- Cultural Reformations
- List of Illustrations
- List of Abbreviations
- List of Contributors
- National Histories
- Literary Histories
- Enclosed Spaces
- The Eucharist
- The Saints
- Vernacular Theology
- When English Became Latin
- Heresy and Treason
- Naughty Printed Books
- Utopian Pleasure
- Poetic Fame
- London Books and London Readers
- The Reformation of the Household
- Active and Contemplative Lives
- Autobiography and the History of Reading
Abstract and Keywords
This chapter argues that Christian antitheatricalists could persuasively oppose pagan theater only by offering their faith as a superior but fundamentally similar substitute — starting with Tertullian's use of persona (the Latin term for a theater mask) to describe the multiple facets of a Trinitarian godhead. The patristic hermeneutics of prosopopoeia (or in Latin, fictio personae) likewise treated scripture explicitly as a drama in which God plays multiple roles. Medieval Christians went even further by staging the Bible and once again using masks as an indispensable theatrico-theological property; hence the common English Protestant position that Christian culture had devolved into little more than paganism by a different name. Ironically enough, early modern antitheatricalists constantly cited their patristic antecedents in order to demonstrate the theater's dangerous allegiance to polytheism — even as they once again implicitly positioned their "strictly scriptural" version of Christianity as the ultimate drama. By the time Sidney published his Defense of Poesie it was in fact possible to argue that scripture itself had achieved such sublime effects only by means of its quasi-theatrical impersonation of multiple sacred figures.
John Parker teaches African history at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. He is the author of Making the Town: Ga State and Society in Early Colonial Accra (Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2000); Tongnaab: The History of a West African God (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2005), with Jean Allman; and African History: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), with Richard Rathbone.
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