1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Drama/11h

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(h) Dutch Drama.


Among other modern European dramas the Dutch is interesting both in its beginnings, which to all intents and purposes form part of those of the German, and because of the special influence of the so-called chambers of the rederykers (rhetoricians), from the early years of the 15th century onwards, which bear some resemblance to the associations of the master-singers in contemporary higher Germany. The earliest of their efforts, which so effectively tempered the despotism of both church and state, seem to have been of a dramatic kind; and a manifold variety of allegories, moralities and comic entertainments (esbatementen or comedies, kluiten and factien or farces) enhanced the attractions of those popular pageants in which the Netherlands surpassed all other countries of the North. The Low Countries responded more largely to the impulse of the Renaissance than, with some local exceptions, any other of the Germanic lands. They necessarily had a considerable share in the cultivation of the modern Latin drama; and, while the author of Acolastus may be claimed as its own by the country of his adoption as well as by that of his birth, G. M. Macropedius (Langhveldt) (c. 1475-1508), who may be regarded as the foremost Latin dramatist of his age, was born and died at Hertogenbosch or in its immediate vicinity. Macropedius, who belonged to the fraternity of the Common Life, was a writer of great realistic power as well as of remarkable literary versatility.[1] The art of acting flourished in the Low Countries even during the troubles of the great revolt; but the birth of the regular drama was delayed till the advent of quieter times. Dutch dramatic literature begins, under the influence of the classical studies cherished in the seats of learning founded before and after the close of the war, with the classical tragedies of S. Koster (c. 1585-c. 1650). The romantic dramas and farces of Gerbrand Bredero (1585-1618) and the tragedies of P. Hooft (1581-1647) belong to the same period; but its foremost dramatic poet was J. van den Vondel, who from an imitation of classical models passed to more original forms of dramatic composition, including a patriotic play and a dramatic treatment of part of what was to form the theme of Paradise Lost.[2] But Vondel had no successor of equal mark. The older form of Dutch tragedy—in which the chorus still appeared—was, especially under the influence of the critic A. Pels, exchanged for a close imitation of the French models, Corneille and Racine; nor was the attempt to create a national comedy successful. Thus no national Dutch drama was permanently called into life.


  1. Aluta; Asotus; Hecastus, &c.
  2. Gysbrecht van Aemstel; Lucifer.