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Journal > Volumes > 46 (2015) / 3 (Autumn)
“Beautiful Serpents” and “Cathedras of Pestilence”: Antitheatrical Traditions, Gendered Decline, and Political Crisis in Early Modern Spain and England
Rachael Ball
University of Alaska Anchorage

This article examines how, in both early modern Spain and England, antitheatrical polemicists responded to the increased popularity and visibility of playhouses by attacking them as pernicious, diabolical, and effeminizing.Antitheatrical tracts and sermons drew upon the authority of ancients and propagated understandings of the body politic as an organism that could be diagnosed with a corrupting and womanish disease.These arguments resonated during moments of political and social crisis.A historical analysis, however, demonstrates the different trajectories and impacts of antitheatrical writing in these kingdoms.By surveying antitheatrical polemics and legislation passed against the playhouses during long-term bans on public performance, this article contends that although there was more printed antitheatrical sentiment in Spain than in England, this opposition had a limited effect because of the charitable functions of Spanish playhouses that worked to care for the real bodies of members of the body politic.

Pages: 541 - 563