Devil Theatre: Demonic Possession and Exorcism in English Renaissance Drama, 1558-1642

February 2007
232 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
Studies in Renaissance Literature
ISBN: 9781843841142
Format: Hardback
Library eBook

Devil Theatre: Demonic Possession and Exorcism in English Renaissance Drama, 1558-1642

Jan Frans van Dijkhuizen

The so-called "Devil Theatre" is here set against its context of non-dramatic texts on possession and exorcism, providing many new insights.
Representations of demonic possession and exorcism rituals abound in English Renaissance drama, an area which this book seeks to illuminate by comparison with non-dramatic works. The author investigates stage images of possession in relation to a range of early modern demonological, theological and medical prose texts on the subject, looking specifically at how the theatre responded to these texts. He argues that the stage appropriated debates over demonic possession to explore the competing roles of the inner life and the body in early modern definitions of selfhood. The theatre also employed the contemporary controversy over possession and exorcism to investigate the politics of religion, and to consider the nature of monarchic power. Moreover, because demonic possession cases and exorcism rituals were frequently dismissed by conformist writers as a piece of theatre, they offered an opportunity to reflect on the nature of drama and role-playing.

JAN FRANS VAN DIJKHUIZEN is lecturer and research fellow at the University of Leiden.

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Table of Contents

Possession and Selfhood
Exorcism and the Politics of Religion
Possession, Exorcism and the Theatre


Devil Theatre, which is remarkable for its sheer scope, contributes to a more nuanced and diverse understanding of the theatre's imaginative power, thus requiring a reconsideration of the New Historicist insistence on the culturally productive role of the theatre in general and the theatricality of exorcism in particular. ENGLISH STUDIES

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