'Our hurtless mirth': What’s Funny about The Dutch Courtesan?


  • Erin Julian University of Roehampton




This paper reflects on the performance work of the Toronto Dutch Courtesan to explore what is potentially funny in the play and how this comic potential might be used to explore inequities filtering through misogyny, religious intolerance, and xenophobia. Marston’s play operates in series of comic registers eliciting a range of emotional responses from audiences – from cruel laughter to cathartic pathos to light-hearted pleasure to anxiety. While the play’s critical and moral ‘point’ is impossible to pin down, the Toronto Courtesan demonstrated the capacity of the play’s comic ambiguity to critique social inequity and to invite audiences to ask reflectively: what are we laughing at and why?

Author Biography

Erin Julian, University of Roehampton

Erin Julian (erin.julian@roehampton.ac.uk) is a postdoctoral fellow with the Engendering the Stage project at the University of Roehampton, London. Her current project, Reclaiming the Body: Sexual Violence in Early/Modern Shakespeare, explores representations of rape in contemporary productions of Shakespeare. Her forthcoming and recent publications include Julian and Ostovich, eds, The Dutch Courtesan, in The Complete Works of John Marston, gen. eds Butler and Steggle (OUP, forthcoming); ‘Practicing Diversity at the Stratford Festival of Canada: Shakespeare, Performance, and Ethics in the Twenty-First Century’, in The Arden Research Companion to Shakespeare and Contemporary Performance, ed. Kirwan and Prince (Bloomsbury, forthcoming); ‘New Directions in Jonson Criticism’, Early Theatre 17.1 (2014), 179-95; Julian and Ostovich, eds, The Alchemist: A Critical Reader (Bloomsbury, 2013).






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