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Madeline Rüegg


Institut / Einrichtungen:

Fachgebiet / Arbeitsbereich:

ERC-Projekt Early Modern European Drama and the Cultural Net (DramaNet)


The Patient Griselda Myth in Early Modern European Drama


The Patient Griselda story tells how a poor maiden marries the Marquis of Saluzzo who tests her by taking away her children and pretending to repudiate her until he is convinced of her virtues. This tale began its literary life, as we know it, as the last novella of Boccaccio’s Decameron around 1353. Some twenty years later, it was translated into Latin by Petrarch initiating a process of translations and adaptations in other European languages, which lasted until the twentieth century. By the early modern period, the tale had acquired the status of myth or legend given the freedom with which authors appropriated its basic story line for their own purposes. The additions and changes made by early modern writers not only concern the demands of new genres (drama, ballad, chapbook, tale in verses, etc.), but also address and engage with the socio-political discourses of their time, and, to some extent, nationalise this originally Italian story.

The purpose of my dissertation project is to explore the uses in early modern drama of the Patient Griselda myth as floating cultural material from which European playwrights drew their inspiration. I devote particular attention to the English play, Patient and Meek Grissil (1603), by Thomas Dekker, Henry Chettle and William Haughton, and the Spanish comedy by Félix Lope de Vega Carpio, El ejemplo de casadas o prueba de la paciencia (1615). A major aspect of this project considers the ways in which these works make use of the monstrous and the grotesque in language (through metaphors, comparisons, analogies, etc.), in the plot and in the configuration of characters in order to address issues such as marriage, tyranny and, most of all, to question Griselda’s status as ideal wife.