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Reformers On Stage

Reformers On Stage: Popular Drama and Propaganda in the Low Countries of Charles V, 1515-1556

Gary K. Waite
Copyright Date: 2000
Pages: 440
  • Book Info
    Reformers On Stage
    Book Description:

    Examines the social and religious messages of plays presented across the Low Countries, showing how they promoted or opposed calls for reform, religious and otherwise and argues that dramatists reshaped reform ideas to accommodate their own concerns.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7913-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction: Reform Propaganda and Vernacular Drama
    (pp. xiii-xxii)

    This book is a study of the propagandistic function of drama in the Low Countries of Emperor Charles V, whose reign coincided with the early religious reform movement(s) in the Netherlandic provinces. The principal focus of this work centres on the theme of reform, religious and otherwise, as promoted or opposed by the major dramatists of the Low Countries, the members of the chambers of rhetoric. It therefore falls into a cluster of historical investigations which explore the means by which reform ideas were communicated from the major reform leaders, such as the German reformer Martin Luther, to the people,...

  5. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xxiii-xxiv)
  6. PART I Drama and Society in the Low Countries

    • 1 Civic Culture and Religious Reform in the Netherlands
      (pp. 3-25)

      In early modern Europe, drama entertained, informed, angered, motivated to action, and defended the status quo. Audience reaction to a particular stage enactment was inextricably linked to the specific cultural and civic contexts of the playʹs viewers and performers. After all, the plays performed reflected not only the interests of the playwright and actors, but also the specific needs and goals of the particular guild, fraternity, court, city, or patron which sponsored them.¹ The most important composers and performers of vernacular drama in the Low Countries were without a doubt the amateur literary societies known as the chambers of rhetoric,...

    • 2 Rhetoricians and Urban Culture
      (pp. 26-48)

      So stated the ʹprize cardʹ issued on 7 September 1483, announcing a rhetorician competition for the following month sponsored by the recently established Hulst chamber of rhetoric The Transfiguration (De Transfiguratie). Clearly portrayed is the exuberance of a new society holding its inaugural festivity. What is also of note is a strong sense of mission; rhetoricians saw themselves as a cultural elite whose dramatic performances were intended to raise the intellectual, artistic, and devotional standards of their contemporaries of all social standings. In other words, rhetorician drama was much more than a means of diversion from mundane daily routines, especially...

  7. PART II Vernacular Drama and the Early Urban Reformation

    • 3 The Chambers of Rhetoric in Antwerp
      (pp. 51-78)

      Having sketched in broad strokes the development of a particular sense of mission among Netherlandic rhetoricians and described the political and religious context in which they performed their drama, it is now appropriate to examine in greater detail the experience of some rhetoricians in the sixteenth-century Low Countries. Antwerpʹs dramatists provide a case study of rhetoricians who, by and large, worked closely with their civic leaders throughout the period of the early Reformation, even though many of them became caught up in the groundswell of reform rhetoric.

      By 1510 Antwerp was able to boast of three official chambers, The Gillyflower...

    • 4 Amsterdam Rhetoricians and the Reformation
      (pp. 79-98)

      Compared to that of Antwerp, the history of Amsterdamʹs rhetorician chambers is a much simpler affair. What will become clear in the following pages is the extent to which rhetoricians could become vigorous proponents of religious reform, much to the chagrin of the authorities. While many of Antwerpʹs rhetoricians were able to get away with espousing moderate versions of Protestant reform, in part because of their open rejection of the proposals of radical reformers such as Pruystinck, Amsterdamʹs dramatists provide us with an example of the use of drama to support a level of religious reformation which was clearly linked...

  8. PART III Reform Themes in Rhetorician Drama, 1519–56

    • 5 Anticlerical Drama and the Reform Controversies in the Low Countries, 1519–38
      (pp. 101-133)

      Having examined rhetorician chambers within the specific urban contexts of Antwerp and Amsterdam, it is now appropriate to cast a broader glance at the drama of these amateur actors. As noted, rhetoricians were drawn from the urban upper artisan, merchant, and professional classes and their plays, particularly those performed in the private chamber halls and those which were never published, reflect fairly accurately the range of views of these literate strata of Dutch urban society, especially as they related to the social and religious controversies of the day. As illustrated by the case studies of Antwerp and Amsterdam, each play...

    • 6 Popular Ritual, Social Protest, and the Rhetorician Competition in Ghent, 1539
      (pp. 134-164)

      The relationship between popular ritual and social protest has provoked some of the most fascinating scholarly studies in recent years. That under certain social circumstances carnivals of the early modern era could turn into rebellion was shown by Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurieʹs intriguing work on a carnival in Romans.¹ Also relevant to France is the seminal work of Natalie Z. Davis, whose discussions of popular ritual and protest in early modern France have informed the work of a generation of historians.² Before his untimely death, Robert Scribner had pursued the nature and impact of popular ritual during the Reformation in...

    • 7 Rhetoricians and Reform after the Ghent Competition, 1539–56
      (pp. 165-182)

      The Ghent competition must be seen as the culmination of pro-reform drama in the Low Countries of Charles V. During this twelve-day event, Ghentʹs residents and visitors witnessed on the stage the presentation of a wide range of reform programs, but nothing substantial to contradict those ideas. The authorities of course could not tolerate such flagrant disregard of the religious placards and city magistrates throughout the Low Countries were ordered more vigorously to censor their rhetoricians.¹ That the attempted suppression only partially worked says as much about the determination of the Netherlandsʹrederijkersas it does about the weaknesses of...

    • Illustrations
      (pp. None)
    • 8 War, Peace, and the Imperial Majesty in Rhetorician Drama, 1519–56
      (pp. 183-201)

      It is now evident that chambers of rhetoric offered interested burghers a forum in which to meet with their fellows and to express their thoughts on the social, political and religious controversies of their day. Like the related militia or ʹshootersʹ guilds, the chambers seem also to have provided opportunities for socially and politically ambitious men to catch the attention of city fathers and perhaps, with a good measure of fortune, move a little closer to the inner corridors of civic politics. In return, rhetoricians performed valuable celebratory and propagandistic services for their civic authorities, whether dominated by guilds or...

  9. Conclusion
    (pp. 202-208)

    Without a doubt in early modern Netherlands drama was serious business, and rhetoricians knew it. They were well aware of the potential impact of even their light-hearted farces in a period fraught with religious conflict, social tension, and political instability. Furthermore, they aimed openly to disturb the religious establishment but hoped to do so without social upheaval. On this point they shared the naivety of Martin Luther, who believed that the ramifications of his new conception of salvation and rejection of the Roman Catholic hierarchy could be contained within strictly spiritual boundaries. The German peasants, urban journeymen, and Anabaptists, among...

  10. APPENDIX: List of Plays Composed during the Reign of Charles V and Their Reform Perspective
    (pp. 209-216)
  11. Notes
    (pp. 217-324)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 325-352)
  13. Index
    (pp. 353-364)