This conclusion presents some closing thoughts on the concepts covered in the preceding chapters of the book. The book focuses on all new approaches to a familiar narrative, in which cultural form and religious reform were as closely identified as Shakespeare's constabulary suspects, and the aesthetic emerged as a placeholder for toleration when the Wars of Religion stalled, because, in the words of Hugh Grady, 'it began to appear that art, not any faith, would have to provide a cultural community'. 'Confession is a ritual that unfolds within a power relationship', Micheal Foucault had maintained, 'for one does not confess without the presence of the authority who requires the confession, prescribes and appreciates it, and intervenes in order to judge, punish, forgive, console, and reconcile. The contributors to Forms of Faith have apparently taken a self-denying ordinance never to mention the term 'political theology' which so excites Shakespeareans.
According to Horace, the poem is a memorial surpassing the commemorative function of funeral monuments like the pyramids. This claim to the superior mnemonic power of poetry derives from the immateriality and consequently the immortality of the poem as well as the person commemorated by it. Highlighting the decay, past and future, of material monuments, the ruin is a conceptual feature of topos. The significance of ruins changes according to different temporal and cultural contexts. Thus in the wake of Reformation iconoclasm, ruin poems took on a specific function in England. The vogue for ruin poems in Elizabethan England was more than a simple coincidence, let alone self-evident: ruin-poetry fulfilled important social, mnemonic and poetic functions after the Reformation. This chapter seeks to reconstruct these functions and to show how they informed one particularly instructive text, Edmund Spenser's The Ruines of Time .
John Donne's complex religious identity has long been a challenge to literary scholars. The question of Donne's ecumenicalism may reasonably prompt us to search Donne's oeuvre for statements that address the question explicitly. Even focusing specifically on Eucharistic theology, one finds several strongly ecumenical statements in Donne's sermons. Catholics and Protestants agreed that the Eucharist was a sign but differed radically over exactly how it signified; Protestants also disagreed with one another. As a result, continental and English tractarians produced a large body of polemic articulating a range of semiotic approaches to the sacrament. The model of exhibition becomes more prominent in the English Protestant Eucharistic tracts beginning in the 1550s. The substantial body of work on Donne as a coterie poet tells us that seemingly audacious features of his verse must be read in the context of socially situated production and circulation.
This book explores a range of literary and theatrical forms as means of mediating religious conflict in early modern England. It deals with the specific ways available to mediate religious conflict, precisely because faith mattered more than many other social paradigms. The first part explores the ways in which specific religious rituals and related cultural practices were taken up by literary texts. In a compelling rereading of the final act of 'The Merchant of Venice', the book investigates the devotional differences informing early modern observances of Easter. Subsequently, it explores the ways in which Christmas provided a confessional bridge uniting different religious constituencies. Goodnight ballads were not only commercially successful pieces of public entertainment but also effective forms of predominantly Protestant religious persuasion. The book's consideration of Elizabethan romance links the literary form to the sacrament of the Eucharist, and argues that the Eucharist debate had an impact on Elizabethan romances. The second part 'Negotiating confessional conflict' provides a rereading of When You See Me You Know Me, exposing the processes of religious reform as an on-going means of mediating the new normality of confessional plurality. It examines the potential of the tragic form by a reading of the play The White Devil, and discusses the ideological fault line in the views of witchcraft. The book also shows that Henry V anticipates later sermons of John Donne that served to promote 'an interrogative conscience'.
This chapter reconsiders Michel Foucault's critique of confession in order to examine, in slightly broader yet more methodological terms, what exactly we mean by negotiating 'confessional' conflict in late Reformation English literature. It offers a candid analysis of ecclesial and professional division as forms of life, illuminating in Foucault's mature work a more interesting prospect. This prospect is the re-definition of confessional practice away from a 'hermeneutics of the subject', and the articulation of a more local, civic understanding of the religious self, in which doctrinal confession forms a 'stylistics of existence', rather than subjection. The chapter focuses on John Donne's remarks at The Hague to consider his explicit references to such 'care', which Donne finds prefigured in the spiritual and vocational 'nets' of the apostolic fishermen in Matthew's gospel, as well as the theology of the confessionalized Church on which it is based.
The multiplicity of interrogative perspectives at 'play' in the Elizabethan public theatres, and the Globe in particular, began with the make-up of the audiences. Their widely recognized diversity across class, occupation, education, and to some degree gender included 'penny stinkards' in the pit and wealthy merchants, Inns of Court scholars, members of the gentry and nobility. It also included religious diversity. Moving beyond assertions relating to personal spiritual questioning on Shakespeare's part, this exploration of the play focuses on the way in which he consciously uses the innately interrogative qualities of confessional conflict for dramaturgical effect. In Henry V, in particular, the Chorus imperatively demands an active rather than passive response from its audience as the first order of business. Shakespeare's decision to maintain and enhance the motif of stealing found in the source play therefore directly feeds the interrogative character of the play.
This book explores the specific ways available to mediate religious conflict, precisely because faith still mattered more than many other social paradigms emerging at that time, such as nationhood or race. It also explores a range of literary and theatrical forms as means of mediating religious conflict in early modern England. The book focuses on this issue from a variety of angles: the representation of Catholic figures in post-Reformation texts and contexts and the survival and ongoing importance of Catholic ritual as a mode of experience and of representation. Another angle is the drama's engagement of the audience in and beyond confessional conflict, especially by exploring religious pluralization and its irenic potential. This includes the possibility that the perception of multiple religious positions may support the practice of mediation rather than exacerbate conflict and reinforce divisions.
This chapter focuses on When You See Me You Know Me written by Samuel Rowley and performed by Prince Henry's Men. This play delves deeper than the others into the historiographical dynamics and contemporary resonances of early Tudor confessional conflicts. It deserves closer examination than it has hitherto received for the provocative way that it historicizes the origins of English Protestantism, and the canniness with which it makes this story present to Jacobean audiences. Post-Reformation England struggled with what it meant to live in a world fragmented by religious change. The chapter considers a central scene in When You See Me You Know Me's presentation of the history of the Reformation in England. In this scene the young Prince Edward reads dueling letters from his sisters, Mary and Elizabeth.
The English Protestant monarchy took the lead in exemplifying the continued importance of Christmas to post-Reformation England. Mostly the Christmas celebrations, which by the early seventeenth century had consolidated into a list of customary foods, activities, and entertainments, carried little or no potentially objectionable devotional content. The central ideal for the season was open-handed generosity, signified primarily by the copious amounts of food showered on guests. Traditional foods consumed during the holiday included roast meats, mince pies, and plum puddings washed down with wine, strong beer, and the 'strong brown ale' in the wassail cup. King James I's initiative on Christmas is reflected in John Taylor's Complaint of Christmas, the pamphlet that ends with the ecumenical suggestion that Protestant faith could use a little bolstering with Catholic charity and vice versa.
The Roman Catholic liturgy and doctrine of transubstantiation were maintained during the early years of Reformation under Henry VIII. When Henry's young son Edward ascended the throne, the English Reformation gained momentum. Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury and the leading theologian during the reigns of Henry VIII and Edward VI, gradually adopted Huldrych Zwingli's figurative understanding of the sacraments as the official Anglican position, and reformed the liturgy accordingly. This chapter focuses on crucial moments in Philip Sidney's romance narrative Arcadia that are informed by Eucharistic thinking, rituals, and emotional experience. As a remnant of the officially abandoned faith, the Catholic Eucharist remained an active force in Elizabethan culture for a wealth of reasons. Not only did a considerable group of Englishmen and women cling to the old faith, but the potential official return to Catholicism also remained an issue in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.