In 1609, the Dutch Republic and the Spanish Empire agreed to a truce of twelve years, suspending the hostilities between the Habsburg rulers of Spain and the Southern Netherlands and the Dutch Republic. At this watershed in the Eighty Years’ War, a number of Spanish plays were staged by the Amsterdam chambers of rhetoric, and being published in 1617 and 1618. Carefully concealing their Spanish origin on the title page, these new plays were translated into Dutch and adapted to the local theatre traditions by Theodore Rodenburgh (1574–1644). As an envoy extraordinary to Philip’s III court, Rodenburgh had been on mission to Madrid on behalf of the Guinea traders’ company from 1611 to 1613, where he had very likely seen the original comedias performed.1 Inspired by the successes of the foremost of the Iberian playwrights, Félix Lope de Vega y Carpio (1562–1635), Rodenburgh was the first to adapt no less than four comedias – three by Lope de Vega and one by the Valencian playwright Gaspar de Aguilar.2 As a ‘writer for the eyes’, Lope knew how to please the public. His many lively, three-act plays proved that the comedia nueva could fascinate a large audience both in Spain and abroad. Lope’s comedias were performed both at court and in the overcrowded corrales de comedias of Madrid, Alcalá, Sevilla, Valencia, Barcelona, and throughout Europe and the American colonies.3 Before long, the comedia nueva made its entry in Paris, Brussels, Antwerp and – the city that is the focus of this article – Amsterdam.4

With the four ‘Spanish’ plays, Rodenburgh took on the responsibility of renewing the theatre productions of his chamber of rhetoric, ‘The Eglantine’.5 The transfer of Lope’s comedias through translation and adaptation meant that the Dutch playwrights were challenged by a literary tradition that had already proven to be successful among the masses in Spain.6 When Rodenburgh was also appointed chairman of ‘The Eglantine’ in 1617, the playwrights Samuel Coster, P.C. Hooft and G.A. Bredero got serious competition. At that time, the three latter poets (aided by others) had already parted ways with their old community because of poetical differences, to establish a new institution: the Eerste Nederduytsche Academie (the First Dutch Academy). After their establishment, the Academicians promoted a ‘modern’ approach to playwriting based on classical principles. Coster’s, Hooft’s and Bredero’s departure of ‘The Eglantine’ had, however, not resolved the differences between both institutions. The result was a ‘literary war’, in which the playwrights opposed each other in their writings, competing for paying audiences.7

The innovations made Rodenburgh the earliest adaptor of the comedia nueva in Dutch literary history as well as the first poet who translated the comedias directly from the original language. Meanwhile, he was aided by favourable circumstances in Amsterdam during his active years, since there existed a power vacuum within the ranks of ‘The Eglantine’ and the truce with Spain made it possible for Rodenburgh to experiment with the Iberian poetics. In this respect, De Clippel and Vermeylen have argued that what got transferred depended on a variety of factors, including ‘the ingenuity of middlemen, the impediments caused by borders and barriers, obstacles such as transaction and opportunity costs including tariffs, guild regulations, the creativity of artists themselves, the medium – visual, text or verbal – and geo-political factors such as war’.8 Hence, this article will shed new light on Rodenburgh’s pivotal role in the transfer of the comedia nueva and how he found a way to reinvent Dutch theatre by combining old and new poetics, during the initial phase of the transfer of Spanish plays around 1617.9 We will explore the textual strategies employed by Rodenburgh, who chose either to translate or adapt various distinctive aspects of the original Iberian plays, such as the polymetric verse, the variety of locations, and the representation of immoral characters, with their inner conflicts and agitations. Our analysis of Rodenburgh’s textual strategies demonstrates how the poetic ideas of Lope de Vega were transferred and transformed in the early 1600s.

A world of exemplary persons?

Rodenburgh’s first and most successful translation is his version of one of Lope de Vega’s earliest comedias, El perseguido (The Pursued, 1603), which he transformed into the Dutch tragicomedy Casandra en Karel Baldeus (1617).10 He modified not only the title, but also the genre, referring to the play as a ‘Treur-bly-eynde-Spel’ (tragicomedy), as can be observed from the title page of the first edition, printed in Amsterdam in 1617 (fig. 1).11 The plot bears a striking resemblance to the biblical story of Potiphar’s wife, who accuses Joseph of attempted rape in Genesis 39. It demonstrates the topos in visual art and literature of women’s power over men, and discusses conflicting ideas about gender roles, a very popular concept in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Europe.12 While the biblical story takes place at Pharaoh’s court in Egypt, Duchess Casandra’s seduction of her husband’s chamberlain Carlo takes place at her court in Burgundy. In both cases, however, there is a highly respected head of the household resisting a Lady’s attempt to seduce him, after which the Lady is so furiously embarrassed that she falsely accuses him in front of her husband of attempted rape. Both alleged rapists are put behind bars, from where they are both released – Joseph comes to the notice of Pharaoh through his ability to interpret dreams, and Carlo escapes the web of lies that is spun around him, receiving the duke’s permission to rekindle the romance with the woman he married in secret, the duke’s sister Leonora, through which the couple is rehabilitated. Duchess Casandra, in turn, is punished for her crimes by her expulsion from Burgundy.

Fig. 1 

Title page of Casandra en Karel, Amsterdam 1617, Royal Library The Hague.

Spinning a web of lies around the virtuous Carlo, the duchess behaves even worse than Potiphar’s wife. She will not rest before his life and that of his secret son is severely disrupted. Originally, the story ends rather sad for all the characters involved. In Lope’s Italian source, a novella by Mateo Bandello in the fourth part of his Novelle (1573), Carlo and Leonora are struck by fate too. The moment Carlo realises that the revealing of his secret marriage has caused the death of his beloved wife out of shame, he commits suicide. The duchess is punished with the harshest penalty and is killed by the duke. Rewriting Bandello’s novella, however, Lope added the principle of poetic justice in the last act – a literary device in which ultimately virtue is rewarded and vice punished: the virtuous Carlo and Leonora survive and when the duke recognises their secret marriage, their honour is restored. As we saw above, the duchess is sentenced to a life in exile.

How did Rodenburgh deal with a protagonist so repugnant and disgraceful, according to early modern moral principles? An answer to that question can be found in his manifesto Eglentiers Poëtens Borst-Weringh (Defence of the poets of the Eglantine, 1619), in which he advises poets and aspiring poets to moralise, while at the same time delighting the auditor and admonishing him.13 Admonishment, according to Rodenburgh, should not be achieved through grave and moralising language, which will only bore the audience. In arguing this, Rodenburgh was likely inspired by Lope’s manifesto Arte Nuevo de Hacer Comedias en Este Tiempo (1609).14 This manifesto explicated the art – or rather lack of art – of the ‘new’ Spanish comedias. By breaking the traditional unities of place and time, mixing the tragic and the comic, and advocating an alternating meter in verse, the playwright showed that he knew the established rules of poetry, but refused to follow them on the grounds that his audience cared nothing about them. Regarding admonishment, Lope argued that one should not ‘drag in quotations, nor let your language offend because of exquisite words’, nor should one ‘spend sententious thoughts and witty sayings on family trifles’, but rather, one ought to use plain and simple language, for ‘the wrath of a seated Spaniard is immoderate’.15 Rodenburgh realises that ‘when we do not see any change [zonder veranderinge te hooren], we think it is torment having to listen to the same thing for a long time. Hence, we perceive that the delightful changes are necessary, yes, for without them, we experience that the public will not listen to moralising matters, wherefore it is laudable when a sweet thing is mixed with something bitter.’16

These last words about sweetening moral are obviously derived from Horace’s ‘utile dulci’ of which the Roman author speaks in his Ars Poetica. This idea of useful literature is arguably an intrinsic part of Dutch early modern plays. By contrast, it seems that Lope de Vega did not articulate a clear moralistic goal for the comedia nueva, and an initial reading of the Arte Nuevo can make one believe that Lope only wrote crowd-pleasing comedias. Understandably, Rodenburgh criticises ‘some’ poets – perhaps even including Lope de Vega – for their never-ending concessions to the audience:

It is true that some give in to strange ways [vreemde grillen] regarding their plays, as long as the common auditor cheers and laughs. However, I think it is more laudable when the eyes are filled with tears from sad examples, and when the hearts are moved by moralising acts [stichtige bedryven], always shying away from employing a way of speaking, which is better not repeated due to its shameful character.17

This begs the question whether Lope de Vega only invented the comedia nueva to become nothing more than a crowd-pleaser. Jonathan Thacker, therefore, writes in his discussion of the Arte Nuevo that Lope asks his audiences to relax and learn from his comedias. It concerns the final statement made by Lope, which he utters after ten lines in Latin in general praise of the theatre.18 Although Lope does not articulate a specific aim for the comedia nueva, he builds on a general understanding of the comedy as a representation of human custom and a living image of the truth. Implicitly, the comedia nueva endeavours to teach its audiences by showing the immoralities of the dramatis personae.19

Here, Rodenburgh distances himself from Lope de Vega, and adapts El Perseguido by including extra moralising passages and expanding the existing ones. In the first edition of his Casandra en Karel (1617) a striking element is the opening sonnet, which was probably also read on stage. It cautions against the vice particularly represented by Casandra: ‘Horny lust and raging fury’ ‘that destroy reputation, virtue and honour’ with a ‘devilish longing for shameful adultery’. After this rejection of lust in the sonnet’s octet, the sextet praises the virtue of true love, represented by Karel (Carlo): ‘How true marital love bravely defends itself’ and ‘How concupiscence is not able to sever marital fidelity’. The sonnet’s closing lines are the key words of the play:

How much love [liefd] and lust [min] differ from each other,
We learn from Karel’s love and the lust of Casandra.20

The same words appear at the end of the play. The Burgundian duke associates the adversative cameo of Karel and Casandra with Rodenburgh’s preference for a mixture of the comic and the tragic to create a tragicomedy (as long as the tragic and the comic are clearly distinguished and correctly distributed between distinct scenes, according to the Borst-weringh21):

  • Duke  Here the comic and the tragic come to an end.
  • People  Mixed together,
  • Duke  That’s Karel’s love and the lust of Casandra.22

A similar moral contrast can be seen in the dedication included in the first edition, where Rodenburgh seeks protection for his work, since it represents the ‘power of pure love’ and the ‘steadiness of marital commitments’, as opposed to the ‘destructiveness of horny lust’ and ‘raging vindictiveness’.23 This moral framework can also be found in the first scene, where the poet allows the duchess to share her doubts and her despair with her chambermaid – and through her, of course, with the audience. Unlike the Spanish original, the chambermaid in this adaptation strongly denounces adultery. Leaving the stage, she voices her disapproval of her Lady’s crush:

Camilla  Ah fickle girl, ah Love, how can you persuade the hearts
     To do whatever you like? She has taken leave of her senses,
     Her honour is lost. – I’ll go my Lady –
     All things caused by Venus always end up in mourning.24

The last line in this quote is one of the many sententiae, or brief moral sayings, with which Rodenburgh has enriched his plays in order to gain the assent of his audience with an agreed-upon ‘truth’ as regards to what the characters are saying. It was common practice to end strophes or scenes in this way in rhetoricians’ poetry. Another one of Lope’s advices in the Arte Nuevo, however, was to employ such grave and witty language, whenever a character persuades, counsels or dissuades; especially where it concerned wise men. Rodenburgh appears to have applied Lope’s advice to his work.25

Opening scenes prove to be a fitting place for Rodenburgh to offer his audience moral instructions. To this end, a long soliloquy was added to the beginning of his second 1617 play, Hertoginne Celia en Grave Prospero, in which Duchess Celia presents herself to the audience as a virtuous woman, that is to say, as an exemplary virgin who carefully contains her passions with restraint (fig. 2):

Celia   The inclinations of my heart dictate such rigid laws
     Which can keep me from my own free choices:
     My love is deep-rooted, my loyalty is unbreakable,
     In spite of Aristippus, I will be Prospero’s wedded wife […].26
Fig. 2 

Title page of Celia en Prospero, Amsterdam 1617, Leiden University Libraries.

The duchess prefers the virtue of her beloved Count Prospero to the power and wealth of Prince Aristippus, who is the antagonist in this play and who forces Celia to become his bride and expels Prospero from court. According to her, however, a simple life with a humble count is more valuable than a life as a princess at court: ‘What is a court, which keeps up the appearance of happiness [schijn-luck-Hof]? Is it more than slavery? A dressed-up fool, always agitated, seldom happy?’27 As we have seen before, the protagonist’s statements are interspersed with various sententiae, from which we learn, among other things, that a virtuous character transcends power and wealth, and – according to an old saying – satisfaction has priority over wealth.28

Expressing inner agitations (woelingen)

Our discussion of moralising passages seems to prove that Rodenburgh has created rather simple worlds with exemplary characters in his plays. Yet, the virtuous and the evil characters are more complicated and less straightforward than they were in the original Spanish comedias. In Rodenburgh’s hands, they suffer more from inner conflicts and agonies than in Lope’s, and retire to long laments and soul-searching monologues and soliloquies. These inner conflicts and agonies have been characterised as gewoel, which was quite common practice in Dutch seventeenth-century plays. The woelingen can be found in a biblical play like Simsons treurspel (1618) by Abraham de Koning,29 or in P.C. Hooft’s Baeto (1617/1626), and also in G.A. Bredero’s Moortje (1617).30 Around the same time, Rodenburgh used this native Dutch phenomenon of expressing a character’s mood as gewoel and he especially connected it with the excitatory dilemmas of the comedia nueva. Someone who had noticed this phenomenon as well, was biographer Geeraardt Brandt, who roughly summarized the developments in the Amsterdam theatre scene during the life of Joost van den Vondel, attesting that especially Spanish plays were performed on the Amsterdam stage, which pleased the masses through ‘their employment of gewoel and the quantity of action (while the audience would marvel about the vain chitchat and activity)’.31 Brandt’s use of gewoel is striking. It means as much as the infinite stirring of bodily and mental sensations, especially where it concerns love, lust or baffling emotions. Often the woelingen also involve hesitation and apprehension in the characters’ moods. Meanwhile, the characters have to deal with an exciting dilemma, which often revolves around the choice between virtue, vice and adultery. Brandt adds that ‘although sometimes the plays lacked art and order, the public valued copper over gold and, thus, Vondel’s tragedies were stowed behind the counter.’32 Brandt relates that woelingen are omnipresent in the adapted Spanish plays. Rodenburgh also makes extensive use of woelingen in his adaptations.

Such woelingen are, for example, a major part of a song Rodenburgh adds to the opening scene of the first act of Casandra en Karel. Waiting all alone on stage for her chambermaid to return, the duchess weighs virtue and adultery against each other as conflicting emotions in her heart. With a great deal of pathos she tries to arouse the audience’s sympathy:

Casandra  That I bestow my love
     Upon the duke’s chamberlain,
     And cannot force my own hand,
     That is, alas, my sad infliction.
      Speak up, you mournful eyes,
     So that he [Karel] will understand you
     Through your expression, without words,
     And commiserates with you. […]
      Ah, shall I in order to silence
     The agitation [woelingh] of my soul [zin],
     Tell him that I love him?
     No one will believe me.33

All of Rodenburgh’s characters define their inner conflicts as ‘agitation’ (woelingen). These woelingen are important metaphors through which both male and female figures express their multifarious emotions, such as mercy and wrath, but also faithfulness and unfaithfulness. Feliciano, one of the characters in Casandra en Karel whose part was extended with long monologues, the act of disguise and a sonnet, was allowed to take as much time as he wanted to put into words how much he suffered. As a rival of Karel, he has been hiding his secret passion for the virtuous Leonora for too long:

Feliciano  […] Now is the time to express my complaints of
     The agitation [woeling] of my senses, the heat of the flame in my chest,
     The raging (fire) in my heart, […].34

Even the duke himself makes a habit of complaining about the bad behaviour of his subjects: ‘How much agitation [ghewoels] there is in this life full of distress?/How much envy and hate, causing vigorous vengeance?’35 But that’s nothing compared to Karel, who has spent all his nights in gewoel.36 And when Casandra finds out that Karel is secretly married to her husband’s sister Leonora, her ‘heart thunders’ and her senses woelen, while she plots her revenge.37

Although woelingen are not exclusive to Rodenburgh’s adaptations of the comedia nueva, the frequent use of this metaphor echoe Lope’s ideas as described in his manifesto Arte Nuevo. It is likely that Rodenburgh implemented one of Lope’s most important recommendations:

Describe lovers with those passions which greatly move whoever listens to them; manage soliloquies in such a manner that the recitant is quite transformed, and in changing himself, changes the listener. Let him ask questions and reply to himself.38

Likewise, Rodenburgh discussed in his 1618 tragicomedy Melibea that he starts ‘al dit woelen’ to represent his characters and, thus, his audience, with the choice between virtue and worldly fortunes, between true love and the trap of lecherous lust. Shouldn’t we all endeavour to achieve virtue, in order to be immortal by everlasting fame? Theatre offers us this chance, since it is able to moralise through pleasurable entertainment.39

Polymetric verse

Fully in line with Lope’s recommendation, Rodenburgh described ‘lovers with those passions which greatly move whoever listens to them’ and he managed ‘soliloquies in such a manner that the recitant is quite transformed, and in changing himself, changes the listener’, such as we have discussed earlier. How did Rodenburgh go about this in practice? Inspired by Lope, Rodenburgh had endeavoured to excite his audiences in the same way as Lope did and, thus, he mixed the native Dutch traditions and the Spanish in his adaptations. On the one hand, Lope wrote about the possibilities of polymetric verse in his Arte Nuevo, saying that ‘décimas are good for complaining’,40 while ‘the sonnet is good for those who are waiting in expectation’. When one recites events, one should use romances (ballads), ‘though they shine brilliantly in octavas [octaves]. Tercets are for grave affairs and redondillas41 for affairs of love’.42 On the other hand, Dutch playwrights were conversant with a great variety of typical Dutch verse forms, such as rondeaus (rondelen), and refrains (refreinen) and songs, all of which they used in their plays. The convergence of Lope’s poetics and the native Dutch tradition of using different verse forms (apart from the traditional employment of Alexandrines in Dutch plays) was to Rodenburgh’s advantage, and he exploited this advantage by incorporating the typical Dutch rondeaus, refrains and other Dutch verse forms in his adaptations. The playwright’s use of polymetric verse was, as such, both new and traditional for the Dutch audience. While Lope had used typical Spanish verse forms, Rodenburgh adapted them by replacing them with equally typical Dutch verse forms.

Rodenburgh includes, for example, a rondeau performed by the miller’s employee Molimpo in Celia en Prospero at the end of the first act. The playwright makes clever use of the repetition of complete verses – a typical characteristic of rondeaus. This repetition has a naturally penetrating effect on the audience, of which Rodenburgh had written in his Borst-Weringh that ‘[…] the orator should penetrate the ears with such a manner of speaking that he may move the hearts with sweet words and he should speak with such pleasantries that his audience will not get bored from listening.’43 In order to accomplish this penetrating effect, Quintilian suggests for instance the use of repetition by which the utterance gets both its charm and force.44 Since Molimpo has lost his one true love (Laura) to another, the audience will feel compassion for him. The penetrating verse form only amplifies these emotions:

Molimpo  Only Laura,
     I love, I hold dear, and I lament, and I ask:
     Why did she say no?
     Love is o so powerful, stubborn in its capacity,
     As an all-victor, so strong, he steals away the heart through the eyes,
     And he leaves me cast off
     In an anxious weeping,
     I love, I hold dear, and I lament, and I ask,
     Why did she say no?45

Rodenburgh’s use of polymetric verse was, however, not restricted to rondeaus. In Casandra en Karel, the playwright added a dialogue between Karel’s rival, Count Lodewijk, and an Echo who keeps repeating the count’s last words, functioning as his conscience.46 These so-called echo verse poems were a typical rhetoricians’ expertise. The recitation of this kind of poetry on stage was not appreciated by all of Rodenburgh’s fellow playwrights. During their literary disputes in the years following Samuel Coster’s establishment of the First Dutch Academy, Rodenburgh had been criticised by Coster for interrupting or playing with the Alexandrine metre.47 This criticism likely extended to the inclusion of traditional rhetoricians’ verse forms.

On another aspect of polymetric verse both playwrights could, however, agree: songs were excellent devices to move the tempers of the audience. For this reason, songs had always been a major part of plays throughout Europe. In Rodenburgh’s plays, we can hear people sing at court, as well as the workers at the mill in the countryside, where the courtiers are seeking refuge. An example is Duchess Celia’s plea for the immediate release of her beloved count from captivity. The extensive plea is an addition to the original text, representing Celia’s appeal to the king’s wise governance and her successful attempt to persuade him with pathos:

Celia    A woman kneels before you,
     Let your royal heart
     Invite you to pity [me]
     [induced] by the many rains of tears welling from my breast to my eyes, […].
      I’m begging Your Majesty,
     Please give an order
     To free Prospero from captivity.
     If my prayers are powerless,
     Be moved by the many tears
     Welling up from these eyes.48

Lope generally included two to four songs in his plays. Their uses varied from references to contemporary events to the expression of a character’s emotions, feelings and desires to setting the mood including fear and suspense.49 The relation between melancholy and music is considered especially important in Lope’s plays, according to Gustavo Umpierre.50 Lope used music to influence the four bodily humours, tuning the harmonious or inharmonious of the four humours determining a person’s health and temperament, generally called La Musique Humaine (musica humana). In this case, Lope based his musical theories on the work of Pythagoras, Plato and Plotinus, Boethius and Polydor Virgil, authors who were read and studied throughout Europe. According to Umpierre, Lope could remove the melancholy for a short period of time by including songs in his plays. However, Veldhorst has argued that singing more often meant an aggravation of the emotions, effectively affecting the audience and moving them to love, hate, dance, rejoice or something else entirely, which was better kept behind closed doors.51

Rodenburgh’s approach towards Lope’s polymetric verse is inventive and traditional at the same time. The playwright accustomed the comedias to Dutch tastes. Celia en Prospero is, in this regard, exemplary. The play unites Spanish and Dutch poetics, while the Iberian plotline has been supplemented with a rondeau and a new song.52

Unity of time and place

While Rodenburgh accustomed the typical Iberian verses to Dutch rhetoricians’ traditions, he was more docile towards his example, when it came to the unities of time and place. Famous lines in the Arte Nuevo disclose that there is no reason for a play to take place in one day, or to restrict the stage to represent one place at all times:

There is no use in advising that it [the play] should take place in the period of one sun, though this is the view of Aristotle; […] Let it take place in as little time as possible, except when the poet is writing history in which some years have to pass; these he can relegate to the space between the acts, wherein, if necessary, he can have a character go on some journey; a thing that greatly offends whoever perceives it. But let not him who is offended go to see them.53

Lope continues by saying that the common Spaniard attending a two-hour performance will only be satisfied if he sees history unfold from Genesis to the Last Judgement on stage. Furthermore, Lope gladly adjusts everything in his plays so its success as a ‘blockbuster’ is guaranteed.54 In his adaptation of the Defence of Poesy, Rodenburgh translates Philip Sidney’s views on the custom of poets to ignore the classical rules of the unities. Especially the variety of locations in plays aggrieved Sidney:

One can behold on the one side of the stage Asia, while the other side represents Africa; yes, totally different kingdoms, so the actor himself has to explain where he is, otherwise the auditors become confused by the outcome.55

Likewise, Rodenburgh’s literary competitor Samuel Coster, who had been following the classical poetics, had said in his 1619 play Isabella that ‘he, who follows the ancients, understands that a play is good, when it represents one place, and when it plays out at one time, for he who does not abide by these rules, blunders greatly.’56 Rodenburgh did not agree completely with either poet and explicitly referenced ‘den treffelijcken poët Lope de Vega Carpio’ [the excellent poet Lope de Vega Carpio]. He paraphrases Lope regarding the unities of time, place and action, presenting two opposing views on the subject:

the excellent poet Lope de Vega Carpio (in his booklet named Arte Nuevo de hazar comedias en este tiempo) said that he puts Terence and Plautus away from his thoughts when he plans to write a play, […]57

Rodenburgh approached Lope’s comedias similarly, keeping the variety of locations in his translations. This becomes clear, for example, in Celia en Prospero. At the end of the list of dramatis personae, it says that the stage is on the one hand Florence, and on the other, Arcadia: ‘The stage is Florence and Arcadia.’58 At the end of the first act, Prospero had been expelled from court and had sought refuge with Laura (the miller’s daughter) and Molimpo (the miller’s employee) near a mill in the country side. Rodenburgh chose not to adhere to the unity of place by situating Laura’s mill in the country side. On the one hand, a mill in the palace gardens would have been rather unlikely, although Duchess Celia had been the owner of the mill. On the other hand, the intrigue required for Prospero to flee Florence, after which he tries to find his way back to court by the means of disguising himself as one of the miller’s employees. Rodenburgh also kept the variety of locations intact in his third Lope-adaptation Jalourse Studentin (La Escolástica Celosa) in which he let the stage represent both the world-famous student city of Leiden and The Hague, instead of the equally world-famous student city Alcalá and Madrid. In this case, Rodenburgh accustomed the play through the so-called local-colouring of the play.


Rodenburgh enriched his translations of the 1617 plays not only with new opening lines, but with new endings as well. Here, too, Rodenburgh was rethinking Lope’s recommendations through the lens of rhetoricians’ traditions. A good example of this is the last scene of Celia en Prospero. It regards a choir-like song with the incipit ‘Nu ghy molenaers maelt ghelijk’ (Now you millers, grind in unison).59 On the one hand, this song conforms to Dutch tradition. It is a contrafactum, and as such a new poem set to an existing tune, ‘Phoebus who is over sea’ (Phoebus die is over Zee, &c.). On the other hand, the passage is an intriguing combination of music and action, which is exemplary for Lope’s drama. Many songs in his plays were a direct part of the dramatic action, influenced it, or emphasised the meaning of an action.60 According to Umpierre, Lope’s songs were meant to ‘regulate the development of the action by quickening its pace, slowing it, or helping bring it to an end.’61 This latter function can also be identified in the closing song of Lope’s The Miller. In this case, Rodenburgh remained true to the original and kept the use of bringing the action to an end intact in the dialogical song in Celia en Prospero. The Dutch auditors had never before witnessed a tragedy or comedy concluded this way and, thus, the contents of the text are emphasised: during the ‘song’ the plot will be revealed to the auditors, anxious to know the outcome. Lope had specifically propagated an obscuration of the plot until the very last moment. The intrigue and the plot twists in both The Miller and Celia en Prospero had, therefore, heavily relied on the act of disguise. Lope writes on this matter that ladies should not disregard their character, ‘and if they change costumes, let it be in such wise that it may be excused; for male disguise usually is very pleasing.’62 Lope’s plot twists had always been intricate, but appealing for any audience to watch. It comes as no surprise, then, that the plot ending of Celia en Prospero was complex as well, but was, furthermore, presented to the auditors by means of a ‘song’. Until the very last moment, Laura does not want to believe that Martijn (Count Prospero’s alias as one of the miller’s employees) does not exist, even when Prospero changes back to his own costume during the ‘song’. Additionally, it will come as a surprise that Duchess Celia is allowed to marry,63 that Celia gives her mill as a wedding present to Laura, who is marrying Molimpo,64 and that Prince Aristippus says he will marry the French princess,65 to whom he was promised in marriage by his father, the king.66 As such, the ‘song’ is an excellent way to reveal the festive outcome of the play. The function of the ‘song’ stretches beyond the general practices to express a character’s emotions, feelings and desires or to create a mood and atmosphere. The festive events are stressed by the use of a ‘song’, indicating that the audience may rejoice.

Another strategy employed by Rodenburgh included expanding the original texts with soliloquies wherever he thought the original play needed a moral or emotional digression. This is seen at the ending of Casandra en Karel. In Lope’s The Pursued, the story ends rapidly: the rival lover Lodewijk has quickly abandoned all efforts to win Leonora’s hart, while the vindictive Casandra bids farewell to Burgundy as fast as she can. Both parts of these bad characters are enlarged by Rodenburgh. In addition to the original comedia, two courtiers are witnessing how first Lodewijk appears on stage while he seems to have lost his mind. He is being followed by ‘a silent ghost dressed up as the devil, who has “distrust” written on his habit.’67 By introducing this allegorical character, the playwright, even more so than Lope, makes explicit how Lodewijk has changed from a proud and jealous count with a crush on a secretly married duchess, into a mentally ill man, driven insane by grief and distrust. This transformation seems to have been so important in Rodenburgh’s eyes that he uses a feature which was common in mediaeval and rhetoricians’ poetry in order to deviate from the original plot: the allegorical character.

Even more impressive is the appearance of Casandra on stage. The two courtiers have not yet recovered from the shock when their duchess enters to prepare herself to leave the country, only assisted by ‘a silent ghost, being a woman, dressed in white clothes displaying the words “humble” confession.’68 Casandra utters an extensive soliloquy in which she, too, makes radical changes, talking sense into herself. Before the eyes of the audience, the vindictive duchess first transforms into a pathetic creature, regretting her own loss of honour – not her evil deeds:

Casandra Your name which once was flaunting in your glory,
     Will now forever be etched in shameful memory.
     Your name which once was shining as the North Star,
     Will now, alas, drown in the horny pool of lust.69

Suddenly, Casandra realises that the loss of her honour on earth does not imply that she has lost the mercy of God. She knows that she will be forgiven as soon as she confesses her sins. The most interesting aspect is the conclusion of her soliloquy through a prayer. Begging for mercy, the duchess compares herself to the famous martyr Mary Magdalene, often depicted by painters and sculptors as a former prostitute atoning for her sins in the desert, using her long flowing hair to cover her nakedness, with her eyes lowered and hands folded:

Casandra […] Convert her, like the sad Magdalene.
     Have I used these eyes, alas, lecherous,
     See how remorse makes me, in tears, look down,
     And how these hands that seized the lust
     Are now clasped together in humbleness,
     And how this tongue that spoke of female lust
     Now prays for your mercy contritely.
     These hairs that once confused my gallants eyes,
     Will now serve to dry my tears.
     My voice that uttered lust voluptuously,
     Will now express my faults, my grief, my prayers.70

A confession scene such as this one, most likely staged as a tableau vivant, will have elicited emotional responses from the audience, just before the play came to a happy dénouement by the reconciliation of the characters, re-establishing harmony and the exchange of wedding vows among the remaining characters.


Our analysis of the two Spanish plays Casandra en Karel and Celia en Prospero shows the many different ways in which Rodenburgh’s adaptations of the Iberian originals were constructed, focussing on the moral contrasts between the protagonists and antagonists, and their inner feelings through soliloquies in which they experience woelingen and undergo substantial changes. The moral instruction was more evident than in Lope’s plays, but at the same time the 1617 plays were animated with songs, rhetorician poems, rondeaus, refrains, lamentations, duets, tableaux vivants and many other elements. All these Dutch aspects changed the very nature of Lope’s plays. The Pursued changed from a drama de honor into a Dutch tragicomedy about an adulterous duchess gaining self-knowledge in the end, whereas Celia en Prospero kept more of its original features of Lope’s play The Miller, a comedia de capa y espada, which is set in a variety of places, revolves around the disguises of many of the characters, and like in Lope’s The Miller concludes through a similar ‘song’. Yet, Celia en Prospero includes a rondeau that accustumed the play to Dutch tastes. Our discussion of Rodenburgh’s textual strategies demonstrates how the poetic ideas of Lope de Vega were transferred and transformed in the early 1600s. Because of this, Lope’s poetics got a foothold in the Dutch literary circles.