In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

FRIENDLY TESTIMONY REGARDING STAGE PLAYS. 13 Such are the aspects in which it has pleased some of the minor dramatists of England to portray the Quakers. We have allowed the plays to speak for themselves, believing that little comment is required. It is evident that what struck worldly men and women most in the personality and creed of the Quakers was the plainness of their manner of life, the peculiar jargon which they were believed to speak, their objection to certain worldly diversions such as the theatre and luxury of dress and personal adornment. Some knowledge is evident, as we have seen, of their church polity. They are throughout regarded as a peculiar people by those of the world who surround them, and some credit is given them for the virtue of simplicity, honesty and personal righteousness. Doubtless it is hard for us to conceive of our ancestors as having offered much for the playwright to lay hold upon. It is hard at the present time to imagine that the world would find much of dramatic interest in our own lives and persons. But it was not without interest to rescue these Quaker figures of the past from their places of retreat in the somewhat obscure comedies in which they are imbedded. FRIENDLY TESTIMONY REGARDING STAGE-PLAYS. By Ezra Kempton Maxfield, Ph.D., Professor of English Literature, Washington and Jefferson College, Washington, Pennsylvania. In its attitude toward the theatre the Religious Society of Friends has always been consistently puritanic.1 This is natural enough, for the whole body of separatists in the seventeenth century voiced a unanimous objection not only to theatrical performances but to all other public amusements as well. Indeed the very tradition established by the Reformation was antagonistic to worldly diversions. Beyond that we find the church 1 The puritanism referred to here is the state of mind. It should be recognized , however, that there was not a little Puritan blood in the Friends of the seventeenth century. See F. H. S. Journal, I, 91; E. Peckover, II, 85; W. Simpson, II, 88; C. H. Firth, Cromwell's Army, 344-5; Friends Tract Assn., No. 226, "Changed Warfare." 14 BULLETIN OF FRIENDS' HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION. catholic standing in opposition to the whole profession of playacting : not only in the fourth century when it closed the gates of the corrupt Roman theatre, forcing the acting profession to take to a vagabond existence, but much later. Puritanism kept many of the traditions of the earlier church. Among other habits of mind was an instinctive monastic horror of luxury, an intolerance for anything superfluous, especially that which would give pleasure to the senses. Like the monks and hermits of old the Puritans believed that their spiritual salvation lay in a sort of Neo-platonic abnegation of the flesh. Moreover, all Puritans of the seventeenth century had local reasons for objecting to the stage. Quakerism, for example, was reared in an age of corrupt morals, when society was suffering the collapse which followed in the wake of a too rigorously enforced discipline during the Cromwellian interregnum. Drama, the most sensitive of all literary agencies, during the latter part of the seventeenth century naturally reflected the moral decay which characterized the social life in England in the reign of Charles the Second ; this in spite of the fact that some of the cleverest minds that ever constructed plays were at work for the stage.2 But had the stage not been corrupt at this crucial time, when opinions once formed were to constitute later principles, the Friends would still have opposed the theatre. Professor Quinn, in his excellent work on the American Drama,3 attributes the opposition of Quakers and Puritans in America to puritanic frugality which objected to the expense of theatrical presentations. While many Friends were undoubtedly frugal, their objections were certainly deeper than that. I think Clarkson i put his finger directly to the spot when he explained the Quaker objection on the ground of the insincerity of dramatic performances. The Quaker mind has always shunned any impersonation, any disguise, any subterfuge. It counts it a sin for an actor to seem to be what he is not. In addition...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1934-1504
Print ISSN
0033-5053
Pages
pp. 13-21
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.