‘Exchange is no robbery’: Hospitality and Hostility in Robert Greene’s Friar Bacon and John of Bordeaux

Jenny Emma Sager


This article concerns itself with an early modern dramatic diptych, structured around a series of cultural exchanges between England and Germany, in Robert Greene’s Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay (1589) and its apparent sequel John of Bordeaux (1589-91). In Friar Bacon, Emperor Frederick II of Germany and the Duke of Saxony visit Oxford at the invitation of King Henry III to watch an academic disputation between Friar Bacon and the German scholar, Vandermast. In John of Bordeaux, Emperor Frederick returns the hospitality, inviting Friar Bacon and his servant Miles to visit Hapsburg.  On the one hand, the plays seem to advocate an open exchange between England and Germany, between European institutions of learning and, with their near constant references to feasting and drinking, between the cultural practices of both nations. But cracks start to appear in this most idealistic of rhetoric. As ‘exchange’ slowly turns to ‘robbery’ and, as ‘hearty welcome’ ultimately turns to ‘dire revenge’, the plays reveal the darker side of this academic exchange, as strident patriotism, xenophobia and hostility are revealed beneath the veneer of mutual hospitality.


Robert Greene; theatrical sequels;

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