Passion meets Passover
Temporal origami in the Towneley Herod the Great
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This chapter asks what happens when dramatic personae recognise that they occupy a time of theological transition and take steps to prevent it. Engaging with Michel Serres’ model of folded, topological time, it examines how the Towneley Herod the Great amplifies the ways in which its bible source brings together multiple events from Hebrew and Christian scripture in processes of prophecy and validation. Evaluating how Herod and the Bethlehem mothers attempt to exert agency over time, the chapter finds in the play evidence of a complex medieval understanding of the ways in which religious and scriptural time works. This produces a new reading of the favourite tyrant of medieval drama. Terrified of both past and future (or, rather, what past Hebrew ‘prophecies’ tell him about the future), Herod enacts a devastating act of violence in an attempt to tear his own pages out of history. However, as this chapter shows, Herod’s temporal machinations, along with the mothers’ resistance, have the effect of binding moments in Christian and Hebrew history securely together.

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Gender, anti-Semitism and temporality in medieval biblical drama


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