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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: August ::
Re: Tudor Iconoclasm
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.1509  Tuesday, 15 August 2000.

[1]     From:   John Briggs <
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        Date:   Monday, 14 Aug 2000 14:16:20 +0100
        Subj:   RE: SHK 11.1499 Re: Tudor Iconoclasm

[2]     From:   Jack Heller <
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        Date:   Monday, 14 Aug 2000 20:21:38 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1499 Re: Tudor Iconoclasm


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Briggs <
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Date:           Monday, 14 Aug 2000 14:16:20 +0100
Subject: 11.1499 Re: Tudor Iconoclasm
Comment:        RE: SHK 11.1499 Re: Tudor Iconoclasm

Tom Bishop wrote, in parenthesis:

>it's important to remember that Cranmer and his spiritual descendants
>believed fervently that Christ WAS PRESENT in the Eucharist, properly
>received

By this stage I can't remember what Cranmer believed, who his spiritual
descendants were, or whether they believed fervently ...

Are you saying that they believed in the Real Presence but not in
Transubstantiation?  This was certainly Queen Elizabeth's position, and
might well have been Cramner's, but this would surely have been a
minority position amongst the Protestant reformers (who would have
believed in neither).

John Briggs

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jack Heller <
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 >
Date:           Monday, 14 Aug 2000 20:21:38 -0400
Subject: 11.1499 Re: Tudor Iconoclasm
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1499 Re: Tudor Iconoclasm

Much as I like and wish to endorse Huston Diehl's book *Staging Reform,
Reforming the Stage,* I want to avoid misrepresenting her arguments or
oversimplifying. Therefore, I will only note that the context of the
passage I quoted is on eucharistic controversies, leading into a
discussion of how those controversies were recreated in the early modern
theater.

Tom Bishop writes in reply:

>Though it's taken out of context here, and hence may be making some
>other point, it's hard to see how this doesn't apply equally well to
>every form of dramatic representation.  [snip]

Indeed. But as with the purloined letter, sometimes a significant issue
is missed for being hidden in plain sight. While the question may be
obfuscatory, sometimes we do need to know what the meaning of "is" is.

>While the transubstantiation controversies of the sixteenth century may
>have put pressure on this in a slightly different way, since they too
>were engaged in fighting about the relation between what was seen and
>what was "truly" there, and about the verb to be (it's important to
>remember that Cranmer and his spiritual descendants believed fervently
>that Christ WAS PRESENT in the Eucharist, properly received), it's
>hardly the case that earlier drama didn't know about it. The Second
>Shepherd's Play, to take one instance, would be impossible without a
>complex sense of how drama plays games with presence and absence.

Well, yes and no. The agnus dei is "present" in this Catholic play in a
way that it is not quite in act 2, scene 2 of Thomas Middleton's *A
Chaste Maid in Cheapside.* In that scene, an unnamed wench pretends to
be in violation of lenten restrictions by carrying around a basket of
"mutton." When she is stopped by the promoters (the enforcers of lenten
restrictions), her basket is confiscated while she makes minor
protestations. Yet ultimately, she has passed on to the promoters an
infant she cannot care for. This scene almost begs for comparison to
*The Shepherd's Play,* but for the Notable Absence of the agnus dei.
This, I argue, stems from the difference between the Catholicism of *The
Shepherd's Play* and Thomas Middleton's Calvinism.  While the
distinction between presentation and representation may apply equally
well to every form of dramatic representation, the particular
application in criticism of specific dramas is still necessary.

For example, Dr. Bishop further claims,

>And, late anecdotes by anti-theatricalists notwithstanding, does anyone
>seriously believe that Passion Play spectators thought a man was being
>literally crucified?

Well, there is quite sufficient evidence to suggest that some spectators
saw two men kissing as a sure sign of the occasion of sodomy. And two
men kissed rather frequently on the early modern stage. From Jonas
Barish's *The Anti-theatrical Prejudice,* I would commend his discussion
of Thomas Heywood's *An Apology for Actors.* Heywood seems to have
thought that the strength of the theater was its ability to erase the
distinction between presentation and representation. This passage, cited
by Barish on page 119, is by Heywood:

"It was the manner of their Emperours, in those dayes, in their publicke
Tragedies to choose out the fittest amongst such, as for capital
offences were condemned to dye, and imploy them in such parts as were to
be kil'd in the Tragedy, who of themselves would make suit rather so to
dye with resolution, and by the hands of such princely Actors, then
otherwise to suffer a shamefull & most detestable end. And these were
Tragedies naturally performed."

As Barish says, "It would be hard to imagine a more inept 'apology.'"

The significance of iconoclasm to the development of early modern drama
certainly merits further inquiry. I would suggest that in Shakespeare's
work, such a study may be fruitful for *The Winter's Tale* for example.
Transubstantiation and Hermione?

Jack Heller
 

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