Vulgar Comedy and the Church (Part 5 – Opposition to theatre and comedy)

In the sixteenth century we also see how puritanism gain power and how and the Counter Reformation takes place. They wanted to purify the popular culture. They tried to stop the carnival and official festivities, since they though that the people fed on incontinence and wasted time and money. They closed the theaters since a sinful actor could not portray the life of a saint. They wanted to separate all what is sacred and what is secular.
We should remember that most people in this time were deeply religious, therefore it was only the church, its ceremonies, order and hierarchies that were mocked, never the actual religion. Still it was a time when the church was scorned at the gravest way. Even the lower priesthood and the clergy mocked the church. It was unofficially allowed to mock the church as a part of the double way to see the world (See Bakhtin).

In the medieval ages and the renaissance the village priest had almost the same social and cultural status as the other villagers, but the puritans could not let him wear a mask, dance in the church or make jokes in the pulpit (See Part  2).
In Europe of the Counter Reformation, by the end of the sixteenth century, came also the banning of theatres. In a church meeting in Milan 1566 all religious plays where banned, in Reims in 1583 all plays on celebration days were forbidden, Pope Innocent XII had the  Teatro di Tordinona destroyed in 1697 and even the government in the Spanish Netherlands sent an edict against religious plays in 1601.
In Italy all Commedia dell’Arte companies were thrown out about 1572. This led to the spreading of Commedia dell’Arte companies around Europe, where many of them grew to be great and famous and where they got so much inspiration. We can therefor thank the Counter Reformation for the greatness of Commedia dell’Arte today. Who knows maybe that is why we know about Commedia dell’Arte today.

At the same time we must have in mind that, in a much slower process, the authority of the church is decreasing during the renaissance. The mundane power, money, humanism, and the new world begin to rise in influence on behalf of the church.

Go to:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

See also:
Anthony Caputi and Vulgar Comedy
The Old Testament (Gamla Testamentet)
Micke´s Commedia dell’Arte-lecture

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