Representing the French

The French CNRS has launched a wonderful site: Representing France and the French, on images of the French, France (and the French language) in English early modern plays. In an easily searchable database, a team of researchers has gathered over 4000 allusions to France in a corpus of plays from canonical playwrights. They are still expanding the database, and researchers can join the project to help them gather as many references as possible.

Of course, I couldn’t resist entering the search term “revenge” and its variants in the database. The search rendered 128 quotations from early modern English drama which featured the term “revenge” and also featured a French word, a reference to France, or a French character speaking.

There was, for example, this quotation from (the not-so-canonical) The Wounds of Civil War by Thomas Lodge:

If he have slain thy father and thy friends,
The greater honor shall betide the deed;
For to revenge on righteous estimate
Beseems the honor of a Frenchman’s name

The French character in this quotation considers his murder of another person’s father and friends as a righteous act of revenge that will add his own individual honour as a Frenchman. The comment added to the fiche helpfully adds that this Frenchman is preparing to murder a sleeping man, and has been hired to do so. Lodge is making an ironic comment on what he considers to be French notions of honour and revenge, it seems. Thus, by a simple click, we get a many-layered example of an English representation of a Frenchman’s revenge for personal honour. A very useful database!

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