Between Calvary and Parnassus

A Literary History of the Early Modern Martyr Drama

PhD Defence by Niels Krarup-Leth Nykrog.


Niels Nykrog’s thesis, entitled “Between Calvary and Parnassus. A Literary History of the Early Modern Martyr Drama”, investigates the martyr drama as a literary genre in 16th and 17th century European theatre. It argues that Christian martyr literature provided the core formal elements of plot (imprisonment, interrogation, execution, and commemoration) and character (martyrs and persecutors) for hundreds of dramas in the period. This resulted in a new dramatic form, which depicts human existence as a spectacle of worldly suffering and otherworldly faith. The thesis provides in-depth analyses of Spanish, French, and German martyr dramas from the period 1600-1650, written by notable playwrights such as Lope de Vega, Pedro Calderón de la Barca, Pierre Corneille, and Andreas Gryphius. Further, it investigates early modern discussions of the legitimacy of the theatre and its adoption of religious subjects, leading it to question certain standard narratives of the secularisation of the arts.


Assessment committee

  • Associate Professor Anne Fastrup, Chair (University of Copenhagen
  • Professor Jan Bloemendal (Huygens Institute, Netherlands)
  • Professor Anne Teulade (Université de Rennes 2, France)

Head of the Defence

  • Professor Isak Winkel Holm (University of Copenhagen)

Copies of the thesis will be available for consultation at:

  • The Royal Library (The Black Diamond), Søren Kierkegaards Plads 1
  • Copenhagen University Library South Campus, Karen Blixens Plads 7