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Title: Maimed rites, wand'ring ghosts, and a slave to memory :Elizabethan dramatic responses to the Reformation
Authors: Crow, Caroline Lynda Marie
Issue Date: 2014
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: This thesis maps how tragic drama’s engagement with post-Reformation issues, particularly those stemming from the reform of mortuary culture, altered during the Elizabethan period. To track these changes, I focus on the representation of death, the supernatural and commemorative culture in a selection of plays produced between 1558 and 1603. I analyse these plays using historicist and anthropological techniques. Ultimately, I demonstrate that Elizabethan tragic drama produced three distinct responses to the Reformation. The Inns of Court dramas of the 1560s – namely, Gorboduc, Cambises, Gismond of Salerne, and Horestes – constitute a political response. These plays address the schism’s political ramifications: namely, the need for Elizabeth to prevent a Counter-Reformation by naming or producing a Protestant successor, and by neutralising the threat posed by Mary, Queen of Scots. These tragedies overlook the theological controversies of the Reformation, sidestepping debates regarding the abolition of Purgatory or the existence of ghosts. Later in the reign, dramatic responses alter significantly, partly due to the advent of the professional theatre, but also due to the clarification of England’s religious identity. This shift in the Elizabethan dramatic landscape is evident in Doctor Faustus, The Spanish Tragedy, and Hamlet, which produce psychological and theological responses. Examining the negative impact of the Protestants’ reform of mortuary culture, as well as the reform of specific doctrines, such as that of salvation, these plays define the Reformation as a psychologically traumatic event. Late Elizabethan tragedy also produces an indirect response to the schism. Titus Andronicus and Julius Caesar do not address the Reformation’s impact of sixteenth-century society; they demonstrate the pervasiveness of this impact by converting its language and imagery into a semiotic system. This system is then used to signpost socio-political concerns. Overall, the thesis demonstrates that Elizabethan tragedy’s engagement with post-schismatic issues was sustained, but multi-faceted.
Description: PhD Thesis
Appears in Collections:School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics

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