Port-Royal National Historic Site of Canada
A Parisian lawyer and writer, Marc Lescarbot cultivated a wide circle of friends that included writers and nobility. When one of his clients, Jean de Poutrincourt, who was associated with the enterprises of the Sieur de Mons, proposed that he accompany them on a voyage to Acadia, Lescarbot quickly accepted. He composed a poem, Adieu à la France, and embarked at La Rochelle in May of 1606. He reached Port-Royal two months later and stayed there until 1607, when the revocation of Sieur de Mons’ monopoly obliged the colony to go back to France.
Costumed interpreter portraying Marc Lescarbot © Parks Canada
Lecarbot wrote the Théâtre de Neptune (Neptune Theatre) to celebrate Poutrincourt’s return to Port-Royal after a traumatic expedition to the south. The story revolves around the god Neptune who comes in a small boat to welcome the travellers home. He is surrounded by a court of Tritons and Indians, who praise the leaders of the colony, and then sing in chorus while trumpets sound and cannons are fired. Performed in the impressive setting of the Port-Royal basin, it became the first European theatrical presentation in North America.
On his return to France he began writing Histoire de la Nouvelle-France (History of New France). In the second edition of the book, he undertook to recount de Mons’ ventures in Acadia, based on the year he spent in Port-Royal and interviews with the promoters and members of the earlier voyages, François Pont-Gravé, de Mons, and Champlain. Lescarbot devoted the whole of the last part of his History to a description of the native people. He was keenly interested in their customs, phrases, chants, and foremost, their humanity.
Here he writes:
“These people…are men like ourselves…They have courage, fidelity, generosity, humanity and their hospitality is so innate and praiseworthy that they receive among them every man who is not an enemy. They are not simpletons like many people over here; they speak with much judgment and good sense.”
Years after he returned to his home in France, Lescarbot seemed to hope that he had started something that day in 1606 with his Neptune Theatre. He wrote “Yet if it come to pass that there should come a day among the mountains and brooks of Port Royale, that the Muses ... grow more gentle ... then in their songs, let them remember me.”
All told, Lescarbot is most remembered for writing and producing one of the earliest European plays in North America and for writing one of the first great books on the history of Canada.
For more information on Marc Lescarbot please go to the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.