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Judeo-ChristianApocalyptic Literature and John Crowne's TheDestruction ofJerusalem John B. Rollins John Crowne followed his first comedy, The Countrey Wit (1676), with the two parts of The Destruction ofJerusalem, arguably two of his finest works. The first part premiered on 12 January 1677 and the second part one week later.1 Neither play has received much critical attention , and those critics who have offered commentaryhave either condemned it out ofhand simply for being a rhymed heroic drama or have been contentwith discussing Crowne's sources. Capwell, who first noted this tendency to criticize the genre rather than the work,2 chose to respondbylimitinghis discussion to Crowne's departures from his sources without ever engaging directly with the implications of the play itself. White demonstrates beyond doubt that Crowne combined elements drawn from Racine's Bérénice, Josephus's The Wars of the Jews, and Suetonius's account of the relationship between Titus and Berenice. Capwell criticizes White for simply listing these sources and then attempts to explain Crowne's alterations. However, he seems to regard the romantic plots to be the chieffocus ofthe play: "The historical material , however, primarily supplies merely background for the love stories , and Crowne's skill in weavingthe fortunes ofPhraartes and Clarona and Titus and Berenice into the historical material is notable."3 While these plots and characters are significant and can certainly provide insight into characters Crowne subsequently created, the center of the play4 is, as the title suggests, the destruction of the city of Jerusalem. A cursory reading of Racine's play or of Otway's Titus and Berenice,5 which is much closer to the French original than Crowne's 209 210Comparative Drama work, reveals them to be works nearly devoid of dramatic action. Indeed , Bérénice has been held up as an exemplar of the tendency of seventeenth-century French drama to employ simple plots. Racine himself noted that he wished to follow the "simplicité d'action qui a été si fort du goût des anciens."6 Crowne's spectacular stage effects and supernatural events could not be more different. The prologue to the first part of The Destruction ofJerusalem announces that the purpose ofthe play (or, at least, the purpose ofthe "damned playwright") is to "reveal hid treasure" (a literal att??a??p??s), offering the first hint that we should recognize the strong element ofapocalyptic literature within the drama. Although it seems unusualthat Crowne's earlier critics chose not to comment on this element, perhaps it is simply the reemergence ofapocalyptic themes in the last days ofthe twentieth centurythat make them stand out so clearly now. As we enter the new millennium and have become accustomed to apocalyptic themes in virtuallyevery area ofpopular culture , it seems appropriate to look at an apocalypse from an earlier period that was also known for its political and religious schisms and excesses. Given this cultural preoccupation with the ending of the second millennium, it is not surprising that scholars have recently turned their attention to the question as well. Most ofthese scholars have been theologians , but literary critics have also been among their number, often attempting to apply the findings of the theologians to their own discipline . Bernard McGinn is one such scholar. In his historiographical survey ofthe origins and current state ofthe scholarship ofapocalypse and apocalypticism, he offers this method of approaching the question of genre: "I would suggest the following five questions as a useful introductory tool for this task: who reveals? to whom? how, or under what circumstances ? what? and for what purpose?"7 Likewise, Brian Stiegler's examination of Cervantes' La Numancia6 uses the definition of apocalyptic vision set out by the theologian Klaus Koch. These elements are as follows: 1. Urgent expectation ofthe overthrowofall earthlythings in the immediate future 2.The end a vast cosmic catastrophe 3.Close relation of the "end-time" to the rest of history 4.Angels and demons 5.Catastrophe followed by salvation John B. Rollins211 6.Enthronement of God and the coming of his kingdom 7.Appearance of a mediator/redeemer with royal functions 8.The glory of the age to come' Beyond these schema, a host of other approaches...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 209-224
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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