Jewish Suffering in Medieval Christian Drama

Hamilton, Caitlin, English - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Parker, John, Department of English, University of Virginia

"Jewish Suffering in Medieval Christian Drama" examines the place of medieval drama within the period’s widespread culture of antisemitism by focusing on a recurrent phenomenon: dramatic portrayals of Jewish suffering. From small-scale portraits of violence to depictions of wholesale massacres, these moments crystallize a tension in the Christian theology they stage. While propagating a teleological narrative in which the role of Jews was to endure “just punishments” prior to the eschaton in which they would convert to, and so vindicate, Christianity, portrayals of Jewish suffering simultaneously reveal the tragic inadequacy of this narrative—its failure to recognize the indebtedness of Christianity to Judaism, and its terrible consequences for contemporary Jews. The force of these portrayals derives not only from their rootedness in issues central to Christian theology, but from their reflection of contemporary history as a theater of Jewish suffering, and from their dramatic form. I explore these intertwined elements as they apply to four plays: the "Interfectio Puerorum" from Fleury, the Tegernsee "Ludus de Antichristo," the Croxton "Play of the Sacrament," and the Digby "Conversion of Saint Paul." In these plays the materials of medieval antisemitism are transformed into a startling indictment of that ethos, revealing an unexplored side of the Middle Ages and of medieval drama.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
medieval drama, Jews, suffering
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