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A Portraiture of Quakerism, Volume 1 by Clarkson

The Quakers have many reasons to give


the time of Charles the second, when George Fox entered his protest against exhibitions of this sort, it must certainly be confessed, that an alteration has taken place for the better in the constitution of our plays, and that poison is not diffused into morals, by means of them, to an equal extent, as at that period. The mischief has been considerably circumscribed by legal inspection, and, it is to be hoped, by the improved civilization of the times. But it does not appear by any historical testimony we have, that a change has been made, which is at all proportioned to the quantity of moral light, which has been diffused among us since that reign. Archbishop Tillotson was of opinion, "that plays might be so framed, and they might be governed by such rules, as not only to be innocently diverting, but instructive and useful to put some follies and vices out of countenance, which could not perhaps be so decently reproved, nor so effectually exposed or corrected any other way." And yet he confesses, that, "they were so full of profaneness, and that they instilled such bad principles into the mind, in his own day, that they ought not to have been tolerated in any civilized, and much less in a Christian nation." William Law, an eminent divine of the establishment, who lived after Tillitson, declared in one of his publications on the subject of the stage, that "you could not then see a play in either house, but what abounded with thoughts, passages, and language contrary to the Christian
religion." From the time of William Law to the present about forty years have elapsed, and we do not see, if we consult the controversial writers on the subject, who live among us, that the theatre has become much less objectionable since those days. Indeed if the names only of our modern plays were to be collected and published, they would teach us to augur very unfavourably as to the morality of their contents. The Quakers therefore, as a religions body, have seen no reason, why they should differ in opinion from their ancestors on this subject: and hence the prohibition which began in former times with respect to the theatre, is continued by them at the present day.


_Theatre forbidden by the Quakers on account of the manner of the drama--first, as it personates the character of others--secondly, as it professes to reform vice_.

The Quakers have many reasons to give, why, as a society of christians they cannot encourage the theatre, by being present at any of its exhibitions. I shall not detail all of them for the reader, but shall select such only, as I think most material to the point.

The first class of arguments comprehends such as relate, to what may be called the manner of the drama. The Quakers object to the manner of the drama, or to its fictitious nature, in consequence of which men personate characters, that are not their own. This personification they hold to be injurious to the man, who is compelled to practise it. Not that he will partake of the bad passions, which he personates, but that the trick and trade of representing what he does not feel, must make him at all times an actor; and his looks, and words, and actions, will be all sophisticated. And this evil will be likely to continue with him in the various changes of his life.

They hold it also to be contrary to the spirit of Christianity. For men who personate characters in this way, express joy and grief, when in reality there may be none of these feelings in their hearts. They express noble sentiments, when their whole lives may have been remarkable for their meanness, and go often afterwards and wallow in sensual delights. They personate the virtuous character to day, and perhaps to-morrow that of the rake, and, in the latter case, they utter his profligate sentiments, and speak his profane language. Now Christianity requires simplicity and truth. It allows no man to pretend to be what he is not. And it requires great circumspection of its followers with respect to what they may utter, because it makes every man accountable for his idle words.

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