Dancing Queen: Marie de Médicis' Ballets at the Court of Henri IV
Under glittering lights in the Louvre palace, the French court ballets danced by Queen Marie de Médicis prior to Henri IV’s assassination in 1610 attracted thousands of spectators ranging from pickpockets to ambassadors from across Europe. Drawing on newly discovered primary sources as well as theories and methodologies derived from literary studies, political history, musicology, dance studies, and women’s and gender studies, Dancing Queen traces how Marie’s ballets authorized her incipient political authority through innovative verbal and visual imagery, avant-garde musical developments, and ceremonial arrangements of objects and bodies in space. Making use of women’s "semi-official" status as political agents, Marie’s ballets also manipulated the subtle social and cultural codes of international courtly society in order to more deftly navigate rivalries and alliances both at home and abroad.
At times the queen’s productions could challenge Henri IV’s immediate interests, contesting the influence enjoyed by his mistresses or giving space to implied critiques of official foreign policy, for example. Such defenses of Marie’s own position, though, took shape as part of a larger governmental program designed to promote the French consort queen’s political authority not in its own right but as a means of maintaining power for the new Bourbon monarchy in the event of Henri IV’s untimely death.
- World Rights
- Page Count: 400 pages
- Dimensions: 6.0in x 1.0in x 9.0in
"The book can be read by historians more generally as well as scholars who specialize in dance history. They will all find an interest in the way Marie de Médicis contributed to dance history, on the one hand, and to French history, on the other. Gough succeeds in reconsidering the queen not simply as a patron of the arts but also as a cunning performer, whose intentions were at once artistic and political. Furthermore, this monograph opens the way to the reconsideration of the role and place of women’s court entertainments, as Gough suggests, in order to ‘encourage future works on the topic.’"
Samuel Cuisinier-Delorme, Université Clermont Auvergne
Renaissance Quarterly, Summer 2020
"Dancing Queen offers a new reading of the history of France at a time of enormous change. Thanks to the close reading and analysis of details that, at first, may seem to be not very significant, and thanks to a brilliant ability to connect details that may not, at first, seem linked together, Dancing Queen offers a much richer understanding of Marie’s role as queen, the difficulties she had to face, and the results she obtained through her creation of an ‘alternative center’ of power at court. Thanks to this volume, scholars will now be able to understand more clearly the social and political significance of the court ballets Marie sponsored, which will provide an additional and important source for our understanding of France in the early seventeenth century."
Elena Brizio, Georgetown University
Renaissance and Reformation
"Dancing Queen's fascinating account of how ambiguity was deliberately exploited to convey different messages to different audiences raises a question that deserves a bit more attention: how intelligible were these often subtle messages to each ballet's intended audience? There is no doubt, however, that Gough has made them substantially more intelligible to her intended audience in this scholarly, informed and illuminating book."
Times Literary Supplement
"Dancing Queen is a meticulous, richly textured work of scholarship that makes an important contribution to understandings of early modern queenship and court culture as well as to the history of court ballet. Melinda J. Gough’s discovery and attentive synthesis of previously unknown archival documents are truly meaningful and revise the standard histories of French court ballet."
Ellen R. Welch, Department of Romance Studies, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
"Marie de Médicis has long been recognized as much more adept as a patron of the arts than as a political figure. Through the careful analysis of artistic materials, Melinda J. Gough convincingly dismisses this theory by addressing her role in court entertainment as vital to consolidating her husband’s reign after a long period of civil strife and a change of dynasty."
Katherine Crawford, Department of History, Vanderbilt University
Author InformationMelinda J. Gough is an associate professor in the Department of English and Cultural Studies at McMaster University.
Table of contents
List of Illustrations
Principles of Transcription and Translation
1 Magnificence, Mistresses, and Marie’s Dance of Maternity
2 Royal Women’s Ballet and/as Royal Ceremonial
3 Alliances and Others
4 Eros and “Absolutism”
5 Dances of Diplomacy: London, Valladolid, Paris
Appendix 1: Verse Texts for the Ballet of the Sixteen Virtues (1602)
Appendix 2: Verse Texts for the Ballet of Diana and her Nymphs (1609)
Appendix 3: Verse Texts for the Ballet de Madame (1609)
2020 David Bevington Award for Best New Book in Early Drama Studies- Winner in 2020
2020 Honorary Mention from the Society for the Study of Early Modern Women and Gender (SSEMWG)
Subjects and Courses