Cross-Cultural Representations of Tyranny as Depicted in Jesuit School Plays Performed in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
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Deeply influenced by Ciceronian and Aristotelian political doctrines on the ‘republic’, political thinkers in the decades of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth addressed the issues of the ‘nature or health of the commonwealth, the nature of mixed government, the notion of just war, the limits of monarchy i.e. the despot versus tyrant’. These debates were immortalized in an abundance of political writings on the limits and power, the nature of good government and the importance of civic virtue and civic liberties, which sought to approach these issues in practical terms with respect to the republic or commonwealth as one ‘political community’. It is in this backdrop of rich political debate on the nature of the Commonwealth, that the Jesuits who first came to Poland in 1565, introduced a schooling system based in Christian humanism and which educated in civic virtues. Jesuit theatre played a crucial role in the education of young men, many of whom would later become distinguished statesmen and churchmen in the country. This paper will provide an analysis of chosen Jesuit school playbills that exploit the motif of the monarch-tyrant as represented in Jesuit plays that of Chinese or Japanese motifs. The assumption is that the very choice and rendition of topic provides and reveals the early modern Poland-Lithuania sentiments and reflections on the limits of power and right to individual freedoms. By doing so, this paper hopes also to elucidate why this topic so appealed to the minds and audiences of Early Modern Jesuit School and explain the significance of the chosen playbills school theatre understood within its culture-specific historical context.
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