We are pleased to announce the publication of Robert Garnier in Elizabethan England: Mary Sidney Herbert’s Antonius and Thomas Kyd’s Cornelia, edited by Marie-Alice Belle and Line Cottegnies. This is volume 16 in our Tudor and Stuart Translations series, and this time shows the presence of genuinely contemporary French writing in Elizabethan culture. Indeed, the time lag between the French editions (1574, 1578) and the English ones (1592, 1594) is about what one would expect today from a successful Paris play transferring to London.
When these translations were given, Robert Garnier had only just died, aged 46. He had a reputation even then, and is now established as one of the leading tragedians of the French Renaissance. When not writing orations for actors, he was orating himself, as a prosecutor in Maine — the French one, that is, the old county near Le Mans. As for his translators, Kyd was "Famous Kyd", author of the Spanish Tragedie, and Mary Sidney Herbert, the Countess of Pembroke, was a writer so influential at court that there are a few cranks who think she was Shakespeare. (Less controversially, Antonius may well be a model for Antony and Cleopatra.) Sidney Herbert and Kyd today are about equally reputable, though they came out of the winner-take-all game of Tudor life rather differently. Kyd was tortured for heresy, generally shunned, ruined, left to die in poverty and buried in a church destroyed by the Great Fire of London, whereas the Countess of Pembroke led a gilded life, built fine estates, did chemistry experiments, and has a monument today in Salisbury Cathedral.