The Aesthetics of Antichrist

The Aesthetics of Antichrist: From Christian Drama to Christopher Marlowe

Copyright Date: 2007
Edition: 1
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    The Aesthetics of Antichrist
    Book Description:

    In Dr. Faustus, Christopher Marlowe wrote a profoundly religious drama despite the theater's newfound secularism and his own reputation for anti-Christian irreverence. The Aesthetics of Antichrist explores this apparent paradox by suggesting that, long before Marlowe, Christian drama and ritual performance had reveled in staging the collapse of Christianity into its historical opponents-paganism, Judaism, worldliness, heresy. By embracing this tradition, Marlowe's work would at once demonstrate the theatricality inhering in Christian worship and, unexpectedly, resacralize the commercial theater.

    The Antichrist myth in particular tells of an impostor turned prophet: performing Christ's life, he reduces the godhead to a special effect yet in so doing foretells the real second coming. Medieval audiences, as well as Marlowe's, could evidently enjoy the constant confusion between true Christianity and its empty look-alikes for that very reason: mimetic degradation anticipated some final, as yet deferred revelation. Mere theater was a necessary prelude to redemption. The versions of the myth we find in Marlowe and earlier drama actually approximate, John Parker argues, a premodern theory of the redemptive effect of dramatic representation itself. Crossing the divide between medieval and Renaissance theater while drawing heavily on New Testament scholarship, Patristics, and research into the apocrypha, The Aesthetics of Antichrist proposes a wholesale rereading of pre-Shakespearean drama.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-6354-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Note on Texts and Translations
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. Abbreviations
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  7. INTRODUCTION: After Strange Gods: The Making of Christ and His Doubles
    (pp. 1-42)

    Antichrist appears by name first in the Johannine epistles and not again for about a hundred years.¹ By then a lot had happened. To flesh out the figure certain passages in scripture, originally unrelated, had to be connected. Extrapolation ran rampant. The lawless “man of sin” or “son of perdition” predicted to arrive before the innocent son of God could lawfully second his first appearance (2 Thess. 2:3, 8); the sea monster foretold by John to star in a devilish trinity comprising itself, a Dragon, and land beast (Rev. 11:7, 13:1–10);² the pseudo-Christs and false prophets enshrined throughout the...

  8. CHAPTER 1 Lying Likenesses: Typology and the Medieval Miracula
    (pp. 43-86)

    Despite a lot of variation in the commentaries, from the earliest of them onward Antichrist was frequently recognized as the supreme adversary and herald of the final days in part by his resemblance to the true Christ. “For the deceiver,” writes Hippolytus, “seeks to liken himself in all things to the Son of God” (Antichrist 6 [GCS 1:7–8; ANF 5:206]). Born among Jews, he would send his apostles to the nations and convert multitudes through the working of miracles. He would claim to be the messiah and “sit in the temple of God, leading astray those who worship him...

  9. CHAPTER 2 Blood Money: Antichristian Economics and the Drama of the Sacraments
    (pp. 87-138)

    Prior to Christian scripture redemption in Greek meant to free by cash payment. The way we might redeem an old heirloom from hock, money back then could purchase human life. It freed prisoners of war, for example, or convicts. In the case of temple slaves, you had to pay the gods—or, what comes down to the same, the temple priests. Redemption meant you bought the person back

    Christianity introduces just a couple of novelties into this usage. First, those in need of manumission now include the unimprisoned and free-born. Birth itself, irrespective of any social determinant, is condemnation enough....

  10. CHAPTER 3 Vicarious Criminal: Christ as Representative
    (pp. 139-182)

    Legend has it the group of writings now loosely called the Septuagint first came into being when Ptolemy II Philadelphus (285–46 BCE) resolved to place in his library at Alexandria every text then in existence.¹ The story of his resolution became especially popular among later Christians for explaining how they had inherited a Greek Old Testament that happened to be more readily compatible with Christ than was the Hebrew Bible. The Septuagint, it turns out, is the Bible that Jesus frequently quotes, the Bible whose law and prophecies he best fulfills, the one that contains, for example, the prediction...

  11. CHAPTER 4 The Curious Sovereignty of Art: Marlowe’s Sacred Counterfeits
    (pp. 183-246)

    Two future adversaries and scholars of Antichrist overlapped at Cambridge, probably unknown to each other, in the 1580s. One attended Jesus College, the other Corpus Christi. As one was getting his bachelor’s, the other received a master’s. Afterwards they might both have taken the orders toward which their training inclined them, but only one did. The other was accused of nefarious activities and blasphemous opinions, of espionage, sodomy, and atheism. The accusations were eventually strengthened by his former schoolmate, now a minister and pedagogue, whose maiden publication included an account of his fellow graduate’s sacrilege, then murder, a few years...

  12. Index
    (pp. 247-252)