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Canons of the seven ecumenical councils

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51.

 The holy and ecumenical Council universally prohibits so-called pantomimes and their theatrical exhibitions; afterwards, in keeping with this, also the spectacles of wild-animal fury and of huntersprowess, and the execution of dances on the stage. If anyone flouts the present Canon, and gives himself over to any of the things herein prohibited, in case he is a clergyman, let him be deposed from office; but in case he is a layman, let him be excommunicated.

(cc. XXIV, LXII, LXVI of the 6th; cc. XVII, LXX of Carthage.)

 

Interpretation.

With a vengeance the present Canon prohibits the doings of so-called pantomimes, some of whom were Arabs mimicking gestures, while others were Armenians, at other times slaves, sometimes even slapping each other’s face, and moving the spectators to uncontrollable laughter. What is here calledspectacles of wild-animal fury and of huntersprowess” as translated into English (though but two words in Greek, meaning, approximately, “hunting scenes” — translated, however, as above in order to bring out the implications more clearly) are the spectacles[176] beheld when one sees wild beasts, such as, for instance, lion, say, or bears, or other savage animals, fighting, either among themselves, or with human beings who have been condemned to death. For it is a piece of great inhumanity and barbarity to look at such bloodshed and laugh at it. But in addition to these spectacles, the Canon also forbids dances and indecent wriggles performed whether by men or by women on the stage. The stage was a tent within which they used to engage in all kinds of theatrical presentations and pretenses, or where someone would stand up and display examples of skillful acting, according to Title XIII of Photius, ch. 21, and hence they are called actors who at times pretend that they are masters or lords, and at other times that they are slaves or servants. As for anyone that flouts the present Canon and gives himself to watching such displays, if he be a clergyman, let him be deposed from office, but if he be a layman, let him be excommunicated. Read also c. XXIV of the same 6th.

 




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