England and the shadow of the Low Countries: Drama and Dutchness from Shakespeare to Dryden

Date of Completion

January 2007


Theater|Literature, English




This dissertation examines the neglected subject of the Low Countries and residents thereof in early modern drama from Shakespeare to Dryden. The Dutch are shown to act as complementary figures or "shadows" who relate to the English in an ambivalent fashion, particularly in regard to religion, form of government, and economics. In the Elizabethan period, England's policy was to maintain strong economic and political ties with the Low Countries because of a shared Protestant faith. Thus, Elizabethan dramas such as The Shoemaker's Holiday and Englishmen for My Money tended to portray residents of the Low Countries in mostly positive terms. A Larum for London was an overtly political play that warned complacent Londoners against a potential Spanish attack like the one that had occurred years earlier against Antwerp. During early Jacobean times, dramas like King Lear and The Dutch Courtesan interrogated the Dutch more diligently, as foreign relations cooled somewhat with the Low Countries. During the later Stuart years, a mistrust of Dutch republicanism and growing economic and colonial competition produced increasingly concerned portrayals of the Dutch, such as those in Sir John Van Olden Barnavelt. After the Amboyna massacre of 1623, images of the Dutch were mostly negative, culminating in the demonized characterization of all Dutch characters in Dryden's Amboyna. ^