Joost van den Vondel Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Joost van den Vondel mastered numerous other genres besides drama, including sonnets, odes, elegies, epics, and a great volume of religious and occasional poetry. Vondel’s great strength as lyricist profoundly influenced the writing of Dutch poetry. He also became renowned for his biting political satire. Besides writing religious polemics, hagiography, and literary criticism, Vondel translated many classics, including works by Sophocles, Ovid, and Vergil.


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Although no formal national or international book awards existed in Joost van den Vondel’s time, his achievements were widely recognized. The emergent Dutch nation regarded him as its national poet. He was as much in demand as a poetic dispenser of public praise as he was feared for his caustic satires. As the leading author of Amsterdam theater, he sometimes had as many as three of his plays in performance during the same year. Of the thirty-three tragedies he wrote, eighteen were presented onstage. The performance of Gijsbrecht van Aemstel became an annual tradition until 1968.

Vondel’s authority as critic was seldom challenged. He applied the most modern views on drama theory of his time to his art and represents a culmination of dramatic achievement in a genre that, according to sixteenth century humanist thought, reflected an ideal balance between aesthetic and religious goals.

The esteem of the artistic community for this great Dutch poet and playwright of the Golden Age was dramatically demonstrated when on October 20, 1653, at the age of sixty-six, Vondel was honored at a dinner by more than one hundred painters, poets, architects, sculptors, and lovers of the arts and in a splendid ritualistic ceremony was crowned with a laurel wreath as King of the Feast. After his death, he was eulogized as the first poet of his age, “the oldest and the greatest.”


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Barnouw, A. J. Vondel. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1925. A complete discussion of Vondel’s life and works, with emphasis on the major works, especially drama. Also places Vondel in the context of his contemporaries and the political and cultural currents of the time.

Kirkconnell, Watson. The Celestial Cycle: The Theme of Paradise Lost in World Literature with Translation of the Major Analogues. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1952. Includes a discussion and translation of Lucifer and Adam in Exile.

Kirkconnell, Watson. That Invincible Samson. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1964. Includes his translation, Samson: Or, Holy Revenge.

Meijer, Reinder P. Literature of the Low Countries: A Short History of Dutch Literature in the Netherlands and Belgium. New York: Twayne, 1971. Includes a section on Vondel’s life and a number of his major dramas.

Noppen, Leonard Charles van. Vondel’s “Lucifer.” Greensboro, N.C.: Charles L. van Noppen, 1917. A superb translation of Vondel’s masterpiece, as well as an analytical discussion of the play and of Vondel’s life and times.