chapter  9
13 Pages

Angelica and Franceschina: The Italianate Characters of Juliet’s Nurse


Recent work on Shakespearean drama explores the extent to which foreign theatrical practices, particularly the presence of women on the Continental stage, influenced early modern English performance.1 When examining the effects of traveling troupes and transnational texts, the discussion tends to center on the characters of the innamorata and the courtesan, particularly cross-dressed, often as figures for same-sex desire or international commerce.2 This essay discusses a third import from Italian drama-the Nurse, Nutrice, or Balia —who, in her melding of native and foreign, represents a significant model for hybridity created by and for the stage.3 Focusing on the transnational constructions of the Nurse in Romeo and Juliet, as well as other lesser-known representations, I argue that the Nurse or Nutrice/Balia emerges as a figure of slippage rather than national fixity, and that several elements of Romeo and Juliet Q1 and 2 allow us better to understand how and to what end Juliet’s Nurse was produced as an Italianate figure on the stage, neither completely homegrown nor imported.4