Joost van den Vondel (17 November, 1587 – 5 February, 1679) is considered to be one of the great Dutch writers. His status as Holland’s national poet was cemented when the country was evolving as a national state.
- Joost van den Vondel was actually born in Cologne, Germany. His father Joost, and mother, Sara Kranen, were members of the Anabaptist sect, a Mennonite, from Belgium who had to flee from Antwerp to Cologne to Amsterdam where he built a home.
- After a year, the family became citizens of Amsterdam, the cultural capital of northern Europe. The father, a hatter by trade, started a hosiery business and hoped his son would follow in his footsteps.
- The future poet’s family valued education and sent him to a good school, however, he was also self-educated. He taught himself French and Latin and managed to master the languages to the point where he was able to translate the works of Virgil and the Roman philosopher Seneca.
- The first poem attributed to Joost van den Vondel was published in 1605 when he was 17 years old.
- In 1610 the young man married Mayken de Wolff, they were married for 25 years and he trusted her fully to manage his affairs. The couple had five children, sadly three died while they were still infants.
- The first play van den Vondel wrote was Passover (Het Pascha), a dramatization of the Book of Exodus. He used the play to compare the liberation of the Israelites from Egypt to the redemption of the human race by Jesus, and finally to the success of the Dutch Revolt against King Philip II of Spain.
- Het Pascha was not a masterpiece but was well-received by both audiences and critics. More importantly, the play contains aspects that the author will continue to implement during his career – literature commenting on politics, and admiration of classical antiquity.
- His 1654 play Lucifer is considered van den Vondel’s masterpiece and is often compared to John Milton’s Paradise Lost.
- By age 54, the poet converted to Catholicism, a more liberal religion than Calvinism, which was more in line with his views and gave him a piece of mind.
- It took Vondel a long time to reach literary maturity. Scholars say that he was around 60 years old to master lyrics.
Zohar — Man of la Book
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