Writing home to King Philip III from the Spanish embassy in London on November 1, 1619, Fray Diego de la Fuente proudly declared his part in suspending a revival of Thomas Dekker’s The Whore of Babylon (1606) due to its “thousands of blasphemies against the pope and Spain.” La Fuente, Gondomar’s London replacement from 1618 to 1620, was clearly intervening to protect Anglo-Spanish diplomatic interests at the height of the ongoing marriage negotiations between the Infanta Maria and Prince Charles. By 1619, English opposition to the “Spanish match” had become inextricably shaped by King James’s refusal to offer military support to his son-in-law, Frederick V, against the Catholic Habsburg invasion of Protestant Bohemia, a conflict interpreted in apocalyptic-chivalric terms. Originally responding to the Gunpowder Plot, the reappearance of Dekker’s play in 1619 encourages a broader analysis of its political message and appeal. This essay reads The Whore of Babylon in this wider European diplomatic context by placing it in conversation with contemporary political and theological treatises and diplomatic communications. Dekker’s play is also read as part of a wider theatrical tradition of post-Reformation apocalyptic drama and, more immediately, as participating in the extended print and performance history of the confessionally charged Jacobean history play. Combining an apocalyptic vision of history and chivalric language and imagery within a cultural framework of Elizabethan nostalgia, The Whore of Babylon became even more politically topical and sensitive in its 1619 revival than in its original context.
The Apocalyptic Chivalry of Thomas Dekker’s The Whore of Babylon and Anglo-Spanish Diplomacy
Jeri Smith-Cronin; The Apocalyptic Chivalry of Thomas Dekker’s The Whore of Babylon and Anglo-Spanish Diplomacy. Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 1 September 2020; 50 (3): 633–657. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10829636-8626493
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