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French Reflections in the Shakespearean TragicThree Case Studies$
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Richard Hillman

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780719087172

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719087172.001.0001

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‘Rossillion’ (bis) revisited: five minutes to midnight and All's Well

‘Rossillion’ (bis) revisited: five minutes to midnight and All's Well

(p.150) 4 ‘Rossillion’ (bis) revisited: five minutes to midnight and All's Well
French Reflections in the Shakespearean Tragic

Richard Hillman

Manchester University Press

At the outset, a case is made for a tragic element as sufficiently pervasive within this comedy to justify its inclusion in the book--namely, a sense of entropy and futility which weighs oppressively on the superficially happy ending. This sense is subsequently linked, through a series of French intertexts, as well as Nashe’s The Unfortunate Traveller, with evocations of the French wars in Italy, wars distinguished by high feats of chivalry (as exemplified by Bayard) but finally doomed to wasteful defeat. The tragic strain is also related to the story of Hélène, daughter of the actual Countess of Roussillon in Dauphiné, whose heart broke after her hopes for love were dashed, according to the Mémoires of Marguerite de Valois. By this route, the double geography of the play’s Roussillon is developed: the Catalan background of Boccaccio’s source romance (Giletta of Narbonne), with its fairy-tale fulfilment, is played off against textual reminders of the contemporary Count and Countess of Roussillon in Dauphiné, figures who would have been familiar to Shakespeare’s public largely through their militant involvement in the Wars of Religion on the Catholic side, as presented by (amongst others) François de Belleforest, who was in the family’s service.

Keywords:   All’s Well, Roussillon, Dauphiné, Bayard, Nashe, Boccaccio, Marguerite de Valois, Hélène, François de Belleforest

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