Literature and Theatre

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Placing the people at the heart of sacred space
Laura Varnam

This chapter examines the debate over the relationship between the church building and its community in orthodox and Lollard texts. The chapter begins with the allegorical reading of church architecture in William of Durandus’s Rationale divinorum officiorum and the Middle English What the Church Betokeneth, in which every member of the community has a designated place in the church. The chapter then discusses Lollard attempts to divorce the building from the people by critiquing costly material churches and their decorations in The Lanterne of Liȝt, Lollard sermons, and Pierce the Ploughman’s Crede. The chapter concludes by examining Dives and Pauper in the context of fifteenth-century investment in the church, both financial and spiritual, and argues that in practice church buildings were at the devotional heart of their communities.

in The church as sacred space in Middle English literature and culture
Evading theology in Macbeth
James R. Macdonald

In the Life of Samuel Johnson, James Boswell records a conversation on April 8, 1779 among the guests at Allan Ramsey's house whose subject apparently turned to Macbeth. This chapter explores the different layers of theological uncertainty with which Macbeth confronts its spectators. Stephen Greenblatt observes that Shakespeare never offers the audience a clear understanding of the Sisters, instead 'staging the epistemological and ontological dilemmas that in the deeply contradictory ideological situation of his time haunted virtually all attempts to determine the status of witchcraft beliefs and practices'. It examines the reasons behind the play's remarkable reserve by connecting epistemological uncertainty to textual instability. Since the belated publication of Thomas Middleton's The Witch in 1778, scholars have recognized its strong textual connection with Macbeth. Middleton's putative changes certainly heighten the ambiguity of the Sisters' nature through contradiction and obfuscation.

in Forms of faith
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Reformed indifferently
Wilson Richard

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.

in Forms of faith
Isabel Karremann

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 .

in Forms of faith
Alexandra M. Block

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.

in Forms of faith
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Literary form and religious conflict in early modern England

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'.

Joel M. Dodson

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.

in Forms of faith
Mary A. Blackstone

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.

in Forms of faith
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A world of difference: religion, literary form, and the negotiation of conflict in early modern England
Jonathan Baldo
Isabel Karremann

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.

in Forms of faith
Confessional conflict and the origins of English Protestantism in Samuel Rowley’s When You See Me You Know Me (1605)
Brian Walsh

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.

in Forms of faith