Frank Napolitano (Radford University)
Early Theatre, 12.2 (2009): 15-31 (paper). Article 2
This article examines the varying levels of certainty associated with verbal rhetoric and miracles, for both are means through which the York‘Entry into Jerusalem’ transmits and affirms the Christian faith. Emphasizing the importance of the characters’ rhetorical interactions and investment, the play depicts the relationship between rhetoric and miracles in a manner different from other biblical plays, which appear to subordinate the role of human speech in exploring or conveying religious truths. In contrast, the York ‘Entry’ privileges rhetoric as the primary catalyst for the characters’ encounter with Jesus, and affirms humanity’s efforts to engage rhetorically with the tenets of its faith. Rhetorical interaction eventually leads the faithful, like the fictional townspeople of Jerusalem, to a literal and figurative encounter with the divine.
The York ‘Entry into Jerusalem’ presents some striking commentaries on rhetoric, reason, and a community’s efforts to engage in its faith.1 Scholars have focused on many aspects of the play, including its audience, sources, staging techniques, and the devotional and political aspects of its dialogue. They have not, however, examined the relationship between the fictional towns- people’s long deliberations concerning their belief in Jesus, and the ultimate confirmation of that belief that results from seeing Jesus in the flesh and witnessing his spectacular healing miracles. This article examines the varying levels of certainty associated with verbal rhetoric and miracles, for both are means through which the play transmits and affirms the Christian faith. Throughout their deliberations, the characters call attention to the features of an argument that make it persuasive, frequently couching their assessment in language that skirts the boundaries between logical and rhetorical discourse.