In Defense of the theater


  • Audiences can learn from the imitation of the stage if they themselves imitate virtuous characters – plays provide a “map of morality” by showing which virtues to embrace and shows the ugliness of vices
  • All theatre shouldn’t be banned just because of a few immoral plays
  • Jesus and The New Testament never banned theatre
  • By acting out histories, it gains respect for forefathers: “every succeeding age hath recorder their worths unto fresh admiration.” The “wonder” and “valour” of figures of the past should be shown to others and this can only be done by acting. 


  • “Stage plays are the doctrine and invention of the devil.” 
  • “Plays are the proceedings and the practices of the gentiles in their idolatry” – worshiping something that isn’t God – the plague spreading in playhouses is punishment for this idolatry 
  • Plays do not teach the audience or actors anything – they serve no higher purpose
  • Men dressing as women may make the men effeminate, or confuse the audience – it is against God’s law
  • “comedies / tragedies/ romances teach us the wrong lessons- they are lecherous, desirous, unlawful, adulterous, murderous” 
  • Theaters are breeding grounds for the plague and “contemporary religious thought held that the plague was a punishment for sin”- therefore the theater and sin are intertwined. 
  • The theater allows entertainment to be available in the day time, it could lead to a lack of productivity and laziness. 


A: More mead, Sir?  I’ll call the serving wench.

D: Nay not for I, or I’ll be late to the theatre.

A: The theatre?!

D: Yes, that chap Shakespeare’s latest offering.  Sorry old boy, I’d have got you a ticket if I’d known you were interested.

A: I am as far from interested as the sun is from the moon.

D: No, well, more of a bear-baiting fan myself too, truth be told, but the missus likes it so to the theatre I go. Why are you so dreadfully opposed to a little theatre?

A: Because of the blasphemy, old friend, the blasphemy! How can we forget that all theatre is idolatry, and what’s more, the very embodiment of sinful deception. It’s like the saying goes, “Stage plays are the doctrine and invention of the devil.” Don’t you worry about catching the plague? It’s not just the close proximity with all those rough types – it’s the judgement of the Lord.

D: The plague, I shall grant you, is a fair warning against an evening at the stage. But after all, Jesus in the New Testament of the Holy Book never banned theatre, so who are we to condemn it so?

A: Those lazy, immoral ‘actors’ (I hasten to even suggest that title as a real profession) strut about the stage in the garb of a lord, all the while being a lowly peasant underneath! What’s to stop them thinking they can carry on this charade off the stage…or even worse, giving your labourers lofty ideas? A good portion of mine already leave their posts in the mid-afternoon to indulge in such silly fancies at the Rose. It’s a disruption to the workforce.

D: Ah, but you seem to be forgetting, rogues and knaves are punished for their wrongdoings in stage plays of the moment, and the noble, virtuous hero, he triumphs: a play can be the very map of morality if one reads it properly. And for those uneducated theater-goers in the audience, the performance provides a perfect display of what is true and proper: they only have to copy the virtuous characters to be moral members of our society. The theater isn’t all that bad, fine sir, but now, I must be off – the missus will chew my ear off if I’m late.

Charlotte, Holly, Phoebe, El, Pearl

One thought on “In Defense of the theater”

  1. Really liked the combination of listing your main argumentative points pro- and con- at the top of this post, and then working them into your dialogue, which then fleshes out those points! I can see that you’ve drawn together some of the arguments from the lecture as well as the seminar reading. Next time, see if you can work in some more primary references into either section of your post, e.g. if it doesn’t quite flow in the dialogue, you can try including them in the outline at the top?

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