Book Reviews Christopher Semk. Playing the Martyr: Theater and Theology in Early Modern France, Bucknell UP, 2017. 198 pp. Theater and theology made an awkward couple in seventeenth-century France. The 1630s in particular were dominated by a process of rigorous secularisation that Christopher Semk’s new study, Playing the Martyr, neatly calls “the separation of Church and Stage.” Yet the relationship between religion and theater was by no means a purely antagonistic one, and the intersections of the two could lead to moments of great dramatic creativity. As its title suggests, Semk’s study explores this “dynamic and productive relationship between theater and religion” (xvi) through the speciﬁc ﬁgure of the martyr. Being hard to integrate into traditional Aristo- telian models of dramatic plot, martyr plays have often proved a thorny topic for seventeenth-century theater historians. As Semk reminds us, however, martyr plays proved very popular with audiences, both in Paris (which saw eleven such plays between 1636 and 1646)and—more particularly—in the provinces. Yet martyr plays do not form a neat, cohe- sive genre either; forming a “heterogeneous corpus” (xvii), they address and dramatize their subject matter in a variety of different and often cre- ative ways. Reasoning that even the
French Forum – University of Nebraska Press
Published: Aug 17, 2018
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