Robertson - Foxe's Christus Triumphans
Shakespeare Studies, 2000

Foxe's Christus Triumphans

by Lynne M. Robertson

In the fifth act of John Foxe's Latin comedy Christus Triumphans, location is clearly established as key among the distinguishing characteristics that will mark the Antichrist:

Europus.Incredibile dictu, Hierologe, Et monstri simile, Pseudamnum te dicere Antichristum esse? Hierologus.Non ficus est ficus magis. Europus. Qui scis? Hierologus.Res, tempus, uita, doctrina arguunt Et locus ipse.


Europus. [to Hierologus] That's incredible, Hierologus, it's monstrous! You say Pseudamnus is the Antichrist? Hierologus. [to Europus] A fig tree is not more a fig tree. Europus. [to Hierologus] How do you know? Hierologus. [to Europus] The circumstances, the timing, his life, his doctrine, and even his office prove it.

The translation used here is that of John Hazel Smith who has provided much useful commentary on the text. 1 Richard Bauckham, however, finds fault with Smith's translation of line 33: "Res, tempus, uita, doctrina arguunt / Et locus ipse," stating (in an endnote), "'locus' may refer to the scriptural text, or more probably to Rome/Babylon as the seat of the papacy." 2 "Office" he dismisses as "improbable," and he is surely correct in preferring "place": "The circumstances, the time, his life, his doctrine, and especially the place itself prove it" (103).

In fairness to Smith, locus can frequently carry the meaning "office or position," and one could certainly take the view that there is supporting biblical precedent for Smith's translation here (Revelation 13.1-5). And yet there is one further point to be borne in mind when considering the Latin text, and in this sense the endeavors of both translators fall short, for neither sees fit to highlight the existence of a secondary sense for locus: "a place or seat in the theatre, circus or forum" ( Titus Livius Patavinus, hist., 30, 17; Cicero, Oratio pro L. Murena, 35). 3 The significance of this for Foxe's text is to be found not in its value as a literal translation, but in its potential as an effective bridging device between the passage previously quoted and one that precedes it by only ten lines:

In Asiaminime modo sumus. Vt locus ita. cum loco mutanda consilia. Illic ui, hic astu rem tractabimus affabre. Primum habitus hic, cum nomine, ponendus est:

Vetesque, quam ueste tego, tegam me, tectius Vt fallam . . . [. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .] Satan.Ornamenta haec capite. Adopylus.Quid tum? Satan.Meoque Exemplo facite. Iam ego Satan haud sum, lucis at Me uos decetis angelum. Tu, Psychephone, Hypocrisis esto hoc sub Francisci pallio. Tu, Thanate, Martyromastix re et nomine sies . . .

(5.1.6-11, 13-19)

We aren't in Asia now. As the place changes, so must plans be changed along with it. There we proceeded by force, but here we'll manage our business cleverly and by guile. First I have to put aside this garb along with my name: to cloak more effectively how I conceal myself in a cloak, I'll conceal myself in a cloak. . . .

Satan. [giving them costumes] Take these costumes. Adopylus. What then? Satan. Do as I do. [He puts on a costume.] Now I'm not Satan, but you'll say I'm the Angel of Light. Psychephonus, you be Hypocrisis under this cloak of Francis.—Then, Thanatus, you be Martyromastix in deed and name. . . .

Bauckham certainly highlights the apparently intrinsic link between the identity of Antichrist and the concept of theatricality (105), but despite quoting from both of the above passages, he fails to make explicit the strong rhetorical link that locus or "place" forms between the two sections of text.

Within the opening five words of line 7, "Vt locus ita cum loco mutanda consilia," the word locus appears twice in quick succession, and although Smith's translation ("As the place changes, so must plans be changed along with it") certainly captures the semantic sense of the Latin line, it unfortunately eclipses this vital repetition. The least awkward English construction would seem to be "Plans must change according to place"; however, a clumsier—but arguably more accurate—translation would be my first choice under the circumstances: "Place changes, and with place must change plans." The double occurrence in the Latin—once in nominative, once in ablative—is not coincidental, for it acts as a link with the key phrase "Et locus ipse," which follows only 26 lines later. The deliberate emphasis on "place" created by the repetition in line 7 is designed to act as a foreshadowing device, the significance of which becomes fully clear only when the term is picked up again in the proceeding section of text where it is now established as the defining feature of Antichrist's identity. Theatricality is therefore the bridge that transverses the textual gap between the two passages, functioning on a variety of levels to ultimately produce an interlocking grid of semantic and grammatical strands. These begin with the explicit reference to "cloaks" and "guile," continue through the anaphora and secondary meaning of locus in line 7, and finally culminate in what is perhaps the most subtle of the techniques at work here—the movement spanning lines 7-9, which sees the associative focus for "place" shift from "plans" to "identity," for nomine and loco are the only two ablatives present in the passage as a whole.

"Place" is therefore isolated as the only true indicator of identity and, by extension, the only valid and reliable secular litmus test for evil. It is not for nothing, then, that line 33 sees locus immediately followed by ipse (literally "self," i.e., "itself"), for in this particular context, the tendrils of identity that bind "place" and "self' inextricably together simultaneously form the foundations upon which the entire characterization of Pseudamnus is built.

—LYNNE M. ROBERTSON, University of Glasgow

1. John Foxe, Christus Triumphans, Two Latin Comedies by John Foxe the Martyrologist, ed. and trans. John Hazel Smith (London: Cornell UP, 1973 ).

2. Richard Bauckham, Tudor Apocalypse (Abingdon: Sutton Courtenay Press, 1978 ).

3. See William Smith and Theophilus D. Hall, Latin-English Dictionary (London: John Murray, 1866 ) 645.