The 'English Comedy' in Early Modern Europe: Migration, Emigration, Integration

Katritzky, M A (2023). The 'English Comedy' in Early Modern Europe: Migration, Emigration, Integration. In: Meerzon, Yana and Wilmer, S.E. eds. The Palgrave Handbook of Theatre and Migration. Palgrave Macmillan Cham, pp. 255–266.



From the 1580s, touring mixed gender French and Italian acting troupes were joined on mainland Europe by migrant troupes of all-male English actors. For nearly a century, they toured and performed in Northern Europe, dominating the rise of professional theatre in the German-speaking regions. Many maintained home bases in England; some escalated migration into emigration. Civic and court archives record this increasing integration into European communities, through marriage and theatrical contracts with local women and performers. It contributed to a significant theatrical transmigration: the establishment of the so-called English Comedy in Germany. Central to the multi-talented, spectacular performing style perfected by the touring English actors were their distinctive stage clowns, especially Pickelhering. The earliest touring professional German troupes based their style of acting on skills passed down by the migrant English actors. These skills were so foundational to German professional theatre that well into the eighteenth century, German acting troupes habitually toured under the rubric of ‘English Comedians.’

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