Thursday, December 3, 2009



"The Tragedy of John Milton (August 13, 1660)"
- 'You Are There'

Philip Bourneuf

William Prynne (1600 – 24 October 1669) was an English lawyer, author, polemicist, and political figure. He was a prominent Puritan opponent of the church policy of the Archbishop of Canterbury, William Laud. Although his views on church polity were presbyterian, he became known in the 1640s as an Erastian, arguing for overall state control of religious matters. A prolific writer, he published over 200 books and pamphlets.

He supported the Restoration, and was rewarded with public office. When the Convention parliament was summoned, Prynne sat for Bath. He was bitter against the regicides and the supporters of the previous government, trying to restrict the scope of the Act of Indemnity. He successfully moved to have Charles Fleetwood excepted, and urged the exclusion of Richard Cromwell and Judge Francis Thorpe. He proposed punitive and financial measures of broad scope, was zealous for the disbanding of the army, and was one of the commissioners appointed to pay it off. In the debates on religion he was one of the leaders of the presbyterians, spoke against the Thirty-nine Articles, denied the claims of the bishops, urged the validity of presbyterian ordination, and supported the bill for turning the king's ecclesiastical declaration into law.

Like many Puritans he was strongly opposed to stage plays and he included in his "Histriomastix" (1632) a denunciation of actresses which was widely felt to be an attack of Queen Henrietta Maria. This led to the most famous incidents in his life, but the timing was accidental. About 1624 Prynne had begun a book against stage-plays; on 31 May 1630 he obtained a license to print it, and about November 1632 it was published. "Histriomastix" is a volume of over a thousand pages, showing that plays were unlawful, incentives to immorality, and condemned by the scriptures, the fathers, modern Christian writers, and the wisest of the heathen philosophers. Fortuitously the queen and her ladies, in January 1633, took part in the performance of Walter Montagu's "The Shepherd's Paradise": this was an innovation at court. A passage reflecting on the character of female actors in general was construed as an aspersion on the queen; passages which attacked the spectators of plays and magistrates who failed to suppress them, pointed by references to Nero and other tyrants, were taken as attacks on the king, Charles I.

William Noy as attorney-general instituted proceedings against Prynne in the Star-chamber. After a year's imprisonment in the Tower of London, he was sentenced (17 February 1634) to be imprisoned during life, to be fined £5,000, to be expelled from Lincoln's Inn, to be deprived of his degree by the university of Oxford, and to lose both his ears in the pillory.

On 14 June 1637 Prynne was sentenced once more to a fine of £5,000, to imprisonment for life, and to lose the rest of his ears. At the proposal of Chief-justice John Finch he was also to be branded on the cheeks with the letters S. L., signifying 'seditious libeller'. Prynne was pilloried on 30 June in company with Henry Burton and John Bastwick, and Prynne was handled barbarously by the executioner. He made, as he returned to his prison, a couple of Latin verses explaining the 'S. L.' with which he was branded to mean 'stigmata laudis' (("sign of praise", or "sign of Laud").
(edited from Wikipedia)

This is why Prynne remained hooded during this particular episode of 'You Are There'......


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