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By Foster Hirsch

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As my reading of the Croxton play suggests, these two modes of interpretation overlap and exist simultaneously in sacramental representation; moreover, the tensions and dynamism of the Croxton play strongly suggests that English culture was capable of interrogating such frameworks before the developments of the sixteenth century. Throughout the crises and reformations of the sixteenth century, then, when the sacramental system is continually remade and refashioned as a result of political, cultural and sectarian imperatives, these two schemes form a useful structure within which sacramental discourse can be analysed.

Disguised hypocrites (Catholics) are banished from the company of the perfect Israelites (Protestants). The ideological community, then, is forged in opposition to an alternative community. The alternative community imagined by Bale can be further differentiated from the late medieval community by the reduction of the number of sacraments available. For Bale, as for most Protestants, confirmation and extreme unction are easily divested of their nonsacramental status; there is, accordingly, no mention of either in the drama.

Peter Happé suggests an answer based on Bale’s dramaturgy: “[t]he emphasis found in the [mystery] cycles upon the ritualistic and sacramental aspects of baptism as one of the seven sacraments is avoided by Bale” (John Bale 114). Certainly, Bale’s baptism is no longer “one of the seven sacraments”; but the preceding discussion has shown that the “ritualistic and sacramental aspects of baptism” are an integral part of Bale’s representations of the ceremony. A more accurate answer may be found in a schematic piece of dramaturgy, where the central debate between John the Baptist and the Pharisee John Bale and the Politicisation of Sacramentality 45 and Sadducee is book-ended by two sermons on baptism, delivered by John the Baptist to the audience (189–206, 320–37).

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