The Idolatrous Eye : Iconoclasm and Theater in Early-Modern by Michael O'Connell

By Michael O'Connell

This examine argues that the century after the Reformation observed a problem within the approach that Europeans expressed their spiritual adventure. Focusing particularly on how this problem affected the drama of britain, O'Connell exhibits that Reformation tradition was once preoccupied with idolatry and that the theater used to be often attacked as idolatrous. This anti-theatricalism significantly precise the conventional cycles of poser plays--a form of vernacular, well known biblical theater that from a contemporary point of view would appear excellent to develop the Reformation venture. The Idolatrous Eye presents a large point of view on iconoclasm within the 16th century, and in so doing, is helping us to appreciate why this biblical theater used to be discovered transgressive and what this intended for the secular theater that undefined.

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For the final sticking point was not Marian, ecclesiastical, or eucharistic dogma, but the physical portrayal of the divine. It may have been just possible to reduce the God of the Old Testament plays to an offstage voice. In fact the post-Reformation Banns of the Chester cycle envision just such a solution. The Banns exhibit some embarrassment about the dramaturgy of the play and at their conclusion suggest that if good players and a witty, sophisticated playwright were composing it, the actors playing God would simply be heard from the clouds as a voice and not seen.

As far as the city was concerned, the play itself was a living organism, expected to change and adapt itself to conditions—economic or theological—within the city. City records, moreover, show that performance of the York cycle as a whole was indeed being tailored to meet expectations engendered by the Re- 22 The Idolatrous Eye formation. "29 The following year the same exception was made. Because of plague, the play was not given in 1550, but again in 1551 the three Marian plays were omitted, and the guilds responsible for them were ordered to give their pageant money to the mayor for the use of guilds that needed additional financial support.

55 On May 27, 1576, Hutton, the dean of York, issued an order that announced the decision to forbid the performance of the cycle planned for Whitsuntide of that year. 56 The real issue, then—and a confirmation of the charge of idolatry—is here given as representation. If we can generalize from Hutton's order on Wakefield, the charges against the cycle plays are that they represent God and coun- Theater and the Devil's Teats 27 terfeit the life of Christ and institution of the sacraments. This explains why the guilds and aldermen of the various towns were fighting a losing battle in attempting to preserve their plays by adjusting the doctrine expressed in them and excising the Marian pageants.

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