Calvinism, subjectivity and early modern drama
This thesis examines the connections between Calvinism and early modern subjectivity as expressed in the drama produced during the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I. By looking at a range of theological, medical, popular, legal and polemical writings, the thesis aims to provide a new historical and theoretical reading of Calvinist subjectivity that both develops and departs from previous scholarship in the field. Chapter one examines the critical question of 'authority' in early modern Europe. I trace the various classical and medieval antecedents that reinscribed Christ with political authority during the period, and show how the Reformers' conception of conscience arises out of this movement. In chapter two, I offer a parallel reading of Reformed semiotics in relation to the individual's response to two specific loci of power, the Church and the stage. Chapter three brings the first two chapters together by outlining the development of Calvinist doctrine in early modem England. Chapter four offers a theoretical reading of the early modern 'unconscious' in relation to the construction of England as a Protestant nation state against the threat of Catholicism. In the next four chapters, I show how the stage provided the arena for the exploration of Calvinist subjectivities through readings of four early modern plays. Chapter five deals with Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus and in particular the Calvinist conception of Christ interrogated throughout the play. Chapter six looks at The Revenger's Tragedy in relation to the question of masculine lineage and the Name-of-the-(Calvinist)-Father. Finally, in chapters seven and eight, I examine two of William Shakespeare's plays, Macbeth and Antony and Cleopatra. In the first, I demonstrate how the play's concern with witchcraft brings about a parody of providential discourse that is crucial to an understanding of Macbeth's subjectivity. And in the second, I excavate the use of the biblical book of Revelation in Antony and Cleopatra in order to show how an understanding of the text's 'religious' concerns problematises more mainstream readings of the drama.