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    Indulgent representation: theatricality and sectarian metaphor in The Tempest

    Woods, Gillian (2014) Indulgent representation: theatricality and sectarian metaphor in The Tempest. Literature Compass 11 (11), pp. 703-714. ISSN 1741-4113.

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    At the end of The Tempest, Prospero (or, perhaps, the actor playing him) urges the audience, ‘As you from crimes would pardoned be, / Let your indulgence set me free’ (5.1.337-8). The lines are a plea for applause, for the audience to conclude the drama happily. As the play-world dissolves into the real world, at the threshold between fiction and reality, Prospero appeals to be set free from representation. He strikes an ethical bargain in the mode of the Lord's Prayer (‘forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us’). But, in speaking of ‘pardon’ and ‘indulgence’, he also alludes to a much maligned Catholic practice of purchased remission of sins. Thus, the audience's decision over whether or not to applaud the drama is playfully implicated in trying out a confessional attitude. Even so, the status of these ‘Catholic’ terms as wordplay means that they only flirt with sectarian resonance, rather than declaring a theological message. Taking the play's self-conscious theatricality as a starting point, this essay explores the ambiguity of this epilogue. It questions what it means for a post-Reformation audience to ‘indulge’ in metaphorically ‘Catholic’ behaviour, and how a play that stages forgiveness as a form of revenge negotiates difference ethically. These themes are part of a broader theatrical dynamic in which representation is constantly destabilised. The essay offers a case-study of the significance of equivocally Catholic material in post-Reformation drama, suggesting that as much attention needs to be paid to dramaturgy as to theology.


    Item Type: Article
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Creative Arts, Culture and Communication
    Research Centres and Institutes: Contemporary Theatre, Birkbeck Centre for
    Depositing User: Gillian Woods
    Date Deposited: 19 Nov 2014 17:05
    Last Modified: 09 Aug 2023 12:35


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