When Napoleon went to the theatre. A closer examination of stories and the history of the Milanese patriotic scene

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‘No people at no place in no historical period is a monolith’, Laura Peja argues in her essay on the historiography of the Italian Jacobin triennium and its ‘Patriotic Theatre’. Peja’s reminder serves as a useful warning to theatre historians to look beyond, through and past dominant historical narratives to find the counter-narratives and alternative subject positions, as well as the discrepancies and absences that mark the official record, opening up a gap between the complexity of historical events and the narratives that we as historians shape from them. The essay provides an exemplary case study for such a critical approach that tests and interrogates established histories. At the heart of Peja’s essay is a microhistory, generated through close examination of an exchange of three letters, all contained within a single day, between Milanese citizens and Napoleon’s commander in Lombardy, in which a proposal to use a particular building to stage ‘only and continually democratic plays’ is approved with remarkable swiftness. From there, Peja offers the reader a rereading of the dominant historical narrative of the independent, revolutionary, patriotic impulse behind the founding of the Patriotic Theatre which suggests a much closer relationship between the protagonists and the French government – a rereading then supported by a critical interrogation of the repertoire performed in that theatre, which emphasizes law and justice over revolutionary impulse.
Lingua originaleEnglish
Titolo della pubblicazione ospiteThe Methuen Drama Handbook of Theatre History and Historiography
Numero di pagine9
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2020

Serie di pubblicazioni

NomeMethuen Drama Handbooks


  • Jacobin Triennium
  • Teatro patriottico
  • Vittorio Alfieri
  • XVIII century Italian theatre


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