Absorbing Interests: Kyd's Bloody Handkerchief as Palimpsest


Andrew Sofer


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

After the Protestant Reformation took hold in England, many stage properties familiar from the drama of worship performed by urban trade guilds became politically and religiously suspect. While Elizabethan society debated whether theatrical representation was acceptable on the one hand or idolatrous on the other, Elizabethan authorities sought to curb the theatrical use of Catholic symbolism through legislation. Thus a letter dated 27 May 1576 from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners of York to the bailiff and burgesses of Wakefield decreed that "no Pageant be used or set furth wherin the Ma [jes] tye of God the Father, God the Sonne, or God the Holie Ghoste or the administration of either the Sacramentes of baptisme or of the Lordes Supper be counterfeyted or represented, or anythinge plaied which tende to the maintenaunce of superstition and idolatrie or which be contrarie to the lawes of god [ and] or of the realme?'2 By 1580, the Corpus Christi play cycles had either withered away or been suppressed by the Elizabethan authorities, and with them vanished such formerly central properties as the eucharistic Host itself.3

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