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Drama General

Spectacle of Empire

Marc Lescarbot's Theatre of Neptune in New France

by (author) Jerry Wasserman

Initial publish date
Sep 2006
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2006
    List Price

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2006 marked the 400th anniversary of a major theatrical event in the history of North American drama. The Theatre of Neptune in New France by lawyer, poet and historian Marc Lescarbot was a masque of welcome performed on the Bay of Fundy by members of the tiny French colony of Port Royal on November 14, 1606. It celebrated the return of the ship bearing the Sieur de Poutrincourt and navigator-explorer Samuel de Champlain from their travels along the coastline as far south as Cape Cod in search of a more temperate site for the colony.

It is a paean to empire, a thanksgiving for survival and an extraordinary theatrical spectacle in a “new” world peopled by Native inhabitants who are represented in it as both characters and audience. Arguably the first American play, it has also been called “a significant entry-point of Western cultural hegemony,” sparking political activists to disrupt the re-enactment planned for its four hundredth anniversary celebration.

This new edition includes the original French script along with its long out-of-print English translations by American historical preservationist Harriette Taber Richardson and Canadian scholars Eugene and Renate Benson, as well as Ben Jonson’s The Masque of Blackness (1605), an illustrative contemporary English imperial spectacle. The extensive historical and critical introduction and bibliography are provided by Jerry Wasserman, Professor of Theatre at the University of British Columbia.

About the author

Contributor Notes

Jerry Wasserman
Professor of English and Theatre at the University of British Columbia, Jerry Wasserman has written and lectured widely on Canadian theatre, modern fiction, dramatic literature, theatre history and blues music; edited the two-volume anthology Modern Canadian Plays, a standard course text now in its fourth edition; made more than 200 appearances on stage, film and television; and served for more than 15 years as a drama critic on CBC Radio. He is currently the editor of, an informative website that provides up-to-date listings and reviews of local theatre performances.

Editorial Reviews

?The French play by Lescarbot is a significant literary and cultural artifact: it represents a social interaction expressed in artistic form.”
? Dalhousie Review

?The Theatre of Neptune in New France was a defining moment — a moment in which the theatre enacted an imagined authenticity even as it confirmed the extension of empire by transmuting the work of colonialism into spectacle.”
? Alan Filewod, Performing Canada

?A useful and amusing book filled with fascinating little-known facts.”
? Geist

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