The Amsterdam Schouwburg festively opened in January 1638 with the performance of
Vondel’s Gijsbreght van Aemstel. The play was situated in medieval Amsterdam, but
addressed nonetheless the seventeenth-century audience explicitly. In Gijsbreght van
Aemstel political and moral instructions that related to the Amsterdam of Vondel’s age
were given. To approach these political and moral instructions, I will make use of Michel
Foucault’s notion of ‘governmentality’. Foucault’s theoretical concept deals with the
construction of power structures. Governmentality allows me to place Vondel’s text in a
contemporary debate about how the state should be ordered, and in this way opens up an
interpretation of the instructions of the play accordingly. I will argue that the play condemned violent
struggles, and that the text presented an opposing stand on how the state
should be ordered.
To indicate how the play voiced an opinion about contemporary political debates, I
will confront Gijsbreght van Aemstel with Hugo de Groots De Republica Enendanda.
This early tract, by one of the most important scholars of the Dutch Republic, also played
a part in Vondel’s play. This way Vondel's text can be read as an exploration of political
ideas in a literary practice, in which the character of Gijsbreght van Aemstel is presented
as an ideal.