Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Other Early Modern Inspirations

I think I've mentioned once or twice before that the Romans almost completely destroyed everything we know about early Carthage, and now that rehearsals are under way, the cast has plied their questions about how ancient Carthaginians and Trojans would have done things. The best I can do in these cases is tell them that I don't know, but Vergil's appropriation of Troy for Roman propaganda gives us a little more freedom to treat the Trojans as archetypes of Romans, and we know quite a bit about Rome.

For inspiration of how political, military, and mercantile affairs may have worked in the ancient world, apart from just plain guessing, I've been looking to the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.  Marlowe's Dido, Queen of Carthage was first printed in 1594, and probably performed sometime in 1593, right around the beginning of Queen Elizabeth's reign, and while probably not a direct representation of Elizabeth's court affairs, I can't help but think that an early-modern Londoner would have seen the parallel between their own sitting queen, and one of the first queens in recorded history.

So I have felt free to draw on Elizabeth's reign, her relationship with parliament, and in some cases even documents of record from the period for how to portray the Dido and Carthage in a modern play. Fortunately, I studied Tudor-Stuart history with Mary Hill Cole, so I kind of have an advantage here. 

That said, I've had other places to turn. It bears mentioning that the story of Dido and Aeneas was the stuff of popular entertainment in Renaissance London, and probably prior. "Queen Dido" or "The Wandering Prince of Troy" was an often reprinted ballad in early modern London, and Chaucer wrote "The Legend of Dido" as a part of his Legend of Good Women (this one is a modern English translation) sometime around the 1380s. A little bit before the early-modern period, but I'll take it.

As I continue making the transition from writer to director, I will be eager to see how much of a useful dramaturgical function all the research I've done that is not directly reflected in the text will be. Generally speaking, I like to know as much as possible about everything related to a play text before I direct it, even if for the sake of my own confidence, so I can't imagine that it will be useless. I just need to keep it from getting in the way.

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