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Nationalizing Volpone in French Cinema and Television : Mediating Jonson through Molière, Shakespeare and Popular Screen Comedy

Abstract : This article considers the challenges Jonson's Volpone presents to contemporary performance, where its apparent resistance to comprehension and apprehension frequently results in adaptation. In spite of this, Volpone has captivated the French imagination, resulting in a prominent national tradition of adapting and performing Jonson's work, evidenced by four screen versions: Maurice Tourneur's 1941 cinematic adaptation and Frédéric Auburtin's television film (2003), as well as two filmed theatre productions, directed by Jean Mayer (1978) and Francis Perrin (2001). The adaptations are the result of a re-mediation process which has taken the Jacobean play to French stages and screens in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, turning Jonson's work into a specifically 'French' item through more familiar cultural codes such as Molière, Shakespeare, and screen comedy. Through a focus on each film's insistence on the layers of rewriting that separate them from Jonson's text, the article considers how each screen adaptation both figures and disfigures its early modern source while acknowledging its debt to the Jacobean playwright, and their aesthetic and ideological consequences to specific moments of French culture. Such layers of rewriting reveal both the play's flexibility and malleability while also indicating its paradoxical resistance to adaptation, particularly in the play's ending, which is significantly altered in each of the four adaptations. These alternative endings, the article suggests, destabilise the original's categorisation of comedy mixed with dark satire and are suggestive of the early modern source text having lost significance in the eyes of French film and theatre practitioners and their audiences.
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Submitted on : Thursday, September 15, 2016 - 10:46:13 AM
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Nathalie Vienne-Guerrin, Sarah Hatchuel. Nationalizing Volpone in French Cinema and Television : Mediating Jonson through Molière, Shakespeare and Popular Screen Comedy. Shakespeare Bulletin, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011, Winter 2011, 29 (4), ⟨10.1353/shb.2011.0061⟩. ⟨halshs-01366680⟩



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