Contexts

Historical Contexts: Views of Venice & Italian Merchants

Courtesan, Merchant, Zany: Italian Knockoffs in The Three Ladies of London

Pamela Allen Brown

Abstract: Wilson's Three Ladies of London offered its first audiences entertaining stereotypes of 'naturally' vicious southerners who corrupt the vulnerable English with lechery, greed, papistry, and love of foreign luxuries. The only word-mangling clown in the play is the Italian merchant Mercadorus, whose total sexual abasement to Lady Lucre renders him absurd and effeminized. His double-dealings with the Jewish moneylender Gerontus have drawn a great deal of critical attention, but this essay will examine the Italian sex comedy that Wilson uses to leaven his far more solemn-minded plot. Wilson deploys a typical commedia dell'arte character system. In some arte plots a Venetian courtesan toys with, tricks, and robs the lovesick merchant Pantalone, whose low Venetian dialect render his attempts at love-talk and eloquence laughable. Mercadorus's vows to 'Madonna' Lucre bear a distinct echo of Pantalone's romantic and linguistic excesses, a sample of which reached print in the comic letters of the clown-author Andrew Calmo.

Citation: Brown, Pamela Allen, ‘Courtesan, Merchant, Zany: Italian Knockoffs in The Three Ladies of London’, Performance as Research in Early English Theatre Studies: The Three Ladies of London in Context, http://threeladiesoflondon.mcmaster.ca/contexts/PamelaBrown.htm.

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Anti-Catholicism and Protestant Polemic in Robert Wilson’s Three Ladies of London

Erin Kelly

Abstract: The Three Ladies of London critiques Catholicism not just by associating it with non-English, obviously immoral characters like the Italian Mercadorus but also by linking it to corrupt figures within the English church like the Vice Simony, who favours the priest Peter Pleaseman who has studied in continental colleges over the Protestant preacher Simplicity. As such, Wilson's play bridges mid-sixteenth-century Protestant morality plays and 1580s Protestant print polemic. Recognizing connections to both earlier and later anti-Catholic discourse suggests how many of Wilson's characters might have been presented onstage. More significantly, this relationship between Three Ladies and more explicitly polemical works calls into question arguments that characterize the religious ideology and politics of the Queen's Men as ‘moderate’.

Citation: Kelly, Erin, ‘Anti-Catholicism and Protestant Polemic in Robert Wilson’s Three Ladies of London’, Performance as Research in Early English Theatre Studies: The Three Ladies of London in Context, http://threeladiesoflondon.mcmaster.ca/contexts/ErinKelly.htm.

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‘Consider the lamentable cry of the poor’: Foreign Parasites, English Usurers, and Economic Crisis in The Three Ladies of London

Daniel Vitkus

Abstract: The paper will show how The Three Ladies of London builds on the traditional moral drama of medieval and Tudor England, with its religious condemnation of covetousness and other vices, by invoking a new kind of moral panic inspired by the emergence and expansion in London of financial activity that undertook speculation in foreign trade and benefitted a new class of parasitical financial ‘dealers’ at home. The paper’s analysis of the play will refer to the late Tudor socio-economic crisis, and to the alarm caused by the decline of traditional forms of charity and patron-client relations that were being replaced by a new capitalist trade network reaching from London to Venice and on to Constantinople. The paper will show how the connection between domestic and foreign economies was imagined, and what these representations of a new dependence on invasive and parasitic foreigners had to do with the realities of class tension, poverty, and usurious lending in London itself.

Citation: Vitkus, Daniel, ‘“Consider the lamentable cry of the poor”: Foreign Parasite, English Usurers, and Economic Crisis in The Three Ladies of London’, Performance as Research in Early English Theatre Studies: The Three Ladies of London in Context, http://threeladiesoflondon.mcmaster.ca/contexts/DanielVitkus.htm.

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