'The Hole in the Wall': Sacred Space and 'Third Space' in The Family of Love

  • Helga L. Duncan Stonehill College


A city comedy of disputed authorship, The Family of Love deals with the spatial constitution of the sacred. Familists convene in a seedy London inn, dubbed the 'Hole in the Wall,' and, under the direction of a female leader, dispense with traditional sacred space and its ceremonies in rituals of carnal communion. This essay examines the role of the theater in re-imagining spatial paradigms of the sacred in the aftermath of religious reformations. The stage provides what historian of religion J. Z. Smith has termed a 'third space' where hegemonic and nonconformist models of sacred space meet up and are modified in an attempt at the spatial accommodation of dissent. In its function as a 'third space', the theater opens up the marginal 'Hole in the Wall' to public view; the play concludes with a validation of the Family’s unorthodox spiritual and spatial arrangements, now under masculine leadership.

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