Academic journal article Medium Aevum

The Aesthetics of Antichrist: From Christian Drama to Christopher Marlowe

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

The Aesthetics of Antichrist: From Christian Drama to Christopher Marlowe

Article excerpt

John Parker, The Aesthetics of Antichrist: From Christian Drama to Christopher Marlowe (Ithaca, NY, and London: Cornell University Press, 2007). xviii + 252 pp. ISBN 978- 0-8014- 4519- 4. $39-95

While this rich, densely argued, and highly challenging study purports to discuss medieval and early modern drama, in reality it goes far beyond this remit. John Parker's central argument takes two of the hoariest truisms about the work of Christopher Marlowe, and pursues them to their logical conclusion. On the one hand, Parker draws on Marlowe's well-known debt to medieval dramatic forms, especially the morality play; on the other, he seizes on the view that Marlowe was a deeply subversive figure, gleefully peddling the blasphemies that, in all probability, led him to the point of Ingram Frizer's dagger. Conflating these two assumptions, Parker deduces that considerable profanation must have already been present in medieval theatrical tradition. He argues that medieval performance often succeeded in calling attention to contradictions within the faith it was designed to promote. In particular, it succeeded in articulating the tacit reliance of that faith on factors it publicly opposed, revealing traces of the 'Antichristian' within Christian discourse. Theatricality itself is a key example of this. The stage is attacked by apologists from Ter tullían onwards for replacing full presence with demonstrative performance. Yet theatrical logic pervades Christian history, appearing in its spectacular miracles, in the role-play of pseudepigraphic writers, and in the portents (such as Antichrist himself) which both mimic Christ and signal his absence. Money is a further case in point: for the Fathers it represents another empty symbol, another fatal loss of being, even though the Redeemer himself was caught up in an economy of exchange, not only T^uying' human redemption with his own blood, but being sold by his betrayer. …

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