Stephen Greenblatt: "Shakespeare and the Exorcists"

Shakespeare was reading Harsnett--negotiations and exchange of social energy-permeability of boundaries; different kind of source study--what is each doing.

Both involved in redefintion of the concept of the sacred

State church trying to eliminate catholic competitiors; charisma; exorcisms as spectator sports; testimonials to power of faith; community of believers--attack both Catholic [recusant] and Puritans

Harsnett: apologists--exorcist as demonic--reinscription of evil--revoltuionaries as counterrev. Not enlightened; they persecuted witches

Demons were real (99)voice to rage, anxiety and sexual frustration built up in authoritarain, plague ridden patriarchal impoverished world...corrupt and inadequate therapy

H. following Scott: demystifying exorcism--spontaneous is scripted; getting one of partiicpants in spectacle to "turn" [G's exciting narrative] Sommers exposes Darrel--Puritan exorcist

power of the spectacle of possession--fearful visitation..sensational descirptions 103; huge effect on congregation; mass hysteria

Darrel's defense: the debate: if no devils, no god. (104)--one answer--Satan porduce the illusion of demonic possession--the exorcist still is effective

Harsnett must go further--model needed to be fully demystifying: theatre. H. wants spectators to see all exorcism as theatre--turn supernatural events into human strategy (107)

another anecdote of trapping boy of billson; performance kills belief; state seize control of the commentary; no longer see demoniac but someone playing demoniac--Sommers reversal (!) and then recanted again.

Exorcists claimed that the theatre was devils's work.

In primitive society, theatricality and belief are not exclusive.

Analogy to the migration of costumes from Catholic church into theatre 112. Protestants sold them to evacuate belief from them--the Pope's playhouse; drive it to the periophery, where the theatre was located.


Shakespeare's uses of exorcism; Shakespeare there to receive exorcism at the theatre--frank admission of illusion

In Lear, Sh. stages Harsnett on exorcism 116--Edgar as a documented fraud--"miracle minting" shatters both religious and theatrical illusions in IV,vi

Theatre elicits complity rather than belief.

Lear haunted by sense of rituals and beliefs that have been emptied out--silent gods--just human menaings; cure comes at hand of doctor; human agency for good and evil.

Transfer of epithet corky--source study

Play inverts naturalism--good characters are false miracle makers; bad characters are naturalists and sceptics 121. Sympathy for Cathol. as persectued older brother. 121--Edgars heroism and hsi preaching

Ending--audience is prompted to will the revival of Cordelia, but that hope is cruelly thwarted; opposite of Winter's Tale on faith--no redemoption; end of play announced; nevertheless the play creates craving for such satisfaction 125--the dream of exorcism, ineradicable

from literal to literary; real to metaphorical truth; evacuated rituals prefereable to none..Shakespeare writes for the greater glory of the theatre

Uses today remains: an intimation of a fullness that we can savor only in the conviction of its irremediable loss: