How to Survive a Renaissance Drama

(A practical survival guide in case you should ever find yourself in a play written during the English Renaissance.)

1. Try to ascertain whether you are in a comedy or a tragedy: Comedies may feature cross-dressing, fairies, forests, crude sexual humour, and illicit romance. Tragedies may feature murder, incest, madness, gratuitously violent acts, crude sexual humour, and some seriously illicit romance.

If you’re trapped in a comedy, take heart: hardly anyone ever dies in a comedy. If you’re trapped in a tragedy, the rest of this guide may prove useful.

2. Do not marry, kiss, flirt with, seduce, or make sexual advances toward anyone. This is a sure path to doom.

2a. At the same time, do not refuse to be married.

2b. At the same time, if the person who intends to marry you is a relative, it doesn’t matter what you do, because you’re practically dead already.

3. The Duke is most likely evil. Also, the prince and his cronies. And the duchess. And the queen. Keeping to yourself might be the wisest course.

4. Never get on a boat.

5. If there is a curtain or a wall-hanging in the room, somebody will be behind the curtain.

5a. Try to avoid being the person behind the curtain.

6) The Cardinal usually gets the last word. Remember this.

7) Do not eat or drink. Ever.

8. Do not talk to strangers, witches, old friends, new friends, the Cardinal, the Duke, anyone’s illegitimate offspring, grave-diggers, children, or clowns.

9. Do not attend plays or masques.

10. You will probably be cuckolded. It’s best to accept this now. If you’re lucky you will survive that as well as everything else.

11. Ascertain as quickly as possible whether you are a major or minor character. Neither gives you particularly better odds, but remember: knowledge is power! Until it gets you killed, that is.

Upon reading this list, you might conclude that your odds of survival in a Renaissance-era tragedy fall somewhere between “slim” and “none”. Take heart: you’ll likely die a horrible, gruesome death, but at least you’ll go out confident in your own acuity.

7 thoughts on “How to Survive a Renaissance Drama

  1. AHhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh ha ha ha ha ha ha!!! This is one of those things that I wish I'D written. If only I were this clever.


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