This essay uses German Lutheran drama in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries as a vehicle to assess Lutheran memory and identity in the Holy Roman Empire. In particular, Martin Luther and Philip Melanchthon are considered as mirrors of confessional anxiety in plays written before the outbreak of the Thirty Years’ War (1618), an era of confessional conflict that coincided roughly with the one-hundred-year anniversary of the posting of Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses on October 31, 1517. Lutheran clergymen Martin Rinckhart, Heinrich Kielmann, and Balthasar Voigt took the leading in publishing plays during the centennial, using materials from popular Luther biographies and invoking numerous anti-Catholic tropes to support the Protestant cause. To explore the roots of the polemic and catechesis, this essay also analyzes Zacharias Rivander’s Luther Reborn (Lutherus redivivus, 1593), a five-act comedy that attempts to resolve the Lord’s Supper Controversy (Abendmahlsstreit) dividing Lutherans and Crypto- Calvinists in Electoral Saxony. In all the plays, Luther is presented as a hero and a teacher to the German people. Luther’s opponents—competing theologians like Karlstadt, Zwingli, and Calvin—are presented as corrupt and misguided leaders who by their teachings demonstrate how far a religious person can fall into evil.


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pp. 276-306
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