Professional Danish theatre was founded in 1722. One of its founding fathers was the playwright Ludvig Holberg. At the time, a class of professional Danish players did not exist, so the actors had to be recruited among university students with some acting experience from high school amateur performances. As they were students of theology, a conflict immediately arose between the Church’s ancient anti-theatre attitude, and the modern, secular view of theatre as a civic institution. On the one hand the University reacted rather severely towards the culprits, claiming a complete abolishment of the métier, if they should hope to be restored in favour; the arguments refer to the tradition of the neo-Platonic Church Fathers, analogous to the conceptions of the Counter-reformation. On the other hand Holberg wrote an apology for the art of acting, with reference to the French controversies of the 1690s, including Francois Caffaro’s defence of the stage. However, with the introduction of Pietism as a kind of state religion, theatre was de facto prohibited for almost two decades. In a number of writings the theological arguments were developed – again with evident parallels with the line of Borromeo, Conti, Bossuet and Riccoboni. A central figure is the theologian Erik Pontoppidan, who, in for example a wide-spread catechism, categorized theatre as part of Satan’s master plan. Even after the ban was abandoned in 1747, a case against an actor came up that demonstrated the fundamental incompatibility between theatre and theology. In the over-all picture Pontoppidan represents a monocentric, theatrophobic position; whereas Holberg stands for a polycentric view, including the actor’s versatility as a metaphor of reality’s relativity.


Bent Holm ha insegnato, fino al 2014, alla Copenhagen University. È drammaturgo, traduttore (di Goldoni, de Filippo, Fo) e autore di saggi interdisciplinari. Fra le sue recenti pubblicazioni: Religion, Ritual, Theatre, Frankfurt-New York, Peter Lang, 2008; L'identità comica. L’importanza dell’italianità di Holberg e della danesizzazione di Goldoni per la creazione di un teatro nazionale danese, in L’Italia in Europa – Italia e Danimarca, Roma, Quasar, 2013; The Taming of the Turk: Ottoman Figures on the Danish Stage 1596-1896, Vienna, Hollitzer Wissenschaftsverlag, 2014. dr.bent.holm@gmail.com


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