European Renaissance Theatre

October 2022

Renaissance Places of Seeing: Life at the Corral Del Principe

Episode 87:

A fictionalised account of a day in the life of one of Madrid’s Renaissance period theatres, the Corral Del Principe, using some of the facts and assumptions discussed in the season about the European Renaissance Theatre.

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European Renaissance Conclusions

Episode 86:

A summary to conclude the season on European Renaissance Theatre focussing on four aspects of the theatre that I have covered in the last twenty-two episodes:

The Italian Rebirth

The Parisian Theatre

Theatre in Spain

The Commedia Dell’arte

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September 2022

Bernini and Others: Sculpture, Architecture and Plays

Episode 85:

We return to Italy, to the birthplace of the Renaissance, for one last visit in this theatrical age.

The Bernini family and their history as sculptors and architects.

The early life and career of the second-generation Bernini, Gian Lorenzo, and his place as a major sculptor and architect in Rome.

His work as a scenic designer in the theatre and the impact of his special effects.

Bernini as an all-round theatre practitioner and some examples of his work.

Bernini as a playwright and the nature of his plays.

The discovery of his one surviving play and the problems […]

Behind the Dikes: Renaissance Theatre in The Netherlands

Episode 84:

Given the destruction of the thirty years war moving backwards and forwards across the Germanic and Flemish states of Europe between 1618 and 1648 it is a wonder that any art could flourish at all but in the Netherlands, there was something of an opposite effect.

A word on the lack of examples from the Netherlands in this period and a reminder of the lasting influence of ‘Everyman’.

The political and religious landscape that enables the Dutch Golden Age, a period of trade and expansion.

The slow emergence of Dutch theatre from the medieval period.

The Rhetoricians and their influence.

The annual carnival and […]

August 2022

Commedia Dell’arte: Players and Troupes

Episode 83:

The Commedia Dell’arte tropes that operated in Italy and France were like many actors before them – travelling players operating if not exactly outside of society, then in their own niche within it.  

The framework that Commedia Dell’arte troupes operated in and how little had changed for the travelling player since Roman and Medieval times.

The origins of the Gelosi Troupe via their first leader, Zan Ganassa and  their second, long term director and main actor Flamminio Scala.

The travels of the Gelosi through Italy and then to France for performances before King Henry 3rd, where they ran […]

Commedia Dell’arte: A Selection of Scenarios

Episode 82:

The characters of Commedia Dell’arte may have been used in every play over and over again until they became completely familiar, but the plays themselves were more varied that you might imagine.

The first preserved Commedia Dell’arte scenario from 1568.

How the play was created and the characters and players.

A first-hand account of the play.

A brief analysis of this history of the play

The play ‘Madness’ presented for a Medici wedding, performed by Isabella Andreinoi, of the Golosi troupe.

A summary of the plot of ‘Madness’

Why these two examples may not truly represent the form

The scenarios published as a collection by Flaminio Scala […]

July 2022

Commedia Dell’arte: Characters and Masks

Episode 81:

The development of common character types through the travelling troupes.

The hierarchy of character, the troupe, and how that reflected society in general.

The five main characters:


Il Dottore

Il Capitano



Minor characters:



Columbine and other female characters 

The young lovers

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Mountebanks, Charlatans, and the Origins of Commedia Dell’arte

Episode 80:

The influence of Italian literary theatre can be seen in later works, but if there is one form that infiltrated the general consciousness of theatrical comedy on the continent it is the Commedia Dell’arte.

A definition of what we mean by Commedia Dell’arte as it emerged in the Italian renaissance, and the difficulties with this.

Professionalism, comedy, masks and the degree of improvisation, or not.

Theories about the origins of the Commedia Dell’arte.

            From Roman mime and pantomime

            From non-religious medieval drama

            From religious medieval drama

The impact of the system of troupe patronage in the development of the Commedia Dell’arte and how actors escaped from […]

June 2022

Keeping It Real: Italian Theatre In Perspective

Episode 79:

As things moved on in the early renaissance art – painting and sculpture – led the way and theatre soon followed.  Artists tried to inject more realism into their work, showing their subjects as they really were, or as close as they could get.  The colours of clothes, skin tones, fruit, countryside scenery and, well, whatever the artist’s subject was, became more subtle and realistic as artists looked at the different impacts of viewpoint, light and light sources in paintings and strived to show the world as it really was.  The discovery of an understanding of one thing in particular made those […]

Entertaining Madrid: The Corral del Principe

Episode 78:

Records about the second corral in Madrid tell us a lot about the theatre.  In this episode we go through the details of what the different parts of the theatre on the Calle del Principe were like.

A short reminder of the history of the Corral in Spain as featured in episode 74.

The location building of the Corral del Principe as a rival to the original Madrid playhouse, the Corral de la Cruz.

The Facade wall on Calle del Principe

The doors in the facade and how they changed

The entrance and balcony for the ladies

The entrance hall

The view from the patio

The […]

May 2022

Life Is a Dream: Pedro Calderon de la Barca

Episode 77:

The life of Pedro Calderon de la Barca who took Lope de Vega’s crown as the greatest living Spanish playwright after Lope’s death in 1635

His childhood, youthful brushes with the law, military service and early playwriting.

His best regarded play ‘Life Is a Dream’ from 1632.

A synopsis of the plot of ‘Life Is A Dream’

An analysis of the main themes of the play and it’s relationship to cloak and dagger plays.

Duty and honour

The philosophical aspects of the play

The question of reality and perception

The flaws and dissatisfactions in the play 

Calderon’s later career as a court poet and creator of […]

A Master At Work: The Plays of Lope de Vega

Episode 76:

A discussion of a sample of the plays by Lope de Vega

The Gardener’s Dog: A Comedy The meaning of the title, a plot summary, the major themes.

Punishment Without Vengeance: A Tragedy. A plot summary, it’s debt to Seneca, the ironic triangle of anti-heroes, the question of incest, and the violence of the honour culture. The historical context of the play.

Realism in the plays.

The plays of intrigue

The role of the leading female character, the ‘Dama’

Sheep Well. The plot Summary. The communist reading of the play. Countryside Vs the city. The satisfaction of honour.

The lasting influence of Lope de Vega

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Lope de Vega: The World’s Most Prolific Playwright

Episode 75:

The Life of Lope de Vega, greatest dramatist of the Spanish Renaissance Theatre. He had a very full life which was not just confined to writing plays, but his output was prolific on a scale that has not been matched before or since. This is his story.

Then a short overview of what was special about his plays, his attitude to Aristotle and his prescriptions on the use of poetry.

A word on the inevitable comparison with Shakespeare.

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April 2022

The Spanish Playhouse, its manager, his actors, and their audience

Episode 74: 

The development of Spanish theatre buildings, including the original, the Corral de la Olivera in Valencia.

Alberto Ganassa and the influence of his Comedia Dell Arte troupe.

The first theatre in Madrid the Corral de Pachea  

 The main points of the layout and characteristics of the Spanish playhouse.

The way plays changed to suit the playhouse, including the breaking of Aristotle’s rules.

The financial structures that were used to generate charitable income from the theatre and the impact that had.

The role of the theatre manager and changes as more permanent theatres were built in Spanish cities.

The use of music and dance to […]

Spanish Renaissance Theatre part 2: Before the Comedia

Episode 73

Continuing the story of the development of theatre through the early Spanish renaissance via the life and works of the playwrights. With apologies for the slightly raspy ‘post-covid’ throat at the time of recording. I hope it does not spoil your enjoyment of the episode.

Gil Vicente, the only Portuguese playwright of the period, but one who worked across the Spanish peninsular and produced influential works.

Lope de Rueda took theatre to the masses and produced the first truly commercial theatre of the period.

Alonso de la Vega, an acting pulp of Rueda who advanced the mixing of secular and religious themes.

The […]

March 2022

Spanish Renaissance Theatre part 1: The Beginning of a National Drama.

Episode 72

The Situation in Spain prior to the Renaissance period with a summary of developments in the Roman and Medieval periods in Spain.

The merging of religious and secular theatre at the end of the medieval period.

The ‘autos’ and how it developed out of liturgical drama and the only surviving example ‘The Play of the Three Kings’.

From the 12th Century ‘Pamphylus in Love’.

The Spanish version of the cycle play.

The poetic dialogue and its influence on theatre.

The religious plays of Juan Ruiz

The use of rustic language for comedy in 15th century plays.

The beginning of the Spanish renaissance with the plays of Gomez Manrique.

Inigo de […]

French Renaissance Theatre part 2: Aristotle Rules, OK?

Episode 71

The continuation of the story of Renaissance theatre in France.

The rise of the two theatres in Paris as travelling players were at last allowed to perform in the city.

Antoine de Montchrestien and his version of Greek tragedy.

The three farceurs Henri Legrand, Robert Guerin, and Hugues Gueru who made the Theatre du Bourgogne the venue in Paris for comedy.

The development of the Theatre du Bourgogne under the management of Valeran le Conte and the establishment of ‘Comediens Du Roi’.

The emergence of Alexandre Hardy and his prolific life as a playwright.

A life in the theatre for the actors of the time

Theophile Viaud and Jean […]

February 2022

French Renaissance Theatre part 1:The Italian Influence

Episode 70

Catherine De Medici, her arrival in Paris for marriage to Henry, second son of Francis 1st.  Her cultural influence and role as wife of the King, and mother to three successive French rulers.

The Hotel De Bourgogne, the only playhouse in Paris

Mellin de Saint-Gelais the royal librarian who penned adaptations of Italian tragedy

Etienne Jodelle was hailed as the new Sophocles after his first play, but quickly fell out of favour after his second and some intemperate praise.

The strong adherence to Aristotelian rules of theatre

Jean de La Taille continues in Jodelle’s footsteps with Greek inspired tragedy and lighter pieces.

Jean Antoine de Baif […]

Germanic Renaissance Theatre

Episode 69

The Renaissance met the Reformation in the Germanic States of Northern Europe so we start with a word on Martin Luther and his love of music and qualified approval of theatre.

Latin drama of Jacob Wimpheling and Thomas Naogeorgus.

The history of Hanswurst and Brandt’s ‘Ship of Fools’

‘Students’ by Christoph Stumble gets it’s second mention on the podcast.

The versatility of Johannes Reuchlin

German biblical plays

The German plays of Henrich Julius von Braunschweig, Duke of Brunswick

The extraordinary life of Nicodemus Frischlin and his comedy ‘Julius Redivivus’ 

The impact of the thirty years war.

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January 2022

La Pellegrina: Comedy for a Royal Renaissance Wedding

Episode 68

A detailed look at ‘La Pellegrina’, a play written for the wedding celebrations of Grand Duke Fernando of Sienna in 1589.

The background to the writing of the play commissioned by Cardinal Fernando Di Midici

A description of the plot of the play

Some commentary on the play, its relationship to Ancient Greek and Roman drama, the changes in stop characters since the beginning of Renaissance Italian Theatre and its legacy.

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The Italian Rebirth part 3

Episode 67

In this third part of the story of theatre in the Italian Renaissance the counter reformation overshadows the work of playwrights.

We conclude the story of Giovan Maria Cecchi with a look at his later sacred drama that still managed to amuse and entertain.

The plays of Leone de’Sommi are mostly lost thanks to a library fire, but his surviving plays are of interest as we see a Jewish playwright operating both in and for the culture of his community and in the context of broader renaissance theatre.

The review concludes with the work of Giambattista della Porta, a Neapolitan playwright who […]

December 2021

The Italian Rebirth part 2

Episode 66

Continuing from the last episode with more comedic dramatists from the Italian renaissance we meet Angelo Beolco who, under the tutorage of Ariosto, created, and became synonymous with, the character of Ruzzante.

Then on to Alessandro Piccolomini and Giovan Maria Cecchi, who both left indelible traces on the development of comedy in the sixteenth century.

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The Italian Rebirth part 1

Episode 65

The development of tragedy and comedy in early Italian renaissance theatre happened on parallel paths as each struggeled to look forward rather than back.

The development of Tragedy following the rediscovery of the plays of Sophocles.

The continuing influence of Aristotle and Seneca.

Playwrights Giovani Trissino and Giovanni Giraldi (aka Cinthio)

The court at Ferrara and bloody tragedy

Other notable tragedians from the period.

The development of comedy as ‘Comedy Erudite’ and the continuing influence of Terence and Plautus

The court at Ferrara and a new form of comedy

Three great comic writers: Lodovico Ariosto, Niccolo Machiavelli and Pietro Aretino

November 2021

From Medieval to the Renaissance

Episode 64

In the first part of season four we bridge the gap between the Medieval and Renaissance periods with a mention of the key artistic movements and historical events that can be used to mark the beginning of the period.

How theatre looked back to the rediscovered plays of Ancient Greece and Rome and the writings of Vitruvius on Theatre Architecture.

The earliest plays of the period, showing how the Renaissance got started in the late 1300s.

A word on the development of Opera and Ballet.

For the chance to see Lazarus Theatre production of Salome by Oscar Wilde on line until 5th December […]

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