Pretenders

Kenneth Fowler

  • Ways of Lying: Dissimulation and Conformity in Early Modern Europe by Perez Zagorin
    Harvard, 337 pp, £27.95, September 1990, ISBN 0 674 94834 3
  • Lucrecia’s Dreams: Politics and Prophecy in 16th-Century Spain by Richard Kagan
    California, 229 pp, £24.95, July 1990, ISBN 0 520 06655 3
  • ‘In his Image and Likeness’: Political Iconography and Religious Change in Regenshurg, 1500-1600 by Kristin Zapalac
    Cornell, 280 pp, $29.95, October 1990, ISBN 0 8014 2269 8

Perez Zagorin’s suggestion that the 16th and early 17th centuries, the era which encompassed the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation, might aptly be described as the Age of Dissimulation comes in the conclusion to an exhaustive study. This was an age of new spiritual energies, of intensified faith, of heightened religiosity, of new religious sects, an age, in the memorable phrase of Lucien Febvre, ‘that wanted to believe’. The concomitant religious and intellectual intolerance presented those reluctant to conform with the need to equivocate, to dissimulate their true beliefs, a practice which Zagorin demonstrates was debated by theologians, casuists, philosophers and political theorists, who were able to draw upon an inherited literature concerning the legitimacy of deception. This stretched back through Medieval theologians to the Church Fathers and was based almost entirely on Biblical precedents.

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