Shakespeare and the Culture of Christianity in Early Modern England

By Dennis Taylor; David Beauregard | Go to book overview

5
Sacral and Sacramental
Kingship in the
Lancastrian Tetralogy

by Timothy Rosendale

Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas

ARCHBISHOP THOMAS CRANMER'S 1554 disputation at Oxford—one of the set pieces of a prosecution occasioned in large part by his espousal of Reformed doctrine and his authorship of the Book of Common Prayer (BCP)—reads predominantly like a hermeneutic squabble. A main focus of contention between Cranmer and his Marian opponents was the proper interpretation of Christ's words at the Last Supper (hoc est enim corpus meum—"this is indeed my body"). Cranmer's Catholic interrogators, hostile to any destabilizing reading that might challenge the doctrine of transubstantiation, insist repeatedly on a strictly literal interpretation, and emphatically reject fígural understandings as inherently deceptive. In response, Cranmer doggedly upholds a fígural reading, maintaining the Reformed understanding that the dominical words (and the sacramental elements to which they referred) were to be understood figuratively or "sacramentally." When at one point the prolocutor asserts flatly that, "whosoever saith that Christ spake by figures, saith that he did lie," Cranmer responds in puzzlement:

… who say it is
necessary that he which useth to speak by tropes and figures should lie
in so doing?

OGLETHORPE:—Your judgment is disagreeing with all churches.
CRANMER:—Nay, I disagree with the papistical church. (Cranmer
1844, 401)

-121-

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