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116 Comparative Drama principal P10blems ••• always brin,gs me back ••• to the same conclUlliom: they are already there, as veiled and obscure as possible in my Geburt der Tragi:idie, and everything I have since learned has become an ingrown part of them" (quoted by .Rot;1ald Hayman, Nietzsche: A.crltlcaI Life [Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1982], p. 286). For further discussion of the issue of continuity between The Birth. of Tragedy and Nietzsche's later philosophical development, see Rose Pfeffer, Nietzsche: Disciple of Dionysus (Lewisberg: Bucknell Univ. Press, 1972). 29 Ian. Kott, Shakupeare Our Contemporary (Garden City, N. Y.: Doubleday, 1966); The Eating of the. Gods: An Interpretation of Greek Tragedy (New York: Vintage Books, 1974). The Croxton Play of the Sacrament: A RewReading Ann Eljenholm Nichols For the last forty years, critics have generally agreed that the Croxton Play of the Sacrament is didactic, "unabashedly didactic," according to one critic, who argues that its purpose is "the clear, accurate, vivid statement of the meaning of the Blessed Sacrament";l "the nearest thing to topical propaganda ... in the fifteenth century," maintains a second;2 even, argues a third, "a deliberate piece of anti-Lollard propaganda composed and presented . . . in the face of heretic teachings.'·3 David Mills is one of the few critics to have suggested that the play is nQtptimarily didactic, noting that if "compared with Everyman, the Croxton play is much more one of affirmation than explanation."4 The purpose of this article is to argue that the play should be read not as a reaction to anti-Eucharistic heresy, but rather as a reflection of fifteenth-century Eucharistic piety, and to suggest that the play is better understood in a literary context of contemporary narrative and dramatic genres than in a polemic one of anti-Lollard propaganda.S Such a reading reveals a complex play composed of a number of movements in a variety of tones: the declamatory tone of the prelude of the two merchants (115 lines) balanced with the hortatory tone of the concluding speech .of Episcopus (20 lines), the rollicking tone of the false healing scene (127 lines), which interrupts the narrative development of the main movement into two segments of nearly identical length (328 and 333 lines, respectively), and the emotionally-charged affective tone of the narrative ANN ELJENHOLM NICHOLS. Professor of EnsJ,ishat Winona State University, has recently completed a study of the sev!m-sacram!mt baptismal fonts in East Angtia, and is working on a Subject List of Art in Norfolk for the :Early Drama, Art. and Music Reference Series. 117 118 ~Comparative Drama movement. The first section of the paper will dispute the theory that the play was written as "a response to a challenge, a growing scepticism, seen in Lollard accounts of the doctrine of transubstantiation,"6 thereby laying to rest the ghost of didactic expectation that has so long haunted critics of the play. The second section will propose a re-reading of the narrative movement of the play based on the iconography of Eucharistic piety and the literary structures of the genres adapted by the highly original author of the Croxton play. 1 The .classic anti-Lollard interpretation was published in 1944 by Cecllia .Cutts. Since that time, extensive work has been done on the Lollards, such work itself necessitating a re-evaluation of Cutts' work. Scholars such as Margaret Aston and Anne Hudson have alerted us to the dangers of making sweeping generalizations about Lollards, for they were a heterogeneous lot.7 Reginald Pecock, whose massive corpus was written to combat. the teachings of the "Bible men," said as Uluch when he noted that there were a variety of sects, some called "DOctour-mongers, and somme ben clepid OpiniOUllholders , and somme ben Neutralis."8 Since we know approximately when the Play of the Sacrament was written and where it was acted, we can concentrate on Lollardy in the diocese of Norwich.9 What documentary evidence do we have for the existence and beliefs of mid-century East Anglian Bible men? Unfortunately, very little. We have valuable evidence about LoHardy in the diocese of Norwich in the :first twenty years of the fifteenth century;10 we have...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 117-137
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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