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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: August ::
Re: Tudor Iconoclasm
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.1573  Wednesday, 23 August 2000.

From:           Clifford Stetner <
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Date:           Wednesday, 23 Aug 2000 01:02:29 -0400
Subject: 11.1556 Re: Tudor Iconoclasm
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1556 Re: Tudor Iconoclasm

Milla Riggio :

>The problem with your chronology, as with most quickly surmised
>"evolutionary" theories of developments in drama

I'm flattered that you think I could come up with this stuff from quick
surmises.

> is A) that the
>"morality" plays, as we call them, are a different genre of drama from
>the so-called "mystery plays."  [Look for the heirs of the mysteries in
>Shakespeare's history plays, not in Tudor moralities, whether Puritan or
>not]

That it's a different genre was my point.  But it wasn't all that
different was it?  None of my students can tell the difference.
Probably performed in the same locales on the same occasions.  Less
dependent on local mechanicals than traveling players, but with the same
kind of spiritually edifying pretensions and with the same audiences.  I
don't think that people who had been watching plays in these places for
centuries experienced as much discontinuity as our generic hindsight
might imply.  Would it be inaccurate to say that television replaced
radio as a dominant cultural form because they're still writing radio
programs and were writing for TV before the golden age of radio had
passed away?

>and B) the chronology is wrong anyway.  Sixteenth century EVERYMAN,
>it is commonly known, is a translation from a Dutch play; MANKIND was
>almost certainly written in the fifteenth century,

But really, of what relevance is this at all?  The English followed the
Dutch in much of their Reformation ideology.

>and while WISDOM is
>later than usually thought (probably an early Tudor play), it was
>without question written before the end of the fifteenth century,
>probably in the 1480s.  You might want to take a look at the chronology
>and discussion of genre in my edition of WISDOM [THE PLAY OF WISDOM:
>ITS TEXTS AND CONTEXTS, AMS Press, 1999], but there are also tons of
>other materials that focus on this chronology; the earliest and still
>one of the best David Bevington's FROM MANKIND TO MARLOWE.  [By the by,
>THE CASTLE OF PERSEVERANCE may, as is commonly thought, have been
>written as early as 1425; I'm not too sure about that date, but it's a
>possibility.]

To someone who has just spent his entire summer in his apartment buried
in books, this hurts.  Perhaps fewer assumptions about other people's
research methods might be useful to you.  I didn't say that morality
plays began to be written only after mystery plays ceased.  Cultural
processes don't work that way. You have not shown me a morality play
that was written before the iconoclastic ideas at the foundation of the
Reformation emerged.  These go back, in England, at least as far as
Wyclif (before 1425 whenever the Castle was written), and Islam followed
similar principles a lot earlier than that.  What difference does it
make when they were written?  What matters here is that, gradually, over
a period of two centuries, the one replaced the other as the most
universal collective cultural experience of the population of England.
Of course there was overlap, and I quickly surmise that this overlap
coincides with the contestation for power between Catholic and
Protestant theologies.  As this contestation continues today, I would
not expect to find an absolute line of demarcation in the sixteenth
century separating their expressions.

>I'd suggest that you look before you leap into making assumptions about
>cause and effect.

I don't object to arguments with my positions, but don't make
assumptions about the years of hard work it took my slowly working mind
to arrive there.

Best,
Clifford
 

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