The Dutch Courtesan is a riotous tragicomedy that explores the delights and perils afforded by Jacobean London. While Freevill, an educated young Englishman and the play's nominal hero, frolics in the city's streets, taverns and brothels, Franceschina, his cast-off mistress and the Dutch courtesan of the play's title,laments his betrayal and plots revenge. Juxtaposing Franceschina's vulnerable financial position against the unappealing marital prospects available to gentry women, the play undermines the language of romance, revealing it to be rooted in the commerce and commodification. Marston's commentary on financial insecurity and the hypocritical repudiation of foreignness makes The Dutch Courtesan truly a document for our time.
Karen Britland is Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA.