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The Market for Argument: Preaching the Puritan Counterpublic at Paul’s Cross
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Reverend John Stockwood delivered two sermons at Paul’s Cross, London, on August 24, 1578, and May 10, 1579. Stockwood’s sermons have been most widely known as antitheatrical pamphlets. Later antitheatrical pamphlets used the Paul’s Cross sermons of Stockwood and Thomas White as authority and precedent and the sermons circulated and re-circulated in print. I will suggest, however, that in spite of this legacy, Stockwood’s sermons can be read as resistant political action whose very embodied performance, delivered with the fire of passionate preaching, for which many puritans were notorious, produced his social status. I want to suggest that Stockwood’s preaching and the entire arc of his journey into London share a similar end: the bringing to market of what Michael Warner has called a counterpublic, and with it the circulation of a resistant order of both private interiority and public space.1 Consumption, digestion, and circulation of bodily order produced performances such as Stockwood’s, and contributed significantly to the market value of prophetic performative speech. By means of a distinctive cultural disposition to produce, market, and consume performance, puritan speech strove to reshape the civic order of early modern England. In this light, Paul’s Cross becomes a central space for mediating the struggle between public (sovereign) authority and the private realm.

What interests me in this discussion is, first, the consequences and function of antitheatrical speech, which seem to offer a kind of limit case in discussing theories of performative authority. Antitheatricality has been resolved by some into a binary2 of opposed models of performance, and by others into a mutually constitutive exchange of ideologies and practices.3 In either view, questions of normativity and transgression are implied. Secondly, the evidence presented below suggests that the performative authority accorded to ritual speech placed ritual performance into circulation in distinctive ways in early modern London. Consumers sought it out because of its perceived efficacy. Although Warner never specifically discusses Austin, his examination of Habermas, which asserts that publics are among the conditions of textuality, may provide a useful set of ideas for approaching performative uptake through a discussion of the conditions of circulation. 4 Since publics are “all local culture and contingent history,”5 they might offer a useful model for viewing the social role of performative speech in history.

To attend to Stockwood’s deployment of performance strategies, this essay will first examine two important aspects of place in performance: the geographic and the textual. Paul’s Cross blended church, state, and discursive authority in early modern London as it was at once the seat of the Bishop of London, the pulpit from which official state policy was often announced, and the center of London’s bookselling trade. Next, I want to examine the crucial role of embodiment in Stockwood’s assertion of a proper social order, in both their public and their private aspects. The proper order of the affections in the humoral body emerges, in Stockwood’s view, as a crucial aspect of preaching efficacy. Finally, the essay will trace the patterns of circulation that enabled Stockwood to participate in the construction of the resistant power constituted in the puritan poetic world.

A Counter-Cross on the City-Stage

Although Stockwood did not record his journey, similar journeys through Elizabethan civic space were recorded. With the help of those records and some conjecture, it seems possible to suggest some features of Stockwood’s pedestrian performance as he approached London. Stockwood, who was headmaster of the Tonbridge School in Kent, would have set out from Tonbridge on a journey towards London, probably on Friday, May 8, 1579. A month or so earlier he would have received a notice from John Aylmer, Bishop of London, inviting him to preach a public sermon at Paul’s Cross on Sunday, May 10. He was promised the customary fee, which was then about 45 shillings, and was given an address at which he would be offered the usual four nights’ lodging at the Bishop’s expense. As he traveled he no doubt was turning his sermon over in his mind; though the usual length of a Paul’s Cross sermon was about two hours...

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