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Conversion of St. Paul, The Renegado, churches, plays, performance


The anonymous Digby Conversion of St. Paul aims at historical verisimilitude in order to distance the on-stage baptism the play contains from the rite as performed in early sixteenth-century English churches. Philip Massinger’s The Renegado (published 1624), presenting the conversion and baptism of a Muslim woman, employs specific details to establish the baptism performed on stage as a rite that, while efficacious within the contexts of the play, is markedly different in substantive performance than the form of baptism presented in the 1559 Book of Common Prayer. Both plays frame the dramatically significant and sensitive performance of the religious rite in ways that draw deliberate attention to its distance from the rite that the respective audiences of these plays would have understood and known as a significant reality of their everyday lives. In framing these on-stage ritual performances in these ways the authors demonstrate a powerful awareness of how ritual language operates according to the much latercodification and explanation of language effects articulated in speech act theory.

Between the idea

And the reality

Between the motion

And the act

Falls the Shadow

T. S. Eliot

The Hollow Men (1925)