French Reaction to Shakespeare

It is known that before and after Shakespeare’s death in 1616, troupes of English actors often performed in Sweden, Denmark, The Netherlands, Germany, Austria, and even Latvia. In Germany and Austria, particularly, where extensive research has been conducted, the bulk of the repertories was Shakespearean. In France, however, investigation of early seventeenth-century material, published or otherwise, has yet to bring to light any mention of Shakespeare whatsoever. The only document of that time containing even the slightest allusion to what may possibly have been a performance of one of Shakespeare’s plays is the journal of the first physician to the Dauphin at the court of Henri IV of France. The doctor recorded that, in September 1604, an English company of actors appeared at the Fontainebleau palace to amuse the Dauphin, then only three years of age. For two weeks afterward the young prince insisted on strutting around the palace dressed like the English comedians and saying “Tiph toph, milord.” Some have speculated, since the publication of the journal in 1868, that the child was playing Falstaff saying “Tap for Tap, my lord,” in Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Act 2, Scene 1.

Whatever the play was, the actors never finished. The record indicates that their performance broke up when the Dauphin ordered one of the troupe beheaded.

Published in BYU Studies Quarterly 08:2
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