Revisiting Potiphar’s Wife: A European Perspective on a Character in Early Modern Drama

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Abstract

This article offers a diachronic and European overview of the developments and
changes in the dramatic characterization of Potiphar’s wife, who is an exceptional
female character in early modern drama. The first part focuses on three
humanist authors writing in three different languages: Pandolfo Collenuccio in
Italian, Miguel de Carvajal in Spanish, and Cornelius Crocus in Latin. The second
part changes the scope and the method of the investigation by tracing the
different approaches among circa sixty dramas over the course of two centuries.
The article distinguishes seven groups of responses to and departures from the
humanists’ early treatment of the character: the group of authors, mostly writing
in Latin and German, who follow the Dutch humanists; the plays in which the
character is merely functional; the plays in which she is a tragic character, either
within a comedy or a tragedy; the group of mostly Protestant plays that vilify her;
Spanish drama, which makes her a romance character; and Jesuit drama, which
leaves her out of the action.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-106
JournalMedievalia et Humanistica
Volume47
Publication statusPublished - 2022

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