Studien zu Jacob Baldes Jephtias. Ein jesuitisches Meditationsdrama aus der Zeit der Gegenreformation

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


The German poet Jacob Balde (1604-1668) chose a biblical human sacrifice as subject for his tragedy "Jephtias" intended to be performed at a Jesuit school. Jephthah, the judge, had to sacrifice his own daughter due to a vow given before the war against the Ammonites. Balde uses this topic to exemplify Jesuit virtues such as obedience, ability to handle one's emotions and readiness to sacrifice one's life in religious combat. The tragedy is full of allusions to antique and medieval topics. It refers to contemporary liturgical practices as well as to Dutch spiritual emblem collections. The artistically cryptic message can only be understood through meditation. This thesis contributes to the understanding of "Jephtias" and presents Balde's concept of tragedy. Due to the Jesuit spirituality marked by the doctrines of the Council of Trent, the play may serve as a model opposed to other Christian tragedies on the same topic. Utilising the classicism of Renaissance with its five-act structure and a single central character, Balde embellishes the classic structure of tragedy through his educational and missionary program. Balde neglects the three Aristotelian unities, the concentration on one place, one day and one action. Instead, he shows not only Jephthah's sudden fall by losing his daughter but includes also his rise from exile, which is seen as a period of probation. This is done in order to legitimise Jephthah as a virtuos pious leader and to demonstrate the meditative techni- que of making decisions taught by Ignatius of Loyola. Balde stresses that Jephthah acts without hybris as God's instrument inspired by the Holy Spirit. He is by no means a tragic hero with an ambiguous character. Alluding to the passion of Christ, Balde puts special emphasis on Jephthah's inner pain. Behind the tears the play offers Christian joy and piety, ideas of "humanitas" and trust in the power of providence as demonstrated through the problematic case of a human sacrifice. The protagonists are classic examples of the definition of Jesuit militancy and mystic understanding of religion: they are depicted as milites christiani, characterised by "activism in grace" and serve with religious zeal in obedience and love. They are active first in a militant combat fighting against the heretics, then in a spiritual combat accepting the sacrifice as an order from God. Balde's tragedy embodies the pursuit of divine wisdom, "sophia". It is shown how the historic background of the 17th century is vital to the understanding of this drama in the guise of a well-known biblical conflict, which is an allegory of the spiritual combat of every devout Catholic, striving for his own salvation.
Original languageGerman
Awarding Institution
  • Latin
  • [unknown], [unknown], Supervisor, External person
Award date2003 Apr 26
ISBN (Print)91-628-5600-6
Publication statusPublished - 2003

Bibliographical note

Defence details

Date: 2003-04-26
Time: 10:15
Place: Carolinasalen, Kungshuset

External reviewer(s)

Name: van Houdt, Toon
Title: Prof.
Affiliation: Leuven (Belgium)


Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Languages and Literature

Free keywords

  • Dramatic art
  • Latinska språket
  • Latin language
  • meditation drama
  • emblem
  • counter reformation
  • Jesuit schools
  • baroque drama
  • Jesuit drama
  • Teatervetenskap

Cite this