they belonged to, and some of the parts they played. We know something of how the players were organized, and there are in the official records occasional details of their dealings with the authorities of the court and the city. But though we knew in general what the players performed, we have had to guess the details. Drummond’s MSS. show us the whole: we see the full repertory of the company from tragedy to farce, the fulsome harangues by the “pro­ logue,” the melodrama, the jokes. We are given some hints on how the plays were staged, and something of the audience’s reaction to what was offered. Drummond’s accounts of the plays were probably taken down in a hurry after the performance, for his notes are not always intelligible. He occasionally misses or muddles the jokes, forgets the names of the characters, and loses the thread of the action. Yet his reporting is im­ mediate and direct, and the reader who perseveres will feel that Drum­ mond really was there at the play, and that the play really took place 89 90 Comparative Drama before an audience that afternoon in September, 1607. As a history of a run-of-the-mill season Drummond’s is crude but effective; certainly there is nothing like it elsewhere. It is surprising that it has been un­ noticed so long, for it adds so much to our knowledge of the theatre of the time that it deserves close examination. The first point to be made clear is that there were two troupes in Bourges at about the same time in 1607, one French and one Italian. (In addition Drummond made notes on a Latin play he saw put on by the scholars at the local Jesuit school, and these will be discussed later.) The French troupe arrived in Bourges, stayed for at least nine days, giving a play a day, followed by a farce. The Italian players came shortly after them, presented two or more plays, and then left. It is possible that there was some rivalry between the two companies, and certainly there was local hostility to their presence in Bourges. The Italian troupe may have been forced to cut short their visit. Drummond’s notes on the plays at Bourges are divided into three parts. They begin with a section on the Italian plays, headed “ The Italien comedies at Burgess 21 of Septembr 1607” which has only notes on one full play (labelled “ the first” ) and part of another. Then follow notes on the Latin play “ In collegio Societatis Iesuitarum,” and after these a much longer section on the season given by the French troupe. This last is headed “Comedies de la Porte and Valerin quhair the yonger sister of the vther vas ane actor 1607 at Burgess.” It be­ gins with “ the first comedie” (Drummond called all the plays “ come­ dies’^ ) and follows with “ the farce,” “ the second days comedie” and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 89-109
Launched on MUSE
2018-07-11
Open Access
No
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