The Stage and Social Struggle in Early Modern England

The Stage and Social Struggle in Early Modern England

The Stage and Social Struggle in Early Modern England

The Stage and Social Struggle in Early Modern England

Synopsis

The Stage and Social Struggle in Early Modern England is a ground-breaking study of a controversial period of English literary, cultural, and political history.In language that is both lucid and theoretically sophisticated, Jean Howard examines the social and cultural facets of early modern theatre. She looks at the ways in which some theatrical practices were deemed deceptive and unreliable, while others were lent legitimacy by the powerful.An exciting and challenging work by one of the leading writers in the field, The Stage and Social Conflict in Early Modern England is important reading for anyone interested in the period.

Excerpt

In 1603 Edward Jorden, a doctor, published a tract entitled A Briefe Discourse of a Disease called the Suffocation of the Mother. He dedicated it to the President and Fellows of the College of Physicians in London. The purpose of the tract was to dispel various myths surrounding the disease known as "the mother" and to place its treatment on a scientific footing. Consequently, the body of the tract is devoted to discussing the womb, why it becomes stopped with superfluous matter, and how it can be regulated. Those who suffer from the mother, particularly young girls and widows, are enjoined to avoid sweet savors, pleasant meats, too much rest, and mental perturbation, especially lovesick thoughts. Helpfully, Jorden urges that those who do suffer from lovesickness should either be induced to hate their object of affection or to enjoy their desires (Jorden 1603:G4).

Of particular importance and interest, however, is the way Jorden frames the tract. It opens with an attack on those who do not approach the mother properly-i.e., as a disease proceeding from natural causes-but improperly-i.e., as a manifestation of demonic possession. In particular, he ridicules Papists who pull out their wooden daggers to exorcize a maid or woman who is suffering from a natural disorder that can easily be cured by fasting and prayer (Jorden 1603:A3). He goes on, moreover, to accuse priests of actually suborning people to "counterfait strange motions and behaviours" so that the priests can have the glory of rescuing them by making the sign of the cross and muttering "powerlesse spelles" (Jorden 1603:A3). This, of course, sounds familiar to those who have read Stephen Greenblatt's work on the Anglican attacks on exorcism in the

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