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The Penultimate CuriosityHow Science Swims in the Slipstream of Ultimate Questions$
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Roger Wagner and Andrew Briggs

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198747956

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198747956.001.0001

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A New Era

A New Era

(p.213) Chapter Twenty-Seven A New Era
The Penultimate Curiosity

Roger Wagner

Andrew Briggs

Oxford University Press

On a spring evening in 1676 boats began to arrive at the steps of the Dorset Garden Theatre, bringing a fashionable audience to a performance of Thomas Shadwell’s new comedy, The Virtuoso. Embedded within the comic goings on of this new play was a satirical commentary on an emerging way of thinking, which was poised to revolutionize intellectual life. This chapter focusses on the meaning of ‘virtuoso’ and its evolution into a term applied to a group of people who were dedicated to investigating natural phenomena. Their apparently obsessive preoccupation was the target of Shadwell’s play. The English virtuosi linked their novel philosophy to a radical new approach to the Scriptures epitomized by the so-called ‘Geneva Bible’.

Keywords:   Thomas Shadwell, The Virtuoso, virtuosos, plays, Geneva Bible, Luther

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