This play was bloodthirsty and hilarious, a mix I am seeing more often in Early Modern plays. Could we read more of John Lyly’s plays?
On the theme of locally relevant plays of the period, there are a couple of others you may know. A Christian Turn’d Turk by Robert Daborne, a tragedy, printed in 1612. This has some points of comparison with The Jew of Malta – set in the Mediterranean with battles between Christians and Turks (Muslims), this one with a pirate from Faversham as main protagonist. The other is A Shoemaker, A Gentleman, a tragi-comedy by William Rowley, written about 1618, about two Christian noblemen (Crispin and Crispianus, later made saints) in flight from Roman governors in Canterbury – they hide out in Faversham (again!).
It’s already a bit of a blur in my aged brain, but the meeting of PaperStage reading Gallathea – the second I’ve attended – demonstrated some of the virtues of communal over personal, silent reading. There are four that struck me.
The individual characters were clearly made more vivid by having a voice. And, through this, I found I could better experience and understand some of the cut and thrust of the drama and, more particularly, the contrasting moods from scene to scene.
The comic elements – often dead and buried in a complex text – were also brought to life.
Finally – though not invariably the case – I thought it’s possible that a difficult text is plainer when spoken aloud. I certainly found this to be true of our reading of Gallathea. I’d read the text before the gathering and had to concentrate very hard to divine its meaning. In the voice of a reader who understands the text – who knows what is meant to be dramatic, or funny, or pathetic – the meaning suddenly shines through. That happened frequently during the reading. I’m looking forward to more.