Drama and the Sacraments in Sixteenth-Century England: by D. Coleman

By D. Coleman

This can be the 1st book-length learn of the connection among early smooth drama and sacramental ritual and theology. It examines dramatic varieties, equivalent to morality performs. delivering new insights into the spiritual practices on which early smooth subjectivity is based. Coleman bargains radical new methods of examining canonical Renaissance performs.

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For Bale, as for most Protestants, confirmation and extreme unction are easily divested of their nonsacramental status; there is, accordingly, no mention of either in the drama. The eucharist, so central to the sacramental sociology, presents an interesting puzzle in Bale’s drama. e. 9 I have already demonstrated how God’s Promises regards the eucharist as the preeminent signifier among God’s signs to humanity; this need not represent a break from the Catholic tradition. King Johan and Three 46 Drama and the Sacraments in Sixteenth-Century England Laws are more forthright in their criticism of the abuses which the eucharist has suffered under Catholicism: King Johan condemns the practice of masses for the dead (2124–6), the Latinity and material emphases of the mass (2564–6) and the intermingling of financial and ritual concerns (2657–8);10 while Three Laws criticises the idolatrous nature of the mass (504), the “incontynency” of priests (768) and the “lyppe labour and ydle ceremonye” of the ritual (1116).

30 Drama and the Sacraments in Sixteenth-Century England IX The variety of alternative sacramentalities in late fifteenth-century culture means that there is often an element of tension in representations of the sacramental system; orthodoxy is never an entirely settled matter. One could plausibly claim that there are competing worldviews at work in fifteenth-century England, each of which attempts to enlist sacramental symbols to their cause. It has already been shown, for example, how the ideology of a hierarchical structuring of society uses the language of sacramentality to legitimate its ideals.

Foucault is, obviously, concerned with medieval penance only insofar as it represents a historical step towards the conjunction of subjectivity, sex and confession that he finds in modern culture. 18 Sin (which is often sexual sin) and truth are equated in the sacrament of penance, as the confession gives voice to the (sinful, truthful) individual subject. The act of inquisition by the confessor establishes the penitent as secret-withholding subject in a Foucauldian sense; and since confessors were, according to Duffy, “advised to save their close enquiries for the sins particular people were likely to have committed”, the process of ascribing a particular type of identity to a particular individual was apparently reasonably well-established (60).

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