The Croxton Play of the Sacrament paradoxically enacts anxieties about the propriety of Passion drama. Framing the play's central action—the Jews' testing of the Communion wafer in a parody of the Passion—with the story of a Christian merchant who enables or even sponsors those acts, the Croxton play provides critical distance on the very performance it enacts. Ultimately, it replaces the Passion play with, and judges it inferior to, a more decorous and authoritative processional ritual. Moreover, in presenting a Christian merchant as the catalyst for the Jews' actions, the play not only reinforces the anti-Semitic association of Jews with commerce, but also directs part of its antiludic anxieties at Christian mercantile culture, thus deploying its anti-Semitism to criticize the culture that largely underwrote late medieval drama. In all of this, the play participates in an antiludic discourse that may be broader and earlier than previously supposed.
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