This chapter, best read in conjunction with Chapters 2 and 3, seeks to trace the now established stereotype of the puritan and the emergent one of the projector through Ben Jonson’s plays. The aim is to emphasise the role of the theatre in propagating such stereotypes, in ways which were comic, i.e. designed to entertain, and thus to make a profit; but which also had a decidedly political edge, and potential social and cultural punch to them. The chapter establishes the roots of projecting, and thus of the stereotype of the projector, in certain structural tensions and contradictions in the late Elizabethan and early Stuart states. It then uses the ambiguous feelings of Ben Jonson towards his status as a creature of the court, a popular dramatist and a poet with a serious moral purpose to illustrate wider ambiguities in how stereotypes could be used both to strengthen the status quo, by deriding and marginalising perceived threats and abuses, and (in the right, or perhaps we should say wrong, circumstances) to actively delegitimate, and thus destabilise, the status quo. The concluding section reflects on how such literary interventions shaped subsequent political and economic processes running up to the Civil Wars.
The coda looks back to the early modern case studies presented in this volume, and highlights key findings. By documenting practices of stereotyping and studying their repercussions, these case studies demonstrate both the surprising human agency over particular stereotypes, and simultaneously the disturbing resilience of stereotyping as a mode of human interaction across the early modern period. By inviting the renowned social psychologist Sandra Jovchelovitch to co-author, we explore implications of these findings for social psychology and sociology, and for civil societies in the twenty-first century.
Subverting stereotypes and contesting anti-Catholicism in late seventeenth-century England
This chapter focuses on attempts to control and dispute stereotypes in late-seventeenth-century England. It considers the conflicting uses of the ‘Catholic plotter’ stereotype by different groups of Protestants in the print culture of the succession crisis (1678–83). It argues that stereotypes were platforms on which wider political debates took place, not a crude means of simplifying complex political issues down to the lowest common denominator. Anti-Catholicism was a significant ideology in early modern culture, a commonplace means of defining the positive traits of a religious or political group through attention to its ‘popish’ inverse. ‘Popish’ stereotypes were consequently highly flexible and were applied to different groups as political contexts developed. Accusing each other of being ‘popish’ was a routine part of political conflict between Whigs and Tories, or Anglicans and dissenters, in this period. Attending to how each group applied ‘popery’ to its opponents demonstrates that stereotypes were not simply applied, they had to be controlled, sometimes even subverted, to control anti-Catholicism as an important moral language of political debate. This chapter considers how the images, rhetoric and motifs of ‘popish’ stereotypes were contested as a means of articulating broader political views and values.
This chapter investigates conformist Anglicanism and its global contexts in the early Enlightenment, focusing in particular on the learned writing of the travelling historians and orientalists of England and its empire. It thereby illuminates a direct historical relationship between post-Reformation stereotyping and modern British orientalism. It allows us to see that both anti-puritanism and anti-popery, directed against multiple targets in different ways by figures of varying ideological affinity, provided the basis for an Enlightenment language of religious corruption that was employed both domestically and abroad. Second, this chapter exposes the fact that the constellation of Enlightenment stereotypes with roots in post-Reformation polemic was hardly limited to the languages of priestcraft and imposture. It was equally constituted by the languages of enthusiasm and fanaticism. Third, this chapter illuminates the fact that conformist and Tory elements were just as instrumental in the emergence of the notions of priestcraft and imposture as their religious and ideological opponents were. Finally, and most importantly, this study allows us to explain how the universalisation of post-Reformation stereotyping occurred: not simply by means of intra-English stereotyping but also by the application of stereotypes that originally developed within intra-Christian contexts to all the known religions of the world.
The image of the projector (now, entrepreneur) has attracted critical attention in the history of science, mercantilism and political economy. This character, like the ‘puritan’ discussed in Chapter 2, is often associated with Ben Jonson’s city comedies, written in the first two decades of the seventeenth century. This chapter reveals that pioneers of commercial plays active from the 1580s in fact used history plays to explore the abuse of royal prerogative and other corrupt behaviours soon associated with the projector. These earlier plays exposed proto-projectors' vices and their abuse of royal power more clearly than Jonson did. Their depictions were indeed as unforgiving as Catholic attacks upon the Elizabethan regime. The Elizabethan history plays even invited the audience to detect corruptions and condemn the underlying appetite for power, profit and sex in ways anticipating the participatory politics on the eve of the Civil Wars. Far from being invented singlehandedly by Jonson, Elizabethan theatres and print industry first provided a platform for creative practices of stereotyping – collective search for an emerging pattern of problematic behaviour, and identification of causes using existing assumptions. Only then did a character-based stereotype of the projector come to be elaborated by a literary genius: Jonson.
Rethinking early modern stereotyping in the twenty-first century
Studies of early modern stereotypes have long revolved around the analysis of their contents. This volume goes beyond that, and explores stereotyping explicitly as a form of contested practice embedded in various negotiations of power. This introduction sets out this analytic perspective by surveying scholarship related to the history of mentality and popular culture – the ‘linguistic turn’ – the public sphere and the subsequent turn towards practice. Reviewing the literature lets us identify key underlying assumptions needing revision: the mobilisation of negative stereotypes had predominantly harmful effects on society; stereotyping and attendant appeals to reason contained a cure to its own escalation. To test these assumptions the introduction introduces insights from social psychology and sociology, and explains how these conceptual tools can help us bring together case studies of early modern political, religious, social and literary history, and enable us to identify the ‘dialectics of stereotyping’: stereotyping was so foundational to social life, yet so very liable to contestation and escalation, that every so often collective engagements with stereotypes ended up perpetuating or even accelerating the very processes of stereotyping. The introduction ends by reflecting upon scholarly and civic implications of this finding.
Characters and stereotypes in late Stuart and Georgian theatre
Some chapters in this volume explore how stereotypes served heuristic functions in political and religious spheres. This chapter complements these by considering how stereotypes conditioned the formation of identity more broadly during the long eighteenth century. At its heart lies the centrality of stereotypes in shaping identities: subjectivity depends on our being cast in gendered, raced, classed and sexual roles from our entry into the world. Admittedly, late Stuart and Georgian theatre, depending on stock characters, is often considered aesthetically inferior to early modern counterparts populated by characters like Hamlet. Yet the theatre of the long eighteenth century is important because it was a ‘laboratory of subjectification’; dependence on stock types was used to model the differentiation from norms by which individuality is achieved. The chapter shows that the commercial stage of the period did much more than produce and circulate new stereotypes (as indicated in Chapters 2 to 4). On the stage the audience found struggles with social, political, racial and gender stereotypes; heightened comic and moralised versions of their own experience, anxieties and aspirations. Thus, the theatre continued to attract diverse audiences while playing a pivotal role in developing new stock characters and even national and racial identities.
This chapter seeks to redate the entry of the anti-puritan stereotype into printed discourse to the early 1580s, in the work of George Gifford. Rather than the work of some hack polemicist replying to Martin Marprelate in the early 1590s, the stereotype first appeared, pretty much fully formed, almost ten years earlier, in the work of a leading puritan divine. The chapter then examines the dialectical exchanges between the godly and their critics that Gifford was seeking to capture in his work, as he sought, in effect, to re-appropriate the term ‘puritan’ for the godly themselves in part by rendering its use an insult, an identifying characteristic of the wicked. The chapter then associates Gifford’s take on the puritan stereotype with his use of the neologism ‘church papist’, using that juxtaposition to address the problem of stereotyping and identity formation in post-Reformation England, and recent work by a range of historians on what one might term the ‘religious condition of England’ problem. The chapter thus essays a novel take on the origins and dynamics of one of the major stereotypes used by contemporaries to make sense of the religio-political scene in post-Reformation England.
As radical antinomian sects, Ranters and Quakers were subjected to vivid, often hostile stereotyping in print in the 1650s, frequently through shared stereotypes of apocalyptic license and libertarian disorder. Stereotyping has continued to feature in their historical treatment: Colin Davis famously argued that contemporaries and historians had been duped; that Ranters ‘did not exist’ beyond the moral panic about them generated in print. Simultaneously, and paradoxically, the Quakers are seen as a homogeneous group, identifiable precisely through their own, careful, deployment in print of their status as Quakers. This chapter draws on recent scholarship arguing for stereotyping as a ubiquitous and meaningful process of political mobilisation and debate. It reveals that different authors, including those stereotyped as Ranters, used the stereotype for a variety of polemical and ideological purposes ranging from discipline and persecution to inclusion, persuasion and debate. Quaker ministers for their part deployed several ‘coping strategies’ to discuss and contest their religious identity with opponents and followers. As agents of their own stereotyping, Ranter and Quaker authors engaged rhetorically to appropriate and subvert key stereotypes in ways that fortified their religious identities, and sustained long-established and ideological disputes with opponents and putative supporters.
This chapter explores the socio-psychological dynamics of stereotyping in early modern England. It begins with some broader conceptual and methodological questions, relating to the nature of our sources and how they can be interpreted. It considers the various ways in which national and religious stereotypes became embedded in early modern English society, the functions they served and how they were reproduced and re-cast over time, reflecting on the emotional versus the intellectual dimensions of prejudice, the role of humour in stereotyping and the construction of ‘false composites’. It concludes by examining how seventeenth-century controversialists and polemicists sought to mobilise and manipulate popular stereotypes and prejudices for partisan ends, focusing in particular on Scotophobia, anti-puritanism and anti-popery. These phobias were not straightforward prejudices but instead multivalent and complex cultural phenomena. They were rarely unambiguous, and were frequently contested, capable of being used for radically different ideological purposes at different times and even for competing ideological purposes at the same time.