n Literator : Journal of Literary Criticism, Comparative Linguistics and Literary Studies - De literatuurhistorici en de l8de-eeuwse Zuid- Nederlandse toneelliteratuur : research article




Towards the end of the l6th century the national unity within the Netherlands, created during the reign of Charles V, was lost and the country actually became divided. Writers, craftsmen and rich merchants from the south of the Netherlands fled the terror of the Duke of Alba to the new free Netherlandish state in the northern part. Thus the cultural centre shifted from the south to the north and the old cultural centre actually existed in the shadow of the new. This cultural development is clearly indicated in the works of Dutch literary historians of the l9th and 20th century. In the northern part of the Netherlands the literature of the l7th century reached a high literary-esthetic level, but after the death of Joost van den Vondel (a South-Netherlandish writer in Amsterdam) in l679 the period of great personalities was ended. During this ensuing period a mere literary aesthetic level was somehow maintained, but the art of poetry degenerated to a literature of epigone, adapting French tragedy as example. In the South-Netherlands, on the other hand, writers followed in the old Netherlandish theatre tradition. Within this tradition a series of original dramatic works were produced during the l8th century. These dramas formed the basis of magnificent theatre performances in grand late-Baroque style. However, these dramas and their writers have mainly been ignored by Dutch literary historians, who - sometimes without even having read the dramatic texts - characterize them without hesitation as inferior works.


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