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Hypocrite Lecteur: Reading on the Early Modern Stage

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 March 2012

Swapan Chakravorty
Affiliation:
Jadavpur University
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Summary

Enemies of the early modern theatre never tired of recalling that the Greeks called stage actors hypocrites. One especially truculent reminder came from Isaac Bargrave, chaplain to Prince Charles and pastor of St Margaret's at Westminster. In A Sermon against Selfe Policy, Preached at Whitehall in Lent 1621, Bargrave declared:

The Church is a Theater, vppon which some act their owne parts, being alwayes the same that they seeme, and these are all good men, but bad Actors. Others on the contrary do meerely personate, seeming perpetually what they are not, and these are all bad men, but good Actors: notorious Hypocrites, like Monkies who imitate humane actions, but remayne Monkies still […] They are such Histrionicall Mimickes, that in Greeke all Stage-Players are called by their names […] Hypocrites.

Radical Protestant polemics of early modern England routinely likened the hypocrisy of stage players to the mummery of the Catholic priest, the disguises and forged miracles of the Jesuit, and the Machiavellian dissimulation of the politic Spaniard. It was even suggested in one pamphlet that the Jesuits' investment in hypocrisy did not make market sense. This was John Gee in New Shreds of the Old Snare (1624):

The third abatement of the honor and continuance of this Scenicall company is, that they make their spectators pay to deare for their Income. Representations and Apparitions from the dead might be seene farre cheaper at other Play-houses. […]

Type
Chapter
Information
Renaissance Themes
Essays Presented to Arun Kumar Das Gupta
, pp. 33 - 61
Publisher: Anthem Press
Print publication year: 2009

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