- Anthony Ellis, Western Michigan University, USA
- Series : Anglo-Italian Renaissance Studies
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.
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.
Reviews: ‘…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 and economic contexts of the plays in which they are prominent… Ellis deploys his supportive early material - the familiar: Robert Burton, the Bacons; the more abstruse: Stephen Batman, Gabriele Paliotti - with skill and this is a study from which not just critics and scholars, but also actors, can benefit.' Theatre Research International
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