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The World of the Favourite

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Some three decades years ago, Leicester Bradner examined two distinct views held by seventeenth-century English and Spanish dramatists when writing about royal favourites. Spanish playwrights, Bradner noted, sought to 'arouse sympathy for the king and the friend he loves', while the English stressed 'the issues of good and bad government' by presenting the royal favourite as an evil counsellor and a usurper, and the monarch who let him prosper as a weak ruler. Why these disparate treatments of the royal favourite? This query is particularly poignant when we consider that the English and Spanish dramatists believed that they were confronting a similar political phenomenon. Both knew that the rise of the favourite depended on the mon­arch's whim and that the favourite's fate was determined by the inexorable turn of the wheel of fortune. And, in both monarchies, playwrights used similar examples to portray the favourite, examples taken from the Old and New Testaments (Joseph, Haman and John the Evangelist), Roman history (Sejanus) and the past of their own countries (favcston in England and Alvaro de Luna in Spain).

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Posted with permission from Yale University Press.


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Date Posted: 07 March 2017