Revenge, Resistance and the Problem of Machiavellianism: PC Hooft's Geeraerdt Van Velsen (1613)

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A new reading of P. C. Hooft's Geeraerdt van Velsen is proposed. The argument is that the play's complex political stance can be related to Hooft's attempt to balance two conflicting strands in early modern political thought, Tacitism and reason of state, and, on the other hand, the Grotian tradition of natural law. Instead of privileging certain parts of the text as normative, this reading proposes to understand plot, as well as text, as a reflection upon (rather than simply of) the problem posed by the intellectual legacy of Machiavelli. Focusing on the conflict among the rebellious nobles and Van Velsen's espousal of Machiavellian virtù to legitimate his breach of legal precedent, it demonstrates how, within an ostensibly anti-Machiavellian framework, Hooft offers a sophisticated treatment of Machiavellian themes. In this way he was able to answer the central problem posed by literature of reason of state, whether necessity can permit the breaking of law and morality, by reinstating, like Grotius had done in his Parallelon Rerumpublicarum and De Antiquitate Reipublicae Batavorum, 'fides', honesty or good faith, as the cornerstone of political morality; the link between justice, and liberty.
Original languageEnglish
JournalDutch Crossing
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • early modern literature
  • early modern history
  • Theatre
  • Machiavelli
  • Dutch Republic
  • Authors: P.C. Hooft

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