Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE ( © Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 18 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Nathaniel Woodes' The Conflict of Conscience (1581) is a dramatized account of the conversion of Francesco Spiera, an Italian lawyer who gave in to pressure by the Inquisition to alter his protestant beliefs and died in despair six months later in 1548, convinced in his irrevocable damnation. Historical Spiera's tragic, possibly suicidal, demise intensified the didactic impact of his story, and Woodes, who cast Spiera as Philologus, initially preserved the dark overtones of the convert's surrender to the feelings of irrevocable despair and damnation. However, one of the major revisions that appeared in the second issue of the play is a modified ending where the Nuntius' (messenger's) report of Philologus' suicide by hanging committed out of despair is changed to the ‘joyfull newes’ of Philologus' reconversion and subsequent death by self-starvation. The significance of this revision has been discussed by some critics, but there has been no attempt to explain why Woodes still chooses to subject the newly enlightened and faithful Philologus to essentially self-inflicted death. The answer lies in the play's deeper structures of the extremist body-soul dichotomy where not only the privileging of the body over the soul is explicitly condemned, but also the body is devalued completely because it is always defined only as an inferior counterpart to the soul. The resulting message of the play seems to be not the criticism of particular religious beliefs, but that of Philologus' persistent tendencies toward the extremes and his resultant failure to adopt the proper modes of spiritual and bodily behaviour.

Keywords: religious conversion, Francesco Spiera, Philologus, body, soul

Access to the complete content on Oxford Handbooks Online requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription.

Please subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code.

For questions on access or troubleshooting, please check our FAQs, and if you can''t find the answer there, please contact us.