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Church-State Relations and the Book of Revelation
An Introduction to The Parousia: A Careful Look at the New Testament Doctrine of the Lord's Second Coming
by James Stuart Russell (1878) // Written by
Todd Dennis, Curator
 



 

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The Destruction of Jerusalem by Titus Vespasian

 
From The Critical Works of John Dennis, ed. Edward Niles Hooker (1939-43), ii. 405-6 (in a letter dated 23 June 1719).

IT was at the very latter end of King Charles's reign that Mr. Crowne, being tired with the fatigue of writing, and shocked by the uncertainty of theatrical success, and desirous to shelter himself from the resentments of those numerous enemies which he had made by his City Politics, made his application immediately to the King himself; and desired his Majesty to establish him in some office that might be a security to him for life. The King had the goodness to assure him he should have an office, but added that he would first see another comedy. Mr. Crowne endeavouring to excuse himself, by telling the King that he plotted slowly and awkwardly, the King replied that he would help him to a plot, and so put into his hands the Spanish comedy called Non pued Esser. Mr. Crowne was obliged immediately to go to work upon it; but, after he had writ three Acts of it, found to his surprise that the Spanish play had some time before been translated, and acted, and damned, under the title of Tarugo's Wiles, or the Coffee-house. Yet, supported by the King's command, he went boldly on and finished it...

The play was now just ready to appear to the world; and as everyone that had seen it rehearsed was highly pleased with it, everyone who had heard of it was big with the expectation of it, and Mr. Crowne was delighted with the flattering hope of being made happy for the rest of his life by the performance of the King's promise; when, upon the very last day of the rehearsal, he met Cave Underhill coming from the playhouse as he himself was going toward it. Upon which the poet reprimanding the player for neglecting so considerable a part as he had in the comedy, and neglecting it on a day of so much consequence as the very last day of rehearsal, `Oh Lord, sir,' says Underhill, `we are all undone.! 'Wherefore?' says Mr. Crowne. `Is the playhouse on fire?' `The whole nation,' replies the player, 'will quickly be so, for the King is dead.' At the hearing which dismal words, the author was little better; for he who but the moment before was ravished with the thought of the pleasure which he was about to give to his King, and of the favours which he was afterwards to receive from him, this moment found, to his unspeakable sorrow, that his royal patron was gone for ever, and with him all his hopes. The King indeed revived from his apoplectic fit, but three days after died, and Mr. Crowne by his death was replunged in the deepest melancholy.

[Crowne's play, Sir Courtly Nice, was produced successfully early in the reign of James II.]

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The Destruction of Jerusalem by Titus Vespasian
Written by John Crowne
1677

Crowne, John: The Destruction of Jerusalem (1677)
 

 

Judeo-Christian apocalyptic literature and John Crowne's The Destruction of Jerusalem.
Comparative Drama - June 22, 2001
John B. Rollins
 

Word count: 6341.

citation details


 

John Crowne followed his first comedy, The Countrey Wit (1676), with the two parts of The Destruction of Jerusalem, arguably two of his finest works. The first part premiered on 12 January 1677 and the second part one week later. (1) Neither play has received much critical attention, and those critics who have offered commentary have either condemned it out of hand simply for being a rhymed heroic drama or have been content with discussing Crowne's sources. Capwell, who first noted this tendency to criticize the genre rather than the work, (2) chose to respond by limiting his discussion to Crowne's departures from his sources without ever engaging directly with the implications of the play itself. White demonstrates beyond doubt that Crowne combined elements drawn from Racine's Berenice, Josephus's The Wars of the Jews, and Suetonius's account of the relationship between Titus and Berenice. Capwell criticizes White for simply listing these sources and then attempts to explain Crowne's alterations. However, he seems to regard the romantic plots to be the chief focus of the play: "The historical material, however, primarily supplies merely background for the love stories, and Crowne's skill in weaving the fortunes of Phraartes and Clarona and Titus and Berenice into the historical material is notable." (3) While these plots and characters are significant and can certainly provide insight into characters Crowne subsequently created, the center of the play (4) is, as the title suggests, the destruction of the city of Jerusalem.

A cursory reading of Racine's play or of Otway's Titus and Berenice, (5) which is much closer to the French original than Crowne's work, reveals them to be works nearly devoid of dramatic action. Indeed, Berenice has been held up as an exemplar of the tendency of seventeenth-century French drama to employ simple plots. Racine himself noted that he wished to follow the "simplicite d'action qui a ete si fort du gout des anciens." (6) Crowne's spectacular stage effects and supernatural events could not be more different. The prologue to the first part of The Destruction of Jerusalem announces that the purpose of the play (or, at least, the purpose of the "damned playwright") is to "reveal hid treasure" (a literal [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), offering the first hint that we should recognize the strong element of apocalyptic literature within the drama. Although it seems unusual that Crowne's earlier critics chose not to comment on this element, perhaps it is simply the reemergence of apocalyptic themes in the last days of the twentieth century that make them stand out so clearly now. As we enter the new millennium and have become accustomed to apocalyptic themes in virtually every area of popular culture, it seems appropriate to look at an apocalypse from an earlier period that was also known for its political and religious schisms and excesses.

Given this cultural preoccupation with the ending of the second millennium, it is not surprising that scholars have recently turned their attention to the question as well. Most of these scholars have been theologians, but literary critics have also been among their number, often attempting to apply the findings of the theologians to their own discipline. Bernard McGinn is one such scholar. In his historiographical survey of the origins and current state of the scholarship of apocalypse and apocalypticism, he offers this method of approaching the question of genre: "I would suggest the following five questions as a useful introductory tool for this task: who reveals? to whom? how, or under what circumstances? what? and for what purpose?" (7) Likewise, Brian Stiegler's examination of Cervantes' La Numancia (8) uses the definition of apocalyptic vision set out by the theologian Klaus Koch. These elements are as follows:

1. Urgent expectation of the overthrow of all earthly things in the immediate future

2. The end a vast cosmic catastrophe

3. Close relation of the "end-time" to the rest of history

4. Angels and demons

5. Catastrophe followed by salvation

6. Enthronement of God and the coming of his kingdom

7. Appearance of a mediator/redeemer with royal functions

8. The glory of the age to come (9)

Beyond these schema, a host of other approaches and categorizations have been suggested. It is not the intent of this discussion to contribute to the ongoing debate about what constitutes a genuine apocalyptic vision. Neither will I attempt to argue that The Destruction of Jerusalem is an example of apocalyptic literature when it is so clearly a rhymed heroic drama. What I do hope to explore is the extent to which Crowne employs these apocalyptic elements in shaping the play and to discuss the ways that he may have used these to offer a commentary on contemporary events and, in particular, that coalition of interests that had, by the mid-1670s, allied itself against the Crown. The second section will examine these elements themselves, and the next section will address McGinn's fifth question regarding their purpose. The final section will consider the romantic subplots and the characters involved in those plots.

It seems best, when treating a subject such as this, to begin at the ending. The final scene of the second part of the play shows us Titus, having told Berenice that they must part, declaring:

   My self I'le longer on the wrack retain And at her Chariot see her once
   again; Then gaze till wide and spacious Seas of Air Drown the last view,
   and then for death prepare. (sig. P[2.sup.v]) (10)

But, of course, he does not die, at least not within the time frame of the play itself. The message, like the answer to Kent's query "Is this the promis'd end?" is that there is no real ending (or, alternatively, there is nothing else but a series of unsatisfying small endings without any real significance). Of course, Titus goes on to explain exactly what he means: "I mean that tedious death, which men would fain, / Gild with the specious title of a Reign" (sig. P[2.sup.v]). By framing the story of the destruction of the city of Jerusalem within two nested love stories, Crowne is able to offer a far more complicated and compelling "conclusion" than either Racine or Otway. The love stories themselves are similarly complicated and these complications will be discussed in some detail below. This same feeling is present at the end of the first play--of course, we would not naturally expect much in the way of resolution from a play whose long title is The First Part of the Destruction of Jerusalem by Titus Vespasian. But Crowne is gently mocking his audience. Note the opening lines of the epilogue:

   So, Heaven be thank'd, the Play is at an end, The pretence it has to gain a
   Friend. But this design's to draw another on. (sig. H[1.sup.r])

Thus, we are again teased with the promise of an ending where there is none. From these illusory endings flow the other apocalyptic elements of the play.

One of Koch's distinguishing marks of apocalyptic literature is the "appearance of a mediator/redeemer with royal functions." In these plays, both Phraartes and Titus are described in this way. In the opening scene of part 1, Monobazus describes Jerusalem's reaction to Phraartes:

   They Idolize your name, and boast with Pride, To their great Race of Kings
   you are ally'd. Exalted hopes they on your Valour build, Look to have
   Prophecies in you fulfill'd (sig. B[2.sup.v])

Matthias reiterates this position, declaring that "the mighty Parthian King ... springs / Of Jewish blood by a long Race of Kings" (sig. C[3.sup.r]). In the second part of the play, the connections become even more obvious. As Titus prepares for the final assault on Jerusalem, Malchus, Antiochus, and Tiberias describe the attitude of the people within the city:

Malchus: They talk of nought but Heav'n, religion, gods, Of conq'ring you, nay of enslaving Rome, Of Empire here, and paradise to come.

Antiochus: Nay, every moment they expect a King....

Tiberias: Some fondly dream, the Parthian King is he; Think him the eldest son of prophesie. Find him inroll'd in their divine record, And see strange wonders budding on his sword. (sig. B[3.sup.v])

His accomplishments in the rest of the play reinforce this messianic role. After one of his many battles, Clarona says to Phraartes that "blood out of your Wounds begins to flow" (sig. I[1.sup.v]), calling to mind Christ's wounds. In the next act, Phraartes returns from an expedition against the Roman forces. He again frees Matthias and brings baskets of provisions: "There I have brought rich plunder for the Crowd.... Go scatter life, throw Souls among 'em all!" (sig. N[4.sup.r]). The parallel with Christ's feeding of the multitude (Matthew 14:13-23; Mark 6:30-46; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:10-13-the only miracle recorded in all four gospels) could not be more apparent. (11) The impact of Phraartes' atheism on this characterization is discussed in some detail below.

In spite of Phraartes' heroics, in the end it is Titus who is the triumphant king. As the general is making his way through the vanquished city, Tiberias tells him that an old inscription has been found:

   Where it was writ,--One day in Jewish Land A man shall rise, who shall the
   World command. These foolish Slaves apply'd the Gods intent To their base
   Nation, which to you was meant. (sig. O[4.sup.v])

Tiberias's application of the prophecy to Titus is important, inasmuch as the deliberate misinterpretation of signs and prophecies is such a marked characteristic of the Jews within the play. Further defining the messianic role of Titus, the next few lines evoke images of death, resurrection, and ascension. In his thanksgiving oration to his troops, Titus says that he has "receiv'd the fatal blow" and that he must go to "worlds of glory" where "all joys" will be forever "out of sight." This last phrase is directly parallel to that in the book of Acts which says that Christ was taken up "out of their sight" (1:9). Thus, Crowne has applied messianic imagery to both Phraartes the atheist and Titus the pagan. (12)

Beyond these messianic references and allusions, which are scattered throughout the play, most of the apocalyptic imagery is limited to a few scenes, and most of these are found in part 1. There are practical reasons for this: these scenes made great use of various kinds of stage machinery that doubtless required a great amount of time and effort to set up and execute. Of these scenes, act 3 of part 1 contains most of the more spectacular visions. These actually begin in the final lines of act 2, as an unnamed gentleman rushes onto the stage and addresses Phraartes:

   Haste, Sir, and see The stormy Air all fill'd with Prodigy; A numerous Army
   in the Skye appears, And every Troop a bloody Banner bears. They march
   along in the Moons timorous light, Then dive in air and vanish from our
   sight. (sig. D[3.sup.r])

What follows in act 3, scene 1 is a litany of signs and portents, most a mixture of materials drawn from Josephus and from the Apocalypse of John. Those crafted from the latter also generally have antecedents in the Old Testament. It is as though Crowne, clearly possessing an intimate knowledge of Scripture, hoped to reflect the style as well as the content of the book of Revelation, which also makes extensive use of the prophetic language and traditions of the Old Testament.

As the scene opens, Phineas is describing his vision of the "army in the air." This detail is found in Josephus's account of the siege. (13) The closest parallel in the Apocalypse is the heavenly army of divine judgment that returns in glory with Christ at his Second Coming in chapter 19. However, the episode is also an ironic version--especially when one considers the deliberate misreading of the events by Matthias and his followers--of the deliverance of the prophet Elisha from the Syrian king (Ben-Hadad II) recorded in 2 Kings 6. In that instance, the servant of Elisha awoke to discover that the city of Dothan, where the prophet was then living, was surrounded by the Syrian army. Elisha calmed his servant by praying that his eyes might be opened to see that "those who are with us are more than those who are with them." The servant was then allowed to see the heavenly army surrounding the Syrians. In Crowne's play, however, the army of Yahweh is prepared to assault Jerusalem itself, although this is an interpretation that Phineas refuses to make, choosing instead to believe that this is evidence of anarchy and rebellion in "the provinces o'th' air." As noted above, this tendency to misinterpret the apocalyptic signs emerges as a characteristic of both religious factions, those led by Matthias and those led by the usurper John. Even though Matthias, reflecting on the portents, declares, "These divine riddles who can understand?" he himself falls victim to his own attempts at understanding.

Crowne seems to be reflecting the political mood of England's recent history. The 1670s had been marked by rumors of plots of every kind, and therefore even the most harmless of events was held to hint at some great scheme to undo the country and turn it over to its religious and political enemies. The great strength of Catholic France lent a sense of impending danger. The Earl of Shaftesbury, as early as 1674, had publicly stated that he believed a force of sixteen thousand Catholics in and around London were poised to execute a "desperate stroke." (14) Alleged plots led to the "discovery" of stores of Popish books, sinister documents, incriminating letters, and gunpowder being made ready for the rhetorical and physical destruction of country and Parliament. The following year, 1678, would see two lunar and three solar eclipses: astrologers delighted in assigning the most malign of interpretations to these events. (15) Crowne would continue to exploit the political tensions of the period in every play that he wrote until the waters calmed in the mid-1680s. Lest we press the analogy too far, however, the dangers facing Jerusalem were real; England's fears were largely imaginary. The real threat, certainly as Crowne saw it, was the threat of political chaos arising within the country itself.

Act 3, scene 1 continues with descriptions of flaming swords, earthquakes, and ominous birds wailing in the night. All of these are common apocalyptic images and make regular appearances in the book of Revelation ("sword" [1:16]; "earthquakes" [16:17-18]; "birds" [12:14]) and, to a lesser extent, the book of Daniel. The focus of the scene, however, is on two divine announcements of judgment: the first delivered by an unnamed Prophet who has been tormenting the city and the second delivered by an angel. The Prophet declares:

   A Voice, a Voice--a dreadful Voice is come. A Voice against our Elders,
   Priests, and Scribes, Our City, Temple, and our holy Tribes; Against the
   Bridegroom, and the joyful Bride, And all that in Jerusalem reside. Woe,
   woe, woe.-- (sig. D[4.sup.r])

AS was the case with the aerial army earlier in the scene, this episode is drawn directly from the account in Josephus. It comes close to being a direct quotation: "A voice from the east, a voice from the west, a voice from the four winds, a voice against Jerusalem and the Sanctuary, a voice against bridegrooms and brides, a voice against the whole people. ... Woe again to the City, the people, and the Sanctuary." (16) Like the character in Crowne's play, this prophet has been persecuted and tortured. However, the speech also has certain alterations that suggest a prophetic discourse from the New Testament. The first line echoes the preaching of John the Baptist who described himself as "the voice of one crying in the wilderness" (Matt. 3:4), which is itself a quotation from Isaiah 40:3. That final line--"woe, woe, woe"--is a quotation from Revelation 8:13 and is there directed against the doomed inhabitants of the earth. Following several other signs and portents--including a replay of the rending of the temple veil separating the Holy of Holies from the main body of the Temple--an angel appears and reinforces the Prophet's message by pronouncing unambiguous judgment on the city. After this declaration, Matthias and Phineas immediately begin to reinterpret the angel's message and then progress to an outright denial of its clear intent. At the end of the scene, there is a deliberate misreading of the signs and prophecies. Matthias even summons the Sanhedrin to assist him in this reinterpretation: "We'll find what fit constructions there can be / Of this strange sight, and stranger Prophesie." Note how steadfastly Matthias refuses to see the end of Jerusalem as anything less than the end of the cosmos:

   Yes, on these Columns the whole Arch is bent, This Golden Roof supports the
   Firmament.... That to say Heav'n will ruine on us send, Is to declare the
   World is at an end; And Nature is disbanding all her Powers, Then falls the
   Temple of the World, and ours. (sig. E[1.sup.r])

They are attempting to write their own apocalyptic vision of the end of the world. But it is finally only their own end writ large. Absolutely unable and unwilling to grasp the meaning of the announcement, Matthias concludes, "It must be some illusion then." Crowne certainly must be credited with a very sophisticated sense of the nature of apocalyptic expectation and disappointment.

In something of a parallel to this scene, part 2, act 5 reveals that the Pharisee John has hired two prophets to declare, on the eve of total destruction, that victory is near. Their message is also filled with biblical references and allusions:

1 Prophet: Lift up your heads, ye People! for this hour Salvation comes, from Heav'n, the seat of Pow'r.

2 Prophet: Salvation comes! a flaming Sword she bears! Woe for partakers with Idolaters! (sig. O[3.sup.r)

These two characters are false representations of the two witnesses of Revelation 11 who declared the final doom of Jerusalem--not its coming triumph. One additional apocalyptic reference is worth a brief comment. Amongst the angel's pronouncements is the statement "Thy weeks are finish'd." The phrase derives from Daniel 9. There, the angel Gabriel has come to explain to Daniel the meaning of his visions. However, the angel also adds to the prophetic utterances the following:

   Seventy weeks are determined For your people and for your holy city, To
   finish the transgression, To make an end of sins, To make reconciliation
   for iniquity, To bring in everlasting righteousness, To seal up vision and
   prophecy, And to anoint the Most Holy. (Daniel 9:24, AV)

Thus, we can clearly link Crowne's play not simply with Josephus and Suetonious, but also with two of the chief examples of Judeo-Christian apocalyptic literature, Revelation and Daniel. This certainly distinguishes this play from Racine and Otway, whose plays lack anything remotely like this kind of imagery.

Apocalyptic elements are also evident in act 4, scene 1. Again, Crowne mixes material from his historical sources and from the Scriptures to fashion the action. The first spectacle that greets the audience is the drawing of the scene--a technique Crowne had used to good effect in The Countrey Wit (1676)--to reveal the sleeping Sanhedrin. This detail may have been crafted from a similar incident involving sleeping guards in Josephus; Capwell, at least, is convinced of it. (17) However, there seems to be a reference, both in the sleeping figures and the dimly burning lamps, to the eschatological parable of the ten virgins in Matthew: "Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept" (25:1-5). The lesson of the parable--"Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming"--has clear import for the events of the play, inasmuch as Jerusalem is being destroyed because her messiah, the bridegroom, had come and she was found sleeping.

The final spectacle of this scene is the rising of Herod's ghost. There is no parallel for this in Josephus, nor is there in either of the Jewish apocalypses. Of course, rising ghosts already had become a stock element English stagecraft by this time. There is a single reference in Herod's speech to having "plac'd Esau's chains of slavery" on Jerusalem, derived from the fact that he, as an Idumean, was a descendent of Esau, rather than of Jacob, as were the Jews. Aside from the hiring of the two prophets discussed above, the second part of the play contains little of these apocalyptic spectacles but confines itself rather to the twin tragedies of the doomed lovers: Titus and Berenice, and Phraartes and Clarona. Before turning to these, however, it seems best to consider the other religious and political aspects of the work.

In the epilogue to part 1, Crowne tells us that we should note the parallels between the Pharisees of his play and the "Fanaticks" of his day:

   The frantique part of all our Nation too, Fanaticks, who'll be angry with
   us all, For ripping up their base Original; Shewing their Sires, the
   Pharisees, from whom They and their Cheats by long succession come: Whom
   they're so like, the diff'rence duly priz'd, Fanaticks are but Jews
   uncircumciz'd. (sig. H[1.sup.r])

The conflict between the Pharisees, led by John, and the party led by Matthias is set out at the end of act 1. There, John's designs to undermine Matthias within the city and concurrently to betray the city to the Edomites are revealed. It is easy enough to see in these machinations the activities of those who had allied themselves against Charles in the rekindled political firestorm in England. From this point, Crowne uses every appearance of the Pharisees to satirize the politics of that party and their pretense of religion.

The next scene featuring the Pharisees is act 4, scene 1. John begins by spreading the falsehood that Matthias has sold the city out to the Romans--a suggestion that seems to reflect the widespread rumors of the 1670s that Charles was planning an alliance with Catholic France. Of course, he had made something like such an alliance in the secret Treaty of Dover in 1670, but this had not yet become known publicly. John uses this lie to whip his followers into a frenzy. As the tone of the rhetoric rises, Crowne places overt religious references, used in deliberately blasphemous ways, into the mouths of the Pharisees. The first is the cry of Eleazar that he is "thirsty for [the] blood" of his enemies. This is followed immediately by an unnamed Pharisee who declares that "to eat their flesh were holy gluttony": the blood and body of an unholy communion. Later in the scene, the tools that they will use to force their way into the temple are referred to as "the blessed instrument." The most obvious blasphemies, however, are their shouted vows as they rush to battle. They swear by Jerusalem, the temple, the altar, and by "Corban." All of these are a direct violation of Christ's commands. Compare these to Christ's words in Matthew: "But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God's throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King" (5.34-35). Similarly, in Matthew 23.16-19, (18) we read these words: "Woe to you, blind guides, who say, `swears by the temple, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple, he is obliged to perform it'. Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that sanctifies the gold? And, `Whoever swears by the altar, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gift that is on it, he is obliged to perform it'. Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that sanctifies the gift?"

The reference to "Corban" is also significant. Christ condemned the Pharisees for refusing to help their aged parents by declaring any money that might have been so used to be Corban--in Hebrew, literally "given to God." They were in effect denying the spirit of the law by following it to the letter--an apt description of the fanatical party of Crowne's day. (19)

The final Scriptural reference in the scene is to the rebellion of Corah. John first applies it to Matthias, and then Matthias returns the designation. In Numbers 16 the Levite Corah leads a rebellion against Moses and Aaron. The rebels questioned the leadership of those two and argued for something like republican rule: "Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?" They were destroyed when the earth opened up and swallowed them. This incident may also have suggested to Crowne the manner of Phraartes' demise. The burning temple fell on him and led to this description: "Thus down alive into the shades he fell / And, stead of dying, he invaded hell."

The rebels capture Matthias in act 5, scene 1, and accuse him of crimes against the nation as a prelude to his execution. Among the charges leveled is that Matthias and his followers indulged in both religious and political idolatry: "Rome was the idol which you worship'd here, / Your Dagon, Ashtaroth, and Baal-Peor." The story of Israel's involvement with Baal-Peor, a Moabite deity, is also recorded in the book of Numbers and includes yet another rebellion against Moses and Aaron. It may also be significant that the names Phineas and Eleazar occur in the same chapter. Inasmuch as Crowne refers to two events from this book, it would seem that he has drawn these names from it as well. (20) However, the reference to Rome may have a deeper significance. The political fear of the Catholic Church of Rome was widespread in the 1670s, and it was a particular concern of those allied against Charles and his Catholic brother, James, who was the heir to the throne. Crowne, a dedicated Royalist, could not have chosen a more appropriate historical episode to highlight the anxieties of his political opponents.

The second part of the play is much closer to both Racine's original and Otway's adaptation inasmuch as the focus of the drama shifts to the relationship between Titus and Berenice--or, rather, to the implications of the ending of this relationship. This is, of course, perfectly in line with the apocalyptic theme of part 1. As Titus overlooks Jerusalem (21) at the beginning of part 2, little doubt remains that the city will fall to him. Likewise, there is little doubt that he will follow through with his decision to end his relationship with Berenice. In each case, all that remains to be decided is the timing of these actions. In part 1, the outcome appeared to be in doubt. Phraartes seemed to offer a genuine hope that Jerusalem night be able to withstand the Roman army. In the second part, little hope of this success remains, and the inhabitants of the city begin to behave like animals in their despair. The dramatic tension is provided by Titus's struggle to carry out the inevitable. This lends a sense of prolonged foreboding to the play from the outset. The Pharisees and other players within the doomed city remain a conspicuous part of the action; however, this plot line is clearly subordinated to the Titus-Berenice line. It appears that by this stage of his career Crowne had developed a keener sense of the market: he was able to fashion two highly successful plays from a single original.

We note in act 1 the pattern that persists throughout the play: long sequences of dialogue, chiefly between Titus and Berenice or Phraartes and Clarona, interrupted by episodic violence. Early in this act the dialogue is between Titus and Tiberias, who is urging Titus to act, to bring to an end the long siege that has postponed the moment of crisis. He further urges Titus to tell Berenice about his decision to end the relationship. It is clear that these are envisioned as a single act, the destruction both of Jerusalem and of Berenice herself. Act 1 is a single scene: Titus in his tent the morning of the final assault on Jerusalem. Tiberias enters and gets confirmation that the battle will proceed and that Titus has determined to break with Berenice. Tiberias is dearly more bloody-minded and practical than Titus, and he suggests that the prisoners taken early in the battle be crucified into order to terrify those who remain barricaded within the city. By contrast, Titus is inward looking, preparing, in the words of Tiberias, to end his mortal life in order to ascend "new worlds of glory" Berenice enters but Titus cannot bring himself to tell her. He rushes out into battle, and there is certainly the suggestion that he would rather die than have to make this decision or announce it to her.

The penultimate scene involving the Pharisees reinforces what we have observed regarding their connection with the political party of Crowne's day. Having captured Matthias, John, employing the unadorned language used to refer to Catholic priests, describes him as a "Romish priest." We also discover another connection to apocalyptic literature in John's urging of Matthias to "Behold the desolations you have made" The "abomination of desolation" is a phrase used in Daniel (11:31). Most Old Testament scholars agree that this refers to an event that occurred during the invasion of Jerusalem by Antiochus Epiphanes in 167 B.C.E., when he ordered a statue of Zeus set up in the temple and slaughtered a pig on the altar. (22) Christ himself refers to the event in Matthew 24 and recasts the image as a foretaste of calamities to come. The final scene involving the Pharisees--save their silent appearance as Titus's captives near the end of the play--sees John about to kill Matthias. He calls him "the vile Achan"--a reference to the Israelite who took the spoils from Jericho after this had been forbidden by Joshua. This resulted in Israelite defeat during their next battle at the city of Ai. Before the nation could prosper again, Joshua was required to expose and then kill the man and his family. The episode again highlights both the cruelty of the Pharisees and the irony of their own role in the downfall of Jerusalem.

Berenice is featured in the play's fourth act. After Tiberias offers to take the fell news to Berenice that she must part from Titus, the scene changes to her tent. There, Monobazus declares his love for her. Then Antiochus and Malchus enter. Malchus recognizes Monobazus and tells Berenice that it was he who had slain her brother. She orders that he be seized and executed. Before this can be carried out, Tiberias enters with news from Titus. Tiberias's attitude is interesting. He disagrees with the laws ("The Roman laws were made ere I was born") and wishes that they could be changed: "I wish Rome paid crown'd heads the honour due, / At least from all her laws exempted you." She spares Monobazus, but he promises to go into the town and die in the final battle. The scene shifts again to Titus's tent where he prepares for the "combat" -- Berenice's visit. As Berenice lashes out at Titus, she flings herself down into a chair. She goes out threatening to kill herself. Titus follows, but Tiberias is certain that he will decide in favor of Rome in the end. Crowne thus reiterates the connection and the contrast made by both Racine and Otway between love and duty--a theme to which Crowne returned in his final three tragedies, Darius, Regulus, and Caligula.

Given what we have just discussed, we can propose at least a provisional answer to McGinn's fifth question: what is the purpose of the apocalyptic revelation in The Destruction of Jerusalem? It would appear that Crowne has fashioned this apocalyptic vision with a clear political purpose. Certainly, other examples of apocalyptic literature have a political component. What distinguishes this play from these, however, is its strong prescriptive element. Other apocalypses attempt to comfort the audience by offering hope that beyond the immediate crisis a new age of glory will be ushered in. There is nothing like this sense in Crowne's play--there is no hope for Jerusalem, for the glory has genuinely departed. It would seem that this play is a warning about the consequences of political unrest--a theme to which Crowne would return in his next two plays, The Ambitious Statesman (1679) and The Misery of Civil War (1680).

NOTES

(1) The London Stage: 1600-1700, ed. W. B. Van Lennep, E. L. Avery, A. H. Scouten, G. W. Stone Jr., and C. B. Hogan 11 vols. (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University, 1960-69), 1:252. It would appear that the play's popularity led to the reprint of Thomas Dekker's Canaan's Calamitie, Jerusalems Misery; and England's Mirror (London: Edward Thomas, 1677).

(2) Richard Capwell, "A Biographical and Critical Study of John Crowne" (Ph.D. diss., Duke University, 1964), 214.

(3) Ibid., 221.

(4) For the purpose of this discussion, I will treat parts 1 and 2 as a single work (or, as Crowne suggests in the epilogue to part 1, "damn 'em both now under one").

(5) It was in fact the production of this play by the Duke's Company that sent Crowne to their rivals at the Theatre Royal. See Capwell "A Biograhphical and Critical Study" 57-59, for a full discussion of the legal issues involved.

(6) Quoted in James J. Supple, Racine: Berenice, Critical Guides to French Texts (London: Grant and Cutler, 1986),10.

(7) Bernard McGinn, "Early Apocalypticism: The Ongoing Debate," in The Apocalypse in English Renaissance Thought and Literature, ed. C. A. Patrides and Joseph Wittreich (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1984), 4.

(8) Brian N. Stiegler, "The Coming of the New Jerusalem: Apocalyptic Vision in Cervantes's La Numanci," Neophilologus 80 (1996): 570.

(9) Klaus Koch, The Rediscovery of Apocalyptic, trans. Margaret Kohl, Studies in Biblical Theology Series 22 (Napierville, Ill.: Alec R. Allenson, 1972), 28-33.

(10) All citations are from John Crowne, The Destruction of Jerusalem by Titus Vespasian: in Two Parts. (London: R. Bentley, 1693). Wing C7386.

(11) It also bears a remarkable similarity to an episode in Cervantes' La Numancia. Morandro makes a foolhardy raid on the Romans who are laying siege to the city. He is mortally wounded in the fight and returns with only a piece of blood-soaked bread (4.1). However, Cervantes' play circulated in manuscript only until a printed edition appeared in the mid-eighteenth century. It seems that Crowne knew something of this play, but this cannot be demonstrated conclusively.

(12) Although, it should be noted that Crowne may have been following the medieval tradition that Titus was, in a sense, the first crusader. See especially the alliterative poem The Destruction of Jerusalem (Cambridge University Library, MS. Mm.V. 13-15) where Titus is cured of his cancer ("a canker vnclene") when he expresses his outrage at the treatment of Christ.

(13) Josephus, The Jewish War, trans. G. A. Williamson (Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1959), 327; also cited in Capwell, "A Biographical and Critical Study, 221.

(14) David Ogg, England in the Reign of Charles II (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1955), 561.

(15) Ibid., 559.

(16) Josephus, The Jewish War, 327-28.

(17) Ibid., 221.

(18) Interestingly, this chapter immediately precedes Christ's extended eschatological discourse in chap. 24.

(19) Mark 7:9-13.

(20) Capwell suggests that Phineas is an alteration of Josephus's "Phannias."

(21) This is a parallel to the opening of part 1. There, both Phraartes and Mozambus praise Jerusalem for its beauty and grandeur. In part 2, Titus remarks:

   Yet I would fain this splendid city save.
   Methink it does a noble town appear;
   Gods might forsake their heaven t' inhabit here. (1.1)

(22) These events are also reflected in I Macc. 1:44-45.

John B. Rollins
Prairie View A&M University

 


Citation Details

Title: Judeo-Christian apocalyptic literature and John Crowne's The Destruction of Jerusalem.
Author: John B. Rollins
Publication: Comparative Drama (Refereed)
Date: June 22, 2001
Publisher: Comparative Drama
Volume: 35    Issue: 2    Page: 209(16)

 

 

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 "Amongst the angel's pronouncements is the statement "Thy weeks are finish'd." The phrase derives from Daniel 9. There, the angel Gabriel has come to explain to Daniel the meaning of his visions. Thus, we can clearly link Crowne's play not simply with Josephus and Suetonious, but also with two of the chief examples of Judeo-Christian apocalyptic literature, Revelation and Daniel. This certainly distinguishes this play from Racine and Otway, whose plays lack anything remotely like this kind of imagery." (ARTchive Entry)

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