Kamerspelers: professionele tegenspelers van de rederijkers

in Oud Holland – Journal for Art of the Low Countries
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Abstract

The author presents forty fragments of texts dating from the period between the end of the fifteenth century and the beginning of the seventeenth which are connected with kamerspelers or kamerspel, i.e. professional, itinerant actors who played in private rooms (kamers) for a fee. They performed alone or in small groups, wearing masks which enabled them to play a variety of double roles. In all these aspects they differed emphatically from the rederijkers, amateur actors in the chambers of rhetoric, who in the course of the sixteenth century gradually distanced themselves from the kamerspelers. During that same period the term kamerspel expanded to embrace other forms of entertainment: juggling, animal training, acrobatics and puppetry, the last of which remained closest to the original activity. On stage short, comical pieces were generally played, as well as adaptations of secular and biblical tales. As the Reformation gained ground, farces showing monks or priests in a derogatory light tended to be regarded as criticism and were likely to get the actors in trouble with the authorities. The article ends by examining a few longer texts: an extract from the inventory of a Delft kamerspeler's effects (I608), a report of a performance given by kamerspelers in Ypres, with dancing, marionettes and a farce (I594), and records of a trial against a husband-and-wife team of puppeteers accused of witchcraft in Eppegem (I60I).

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