Vondel, Joost van den

Vondel, Joost van den yōst vän dĕn vônˈdəl [key], 1587–1679, Dutch poet and dramatist, b. Cologne. He is generally considered the greatest Dutch writer. During the emergence of the Dutch nation Vondel was the national poet; his occasional verse celebrated the triumphs of the United Provinces in a vigorous oratorical style. In 1621 he fell victim to a bipolar melancholia which may have hindered his work for a while. His drama Palamedes (1625), concerning a contemporary religious-political martyrdom, made him suspect to the Calvinist officials. At this time he joined the Remonstrants, whose Arminian opposition to dogmatic Calvinism appealed to him, and later, when national independence was virtually assured, he converted (c.1641) to Roman Catholicism as a more universal faith. Many poems were inspired by his conversion and also by his grief at the death of his wife (1635) and of three of his five children. Vondel's verse is melodious, sonorous, and seemingly effortless and spontaneous; it is marked by vowel elision, which he brought into full use in Dutch poetry, and by rhythmic patterns reminiscent of the French. His dramatic style has been called high baroque. Built on the medieval mystery play and on classical models, his plays are Christian and semitragic and illuminate a recurring theme—the conflict between man's will to rebel and his desire to give himself to God. Probably the most famous are Gysbrecht van Aemstil (1637), on a medieval Dutch theme, and the magnificent Lucifer (1654, tr. 1898), which may have influenced Milton. Vondel's immense production includes numerous translations from French, Latin, Italian, and Greek, including works of Sophocles, Euripides, Vergil, Ovid, Horace, Seneca, and Tasso.

See A. J. Barnouw, Vondel (1925).

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