Character and the Passions

  • Edward Burns


The Elizabethan development of a rhetorical theatre as the arena of politics and historical representation has at its basis assumptions to which middle-class Protestantism opposes itself — an opposition to the idea of a visible, common, indivisibly social life, an opposition that expresses itself in the construction of interiorities and in the assertion of an authoritative basis for the self in individual relation to God and his revealed word. But, as we have seen, that theatre, in its articulate self-reflexivity, its complex mapping of the unsaid against the spoken, can at least point to the opposite of itself. It has no simple unitary value as the symbol of a certain kind of social ‘order’. To examine the representation of the human as a political praxis (which is how Aristotle and the rhetoricians examine it) is to become aware of the complexity of Elizabethan theatrical practice, especially in an area that often unexamined notion of character has tended to obscure.


Human Nature Common Sense Moral Knowledge Aristotelian Tradition Rhetorical Tradition 
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Copyright information

© Edward Burns 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Edward Burns
    • 1
  1. 1.University of LiverpoolUK

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