Hamlet and The Pact With The Devil, Historical Background

All my scholarship is copyrighted at the U.S. Library of Congress

Measure for Measure

For in the way you judge, you shall be judged; and by your standard of measure, it shall be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and look, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye! Matthew 7:2-5


Personally, being of African descent, I would never have accepted a fellowship to do academic work at Yale if they had been transparent about the affiliation of the comparative literature department to the Ku Klux Klan through Tupper Saussy (1936-2007), Haun Saussy’s father, see his KKK conspiracy, Tennessee Waltz: The Making of a Political Prisoner (1987).

Tupper Saussy was a convicted felon, crazy conspiracy theorist, and close friend and biographer of the same Earl James Ray (1928-1998) who murdered Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., leader of the Civil Rights Movement. No less than the leader of the Civil Rights movement!

And to make money with this KKK manifesto in support of J.E. Ray, Haun Saussy started a company called ‘Contrary Waltz, LLC’ – hiding his name behind an anonymous limited liability company, desperately trying to keep his unmerited position in the Yale comparative literature dep’t, cf. public records available at the New Haven Superior Court, Docket # FA-07-4027957S.  

Indeed, public records at the New Haven Superior Court show that to make money with his father’s racist conspiracies, Haun Saussy set up a cover-up company called “Contrary Waltz, LLC” and to this day, he is still making money with the Klan, and is still profiting from the sales of his father’s crazy KKK conspiracies, e.g. book cover of Tupper Saussy’s Tennessee Waltz: The Making of a Political Prisoner (1987):

Haun Saussy’s connection with the KKK is deplorable, disgusting and repulsive – he’s still making money with his father’s racist ideologies and crazy conspiracies, and he’s totally committed to it. 

Hence, if there’s anyone who should apologize publicly, make amends and pay substantial reparations to African Americans, that’s precisely a white-trash supremacist like Saussy from Tennessee – a violent, ignorant and bigoted racist. 

Many violent crimes described in this Criminal Complaint could have been avoided if Richard Levin and his associates at Yale had been transparent regarding Haun Saussy’s financial and personal affiliation with the KKK.  

In the same way, there was no absolutely transparency about Saussy’s illegal conflict of interests with a Russian older woman called Olga Solovieva, whose ‘career’ he promoted at the expense of everyone else, stealing millions of dollars in unmerited fellowships and teaching appointments by means of many fake recommendation letters over the years. But there was absolutely no disclosure or transparency about any of these documented facts.

Indeed, even now, corrupt admins like Richard and Jane Levin at Yale are pathetically trying to conceal such racist affiliation and illegal conflict of interests, and they have offered no apology and no reparation whatsoever.  

After being fired from Yale, Saussy and his old Russian mistress, Ms. Solovieva, aka Stupidieva, relocated at the University of Chicago, where he is still acting as her ‘supervisor’ in comparative literature – with numerous conflicts of interests, both academically and financially. And what’s even worse, they are still in close contact with diverse students and scholars of color, creating situations of great danger and abuse for any intersectional person.   

It is therefore essential to warn other innocent students and their families – especially Africans and people of color like us, the ethnically diverse, foreign students and scholars on a VISA, women and the LGBTQIA+ community – against this type of racially-motivated, violent crimes taking place in U.S. colleges and universities.

Miss Olga Stupidieva from Russia.

The story of her demise is rather banal — stupid, ugly, vulgar, ignorant and yet greedy.  

We’ve never seen a defeat so absolute. 


In 2006-2007, Yu-Lin Wang became aware of Haun Saussy’s adultery with a Russian middle-aged woman called Olga Viktorovna Solovieva (b. 2/28/1971).

As shown in the public court records, the two had known each other for a long time – they were involved in an extra-marital affair, and he had illegally recommended her for a post as a ‘graduate student’ in comparative literature at Yale, even though she was in her thirties and had been out of the academic circle for many years.

Saussy has been promoting her fake ‘career’ above anyone else’s for over two decades, and together they have stolen millions of dollars in salaries, benefits, bogus awards, fellowships, etc.    

Ms. Yu-Lin Wang successfully filed for divorce and was awarded custody of her two children plus 75% of the money, cf. Saussy v. Saussy, CT Sup. 8912 of 5/29/2009, Docket # FA-07-4027957S.

This is the record of a multi-million-dollar fraud. In 2004-6, Solovieva ‘wrote’ her comp. lit. ‘dissertation’ about the ‘Body of Christ’ under the ‘supervision’ of her associate in crime, Saussy, whose full name is Caleb Powell Haun Saussy.

It is essential to point this out because it is one and the same person, i.e. her old ‘boyfriend’ is her only adviser, even though it deceptively appears as two people on record at Sterling Memorial Library:  

Title: A discourse apart: The Body of Christ and the practice of cultural subversion.

Physical Description: 1 electronic/online resource (284 pp.)

ISBN: 9780542995767

Advisers: Caleb Powell; Haun Saussy 

Filed: 2006

Miss Stupidieva should go the dentist to fix her cavities – that’s just gross and disgusting.  


After the rape and sex trafficking, retaliation took many forms that are described in detail here, with an indication of the time period in which they occurred.

The aim was to eliminate, also physically eliminate, the victims of rape and sex trafficking who could give witness against the sex offenders. 


To put things into perspective, let’s go back for a minute to Miss Olga Solovieva from Russia. 

Haun Saussy and Solovieva were involved in an extra-marital affair long before he illegally recommended her for the comp. literature dep’t at Yale, relying on his old friend-for-pay, Mr. David Quint, who was then senior faculty.    

Part of the deal – or financial scam – was that Saussy had to supervise Solovieva’s work, to make sure her dissertation was passed even though it was nonsensical dribble on theology, and completely outside the scope of comparative literature. Indeed, completely outside Mr. Saussy’s expertise, whatever that may be.   

From 2004 to 2006, Solovieva ‘wrote’ her comp. literature ‘dissertation’ about the ‘Body of Christ’ under the ‘supervision’ of her associate in crime, Saussy, whose full name is Caleb Powell Haun Saussy. It is essential to point this out because it is one and the same person, i.e. her old ‘boyfriend’ is her only adviser, even though it deceptively appears as two people on record at Sterling Memorial Library:  

Title: A discourse apart: The Body of Christ and the practice of cultural subversion; filed: 2006; ISBN: 9780542995767; Advisers: Caleb Powell; Haun Saussy

This is the record of a multi-million-dollar fraud. Saussy lobbied to have Solovieva’s nonsensical dissertation passed by a couple of his friends, and for over two decades he has been promoting her fake ‘career’ by contacting virtually anyone in academia, writing hundreds of applications and recommendation letters on her behalf, and slandering her ‘rivals’ for the same positions, in what has become a multi-million-dollar financial scam.

Indeed, Saussy had a great financial interest in this, so he could pocket Solovieva’s additional salary and benefits after losing 75% of his assets due to the expensive divorce in which he was involved with his ex-wife, Ms. Wang.  

So-called ‘academia’ in the U.S.  is not founded on merit, but ‘personal friendship.’ Hence, with the help of old friend-for-pay, Mr. Quint, Haun Saussy was able to keep and maintain his old Russian mistress for 6 years using Yale’s money.    

And it was with Quint’s collusion and collaboration that Saussy was free to ‘supervise’ Solovieva’s dissertation, so he could help her write it in English, i.e. plagiarize it, get it passed with a couple of his friends, get her promoted, and keep stealing money together.  

That piece of work was complete garbage – a ridiculous, pompous and nonsensical mumbo-jumbo about some made-up Christian theology. That garbage is completely outside the scope of comparative literature, which according to Mr. Saussy is a field “without any subject matter or methodology,” but only for himself and his old Russian mistress.   

Furthermore, Miss Solovieva thought it was a good idea to blabber about the ‘Body of Christ’ while she was having an extra-marital affair with Saussy – who was then married with Ms. Yu-Lin Wang (b. 1958) – and while cheating on her own husband, an adjunct teacher called Mr. Kevin McCann. 

Two sleazy scumbags, plagiarists and thieves such as Saussy and Solovieva blabbering about the ‘Body of Christ’? 

Isn’t it completely absurd and paradoxical? 

Indeed, it took them another 15 years of plagiarism and thievery to even find a publisher – no buyers or readers yet. 

Saussy wrote hundreds of recommendations and applications on behalf of Solovieva, stealing millions of dollars through her and with her, and discriminating against more qualified students and scholars of color. 

Doing some ‘damage control’ after Saussy’s divorce became public, Richard Levin fired both associates in crime, Saussy and Solovieva, who then relocated at the University of Chicago. And there, once again, Saussy has been supervising Solovieva’s ‘work’ for years. That’s another blatant conflict of interests that only causes more racism, discrimination and social injustice. Indeed, it creates a toxic situation for everyone, but especially for more qualified scholars and students of color.

This is what happens when fake and nonsensical dissertations are passed by unethical individuals in exchange for money and favors, while truly innovative and groundbreaking work is illegally censored – without even a dissertation defense! – because it belongs to African scholars, women scholars of color, and immigrants of color who are victims of rape and sex trafficking. 


According to Mr. Haun Saussy, comparative literature is a field “without any subject matter or methodology,” but only for himself & his old bitches from Russia.  

Mr. Saussy assumed it would be easy to assault and abuse an immigrant woman of color.

But that was a terribly wrong assumption, and all his racist crimes were denounced in the process. 

What was he thinking? Probably nothing, as usual. 

“Mmmh, maybe I should have targeted some other woman – not this one…”

And all his racist schemes and plans went haywire. 

Let’s have a look at Saussy’s ignominious past: his father, Tupper Saussy, was a KKK member who spent two years in jail for organizing a fraud against the IRS.

Even more disturbing is the fact that he wrote crazy conspiracy theories about “Rulers of Evil,” and that he was the biographer and best friend of James Earl Ray, i.e. the convicted murderer of Martin Luther King.

It’s difficult to imagine a more dangerous and violent bunch of racists! 

Complete white-trash scum.  

Haun Saussy is still making money with his father’s KKK conspiracy theories, and has deep financial ties to the KKK. 

How was it even possible for Saussy, a white-trash individual from Tennessee, to get accepted in comparative literature at Yale with that type of criminal, racist and dysfunctional background?

“Vacuous” is a generous euphemism for this ignorant pig. 

Who would ever touch this ugly and repulsive sleazeball with a ten-foot pole? 

Of course, the only way for him to have game is to harass and molest young students and scholars, 

since no good-looking woman would ever touch him or give a damn about him! 

Deconstruction is still valuable when it’s applied to dangerous racists and pigs. 


This guy doesn’t need to molest or assault anyone — Tijs Michiel Verwest (age 55, born 17 January 1969), known professionally as Tiësto, is a Dutch DJ and music producer. He was voted “The Greatest DJ of All Time” by Mix magazine in a 2010/2011 poll.




All my scholarship is copyrighted at the U.S. Library of Congress.

I was the first scholar in the world to write this critical analysis of Shakespeare’s Hamlet and I also copyrighted it at the Library of Congress in 2013-4, more than four centuries after the play was written (1599-1601), and for the first time in the history of literary criticism.

Indeed, if anyone saw the truth in the past, e.g. Oscar Wilde and his Irish predecessors and successors, they didn’t write a critical analysis about it, perhaps because they didn’t want to experience the same discrimination, violence and bigotry I had to face in a corrupt, racist and white-trash place like ‘comp. literature’ at Yale.

Please note that so-called ‘comparatists’ such as Haun Saussy, Olga Solovieva and Pericles Lewis claim they are being employed in a field “without any subject matter or methodology,” i.e. the ideal terrain for plagiarism and academic and financial fraud.

FYI, there are NO African scholars of Shakespeare. That is a big financial scam, especially considering that Shakespeare is marketed as ‘universal literature’ to get money from the world of academia, movies, television, the printed press and the Internet, with all the related advertising and merchandising – tons of it.

The fact that there are no African scholars of Shakespeare doesn’t come as a surprise, given the amount of racism, bigotry, physical and verbal violence that scholars of color have to face.

Personally, I’m not going to let the white-trash criminals denounced in this Criminal Complaint get away with their racist crimes. Their physical and verbal violence is already repulsive in and of itself. In addition to that, they’d like to destroy all the intellectual work I’ve been doing since I was a child and a teenager – all the sacrifices I made when I was 13, 14, 15, 16 – as I was building the foundations of my academic career.

But that’s never going to happen, and this is the end of their financial scam.

Now, let’s see why the so-called ‘ghost’ in Hamlet is not a “soul from Purgatory” but a demon – as Einstein famously said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t know it well enough.”

The apparition is not Hamlet’s hallucination since many people, including the soldiers and Hamlet’s friend Horatio, can clearly see it on the ramparts of Elsinore’s castle.

Likewise, it is not “a soul from Purgatory,” as purported by the apparition, because souls in Purgatory cannot use their free will to sin anymore. They only obey God’s Will, expiating their sins and offering their suffering and prayers to help the living along their earthly journey – a concept known as ‘intercessory prayer.’

Contrary to this, the apparition commits a mortal sin by forcing the prince to take revenge and murder Claudius. Its origin is therefore not divine but demonic, as suggested by Hamlet himself: “The spirit that I have seen/ May be a devil; and the devil hath power/ T’assume a pleasing shape; yea, and perhaps/ Out of my weakness and my melancholy/ As he is very potent with such spirits/ Abuses me to damn me.” (II, 2)

Hamlet is unable to recognize the apparition as a devil because he ignores the fact that Satan is perfectly able to tell the truth, e.g. revealing that Claudius has murdered the King, Hamlet’s father. Indeed, the revealing factor is not the ability to tell the truth, but what follows from it, e.g. an incitement to more violence and murder, which is a mortal sin and the hallmark of Satan.

By obeying the devil’s will, Hamlet enters the pact with the devil, a concept mentioned within the play itself by Laertes, whose existential situation mirrors that of the Prince: “To hell, allegiance! Vows to the blackest devil/ Conscience and grace, to the profoundest pit!/ I dare damnation. To this point I stand,/ That both worlds I give to negligence,/ Let come what comes; only I’ll be revenged/ Most thoroughly for y father.” (IV,5)

By entering the pact with the devil, Hamlet commits a series of tragic and stupid mistakes, such as killing Polonius and letting Claudius go, that ultimately lead him to death.

I was also the first scholar to provide a temporal framework for Hamlet, between Giovanni Bocaccio’s death (1375) and the Reformation (1517).

It is a known fact that Hamlet as a play is set in a Catholic past before the Protestant schism, hence the frequent references to Purgatory and the sacrament of confession. But the other important temporal refence is the existence of Italian as a prestigious and international language for theater and literature – e.g. the Mousetrap is based on a play written in “choice Italian” – which only happens through the influence and immortal work of the Three Crowns: Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio.

As pointed out by Northrop Frye (Anatomy of Criticism, 1957), it is important to understand the internal framework of a work of literature in order to interpret it correctly. Without a correct understanding of Catholicism is impossible to give a correct interpretation of Hamlet.

And this has nothing to do with the personal beliefs of the critic. In other words, the critic cannot project his or her own religious/political ideologies on authors and their work without becoming a blind critic at best, and at worst an academic and financial fraud.

Personally, as a victim of rape and sex trafficking, I’m certainly not a Catholic in the U.S., where the church has been aiding and abetting pederasts for years.

But my personal opinions – in any field – have nothing to do with Shakespeare and his work. As a critic, I can compartmentalize my knowledge of and admiration for Shakespeare, and kept it separate from any other dimension of my life, e.g. how many times I work out per week.

With this original critical analysis, I also showed that both Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe (Doctor Faustus 1592), who was his most successful predecessor on the English stage, spent many years of their careers writing on the same topic, i.e. the pact with the devil, which was very popular at the time. With an important difference, though.

In Hamlet, Shakespeare demonstrated that to enter the pact with the devil, one does not need to draw a circle on the ground and willingly participate in depraved rituals – not at all. All that’s needed is to break God’s Commandments, e.g. You shall not kill, since vengeance belongs to God (Romans 12:19; Deut. 32:35)

And the consequences of the pact with devil are not just undesirable for the afterlife, i.e. damnation, but also very destructive in this life, i.e. Hamlet’s ultimate failure and tragic demise.

Everyone in the world who wants to learn English has to deal with Shakespeare at one point, especially his masterpiece, Hamlet. Hence, anyone can see how much money is involved in this financial scam, and how intensely the white-trash criminals denounced in this Criminal Complaint (Saussy, Lewis, Mazzotta) hate me and would like to see me dead.

It is a completely unlawful situation and an instance of racist violence when women scholars of color are not even allowed to describe and defend their intellectual work in the appropriate academic setting.

In a completely illegal and racist manner, I was not even allowed to defend my dissertation – indeed, I was not even allowed to ask a question!

The white-trash criminals denounced in this Criminal Complaint were afraid to be questioned and to be shown as they truly are: ignorant, bigoted and prejudiced.

When women scholars of color cannot even defend their dissertation, it means that corrupt individuals can:

1) perjure themselves and give false witness against you;

2) defame your character and maliciously slander you with others inside and outside of academia;

3) deny objective facts, e.g. official academic degrees and recommendation letters from known scholars like linguistics Prof. George Lakoff for his class on metaphor theory at U.C. Berkeley;

4) steal a lifetime of work, committing a multi-million-dollar financial scam by depriving you — and all the family members who depend on you — of your well-deserved academic appointment, a lifetime of salary, book sales, retirement and health-care benefits.

In this way, sex offenders and their enablers assume that they can silence the victims, silence the voices of people of color, scholars of color, African voices – and conceal their racist and violent crimes.

My original breakthrough in literary criticism only intensified the racist hatred of the sex offenders, as they tried to eliminate me and steal my intellectual property, recycling and repackaging it for themselves, i.e. Saussy, Lewis, Mazzotta and their enablers and so-called ‘personal friends,’ who aided and abetted them in exchange for money and favors, e.g. David Quint and Leslie Brisman. But since I copyrighted my work at the Library of Congress and published it online on my Substack, their plagiarist dreams have become much more difficult to realize in practice.


Even more crimes. Giuseppe Mazzotta is one of the sex offenders denounced in this Criminal Complaint, and yet he wanted to be appointed as my ‘dissertation supervisor’ in order to steal more money for nothing and at the same time damage my academic career – as he had threatened to do many times, cf. Mazzotta section (pp. 19-27).

It is important to understand that sex offenders are not allowed to ‘supervise’ anybody’s work, and especially the academic work of their victims – that’s illegal in any university in the world. And this crime produced even more sexual violence and racist hatred against me – in my own house, and years after the first instance of rape, cf. Mazzotta section (pp. 19-27). All of this could have been avoided.

Indeed, it was an intolerable physical and psychological abuse. Adding insult to injury, Mazzotta has never taken a Shakespeare class in his entire life – he has never read Shakespeare and is completely ignorant of the scholarship.

In order to survive, I had to fight every day against his ignorance, and be completely independent in my research and writing. And to avoid seeing the old and ugly sex offender, I also asked my husband – a tenured professor in the classics and ancient history – to interface with him, sparing me the revulsion.

Mazzotta’s background, from no less than Cornell, is in the ‘vernacular literature’ of the Italian middle-ages, a field that is now almost dead and extinguished in the U.S., also thanks to Mazzotta’s ignorance and corruption. But who cares, when it’s so easy for scammers to steal money in a field without subject matter or methodology?


If you claim that comparative literature is “a field without any subject matter or methodology,” then it follows that you cannot criticize anyone else. That’s illegal, and the law is equal for everyone – measure for measure.  

And what is perfectly acceptable for one candidate – e.g. Miss Olga Solovieva blabbering about theology and the Body of Christ, while having an extra-marital affair with her old boyfriend acting as her dissertation supervisor – must be accepted for all candidates, measure for measure. 

Miss Olga Boozava from Russia, drinking whiskey and getting comfortable w/ a grad student called Victor Fan.


More and more crimes. In every accredited university in the world, dissertation readers must work with candidates all along, letting them know what they expect in terms scholarship and methodology, and being ready to answer any question related to these topics.

But I have never met with any one of my so-called readers. I’ve never had the possibly of working with the readers in order to know their expectations and suggestions.  

The so-called readers were ‘selected’ by the sex offenders, Mazzotta and Lewis, and by Haun Saussy’s old friend and enabler, David Quint – the same individual who admitted Miss Solovieva in comp. literature and who returned my stolen European passport to me in 2007, cf. Passport Theft (pp. 52-53)


Readers cannot have a proven racist record and a bigoted, prejudiced attitude – that’s the law in every accredited university in the world. But my so-called readers were ‘selected’ by the sex offenders and by their enablers with the opposite idea in mind.

For instance, Mr. Leslie Brisman is an undistinguished and completely unknown individual, who for years has been stealing money and killing real talent in Shakespeare studies. Like Quint, he was somebody’s ‘friend.’

But this doesn’t change the objective fact that nobody cites him, and nobody even considers his antiquated and irrelevant ‘scholarship.’

Brisman has never supported the career of one single African scholar of Shakespeare. Not a single African scholar of any gender, not a single African woman, not a single intersectional woman of color – which is racism mixed with ignorance, bigotry and corruption.

This racist, ignorant and corrupt scammer falsely claimed that I’m a “nigger with demons” and those who believe in the existence of demons are just “primitive people in Africa.”

People’s belief in the existence of Satan, magic and demons has been completely overcome, and now we have ‘science,’ according to Mr. Brisman. Now, the only people who believe in the existence of Satan and demons are “niggers with demons” like me, and “niggers” who practice “Voodoo,” see captioned pix below.

It doesn’t matter if Catholicism is the internal frame of reference of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, cf. Northrop Frye.

The authorial choices of William Shakespeare are meaningless for ignorant and bigoted Mr. Brisman, who claims that “Catholics and Muslims are weeds like Palestinians,” and they should be “eliminated” from U.S. academia – exactly as Tupper Saussy paranoidally believed that Catholics are “evil” and they should be killed like President J.F. Kennedy, cf. Rulers of Evil (p. 33).

But one person Brisman certainly liked was Sam See, Yale’s most famous sex offender (pp. 45-46), who was hired as an ‘assistant professor’ in the dep’t of English, before being arrested for violence and killing himself in jail cf. NYT article: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/19/nyregion/questions-linger-after-death-of-yale-teacher-in-police-custody.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0   

According to the NYT, See was hired in English under senior faculty like Leslie Brisman, while his ‘best friend’ was Katie Trumpener in the comp. literature dep’t. These two enablers knew perfectly well that See was a sex offender and an HIV-positive drug addict, but they did nothing to protect innocent students. How many students were molested and raped by See, before he got arrested for violence against Ganglani? 

This is the type of white-trash criminals that were appointed as my so-called readers, and this is the type of violence and racist hatred I had to face.   

In spite of all these drawbacks, and thanks to the power and originality of my scholarship, four readers passed and approved of my dissertation, with one of them stating that the Hamlet chapter was ready for publication. 

When four (4) readers agree, who is this racist and xenophobic individual, Brisman, to censor the writing of young women scholars of color and kill their academic career for his own greed and ambition?

How about Miss Olga Solovieva from Russia and her old boyfriend, Haun Saussy, blabbering nonsense about the ‘Body of Christ’ – did Brisman object to that? Of course, not. Brisman has always been an enabler of sex offenders.  

U.C. Berkeley Prof. George Lakoff’s recommendation letter for his class on metaphor theory.

Perjuring himself, Brisman falsely claimed that I don’t know metaphors, cf. U.C. Berkeley Prof. George Lakoff’s recommendation letter for his class on metaphor theory, addressed to the Yale graduate program, see the above picture and the transcription below.

And based on that perjury, Brisman falsely claimed that my dissertation should be censored and I should be “eliminated,” cf. “Catholic and Muslims are weeds” and they should be eliminated from U.S. academia.  

But my life and career shall not be “eliminated” based on falsehood and perjury – quite the opposite.   

The U.C. Berkeley class I took with Prof. George Lakoff in the linguistics dep’t was on metaphor theory, his main academic interest. With a final grade of A+ (the highest at Berkeley), I was the only foreign woman of color he recommended that year.

Transcribed below is Prof. Lakoff’s recommendation for Yale’s comparative literature, which Haun Saussy, Pericles Lewis and their enablers define as a field “without any subject matter or methodology.”

Notice that Lakoff mentions my in-depth knowledge of Dante’s Divine Comedy, a very complex and metaphorical work of literature depicting Satan in the depths of hell, inter alia, which was extremely influential for all subsequent literary history.  As a final writing project for Lakoff’s class, I scanned the entire Divine Comedy searching for the most interesting metaphors to discuss and analyze:

“It is a real pleasure to recommend Margherita Maleti for admission to your Ph.D. program.

Ms. Maleti was a student in my course on Metaphor (Linguistics 106) in the fall of 2002. She was one of the two best students in the course, which is saying something since the students in that course were excellent overall. [She] is no ordinary student. She doesn’t merely learn the subject matter – she interrogates it, shines bright light in its eyes, and makes it confess every hint of inadequacy.

Her term paper on Dante was brilliant, insightful, masterful. But what I remember most was her questions in class. Never pedestrian. Always coming at a topic from a new angle, almost always catching me off my feet, forcing me to confront issues I hadn’t thought about before.

What I especially appreciate about [her] is her intellectual persistence. When she asks a question, she expects a full, serious, thoughtful answer every time, and doesn’t let up until she gets one. Not in an offensive way. Quite the opposite, with a seriousness of purpose, a genuine questioning that one can’t help but respect.

I hope you admit Ms. Maleti to your program. She will make a lively intellectual addition to your department, and I think she is destined to become an outstanding scholar.”

But Lakoff fails to mention that the other student was born and raised in the U.S. – a white male who had declared a major in linguistics, hence the linguistics dep’t wanted to promote him above anyone else, even though he didn’t master any foreign language well enough to do what I did, taking this class and excelling at it. Another instance of ingrained racism and xenophobia from an otherwise open-minded person.  

Remember that I was unlawfully denied the possibility to defend my dissertation, or even ask a simple question regarding the absence of any “subject matter and methodology” in comparative literature. Maybe these criminals were afraid of being denounced by a woman of color and put to shame for their ridiculous ignorance, racism and bigoted prejudice?

In response to all the racist hatred and violence instigated by perjurers and criminals like Brisman – what follows are excellent examples of other “niggers with demons.” 

Here’s a “nigger” who believes in demons and magic, J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973), the Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford. He served as a Lieutenant in WWI, incl. the Battle of the Somme, and in 1972 was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II. 

 The Lord of the Rings is one of the best-selling books ever written, with over 150 million copies sold worldwide. The film trilogy (2001-2003) is one of the highest-grossing of all times, with a box office of 3 billion dollars. On top of that, it produced even more revenue with videogames, role-play games, board games, and all the related merchandise. Magic and demons aren’t going anywhere – people only want more. 

J.K. Rowling at the 2018 premiere of the Broadway show based on Harry Potter – another “nigger” who believes in magic and demons. Her net worth is over 1 billion dollars – incl. book sales, Hollywood movies, a theme park in Orlando, FL, and tons of merchandise – and with that she’s the richest English writer of all times. 

Shakespeare was quite rich at the time of his death, owning real estate and the Globe Theater in London.

But that’s nothing compared to this woman’s empire.

Voldemort casting a black-magic spell on Harry Potter, a young student of magic.

The Harry Potter franchise includes 7 books that have sold 600 million copies worldwide, and were translated in 84 languages. It also includes 8 movie adaptations of the Harry Potter novels, and 3 movies of the Fantastic Beasts series, all distributed by Warner Bros. The movies have grossed ca. 10 billion dollars worldwide, making it the 4th highest-grossing film franchise of all times, behind other magic/fantasy series like the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Wars and Spider-Man.

The Twilight Saga is a series of five fantasy films about magic, vampires and werewolves based on the book series Twilight by Stephanie Meyer. It has grossed over 5 billion dollars worldwide.

Magic and demons have never been more popular, and profitable for the entertainment industry.

There are very popular and commercially successful series like Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003), Game of Thrones (2011-2019), American Horror Story (2011-present), Stranger Things (2016-present), etc.

Many Hollywood movies deal w/ magic and the supernatural, incl. virtually all Walt Disney productions for children. Some movies directly address the theme of Satan and the Antichrist, e.g. The Omen media franchise (1976-2016) and the related novels; The Devil’s Advocate (1997); Rosemary’s Baby (1968) grossing $34 mil against a budget of $3 mil; The Exorcist (1973), grossing $450 mil against a budget of $12 mil; Hereditary (2018) a movie about the Antichrist grossing $80 mil against a budget of $10 mil.

The latter is produced by A24, a company specializing in supernatural horrors.

The combination low budget/high revenue makes these themes very attractive for production companies.

Elizabeth Hurley as Satan convinces an office employee to sign the pact with the devil to get the woman he wants.

Bedazzled (2000) is a Hollywood remake of the 1967 eponymous British film, itself a comic retelling of the Faust story, cf. Christopher Marlowe and Goethe. Comedy doesn’t travel or translate well across different cultures, but this type of movie made $90 mil against a budget of $48 mil, which mostly went to Miss Hurley…

The Witches of Eastwick (1987). Jack Nicholson as Satan keeps good company with three of the most beautiful Hollywood stars: Cher, Susan Sarandon and Michelle Pfeiffer – all “niggers,” of course. Using black-magic spells, they defeat Satan for the time being. But they all get pregnant, producing three beautiful sons who grow up watching their dad on TV…

Yale School of Drama graduate, Sigourney Weaver, levitates in front of Bill Murray, as she’s possessed by a demon called Zuul in Ghostbusters (1984), a super popular family movie that produced ca. $300 mil worldwide against a budget of ca. $30 mil. Again, very high profits based on people’s endless fascination with magic and demons.

English singer Sam Smith performing ‘Unholy’ at the 2023 Grammy.

He was dressed as Satan, surrounded by beautiful dancers of color dressed like demons.

All “niggers with demons,” according to Brisman.

From the viral YouTube video, Demons, by Doja Cat, who was described by the Wall Street Journal as “a skilled technical rapper with a strong melodic sense and a bold visual presence.”

Doja has received 1 Grammy Award from 16 nominations, 5 American Music Awards, and 5 MTV Video Music Awards.

Doja was included in the top 100 most influential people in the world by Time in 2023.

If Brisman called Doja and her fans “niggers with demons,” how would they react?

Willem Dafoe as Satan in the Super Bowl ad for Mercedes Benz


A Boy Named Sue

“You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly”

Miss Leslie Brisman is a white-trash racist and scammer who has never produced one single African scholar in his entire, irrelevant ‘career.’ 

Nobody has ever quoted him, nobody knows him, and nobody will miss him. 

But he’s always been a great friend, supporter and enabler of sex offenders like Haun Saussy, Giuseppe Mazzotta, Sam See, etc.

There’s nothing he wouldn’t do for the right amount of money, esp. something as simple as killing immigrant women of color and signing their “testament” — or so he thought. 

But this time, he targeted the wrong “nigger with demons.”      

   Now he hides like a snail under a rock, hoping that nobody will notice. 


Fernanda Lopez Aguilar, another victim of racism and rape at Yale, by another white-trash racist and academic fraud called Thomas Pogge. Sex offenders at Yale always target people of color. But Time Is Up. We must put an end to rape on campus, and it all starts by telling the truth.

Jack Nicholson as Satan ranting against Woman — hilarious! Was he acting, or just being himself? :))) 

Official Trailer

Chapter I

“Double-Meaning Prophesier,” Shakespeare’s Historical Background

οὐκ ἄρα βέλτιστεπάνυ ἡμῖν οὕτω φροντιστέον τί ἐροῦσιν οἱ πολλοὶ ἡμᾶςἀλλ᾽ ὅτι  ἐπαΐων περὶ τῶν δικαίων καὶ ἀδίκων εἷς καὶ αὐτὴ  ἀλήθεια.

(Plato, Crito, 48a)

Beati estis cum maledixerint vobis et persecuti vos fuerint et dixerint omne malum adversum vos, mentientes, proper Me. Gaudete et exultate, quoniam merces vestra copiosa est in caelis, sic enim persecuti sunt prophetas qui fuerunt ante vos.

(Mt 5:11-12)

In nine places out of ten in which I find his awful name mentioned, it is with some epithet of “wild,” “irregular,” “pure child of nature,” etc., etc., etc. […] if false, it is a dangerous falsehood; for it affords a refuge to secret self-conceit, enables a vain man at once to escape his reader’s indignation by general swoln panegyrics on Shakespeare, merely by his ipse dixit, to treat what he has not intellect enough to comprehend, or soul to feel, as contemptible; without assuming any reason, or referring his opinion to any demonstrated principle… I grieve that every late voluminous edition of his works would enable me to substantiate the present charge with a variety of facts one tenth of which would of themselves exhaust the time allotted me. Every critic, who has or has not made a collection of black letter books, in itself a useful and respectable amusement, puts on the seven-league boots of self-opinion and strides at once from an illustrator into a supreme judge, and blind and deaf, fills his three-ounce phial at the waters of the Niagara – and determines positively the greatness of the cataract to be neither more nor less than his three-ounce phial has been able to receive.

(Coleridge, Shakespeare’s Judgment Equal to His Genius, 1808)

If America has not yet found any great writers, we should not look elsewhere for reasons; literary genius does not thrive without freedom of thought, and there is no freedom of thought in America.

(Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Vol. I, Part II, Ch. VI, 1840)

In some sense it may be said that this glorious Elizabethan era with its Shakespeare, as the outcome and flowering of all which had preceded it, is itself attributable to the Catholicism of the Middle Ages. The Christian Faith, which was the theme of Dante’s song, had produced this practical life which Shakespeare was to sing – for religion then, as it now and always is, was the soul of Practice; the primary vital fact in men’s life.

And remark here, as rather curious, that Middle-Age Catholicism was abolished, so far as Acts of Parliament could abolish it, before Shakespeare, the noblest product of it, made his appearance. He did make his appearance nevertheless. Nature at her own time, with Catholicism or what else might be necessary, sent him forth; taking small thoughts of Acts of Parliament. King-Henrys, Queen-Elizabeths go their way; and Nature too goes hers.

(Thomas Carlyle, Lectures on Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History, 1841)

…this Papist [Robert Persons, a Jesuit] and his poet, of like conscience for lies, the one ever feigning and the other ever falsifying the truth.

(John Speed, Histoire of Great Britaine, 1611)

 England between Catholicism and the Protestant Reformation: the historical evidence

In his Lectures on Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History (1841), Thomas Carlyle discusses the “Hero as Poet” with reference to Shakespeare’s Catholic inspiration: “In some sense it may be said that this glorious Elizabethan era with its Shakespeare, as the outcome and flowering of all which had preceded it, is itself attributable to the Catholicism of the Middle Ages. The Christian Faith, which was the theme of Dante’s song, had produced this practical life which Shakespeare was to sing – for religion then, as it now and always is, was the soul of Practice; the primary vital fact in men’s life.” His words were prophetic of the current developments in Shakespeare studies: “And remark here, as rather curious, that Middle-Age Catholicism was abolished, so far as Acts of Parliament could abolish it, before Shakespeare, the noblest product of it, made his appearance. He did make his appearance nevertheless. Nature at her own time, with Catholicism or what else might be necessary, sent him forth; taking small thoughts of Acts of Parliament. King-Henrys, Queen-Elizabeths go their way; and Nature too goes hers.” Carlyle acknowledged that Shakespeare was the product of the Catholic culture of the previous centuries, when all public discourse would revolve around Scripture, from politics to public sermons, from education to entertainment. An inheritance, a legacy and a tradition of fifteen centuries cannot be eliminated in a couple of generations – hence the political theory of the divine right of kings still influenced James I, who was in fact one of its most prominent embodiments; hence the liturgical theater of the Mystery and Passion Plays was even more popular than the Greek and Roman classics; hence the religious art of Giotto was the school for the Renaissance masters Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raffaello; hence the divinely inspired poetry of authors like Dante and Petrarch was the model for all subsequent European literature. As Kim Hall writes in her much-admired critical edition of Othello, “religion was the dominant means by which early moderns understood and ordered their world.”[lxxii]

Religion was not only a matter of private worship, but its primary socio-political role was to ground and justify temporal power, as well as to order the relationships among classes and individuals within society. Shakespeare’s monarch, King James I, presented himself as a Christian monarch and defended the principle of the divine right of kings in The True Law of Free Monarchies (1598) and Basilikon Doron (1599). Not unlike Spanish monarchs and German Emperors, James shared the common understanding of political power as an extension of the apostolic succession established by Christ when He founded His universal Catholic Church upon Simon, renaming him with his Roman Latin name of Peter, from Lat. petra, “rock” or “stone,” symbolizing the foundation of Christ’s mystical Body in the Church of Rome: “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in Heaven.” (Mt 16:17-19) And as an absolutist monarch, King James understood his political writings as a way to lay down the law. Hence Christianity features prominently in all his political essays as a means to promote an image of himself as a God-fearing monarch, strong, responsible and morally sound, and therefore worthy of power. In Basilikon Doron, whose 1603 London edition understandably enjoyed enormous success, James devoted ample space to describe a Christian monarch’s duties toward God: to love and fear the Omnipotent as the source of all power and authority; to study Scripture and pray, giving thanks to God for His bountiful gifts. Of course, because the monarch was the head of the state, his example was meant to serve as a model of behavior for all his subjects.

King James’ non-explicitly political publications, both scholarly and poetic, also testify to the crucial role that religion performed in society. In his poem The Lepanto (1591) – which will be discussed in the context of Shakespeare’s Othello (Chapter Two) – James celebrates the unexpected Christian victory over the Ottoman Turks in the Battle of Lepanto (1571), a decisive moment for Europe and one of the most important battles in history.[lxxiii] James significantly represents the Christian victory as willed by God: in the opening section of the poem, the Father sends the Archangel Gabriel to the city of Venice with the mission to “put into their minds/ To take revenge of wrongs the Turks/ have done in sundry kinds” (vv. 90-92). As Holinshed records in his Chronicles (1577), one of Shakespeare’s main historical sources, the Christian victory at Lepanto was greeted with enormous enthusiasm in London: “there were bonfires made through the City, with banqueting and great rejoicing, as good cause there was, for a victory of so great importance, to the whole state of the Christian common wealth” (4.262).[lxxiv]

Christianity as the legitimation of political power was clearly of capital importance to the English monarch, who commissioned “a more exact Translation of the holy Scriptures in the English Tongue” so that “the Church of England shall reap good fruit thereby.” James was praised by the translators for being “the principal Mover and Author of the work,” as well as “the wonder of the world” for his “zeal… toward the house of God” which “doth not slack or go backward, but is more and more kindled, manifesting itself abroad in the farthest parts of Christendom, by writing in defense of the Truth… and every day at home, by religious and learned discourse, by frequenting the house of God, by hearing the Word preached, by cherishing the Teachers thereof, by caring for the Church, as a most tender and loving nursing Father.”[lxxv]

Among James’s writings “in defense of the Truth,” perhaps the most prominent is his Daemonologie, in forme of a Dialogue, divided into three Bookes (1597), where he discusses the main principles of Christian demonology, purportedly from a new Anglican perspective, but in fact restating the orthodox Catholic condemnation of magic and superstition. James’ essay only differentiates itself from orthodoxy in negating that exorcism is a means to fight demonic agency in human life. Indeed, without any intellectual tradition to refer to apart from the previous fifteen centuries of Catholic scholarship, James had to follow the prominent Catholic intellectual Jean Bodin (De la Démonomanie des Sorciers, 1580); as well as the Dominicans Krämer and Sprenger, whose Malleus Maleficarum (1486) would become in the centuries to follow the most influential text for the trial and punishment of many actual practitioners of sorcery (Rev 22:15),  and the persecution and martyrdom of many more innocent victims.[lxxvi] As noted by Giovanna Silvani (1997) in her commented edition of the Daemonologie,[lxxvii] the book had a remarkable influence on contemporary English culture, contributing to popularize orthodox Catholic theology regarding superstition which considers “ghosts” and “apparitions” as the work of Satan and his demonic legions, e.g. in the following passage from the first chapter of the third book:

“PHILOMATHES – And what meanes then these kindes of spirites, when they appeare in the shaddow of a person newlie dead, or to die, to his friendes?

EPISTEMON – When they appeare upon that occasion, they are called Wraithes in our language. Amongst the Gentiles the Deuill used that much, to make them beleeue that it was some good spirite that appeared to them then, either to forewarne them of the death of their friend; or else to discouer unto them, the will of the defunct… And this way hee easily deceiued the Gentiles, because they knew not God: And to the same effect it is, that he now appears in that maner to some ignorant Christians. For he dare not so illude anie that knoweth that, neither can the spirite of the defunct returne to his friend, or yet an Angell use such forms.”

In Chapter Three we will see how Shakespeare’s Hamlet confirms these important concepts. If the ghostly apparition is not in fact a restless soul from Purgatory but a demon, then Prince Hamlet enters the Satanic pact by renouncing his free-will to follow an evil spirit disguised as an “angel of light” (2 Cor 11:14). In a time when religious knowledge and religious allegiance were literally matters of life or death, the political weight of King James’ writings – here in particular his Daemonologie – cannot be overestimated. Besides popularizing Catholic orthodoxy on superstition and the practice of magic, the Daemonologie was the king’s political statement on what he did not allow in his reign and what he was going to persecute.

It is a well-known fact, for instance, that charges were brought against the “North Berwick witches” for trying to “sink the ship carrying James to Denmark to meet with his future bride, and also the ship bringing Anne to England. […] At the same time that women and men were being accused in Scotland of trying to prevent the union of James and Anne, similar accusations were being made in Denmark… A woman named Anna Koldings was interrogated, and under the fear of greater tortures was compelled to give the names of five other women, one of them being the wife of the burgomaster of Copenhagen.”[lxxviii] And God only knows what happened to the wife of the burgomaster of Copenhagen.

King James’ paranoia – or rather his strategy to eliminate political rivals – included the Earl of Bothwell, Francis Steward, who was suspected to be behind the North Berwick witches: “[Margaret] Murray and [Montague] Summers both believed that Bothwell played the part of the Devil at the Sabbath meetings of the witches, and it is true that in later years during his exile, Bothwell kept the reputation of being a powerful magician.”[lxxix] It is clear that King James’ accusations of sorcery were a threatening political reality for all his subjects. Because it was a matter of life and death to know what “displeased” the monarch, it is not surprising that the Daemonologie enjoyed a great success. From a historical perspective the book contributed to making the tragedy of Hamlet much less of a mystery for Renaissance audiences than it is for people living in the secularized society of the 21st century, which like Hamlet has “wipe[d] away” “from the table of [its] memory” “[a]ll saws of books, all forms, all pressures past” (I, v, 98-100) both in terms of Scriptural knowledge and of “osmotic knowledge” (Ranald, 1987).

Christianity was a matter of life or death in Renaissance England and Europe. In the 1530-s, King Henry VIII (1509-1547) rejected Rome’s authority concerning his divorce from Catherine of Aragon, and instituted a new Church of England with himself as its head. All the taxes due to the Catholic Church were abolished and more than six hundred Catholic monasteries, with landed property and real estate, were expropriated in order to finance the English Crown and its emerging Empire. Politically as well as financially, the institution of an independent national church was the most profitable move. At Henry’s death in 1547, the Duke of Somerset, Edward Seymour, and after him John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, held power on behalf of Edward, Henry’s ten-year-old son who later reigned as Edward VI (1547-1553). Important administrative changes took place in these years: acts of parliament were passed in 1549 and 1551 imposing religious uniformity; the clergy were allowed to marry; two Acts of Uniformity in 1549 and 1552 prescribed Thomas Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer as the only legitimate form of prayer; while reformed services replaced the Catholic Mass with its central rite of Transubstantiation and Eucharist. The politics of terror against Catholic “recusants” and “Papists” – including spying, false accusations, expropriation, imprisonment, torture and murder for treason by hanging and disembowelment – also started in this period. Despite or perhaps because of terror, the many English citizens who chose to remain faithful to the established, orthodox Catholic religion managed to give witness to their faith with heroic courage. The direction of religious persecution was reversed during the short reign of Mary I (1553-1558) and, after she was beheaded, finally reestablished by the last of the Tudors, Elizabeth I (1558-1603) as well as by the first of the Stuarts, James VI & I (1603-1625). It was during Elizabeth’s reign that the foundations of the Church of England were secured, “Protestant in all places of authority, but Catholic in sympathy among large sections of the lesser clergy and the people.”[lxxx]

As Christopher Devlin remarks in Hamlet’s Divinity (1963), the Reformation was from its inception accompanied by a propagandist version of history manufactured by writers such as Pierre Bayle (1550), John Foxe (1570) and John Speed (1611) – who interestingly accused Shakespeare of being a Papist – so that “by Shakespeare’s time there was already a Protestant version of England’s past which was rapidly gaining ground.”[lxxxi] This version of history has now come to be seen as basically flawed, and contemporary historiography proposes a more realistic view of the Reformation as a slow process, mainly imposed from above and generally very painful for the vast majority of the population. As Beauregard remarks in his Catholic Theology in Shakespeare’s Plays (2008), “The notion that the late medieval Church was corrupt and unpopular, that its clergy were ignorant, and that the Reformation was welcomed by the general populace and rapidly accomplished, has been rejected. It has been replaced by a notion of it as reluctantly accepted by the populace and imposed by Elizabeth and her minions. In other words, in place of a Reformation that was ‘fast’ and ‘from below,’ we now have a Reformation that was ‘slow’ and imposed ‘from above.’ In specific terms, this means that the Reformation did not begin to establish itself in most areas until 1580 and after.”[lxxxii] It is therefore not surprising that “English audiences were still Catholic or well disposed toward Catholicism.”[lxxxiii]

Beauregard, who discerns “positive evidence of Catholic theology” in Shakespeare, also remarks that – except for direct allusions to the Name of God and to contemporary religious controversies – ethics became mandatory in theatrical representations, so that “the formal purpose and the moral images of drama still carried considerable theological force.”[lxxxiv] To this purpose Beauregard quotes from the 1572 injunction of the Queen’s Privy Council, ordering London officials to allow “such plays, entreludes, comedies, and tragedies as maye tende to represse vyce and extol vertwe.”[lxxxv] The values that were used “to repress vice and extol virtue” included “theological notions of sin, repentance, providential order, natural law, an afterlife” as well as concepts of “Purgatory, penitential satisfaction, pilgrimage, and religious life.”[lxxxvi] All of these theological themes and more are represented in Shakespeare’s plays in a way that modern secular theater perhaps would not tolerate, but “such was not the case in Elizabethan and Jacobean England.”[lxxxvii] In Elizabethan and Jacobean England religion was a matter of life and death. But it is equally true that after fifteen centuries of Catholic scholarship and tradition, there was ample correspondence between Catholicism and Protestantism in terms of theological doctrines, which allowed writers a margin of freedom. This, in addition to the fact that some tolerance was to be expected from theater supervisors, allowed Shakespeare to circumvent censorship and express his art through linguistic ambiguity, irony and virtuoso polysemy.

The image of the writer as a lay priest – a “priest of eternal imagination,” as Joyce would say – is also in Jeffrey Knapp’s Shakespeare’s Tribe. Church, Nation and Theater in Renaissance England (2002). Knapp argues that “Shakespeare’s Tribe,” the people of the theater, reinvented and refashioned themselves into “a kind of ministry,” acting prudently and undercover since “[f]ear of church and state repression generated caution.”[lxxxviii] They would use their art “to support the cause of true religion” and mediate contents relevant to contemporary society, providing an example of how to maintain one’s identity in times of terror. Also Peter Milward observes that Shakespeare expresses his opinions “in disguise, at a remove from his real meaning”[lxxxix] like the Duke Vincentio, a figura of the artist, in Measure for Measure: “His giving out were of an infinite distance/ from his true-meant design.” (I, iv, 53-44) The same concern for indirectness is expressed by Lance – a pun on the author’s surname Shake-spear – in Two Gentlemen of Verona, as he announces: “Thou shalt never get such a secret from me but by parable” (II, v, 34-35). Due to the tragic circumstances of his time, also Shakespeare had to become a “double-meaning prophesier” (All’s Well That Ends Well IV, iii, 102-103) as the title of this chapter.

Knapp remarks that “English theology and ecclesiology shaped the drama at a fundamental level,” aiding the institutionalization of theater and the professionalization of players and playwrights as a “community of practitioners.”[xc] He also discusses some of the literary historians who argued for “the centrality of religion to the study of Renaissance drama,” like Donna Hamilton, Huston Diehl, Bryan Crockett, Claire McEachern, Kristen Pole, and Ramie Targoff. All these scholars “have provided an indispensible corrective to the historiographical blind spots of political and anthropological critics alike” by questioning the “secularist biases of modern criticism.” Nevertheless, their position still portrays “Renaissance playwrights as ‘Christian’ only cognitively or subliminally, rather than purposively and devotionally. Not even this compelling revisionism, in other words, allows the possibility that Renaissance plays may have been intended and received as contributions to the cause of true religion.”[xci] But as Donna Hamilton remarked, it is very unlikely “that the popular drama of a religiously saturated culture could, by a secular miracle, have extricated itself from the theocentric orientation informing the discourses of politics, gender, social order, and history at the time.”[xcii]

“This Papist and his poet,” Catholicism in Shakespeare: the biographical evidence

One of the most naïve scholarly clichés in Shakespeare studies is the one concerning the paucity of information about Shakespeare’s life: it is in fact true that we know quite a lot.

As Stanley Wells and Gary Taylor point out in their 1988 edition of the Complete Works for Oxford University Press, “[o]ne of the ungrounded myths about Shakespeare is that all we know about his life could be written on the back of a postage stamp.”[xciii] On the contrary, there is a wealth of information about Warwickshire’s and Lancashire’s society; about Shakespeare’s mother and father; his extended family and relatives; about the intellectual accomplishments and heroic sacrifice of his cousin, the Jesuit martyr Robert Southwell; about his family’s and his own financial management, purchases, mortgages and debts; as well as official documents marking significant moments in his life and the life of his family: such as the record of sacraments taken or missed at the local parish and, most importantly, John Shakespeare’s Spiritual Testament, which his son devoutly quoted in what would become his most celebrated play, Hamlet.

From all these records a cohesive picture emerges of the human and political network to which Shakespeare belonged, and most scholars now agree that all the evidence we possess points to a continuity of Catholicism in the Shakespeare family. As Greenblatt remarks, Shakespeare “was probably brought up in a Roman Catholic household in a time of official suspicion and persecution of recusancy” and he was “haunted by the spirit of his Catholic father.”[xciv] The scholars who discussed Catholicism in Shakespeare are numerous, and here we can only reference a few: George Wilkes, Roy Battenhouse, Christopher Devlin, Peter Milward, David Beauregard, Frank Brownlow, Gary Taylor, E. A. J. Honigmann, Eric Sams, Patrick Collinson, Ian Wilson, Margarita Stocker, Dympna Callaghan, Antonia Fraser, Richard Wilson and Ruben Espinosa, among others, all contend that Shakespeare’s Catholicism was a source of inspiration for his art. [xcv] This work is not only an original synthesis of their arguments, but intends to add a new perspective with Christian Catholic Demonology.

Because of its far-reaching implications, there is still great political resistance to the idea that Shakespeare might have been inspired by Catholicism not only “cognitively or subliminally,” but also “purposively and devotionally,” as Knapp suggests – the idea, in other words, that Shakespeare’s “Renaissance plays may have been intended and received as contributions to the cause of true religion.”[xcvi] In Secret Shakespeare (2004), Richard Wilson writes that “one of the most naïve myths of literary biography… is that of the dramatist as a hero of Protestant England and favorite of the Queen.” Wilson argues that the idea of “the playwright as an Anglican spokesman” is a mystification: “[t]he construction of a Shakespeare in love with Protestant empire serves the ideological function of annexing the plays to the dominant Anglo-Saxon discourses.”[xcvii] Wilson cites the work of Alison Shell to the effect that “opposition to the recovery of Elizabethan recusant culture arises in the contemporary academy from some very impure motives: ‘Responses to current Catholicism seem to determine whether one welcomes or shuns it as a subject for historical enquiry… When non-Catholics consider early modern Catholicism, their attitude is inevitably colored by their views on Catholicism now.’”[xcviii]

To appreciate the depth and complexity of Shakespeare’s art it is therefore necessary to respect the author, allowing him to be himself, inherently different and other than our contemporary atheistic, materialistic society. In Shakespeare After Theory (1999), David Kastan commented that the “recent critical models of historical engagement with Shakespeare” – the Marxist ideology that sustains new historicism and cultural materialism – “seem to some too overtly self-interested… significant more as records of our present needs and anxieties than as reconstructions of those of Shakespeare’s time.” Following in the wake of Frye’s scholarship on the necessity to avoid anachronistic projections, Kastan remarks that our understanding of Shakespeare must begin “with the recognition of his difference from us,” for “only then can we be sure that what we hear are his concerns, rather than the projections of our own.”[xcix] This fundamental attitude of respect for “the author as the other” should be kept in mind in the following discussion on the biographical evidence for Shakespeare’s Catholic background.

All historians and critics agree that the place of Shakespeare’s birth, Stratford in Warwickshire, was a renowned center of Catholic recusancy.[c] Patrick Collinson describes the region as “essentially a Catholic stronghold down to the middle of the sixteenth century;”[ci] Antonia Fraser speaks of it as “the town at the center of the recusant map of England;”[cii] and according to John E. Neale, Shakespeare’s Stratford was a “bastion of middle-class church papists, encircled by Calvinist landowners such as the Lucys and Grevilles.”[ciii]

During the 1570-s and the 1580-s, in particular, Warwickshire was the center of fervent Catholicism with the arrival of seminary priests from Douai – funded and helped, among others, by the Hoghton family, who also supported Shakespeare. Edmund Spenser, who in 1576-77 was residing in Lancashire near Hoghton, commented that Catholic priests had to face a “long and dangerous travel… knowing peril of death awaited them, and no reward or riches were to be found.”[civ] The 1580 Jesuit mission was particularly important, since it included Fr. Edmund Campion, who later became a martyr; and Jesuit priest and pamphleteer Robert Persons,[cv] who provided Shakespeare’s father, John Shakespeare, with the copy of the Catholic Spiritual Testament drawn by St Carlo Borromeo. The religious atmosphere in the region explains why Shakespeare’s schoolmasters at the Stratford grammar school were Catholic: Simon Hunt “went on to become a Jesuit;” John Cottom “was the brother of Thomas Cottom, a Catholic priest who was arraigned and executed in 1582 with the Jesuit martyr Edmund Campion;” and the third schoolmaster, Thomas Jerkins, “had likely been tutored in rhetoric by Campion at St. John’s College, whose founder had strong Catholic sympathies.” After being awarded a fellowship at St. John’s, Jerkins left without taking orders, “an action which suggests Roman Catholic sympathies.”[cvi] All these unsung and unknown martyrs willingly gave witness to their faith and gained immortality through persecution.

In discussing the religious background of Shakespeare’s parents and extended family, most critics limit their focus to his father, John – which generates a lot of controversy, because the abundant evidence of his Catholic faith is usually dismissed with “lofty scorn” by those who have a vested interest in presenting Shakespeare as a prophet of state religion and teleologically as a mouthpiece of the emerging British empire. As Richard Wilson remarks about the turn in Reformation and post-Reformation historiography:

“It cannot be chance that the sharpest ridicule of the “Catholic turn” in Shakespeare studies comes from modernist specialists who insist that “the details available can be made to point in different directions,”[cvii] so that it would be impossible to construct any analysis which puts the author into his cultural space… As the “details” of history dismissed with such lofty scorn include Campion’s minutely documented mission, the anti-Catholic terror, Essex’s Revolt and the Gunpowder Plot, it is not hard to see that the reason the idea of the Bard’s invisibility persists is that those literary mystifiers who depend upon it remain oblivious to the revolution in post-Reformation historiography which has transformed the ways in which Shakespeare’s texts, and textual remains, now need to be read. The rediscovery of English Counterreformation provides a context for locating the dramatist’s legendary inaccessibility.”[cviii]

Truthful biographical research should instead focus on the fact that for the generation of Shakespeare’s grandparents, i.e. Mary Arden’s parents, born between the end of the 15th and the beginning of the 16th century, it would have been inconceivable to marry their beloved daughter to a Protestant, thus condemning her to perpetual unhappiness. Indeed, the Ardens of Park Hall were one of the most respected aristocratic Catholic families in the region. Their ancestors had received landed property from William the Conqueror, and their origins could be traced back to the period before the Norman Conquest – which also goes to deconstruct the academic fraud of William Shakespeare’s allegedly “bought” nobility. Such slander should first of all call attention to the fact that William Shakespeare had to face many enemies during his lifetime, as he tried to protect himself and his family by virtue of what Joyce defined as “silence, exile and cunning.”

Mary Arden was the favorite daughter of her father Robert and upon her marriage with John Shakespeare she was bequeathed – like King Lear’s beloved daughter Cordelia – his most valuable possession, the Wilmcote estate. This fact tells us that Robert Arden must have been pleased with John Shakespeare as his son-in-law, in spite of the fact that he was of yeoman stock, while Mary belonged to the gentry. This would not have been possible if John, besides coming from a lower social class, had also been a Protestant. In fact, the opposite was the case: Robert was pleased with John as a serious suitor and a Catholic in good standing, and he must have felt secure entrusting him with the care of his most cherished daughter, allowing her to enjoy respect and freedom of conscience for all her married life.

As Christopher Devlin points out, the Arden household “became a headquarters of the Counter-Reformation during Shakespeare’s teenage years.”[cix] In 1583 Edward Arden, the head of the Arden family “was implicated in one of the most disgustingly bogus plots of the period […] a shameless attempt by Leicester to extirpate his family. Lucy sat on the Commission which indicted him for high treason. The trial was shifted to London, probably on account of his popularity. He was executed a Tyburn, a martyr in everything but the title.”[cx] The son-in-law of Edward Arden, John Somerville – hence the bogus name “Somerville Plot” – was also accused and arrested: he was tortured on the rack and died while he was at the Tower of London. The persecution of the Arden family continued during the 1580s and 1590s,[cxi] also at the hands of the local “Puritan” magistrate Sir Thomas Lucy.[cxii]

Perhaps the most prominent of Shakespeare’s relatives was his cousin, the Jesuit Robert Southwell (1561-1595), author of An Humble Supplication to Her Maiestie (1591) addressed to the Christian Queen Elizabeth – which will be discussed  comparatively with Beccaria’s treatise Dei Delitti e delle Pene. Due to anti-Catholic censorship, Southwell’s volume of poems, Saint Peter’s Complaint, was published posthumously in 1616 and out of the country, being dedicated to William with the salutation “To my worthy good cousin, Master W. S.”[cxiii]

The abominable death of Robert Southwell, his martyrdom under the pious and innocent virgin Queen Elizabeth – he was imprisoned, tortured, hung and disemboweled like a traitor – and the scandalous hypocrisy that surrounded the persecution of Catholics in general and his family in particular, must have exerted a powerful influence on Shakespeare’s mind as a young man.[cxiv] Learned in the Scriptures, he must have perceived a strong similarity between the tragedy of Robert Southwell butchered by an allegedly Christian monarch, and the Passion of Jesus Christ murdered at the hands of the Pharisees. In a culture saturated with references to the Logos and typological reading of Scriptures, Shakespeare must have felt that the pattern of Israel persecuted by Egypt’s Pharaoh was repeated in the tragic fate of English Catholics, living in a tyrannical political regime of terror and propaganda, forcibly converted to the “true faith” – or else dispossessed, incarcerated, tortured, hung and disemboweled in the name of Christian charity.

In the revisionist version of history provided by Reformation historiography, this immense burden of human suffering – and guilt – is systematically denied or belittled.[cxv] As Anthony Nuttall writes, “[w]hen John Carey published his John Donne: Life, Mind and Art in 1983, he painted a vivid picture of the anti-Catholic terror. Some historians thought he overplayed the grand guignol. One said, ‘John is like the fat boy in Pickwick – “I wants [sic] to make your flesh creep.”’ But a certain distinguished historian of the reign of Elizabeth said to me, ‘I was shaken by Carey’s book. We historians are fond of saying that the persecution of Catholics was fitful and inefficient, but Carey makes one see the real horror.’”[cxvi] In his historical and biographical discussion of John Donne, Carey offers a detailed description of the conditions in which English Catholics had to live:

“The financial incentives to join the Church of England were strong. By a statute of 1585, Catholics who refused to attend Anglican service were liable to a fine of £20 a month. An average parish schoolmaster’s salary at the time, it’s worth reminding ourselves, was £20 a year.

Offenders who found themselves unable to pay were to have all their goods and two-thirds of their land confiscated… The anti-Catholic legislation also made it high-treason for any Jesuit or seminary priest to be within the Queen’s dominions, and felony for any lay person to relive or receive him. In effect, this meant that it was felony to practice Catholic religion. […]

New prisons were established at Wisbech, Ely and Reading, all filled with Catholics. […] In the common prisons, Catholics were victimized. The felons incarcerated with them were encouraged to abuse them… John Gerald, the English Jesuit, reports that when his manservant was captured and shut up in Bridewall he was given barely sufficient food to keep body and soul together. His cell was tiny, bed-less, and crawling with vermin, so that he had to sleep perched on the window ledge.

The gaolers left his excrement in the cell in an uncovered pile, and the stink was suffocating. In these conditions, he waited to be called out and examined under torture. The poet and martyr Robert Southwell also testifies to the systematic starvation of Catholic prisoners… Some of the tortures employed on Catholic suspects were so vile that Southwell cannot bring himself to speak of them [cf. An Humble Supplication to Her Maiestie; it is worth remembering that the Queen alone had the power to enforce those tortures] but the ones he does describes are fearful enough. Prisoners were deprived of sleep, until they lost the use of their reason; they were disjointed on the rack; they were rolled up into balls by machinery “and soe Crushed, that the bloud sprowted out at divers parts of their bodies.” […]

The number of Catholics actually executed was, by the standards of twentieth century atrocities, quite small. Between the passing of the new anti-Catholic legislation in 1585 and the end of Elizabeth’s reign, a hundred priests and fifty-three lay persons, including two women, were put to death. The method used to dispatch the victims amounted, however, in many cases to makeshift vivisection, so it atoned, in terms of spectator interest, for its relative rarity.

When the Babington Plot, which had been known about and fomented almost from the first by government agents, was “discovered” in 1586, instructions, to which the Queen was a party, were given to the hangman that “for more terror” the young men responsible should be disemboweled alive. […]

The fate of John Rigby, killed in 1600 under the Act of Persuasions, which made it high treason to embrace the Roman religion, exemplifies this. After he had been hanged, Rigby was cut down so quickly that he stood upright “like a man a little amazed,” till the executioners threw him to the ground. He was heard to pronounce distinctly, “God forgive you. Jesus receive my soul,” whereupon a bystander put his foot on his throat to prevent him from speaking any more [i.e. an instance of true Christian charity].

Other bystanders held his arms and legs while an executioner cut off his genitals and took out his bowels. When he reached up inside Rigby to extract his heart, his victim was “yet so strong that he thrust the men from him who held his arms.” Confronted with judicial proceedings of this kind, English Catholics felt not only pity and terror, but isolation. Their fellow countrymen were not simply indifferent: they rejoiced at the Catholics’ discomfiture.”[cxvii]

Focus: “[John Rigby] was heard to pronounce distinctly: ‘God forgive you. Jesus receive my soul,’ whereupon a bystander put his foot on his throat to prevent him speaking any more. Other bystanders held his arms and legs while an executioner cut off his genitals and took out his bowels.” After suffocating the sacred word of forgiveness, the executioner cut off his genitals, ripped open his belly, and extracted his inner organs: including his beating heart, Aztec-like. As Richard Wilson points out, “John Carey’s study of Donne describes… the tragedy of an entire generation of Elizabethan writers born into families which had prospered until 1558 under the Catholic Mary… This book is therefore about how Shakespeare’s muteness on the persecution of his family and friends relates to the conditions in which he wrote.”[cxviii]

For the vast majority of English Catholics living in the second half of the 16th century, political loyalty to the state was never questioned, since – as Robert Southwell also remarked in his Supplication (1591) – public politics and private faith were conceived as completely separate. And yet “recusants” had the painful realization that their faith made them aliens in their own country and nation – the object of suspicion, spying and abuse. Three of Shakespeare’s close relatives were falsely accused, incarcerated, tortured and murdered: Edward Arden, John Somerville and Robert Southwell – indeed Wilson writes that in the 1590-s, Shakespeare’s Warwickshire cousins were “decimated for their alleged treason.”[cxix] In the revisionist version of Anglo-American history, Shakespeare figures as a marionette, the mouthpiece of the emerging British Empire. But nothing seems farther from the truth: the experience of tyranny, injustice and oppression, the ruthless persecution of Catholics, was the most traumatic as well as the most significant event in Shakespeare’s life, against which he had to fight with all the weapons he had: a magnanimous heart, powerful intellect, courage, culture, and a pen as sharp as a two-edged sword. We would be very naïve to assume that this devastating experience did not have any influence on the creator of the tragedies and history plays; on the creator of plays such as Measure for Measure, against the hypocrisy of political corruption, and The Merchant of Venice with the brilliant character of Portia the Advocate – a very successful figura Mariae whose words of wisdom are a warning for all tyrants:

“The quality of mercy is not strained,

It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven

Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:

It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.

‘Tis mightiest in the mightiest. It becomes

The throned monarch better than his crown;

His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,

The attribute to awe and majesty,

Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;

But mercy is above this sceptred sway;

It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,

It is an attribute to God himself,

And earthly power doth then show likest God’s

When mercy seasons justice.”

(The Merchant of Venice IV, i, 181-194)

Through the words of Portia, his most successful female character, Shakespeare reminds all human beings, but especially those in power, that “in the course of justice, none of us/ Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy/ And that same prayer doth teach us all to render/ The deeds of mercy” (195-199), where the Catholic theological reference to the deeds of mercy should not pass unnoticed, as per Jeremiah: “I, the Lord, explore the mind and test the heart,/ Giving to all according to their ways,/ According to the fruit of their deeds. [cf. Jer 32:19; 1 Sm 16:7, Eccl 12:14]. A partridge that broods but does not hatch are those who acquire wealth unjustly;/ In midlife it will desert them;/ In the end they are only fools. [cf. Prv 13:11; Lk 12:20]”

After the life-changing experience of persecution, expropriation, torture and murder of three close relatives – Edward Arden, John Somerville and Robert Southwell – Portia’s powerful words stand as an enduring accusation before the law of God and man.

The standard punishment for all “political traitors” was hanging and disembowelment, i.e. for patriots and martyrs like the Jesuit Robert Southwell – Shakespeare’s own cousin – who had the honesty and the courage to address an “humble supplication” to the Christian Queen, remarking that there exists a great distinction between private faith – which is a matter of personal conscience – and the public political loyalty due to one’s monarch. Let us never forget that this distinction is now one of the basic principles of all Western democracies. The separation between the private and public sphere of citizenship is at the core of all democratic constitutions.  Two-hundred years after the martyrdom of Robert Southwell and many other innocent victims, the political philosopher Cesare Beccaria published his treatise Dei Delitti e delle Pene (1764), a key work of the European Enlightenment, and a source of inspiration for the American Constitution. Beccaria’s epoch-making treatise was important for more than one reason. Apart from his condemnation of torture and the death penalty, Beccaria argued for a necessary correspondence between guilt and punishment, i.e. the fact that punishment must not exceed the gravity of the crime committed. This principle is now at the basis of all systems of democratic retributive justice in the West. Also in this light we can see how completely opposite to the Spirit of Life, Truth and Justice Southwell’s execution actually was.

In their analysis, both Carey and Wilson focus on the fact that for all Catholic poets born in the Reformation period – names of the caliber of Edmund Spenser, William Shakespeare, Ben Jonson and John Donne – the traumatic experience of political tyranny and religious persecution was the defining life-event. In a very important way, their art represented a creative way out of terror and repression: a way to overcome death with Life, falsehood with Truth, envy and hatred with true Christian charity and forgiveness, as we see in the immortal art of Shakespeare.

With political persecution came a vast array of criminal activities such as spying, intimidation, blackmail and false accusations, which the government justified as “legitimate” for reasons of state security, i.e. it was an expedient way for the state to replenish its coffers with the money confiscated from the Catholic population. The system of spying – “inspired by Burghley and led by Topcliffe”[cxx] – generated a climate of suspicion and division among citizens, now unsure which neighbor to trust or to avoid for fear of persecution: “Spies, some of them renegade priests and Catholics, gave the authorities advance warning about where masses were to be celebrated. Catholic households were commonly raided… In their private life, Catholics were inevitable a prey to blackmail and intimidation. They could not claim redress for personal injuries, or retrieve money owed to them.”[cxxi] The data carefully collected by Carey should constantly be kept in mind when reading Shakespeare, whose mindset was shaped by such institutionalized terror. The concepts employed by Carey in his study of John Donne are valid for all the authors and artists who were part of that historical reality: “Some readers may ask what all this has to do with Donne’s poetry, but I imagine they will be few. It would be as reasonable to demand what the Nazi persecution of the Jews has to do with a young Jewish writer in Germany in the 1930-s. Donne [and Shakespeare before him] was born into a terror, and formed by it.”[cxxii]

Which is why, as Richard Wilson insightfully remarks, “Shakespeare’s faith is like… his own Blackfriars property, with its secret passageways and priest-holes built to defy the grandest Inquisitions.”[cxxiii]

If the Ardens were one of the most ancient Catholic families in England, on his father’s side Shakespeare was also firmly established in Catholicism. John Shakespeare was a wealthy businessman at least until the 1570-s, when he began to experience some financial troubles after the passing of edicts instigating the persecution of Catholics. After 1576, he suddenly ceased to attend Stratford Corporation meetings, until he was finally removed from the corporation itself.[cxxiv] Later, in 1592, he was reported for “obstinately” refusing to “resort to the church,” pleading “fear of process of debt.”[cxxv] The report itself, as noted by F. W. Brownlow (1989), was nothing but a list of recusant Catholics, drawn by a Protestant commission headed by Thomas Lucy, who had received by the government the order to ascertain the religious conformity of Warwickshire “with a special eye to Jesuits, priests and recusants, for not coming monthlie to the churche, according to her Majestie’s lawes.”[cxxvi]

John Shakespeare’s Spiritual Testament was recovered at the end of the 18th century in the house of his descendants, the Harts – in the same house of Henley Street where William was born and raised by his family. As Devlin remarks, “Malone, the great eighteenth-century Shakespearean, pronounced it genuine… But no one else supported him and the document was neglected for a hundred years. The truth was that Victorian Protestant England simply could not swallow it.”[cxxvii] The Testament was a prayer as well as a testimony of faith, which had been formulated by the Archbishop of Milan, Carlo Borromeo, and enjoyed great popularity at the end of the 16th century. It was brought to England by the numerous Jesuit missions of the 1570-s and 1580-s, and John Shakespeare likely received it by Fr. Persons[cxxviii] and his missionary brothers Campion and Sherwin. As a prayer, it was intended for frequent recitation with the family, so that young William must have heard his father read it over and over again: “The devout person who will make use of this spiritual writing, for the good of his soul let him read or hear it often… And when he shall fall sick, let him renew by reading, or hearing read, this Testament in presence of others.”[cxxix] The Testament is certainly genuine, and the fact that Shakespeare quotes it in what would become his most famous play, Hamlet, confirms its relevance. The first to notice the relation between John Shakespeare’s last will and his son’s masterpiece was George Wilkes in his 1882 Shakespeare from an American Point of View when referring to the lingering presence of the father in the life of the son, both in reality and in William’s realistic mimesis. At the same time, Wilkes did not indicate a precise linguistic reference in Hamlet. In the opening section of the Testament – reproduced from Wilkes and quoted at length in the endnote – we read:

“Section I. In the name of God, the Father, Sonne, and Holy Ghost, the most holy and blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, the holy hosts of archangels, angels, patriarchs, prophets, evangelists, apostles, saints, martyrs, and all the celestial court and company of heaven; I, John Shakespeare, an unworthy member of the Catholic religion, being at this, my present writing, in perfect health of body, and sound mind, memory, and understanding, but calling to mind the uncertainty of life and certainty of death, and that I may be possibly cut off in the blossom of my sins, and called to render an account of all my transgressions, externally and internally, and that I may be unprepared for the dreadful trial either by sacrament, penance, fasting, or prayer, or any other purgation whatever, do, in the holy presence above specified, of my own free and voluntary accord, make and ordain this, my last spiritual will, testament, confession, protestation, and confession of faith, hoping hereby to receive pardon for all my sins and offences…” [cxxx]

The expressions “cut off in the blossom of my sins” and “called to render an account of my transgressions” are quoted in Shakespeare’s Hamlet (Act I, scene v), in the ghost’s first speech to the Prince:

“Thus was I, sleeping, by a brother’s hand

Of life, of crown, of queen at once dispatched,

Cut off even in the blossoms of my sin,

Unhouseled, disappointed, unaneled,

No reck’ning made, but sent to my account

With all my imperfections on my head.”

(Hamlet I, v, 74-79, italics added)

Remarkably, the precise quote “cut off in the blossom of my sins” appears in Hamlet in the same context of spiritual accountability and preparation for death by virtue of the Catholic Sacraments of Penance (Confession) and Anointing of the Sick (Extreme Unction). In this context John Shakespeare enumerates “sacrament, penance, fasting, or prayer, or any other purgation whatever;” while the ghost counts the forms of spiritual assistance he did not receive at the moment of death: “Unhouseled, dis-appointed, unaneled,/ No reck’ning made.” As Wilkes suggested, it is an intelligent and correct intuition to see that John’s often-repeated words of faith remained inscribed in his son’s “memory,” as he worked and held “a seat” in the “distracted” London Globe:

“Remember thee?

Ay, thou poor ghost, while memory holds a seat

In this distracted globe. Remember thee?

Yea, from the table of my memory

I’ll wipe away all trivial fond records…

And thy commandment alone shall live

Within the book and volume of my brain

Unmixed with baser matter. Yes, yes, by heaven.”

(Hamlet I, v, 95-104)

The meta-reference to his contemporary theater life leaves no doubt that Shakespeare intended to infuse a strong autobiographical dimension into this scene. But at the same time, the experience of political persecution compelled him to acquire the ability to express himself as a “double-meaning prophesier,” saying the truth in a covert and coded way. For this reason, the literary exegesis of this and other complex passages from Hamlet will be developed in Chapter Three; but it is helpful to introduce it here in connection with the figure of the ghost. Why does Shakespeare create the mimesis of a demonic apparition speaking the words of his father? Does this mean that the ghost may truly be a soul from Purgatory and speak the truth? Or does this mean that Shakespeare secretly hated his Catholic father?

There is no reason to assume that Shakespeare hated any one of his family members, when all his writings are predicated on the need to forgive. The first important reason why Shakespeare generally blends good and evil, also in the representation of the ghost, is because Shakespeare is a realistic writer, his art being “the mirror up to nature, to show virtue her own feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure.” (Hamlet III, ii, 22-24) It is a fact of reality that good and evil are often combined, as Christ explains in the parable of the weeds among the wheat. As the Master of the house, God sowed good wheat in his field; but Satan, the enemy, sowed weeds – which the Master commands his servants to leave until harvest time:

“His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, ‘First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.’” (Mt 13:24-30)

The second important reason why Shakespeare chose to have a demon speak with the words of his father is – once again – because Shakespeare is a realistic writer. Like Iago in Othello (Chapter Two), this is exactly what demons and demonic human beings do, i.e. mixing truth and untruth in order to lead astray the naïve and create a situation of chaos and violence. Satan thrives through lies, calumnies and slander: as Christ warns us, Satan was “from the beginning” a “murderer” and a “father of lies” (Jn 8:44), and his demonic and human slaves behave in the same way (Chapter Two).

Even so, eventually all human beings must die – and it is significant that when John Shakespeare died in 1601 he was buried on September 8, when the Catholic Church celebrates the Birth of the Blessed Virgin – a last eloquent statement of loyalty from a persecuted family who could not proclaim their faith openly, but only give silent witness to God through their life-long resistance, the heavy cross they carried in their daily lives, work, and death.

From our perspective, the legacy of the Spiritual Testament is priceless. In a time of tyranny, terror and persecution, when attending mass could cost people all their possessions as well as their life, reciting this profession of faith daily could in a certain sense replace more important Sacraments that persecution made it impossible to receive; it had the power to keep the family united in the face of worldly corruption; and it could infuse a sense of personal identity attached to the memory of one’s forefathers – as it is represented in the victorious war campaign of Henry V, one of the greatest figurae of the artist, the successful Catholic Prince who stands in sharp contrast with our beloved and “distracted” Hamlet.

Having been raised by devout Catholic parents, in a town and region which was one of the centers of Catholic resistance, and having personally experienced the political persecution against his family, Shakespeare maintained his living faith tied to the awe and affection for his noble ancestry. In an epoch in which faith was essential, respecting the Catholicism of his ancestors also meant respecting his own identity, his own pride as a man with strong bonds to his family roots and household. Shakespeare petitioned for a coat of arms both in order to protect his descendants, and in recognition of the fact that his mother’s family was part of the most ancient nobility of the country. What compelled him was not so much ambition [cxxxi] as a concern for his family’s future, the desire to all that was in his power to secure their wellbeing in a time of political turmoil.

Among the biographical information evidencing Shakespeare’s Catholic faith, very few sources mention the fact that he did not receive “communion” within the reformed Church of England: “Examination of the communion rolls of the parish of St. Saviour in Southwark, carefully kept during the period Shakespeare lived there, revealed that the poet did not take communion in the Church of England, a fact suggesting that like his father and daughter he did not conform.”[cxxxii] Also relevant is the much-maligned fact that Shakespeare and his wife Anne Hathaway received their marriage license only six months prior to the birth of their first daughter, Susanna, in May 1583. As Christopher Devlin and M. D. H. Parker have suggested, there is no reason to assume that they had broken their vows and consummated their marriage before the ceremony.[cxxxiii] Parker highlights the fact that there was a Marian priest at Temple Grafton, John First, who may have celebrated the Catholic rite, since he “had escaped deprivation owning to age, harmlessness and the well-known shortage of new men,” and like “Friar Lawrence in Romeo and Juliet, [he was] interested in the art of healing, being able to cure sick birds.”[cxxxiv]

Recent scholarship has focused on the so-called lost years of Shakespeare’s biography, discussing the idea that he may have been employed as a schoolmaster at the Catholic household of the Hoghtons in Lancashire, with whom John Cottam, schoolmaster at Stratford from 1579 to 1581, had family and economic ties. This possibility was first discussed by Oliver Baker (1937) and supported among others by E. K. Chambers (1944), Peter Milward (1973), Ernst Honigmann (1985) and Richard Wilson (2004).[cxxxv] At Hoghton Tower, William went by the name of “Shakeshafte,” a variant previously used by his grandfather Richard and which served him as a nom de guerre, as it was the custom with recusant Catholics at the time. In a similar way, soldiers would receive a new name for their mission: “Parsons became Doleman; Campion, Hastings; and Debdale, Palmer: the name of the grandfather he is thought to have shared with Shakespeare.”[cxxxvi] To confirm this observation, “Shakeshafte” disappeared immediately after Alexander Hoghton, the head of the family, bequeathed his property in 1581. John Cottam and William Shakeshafte were named his legatees, and his neighbor Sir Thomas Hesketh was invited “to be friendly unto Fulke Gillam and William Shakeshafte now dwelling with me; and either take them into his service or help them to some good master.”[cxxxvii]

According to Honigmann, Sir Hesketh employed Gillam, but he probably recommended Shakeshafte to the Stanleys, and it was through them that Shakespeare began his career in London around the year 1590. When Shakespeare appeared in London, it was with pro-Catholic patrons: Lord Strange first, and then the young Earl of Southampton. And after coming back to Stratford toward the end of his life, for the considerable price of £140 he bought Blackfriars Gatehouse, frequently visited by Jesuits – at least three times: in 1561, 1598 and 1605. “With its secret passageways and priest-holes built to defy the grandest Inquisitions,”[cxxxviii] Blackfriars was a renowned safe haven for Catholics, located as it was near the palace of the French Ambassador. David Beauregard remarks that, given the high price paid for such an ancient structure, it is very unlikely that Shakespeare bought it as an investment: rather, this strategic purchase was his own way to help the cause of freedom of conscience, offering refuge and protection to Catholics in London. Shakespeare placed Blackfriars in Catholic hands with John Robison and his wife, and his own daughter Susanna carried on the tenancy until 1639.

After Shakespeare’s death in 1616, Richard Davies, Vicar of Sapperton and later Archdeacon of Coventry, recorded the testimony of surviving witnesses attesting that Shakespeare “dyed a Papist” (MS. Oxf. 31577). Devlin remarks that this authoritative evidence “has been indignantly rejected. But it is good evidence; and we have the cautious but firm and fair conclusion of Sir E. K. Chambers that there is no valid reason for rejecting it.”[cxxxix]

The controversy surrounding the theatrical representation of John Oldcastle as Falstaff in the Henry plays is another instance of Shakespeare’s Catholic sympathies. The author casts his ironic critique of Falstaff precisely within the context of Demonology. Hence in I Henry IV Prince Harry portrays Falstaff as a Satanic influence: “There is a devil haunts thee in the likeness of an old fat man… Why dost thou converse with… that reverend Vice, that grey Iniquity, that father Ruffian, that Vanity in years? […] That villainous, abominable misleader of youth, Oldcastle; that old white-bearded Satan.” (II, v, 452-468) Oldcastle – “an old fat man,” a coward, unrepentant thief, and an alleged critic – is said to have entered the Satanic Pact, selling his soul cheaply in exchange for food and drink, exactly like Marlowe’s Faustus:

“Edward Poins. Good morrow, sweet Hal. What says Monsieur Remorse? What says Sir John Sack and Sugar? Jack! How agrees the devil and thee about thy soul, that thou soldest him on Good-Friday last for a cup of Madeira and a cold capon’s leg?

Prince Harry. Sir John stands to his word, the devil shall have his bargain; for he was never yet a breaker of proverbs: he will give the devil his due.

 Edward Poins. Then art thou damned for keeping thy word with the devil.

 Prince Harry. Else he had been damned for cozening the devil.” (I Henry IV I, ii, 111-121)

Shakespeare’s portrayal of Falstaff and the controversy it generated were discussed by Christopher Devlin in Hamlet’s Divinity. Devlin also focuses on the fact that few scholars ever mention how “Shakespeare was seriously accused in his lifetime of being a pro-Catholic propagandist.”[cxl] John Speed, the Protestant historian of the 1611 Histoire of Great Britaine, accused Shakespeare of being the “Papist” poet of Robert Persons, a Jesuit Father and pamphleteer: “this Papist and his poet, of like conscience for lies, the one ever feigning and the other ever falsifying the truth.”[cxli] The textual evidence that is usually, conveniently erased in this context is the fact that Shakespeare’s derisive representation of Falstaff – as an old and overweight “white-bearded Satan” who corrupts the youth and misquotes Scripture – was too destructive for the authorities, who at the time were even trying to anoint him as the first martyr of the reformed faith. But that became almost impossible after Shakespeare’s hilarious mimesis. Commoners coming from the theater would not believe such mystification anymore, and Speed “found his picture of Oldcastle blown to pieces by rude laughter.”[cxlii] Devlin records the attempts of the Protestant establishment to remedy the damage done by Shakespeare’s infamous portrayal of the “white-bearded Satan”:

Shakespeare chose to represent his Oldcastle as a hoary old hypocrite who quotes the Geneva Bible almost every second line; but then he enters into the fun of the thing and makes him a parody of his hypocrisy, and fills him with an irresistible zest for life until he becomes the glorious unregenerate whom Englishmen are so fond of in fancy – and so stern against in fact.

Queen Elizabeth, we are told, laughed as heartily as anybody. But there were politicians close to the Government who did not find this travesty of Foxe’s first martyr at all funny. In the next year a smug and vindictive Protestant play inspired by Lord Cobham, Cecil’s brother-in-law appeared. Written mainly by the Government spy, Anthony Munday, it presented Oldcastle as the saintly victim of immoral priests and monks. But it was quite futile. The damage was done. There would be no Martyrs Memorial to Oldcastle.[cxliii]

John Speed did his best to rescue the version of history fabricated by Bayle and Fox in his Book of Martyrs – in which Oldcastle was hailed as a “morning star of the Reformation” – and he vented his resentment against Robert Persons accusing him of displaying Oldcastle as “a Ruffian, a Robber, and a Rebel.” Significantly, Speed also acknowledged the fact that Shakespeare’s art seemed to him in complete accordance with Persons’ Jesuit theology: “And his [Persons’] authority, taken from the stage-players, is more befitting the pen of his slanderous report than the credit of the judicious, being only grounded from this Papist and his poet, of like conscience for lies, the one ever feigning and the other ever falsifying the truth.”[cxliv]

Persecution and immortality: an introduction to the textual evidence

To form an idea of the current scholarship on Catholicism in Shakespeare, a good introduction is Roy Battenhouse’s Shakespeare’s Christian Dimension (1994).[cxlv] In this section and in the following two chapters we are going to analyze some of the textual evidence for Shakespeare’s Catholic influence and inspiration, especially the references that have not yet been discussed by previous scholarship. But it is clear that such a brief essay can only focus on a few themes in Shakespeare’s vast canon, selected because of their importance, e.g. in Chapter Three we will discuss the importance of the Scriptural record of Saul and David in order to illuminate the relationship between King Claudius and Hamlet.

Scriptural references in Shakespeare are pervasive and fully interpretable in light of Catholic theology, including typology and prefiguration as hermeneutic keys whose validity is established by Christ as He gave witness to John the Baptist (Mt 11:7-15). As remarked by Jeffrey Knapp (2002), Renaissance authors employ the vehicle of art and theater to refer to contemporary socio-political events and support the cause of true religion. This also implies offering an artistic mimesis within the context of Salvation History as it is represented in Scripture, and believed and practiced through rational faith. A number of Scriptural references are to the Passion of Christ and His betrayal at the hands of His people. This theme is especially important for the tragedies and history plays, which describe betrayal and fratricide on a large, socio-political scale in the context of the civil wars and the wars of succession.

Another source of Shakespeare’s Catholic inspiration is the Blessed Virgin as a model of femininity, a poetical muse of innocence and virtue, and a dispenser of salvation and healing. Also inspirational for Shakespeare was the life-parable of Catholic saints and martyrs, models of human behavior, e.g. St Joan of Arc as the martyred warrior Cordelia in King Lear; St Agatha as Marina, escaping safe and sound from the brothel in Pericles; Saints Crispin and Crispian in Henry V; St Joseph as Pericles in his courtship of Princess Thaisa with the device of a “withered branch, that’s only green at the top” (Pericles, scene 6, v. 47), just to mention a few.

The presence of Catholic sacramentals and prayers in the tragedies has never been discussed, e.g. the Scapular of Mount Carmel in Macbeth and St Gertrude’s prayer for the liberation of the souls in Purgatory in Hamlet (Chapter Three). Important references to the Expiating Church of Purgatory and to the doctrine of indulgences are found both in Hamlet and in The Tempest, and in this section we are going to see the Scriptural basis for both.

Especially in the tragedies, e.g. Hamlet and Macbeth, the recurring critique against political iniquity and social injustice is contextualized by Shakespeare with references to the Messianic times of the Great Tribulation, Christ’s defeat of the Antichrist and the establishment of God’s Kingdom on Earth. Also in our analysis of Hamlet (Chapter Three) we will discuss Shakespeare’s indebtedness to the medieval theatrical tradition of the Mystery and Passion plays; as well as the author’s inscription in the tradition of the Biblical sublime, as discussed by Erich Auerbach in Mimesis (Chapter Seven, ‘Adam and Eve’).

Scriptural references

To his loyal friend Horatio, at the beginning of the action, Hamlet portrays his father thus: “A was a man. Take him for all in all” (I, ii, 186). From a natural perspective, the Prince offers here the image of a most human human being in whom good and evil realistically coexist, as in King Harry’s “The King is but a man, as I am” (Henry V IV, i, 101). The qualities and flaws of a nobleman are aptly summarized in Polonius’ description of Laertes as the perfect courtier, after the Renaissance model set by Baldassarre Castiglione. Laertes’ flaws – “drinking, fencing, swearing, quarreling, drabbing” – may seem “the taints of liberty,” “the flash and outbreak of a fiery mind” and the “savageness of unreclaimèd blood.” (Hamlet II, i, 33-35) After giving his paternal approval to all of the above, in this scene with Reynaldo, Polonius comically adds: “you may go so far” (Hamlet II, i, 22-24) – and we will never know whether, on his part, Hamlet’s father respected this reasonable limit or went beyond…

But from a supernatural perspective, the meaning of the expression “all in all” refers to a higher, theological level that is at the same time existential, having do with the essential role of John Shakespeare’s Catholic faith – the faith of our fathers – in the life of his son, as an artist and as a human being. In describing Hamlet’s father, Shakespeare also describes his own identity in terms of his origin, both as a classical and as a Christian concept. The Scriptural referent of the expression “all in all” is found in the Pauline Letters, and it must be considered in the larger context where it appears, in Ephesians:

“Brother and Sisters: I, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace: one Body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord; one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Eph 4:1-7)

In this extraordinary passage, “one faith and one baptism” refers to Peter’s universal mandate as God’s Vicar on earth as in Matthew 16:18, “You are Peter and upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.” Simon, symbolically renamed with his Roman Latin name Peter, is the head of God’s universal Catholic Church, while schism and heresy are condemned in the exhortation “to preserve the unity of Spirit… one Body and one Spirit.” It is quite significantly with a reference to Paul, who was later made “a prisoner” like the persecuted English Catholics, that Shakespeare presents King Hamlet as “all in all” – a fallible human being of catholic faith.

The core meaning of the universal Catholic faith is charity toward God and neighbor, cf. the Golden Rule (Mt 7:12); the Greatest Commandment (Mt 22:34-40); the parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk 10:25-37). This is also summarized in the same passage from the Ephesians: “live… with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love.” This is crucial, and it is also very important to remark how, after studying in Wittenberg, obviously associated with Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses (1517), Hamlet remembers his Paul only partially, with defective “m’m’ry.” And indeed, the same passage, if remembered correctly, would instruct him not to take violent vengeance but to “bear” and to forgive with “humility and gentleness” – as Paul repeats in Romans: “Bless those who persecute you… Do not repay anyone evil for evil… do not look for revenge … for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord’” (Rm 12:14-19, cf. Lv19:18; Dt 32:35-41; Mt 5:39; 1 Cor 6:6-7; Heb 10:30). This is the divine Law of forgiveness, and from the point of view of human law, in Chapter Three we will discuss a more civilized alternative to murder described in Saxo Grammaticus’ Gesta Danorum, which Hamlet also erases from his memory.

Another meaning of Shakespeare’s “all in all” is found in the theological doctrine of adequatio, describing how the infinite God bends down to reach the infinite nothingness of human beings – first of all in the Incarnation of Christ, who “though he was in the form of God” (Phil 2:6), emptied Himself to take human form (Is 53:3-11; Jn 1:14; Phil 2:6-8); and then in the constant communion – Eucharist as well as communication by virtue of the Holy Spirit – between God and His creatures. The concept of adequatio explains how, out of mad love for rebellious humankind, the infinite God – who can hold the finite created universe in the palm of His Hand – recreates Himself in a grain of wheat (Jn 12:24) and a particle of bread in order to save us from ourselves. As Paul writes, “our Lord Jesus Christ… for your sake became poor although he was rich, so that by his poverty you might become rich.” (2 Cor 8:9). What Paul writes of himself in the first Letter to the Corinthians is true especially for God: “[a]lthough I am free in regard to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so as to win over as many as possible.” (1 Cor 9:19)

This is also the deep theological meaning of Shakespeare’s famous Epilogue in Henry V, in which both the warrior King Harry and Shakespeare as the author owe their success to the One, the only “bending Author” –  “Thus far with rough and all-unable pen/ Our bending author hath pursued the story” (Epilogue, 1-2). Henry V is especially significant in Shakespeare’s canon because the protagonist King Harry is the antithesis of Prince Hamlet as the perfectly successful Catholic monarch or prince – and “prince” is of course a reference to Machiavelli’s Renaissance treatise Il Principe (1532). King Harry has knowledge of both good and evil – the “God of battles” (Henry V IV, i, 286) and Falstaff’s Satanic Pact (1 Henry IV I, ii, 111-121) – which is absolutely necessary for his successful political rule. In the Epilogue to Henry V, Shakespeare as the human author humbly and realistically defines himself as an “all-unable pen,” an instrument in the hands of the divine “original Author” (Wis 13:5) who alone is the “bending Author” – both because God is moved to compassion to stoop down to human nothingness, and because only God is able to bend all evil to good in His providential plan for the redemption of fallen humanity: “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” (Rm 8:28) Most importantly for Shakespeare as a poet, the theological concept of adequatio, the image of God as the “bending Author” who communicates Himself as “all in all” to all of His creatures, is also found in the prophetic poetry of King David’s Psalms:

“I waited, waited for the Lord;

Who bent down and heard my cry [cf. Lam 3:15]

Drew me out of the pit of destruction,

Out of the mud of the swamp

Set my feet upon rock [Peter]

Steadied my steps

And put a new song in my mouth,

A hymn to our God.

Many shall look in awe and they shall trust in the Lord.” (Ps 40:2-4, italics added)

The warrior-king and poet-prophet David receives his immortal song from God, a song for the glorification of His sacred Name. Also in this case, as in Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, the theological concept of adequatio is enclosed in the frame of reference of God’s universal Church grounded on the rock of Peter: “set my feet upon rock.” In David, the omnipotent God “bent down” to hear his cry and put “a new song” in his mouth: the gift of sublime, immortal poetry springing from the gift of true faith.

Hamlet’s “all in all” is only one of the numerous references to Catholicism in the play. From internal clues, we know that the tragedy is set approximately between a hundred and fifty and two hundred years before the time it was first represented – in a pre-Reformation continental Europe, and at a time when Italian was already the fashionable language of culture. Indeed Hamlet’s rewriting of The Murder of Gonzago in his The Mousetrap (III, ii, 226) takes inspiration from an original play “writ in choice Italian” (250-251), after the prestige of the Tre Corone, the Three Crowns: Dante (1265-1321), Petrarch (1304-1374) and Boccaccio (1313-1375).

Hamlet as a tragedy therefore is set in a not-too distant past but – as discussed by Jeffrey Knapp (2002) in the context of Renaissance Theater – it addresses crucial contemporary problems and events. The play clearly presents Catholicism as the official religion of the Danish state, e.g. the lamentation of the ghost: “Thus was I… Cut off even in the blossoms of my sin,/ Unhouseled, dis-appointed, unaneled,/ No reck’ning made…” (I, v, 74-78)

In a context of betrayal, regicide, fratricide, injustice and political usurpation, it is not surprising to find references to the Diet of Worms (1521) and to the Act of Uniformity (1549-59) against a background of Scriptural apocalyptic themes. The Diet of Worms (Reichstag zu Worms, 1521) was the first of a series of imperial congregations (Ger. Reichstag, “parliament”) of the German elective princes to mark the diffusion of Luther’s doctrines, first in Germany and then in the rest of Europe. The other two diets were Augsburg in 1530 and Regensburg in 1541. Financially as well as politically, the German princes were very interested in Luther’s ideas. As Geoffrey Barraclough remarks, their financial and political interests went in a completely different direction away from Rome and to a certain extent from the Emperor himself, who at the time was Charles V Habsburg (1500-1558): “Between 1212 and 1250, sacrificed by Frederick [Frederick II, 1215-50] to the exigencies of Italy, Germany took a road which differentiated its history for centuries to come… from that of England and France. Its destinies passed out of the hands of the monarchy into the control of a princely aristocracy, whose horizons rarely extended beyond the boundaries of their own territories, and whose policy showed scant respect for the common interests and traditions of the German people.”[cxlvi] The German Emperor was elected by seven German princes, four secular and three ecclesiastical, but his temporal power had to receive the divine legitimation from the Vicar of God, the Catholic Roman Pope. Evidently, there was a delicate balance of powers between all parties involved – Pope, Emperor and German princes:

“The absent and besieged emperor (Frederick II, 1215-50) gave the German princes a free hand in shaping German political life, and their petty interests became supreme. In 1356 the imperial Golden Bull officially recognized their autonomy. This agreement, issued by Emperor Charles IV (1347-78), repudiated direct papal involvement in imperial elections and restricted the election of the emperor to seven electoral states: four secular – the Palatinate, Saxony, Brandenburg and Bohemia – which were recognized as autonomous political dynasties; and three ecclesiastical – the archbishoprics of Mainz, Trier and Cologne. Emperor Maximilian I (1493-1519) further strengthened the German princes…” [cxlvii]

Neither the German princes, nor the German Emperor wanted to support Catholic Rome with taxes and privileges. If the four secular German princes were already well reformed before the Reformation, Charles V had to keep face and profess himself a loyal servant of Rome in order to receive the royal legitimation from Pope Clement VII (Bologna, 1530). In fact, the Emperor aspired to unify his vast possessions in Italy, in the north and in the south, neutralizing the Pontifical States with its unwanted taxes. A prized possession was the Republic of Venice, the Queen of the Mediterranean (Chapter Two) – by far the richest commercial city as well as the most powerful bulwark against the Turkish Empire, one of Charles’ main political enemies. But “decadent” Venice always belonged to the Pope.

In 1527 the Emperor showed the direction of his politics with the Sack of Rome. He hired an army of religiously reformed mercenaries, the Lanzi, who were so appalled and scandalized by Catholic corruption that they murdered as many people as they could; stole their property; violated women, including convent nuns;[cxlviii] desecrated all churches including the universal treasury of Saint Peter; stole consecrated precious vessels and canonical apparel; damaged all palaces except those belonging to the families in league with the Emperor; and with their infectious diseases they decimated the population of Rome – which went from 85,000 to little more than 40,000: “The splendid metropolis of Leo X with its 85,000 inhabitants brusquely decreased to the scale of a small city, with little more than half of the populace.”[cxlix]

It is our duty to understand the author and his audience in their socio-political and cultural context. Hence when Shakespeare has a “convocation of politic worms” (IV, iii, 21) devour the corpse of the awkward spy Polonius, we should realize the memories of devastation with which the Diet of Worms and the ensuing events were connected in the mind of contemporary spectators. With knowledge of Scripture – which Shakespeare could take for granted in his times, but we cannot take for granted in ours – the reference to Matthew 24 is easily recognizable in this scene dealing with a macabre gathering of scavengers: “Where is Polonius?” (Hamlet IV, iii, 32) How are we going to find the cadaver? “Up the stairs into the lobby” you are going to “nose” him – answers Hamlet – describing the “progress” of a king in the “guts of a beggar” with a realistic reflection on the leveling power of death.

In the 16th century, when Scriptural literacy was common and indeed necessary, this scene would have been recognized as an echo of the Apocalypse of Matthew (Chapters 24-25).  In particular, Shakespeare’s text echoes Christ’s prophetic sentence: “Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.” (Mt 24:28). Like John’s Apocalypse, the Apocalypse of Matthew deals with the sequence of events that will lead to the establishment of the City of God on earth: the Great Apostasy, the Great Tribulation, Christ’s Second Coming in Glory, His defeat of the Antichrist and his subjects – the corpse and the vultures – and the establishment of God’s Kingdom, after which another thousand years of history will elapse before the Final Judgment (Rev 20). As we read in the prophets, with the establishment of the City of God on earth, “Every valley shall be lifted up,/ Every mountain and hill made low” (Is 40:4); the lion and the lamb will browse together “with a little child to guide them” (Is 11:6) and sovereignty will rest solely with God: “For a child is born to us, a son is given us, upon his shoulders dominion rests… His dominion is vast and forever peaceful.” (Is 9:5-6)

The connection between the Diet of Worms and the Great Apostasy is repeated in the final scene of Hamlet’s duel – a tragically paradoxical duel – with Laertes. The King’s poisoned cup holds a “union,” a poisoned pearl: “The King’s shall drink to Hamlet’s better breath/ And in the cup a union shall he throw/ Richer than that which four successive kings/ In Denmark’s crown have worn.” (Hamlet V, ii, 218-221) The pearl is a Scriptural symbol for the Kingdom of God (Mt 13:45-46); for the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ and the community of the elect; and in particular for the Virgin Mother of God and of the Church as the Ark of the New Covenant.

But Claudius’ pearl is not holy – it is poisoned, which turns the cup into a Chalice of Passion for the victims, and the Cup of God’s Wrath for the perpetrators (cf. Jer 25, Rev 14). In this reversed symbolism, the “union” is in fact a schism and a poison that causes both spiritual and physical death. There is an important link between Claudius’s “union” and the Act of Uniformity passed by Edward VI in 1549, strengthened in a more overtly Protestant direction in 1552 by the same monarch, and confirmed by Elizabeth I in 1559. In the eyes of many, Elizabeth was usurping the authority of the legitimate Vicar of God by having herself appointed “Supreme Governor of the Church of England” with the Elizabethan Religious Settlement (1558-1559), of which the Act of Uniformity was part. It was the first Act to mandate that every English subject attend the Protestant service on Sunday, and to allow only one form of legal worship in England, with harsh punishments for all the non-compliant – including fines; the loss of public post for clerics; dispossession of one’s wealth and landed property to be “donated” to the Crown; life-long incarceration with all imaginable and unimaginable abuses, etc. These are indeed the “bonds of shismacy.” Hence the image of the poisonous pearl, in sharp contrast with the Biblical symbol for the Kingdom of Heaven: “The kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.” (Mt 13:45-46)

The content of this Act was mostly repealed in the 19th and 20th centuries in consideration of the principle of religious freedom and freedom of conscience; and the bloody suppression of the popular rebellions that ensued – in Lancashire, Cornwall and the South West of England – was condemned by members of the Anglican Church like the Bishop of Truro (2007).

It is also important to notice Claudius’s remark on the number of previous kings connected with the pearl, four – a completely gratuitous remark in the moment of highest tension in the play. Shakespeare’s mention of four monarchs involved with the poisonous union is also an indication of his keen political sense and historical judgment: Henry VIII, Edward VI, Elizabeth I and James I. After the scene of the poisoned cup, the other recurrence of the word “union” in Hamlet is inserted in a context that points to Claudius as an “incestuous, murderous, damned” king – “Here, thou, incestuous, murderous, damned Dane,/ Drink off this potion! Is thy union here?” (V, ii, 277-278) In the same way, Henry VIII initiated a religious schism that murdered and damaged thousands of people physically, and many more spiritually; he was also suspected to have married his illegitimate daughter Ann Boleyn, which caused his minister Thomas More to reject his association at the cost of his life. We may not be off the mark to see Shakespeare’s Claudius in this scene as a reference to Henry VIII as the “incestuous, murderous, damned” king who started the schism and is seen dying of his own poison, in an anticipated contrapasso.

Many observers and critics supported the idea that Anne was the fruit of an affair between Henry and Elizabeth Boleyn. The historical and literary evidence denouncing the incest is strong but usually dismissed as coming from a Catholic perspective – while Protestant or Marxist versions of history are seen as perfectly legitimate. In fact, religious denomination has nothing to do with the facts; but it is certainly true that the re-writing of history is in the interests of those who profit from building the myth of a monolithically Protestant British Empire. To indicate a few names of some importance supporting this viewpoint – without considering, that is, the widespread popular opposition to the king’s second marriage – we can remember: the scholars Nicholas Harpsfield, William Rastell and Nicholas Sander; the lawyer of Queen Mary I, Adam Blackwood; the Vicar of Isleworth, John Hale; Elizabeth Amadas, wife of the royal goldsmith and one of the many mistresses of the king, who said that “the king had kept both the mother and the daughter;” Sir George Throckmorton reporting a private conversation with the monarch; and Fr. William Peto who actually had the courage to reprimand Henry publicly, in a sermon preached before the king himself on Easter Day 1532 – after which he warned Henry that there was a widespread rumor in the general population to the effect that the king had had an affair with Anne’s sister as well as her mother.[cl]

On his part, Shakespeare portrayed Henry’s incest in Pericles, Prince of Tyre. In the opening scene, the tyrant-king Antiochus tries to murder Pericles after he discovers the incestuous affair between the king and his daughter. Shakespeare’s anachronistic references to Machiavelli’s The Prince (I, i, 135-147; 205-209), a treatise on political rule and corruption, “a book of all that monarchs do,” support a contemporary political interpretation:

“Pericles. Great King,

few love to hear the sins they love to act.

‘Twould braid yourself too near for me to tell it.

Who has a book of all that monarchs do,

He’s more secure to keep it shut than shown,

For vice repeated, like the wandering wind,

Blows dust in others’ eyes to spread itself…

Kings are the earth’s gods; in vice their law is their will;

And if Jove stray, who dares say Jove does ill?”

(Pericles, Prince of Tyre I, i, 135-147)

King Antiochus’s plot to murder of Pericles (I, i, 193-214) is likewise framed in the context of contemporary politics with a reference to Machiavelli’s image of the prudent archers, (Il Principe, VI). Also notice the chilling reference to the severed heads – one of Henry VIII’s favorite pastimes; and the anachronism of the “pistol” in a play which appears to be set in the historical period of the Church Fathers and St Augustine, between the 4th and the 7th century AD:

Antiochus. Thaliart… for your faithfulness

We will advance you, Thaliart. Behold,

Here’s poison, and here’s gold.

We hate the Prince of Tyre, and thou must kill him.

It fits thee not to ask the reason. Why?

Because we bid it. Say, is it done?

Thaliart. My lord, ‘tis done […]

Antiochus. As thou wilt live, fly after; like an arrow

Shot from a well-experienced archer hits the

The mark his eye doth level at, so thou

Never return unless it be to say

‘Your majesty, Prince Pericles is dead.’

Thaliart. If I can get him in my pistol’s length

I’ll make him sure enough. Farewell, your highness.

Antiochus. Thaliart, adieu. [Exit Thaliart]

Till Pericles be dead

My heart can lend no succour to my head. [Exit]

[The heads are concealed]”

The contemporary references to Machiavelli, the anachronism of the “pistol,” and the collection of severed heads indicate that the incestuous and murderous king Antiochus in Pericles refers to the contemporary reality of Henry VIII, and for the reasons discussed above, the same symbolism is found in Hamlet. Indeed, Henry VIII is egregiously portrayed in both fictional tyrants, Claudius and Antiochus, two incarnations of terror who decree the death of the innocent in order to maintain their political power. In Antiochus’ words is the echo of all tyrants: “He hath found the meaning, for the which we mean/To have his head. He must not live/ To trumpet forth my infamy, nor tell the world/ Antiochus doth sin in such a loathed manner,/ And therefore instantly the Prince must die/ For by his fall my honour must keep high.” (Pericles I, i, 186-191); “We hate the Prince of Tyre, and thou must kill him./ It fits thee not to ask the reason. Why?/ Because we bid it.” (Pericles I, i, 196-198)


The faith of our fathers: Richard II, 3 Henry VI, and Henry V

In the tradition of medieval Mystery and Passion plays (Chapter Three), Passion scenes abound in Shakespeare’s canon. Hence for instance, Hamlet’s poisoned chalice in the duel scene mirrors Christ’s bitter Chalice of the Passion; Desdemona’s sacrifice has the power to redeem Othello, forcing him to repentance, an examination of conscience, and a salvific declaration of faith in Christ before his self-execution; and Lear’s lament over the death of his loving daughter Cordelia has rightly been compared to Michelangelo’s Pietà (1475-1564). In this context, we should analyze the Passion scene we find in Richard II (Act I, scene iii) in which father and son are tragically separated by civil war – which is a fitting metaphor for religious schism and the ensuing persecution:

John of Gaunt. I thank my liege, that in regard of me

He shortens four years of my son’s exile […]

King Richard II. Thy son is banished upon good advice,

Whereto thy tongue a party verdict gave.

Why at our justice seem’st thou then to lour?

John of Gaunt. Things sweet to taste prove in digestion sour.

You urged me as a judge; but I had rather

You would have bid me argue like a father.

O, had it been a stranger, not my child,

To smooth his fault I should have been more mild:

A partial slander sought I to avoid,

And in the sentence my own life destroy’d.

Alas, I looked when some of you should say,

I was too strict to make mine own away;

But you gave leave to my unwilling tongue

Against my will to do myself this wrong.” (Richard II I, iii, 209-235)

In this highly symbolic scene, the theological and the personal levels tend to overlap as it often happens in Shakespeare, in the autobiographical scholarly tradition of St Paul and St Augustine. At the personal level, John of Gaunt represents John Shakespeare, the merchant of gloves – Fr. gaunt, “glove” – who was tragically separated from his son due to the persecution of the local Protestant landowners, as discussed in the biographical context. At the same time, Gaunt also represents William Shakespeare, who for the same reason was later separated from his beloved son Hamnet. Together with the personal and self-referential meaning, there is also the theological reference to God the Father separated from His divine Son by the universal tragedy of the fall of man – “Things sweet to taste prove in digestion sour,” as in the original sin – in atonement for which Christ became the Innocent Victim for the salvation of humanity.

In this exceptional scene, God the Father is represented not only as a humanized Person, since Christ is the “Son of Man,” but as a suffering Person, tragically suffering for the infinite pain endured by His Son, with whom He is One in the Spirit. In Salvation History, that pattern of self-sacrifice must repeat itself over and over again in human life (Chapter Two), as Paul writes: “that I may gain Christ… depending on faith to know Him and the power of His Resurrection, and the sharing of His sufferings by being conformed to His death” (Phil 3:9-10); “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of His Body, which is the Church.” (Col 1:24). In order to act in conformity to Christ’s death and share in His Resurrection, the living Logos must be assimilated and lived, as explained by Ezekiel: “’As for you, son of man, obey Me when I speak to you: be not rebellious like this house of rebellion, but open your mouth and eat what I shall give you.’ […] a written scroll… covered with writing front and back, and written on it was: ‘Lamentation and wailing and woe!’ He said to me: ‘Son of man, eat what is before you, eat this scroll, then go, speak to the house of Israel.’ So I opened my mouth and He gave me the scroll to eat… and it was as sweet as honey in my mouth.” (Ez 2:6-9; 3:1-3)

The same coexistence of interpretive levels and the same concept of a personal, humanized God we find in Henry V, in the famous scene of the king’s reconnoiter in his own camp, disguised under the cloak of one of his subjects, during the night before the decisive battle of Agincourt against the French. King Harry addresses the complaints of a soldier by the name of Williams, in the plural – the artist being “all in all in all” of his characters, as suggested by Joyce (Scylla and Charybdis) – and confides him that “the King is but a man, as I am.” (IV, i, 101) In the same dialogue, King Harry interprets his proper role of absolute monarch according to the divine right of kings, and he explains that the sovereign is responsible for the political part of the war but not for the abuses of free-will and the guilty conscience of his subjects, as God is not responsible for man’s original sin, which was also a result of an abuse of free-will:

“The King is not bound to answer the particular endings of his soldiers, the father of his son, nor the master of his servant, for they purpose not their deaths when they purpose their services… Then if they die unprovided, no more is the King guilty of their damnation than he was before guilty of those impieties for which they are now visited. Every subject’s duty is the King’s, but every subject’s soul is his own. Therefore should every soldier in the wars do as every sick man in his bed: wash every more out of his conscience. And dying so, death is to him an advantage.” (IV, i, 154-179)

Henry V is Shakespeare’s most successful monarch, and it is not accidental that he is also a Catholic Prince who in his Lehrjare has developed essential knowledge of good and evil, of how God’s Providence is able to turn human evil into good – “There is some soul of goodness in things evil… Thus may we gather honey from the weed and make a moral of the devil himself” (Henry V IV, i, 4-12) As a Catholic Prince, he acknowledges the essential role of the Sacraments of Penance and Extreme Unction – “if they die unprovided” – exactly as we read in the Spiritual Testament of John Shakespeare and in the ghost’s speech to Hamlet. Henry’s knowledge encourages him to beseech the God of Hosts for success in battle, since God alone is omnipotent and can yield power to human beings: “O God of battles, steel my soldiers’ hearts.” (IV, i, 286)

Hence Henry pleads for success, begging God not to avenge his father‘s guilt upon himself, as per the Mosaic Law in the Decalogue: “I am the Lord your God… You shall not have other gods beside Me… For I, the Lord, your God, am a jealous God, inflicting punishment for their ancestor’s wickedness on the children of those who hate Me, down to the third and fourth generation.” (Ex 20:2-5) As Nehemiah prayed to God – “Remember this in my favor, O God!” (Neh 13:30-31) – Harry “reminds” God of all the good works and acts of charity he has accomplished to deserve God’s Mercy:

“Five hundred poor have I in yearly pay

Who twice a day their withered hands hold up

Toward heaven to pardon blood.

And I have built

Two chantries, where the sad and solemn priests

Sing still for Richard’s soul. More will I do,

Though all that I can do is nothing worth,

Since that my penance comes after ill,

Imploring pardon.”

(Henry V IV, i, 295-301)

Henry’s prayer is heard: despite being in foreign territory and outnumbered by the enemy, he obtains a complete victory at Agincourt that he wisely ascribes not to “our strength” but to God’s omnipotence – unlike Herod Agrippa (10 BC – 44 AD), struck down by God and “eaten by worms” “because he did not ascribe the honor to God” (Acts 12: 20-24):

Montjoy. The day is yours.

King Harry. Praisèd be God, and not our strength, for it.

What is this castle called that stands hard by?

Montjoy. They call it Agincourt.

King Harry. Then call we this the field of Agincourt,

Fought on the day of Crispin Crispian.

Fluellen. Your grandfather of famous memory, an’t please your majesty,

and your great-uncle Edward the Plack Prince of Wales,

as I have read in the chronicles, fought a most prave pattle here in France.

King Harry. They did, Fluellen.

Fluellen. Your majesty says very true. If your majesties is remembered of it,

the Welshmen did good service in a garden where leeks did grow,

wearing leeks in their Monmouth caps, which your majesty knows

to this hour is an honourable badge of the service. And I do believe

your majesty takes no scorn to wear the leek upon Saint Tavy’s day.

King Harry. I wear it for a memorable honour,

For I am Welsh, you know, good countryman.” (IV, vii, 84-103)

In this scene and in the next, notice some important references to the Catholic faith of John Shakespeare: the king ascribes military victory to God and to the intercession of saints of the Church Triumphant like St Crispin and St Crispian; the twin saints are patrons of tanners and glove-makers like Shakespeare’s father; the king plays a practical joke on both Fluellen and Williams – “What’s in a name” – having Fluellen wear Williams’ glove on his hat, so as to provoke Williams’ challenge: “My liege, this was my glove” (IV, viii, 29).

Praising Catholic saints under political tyranny and at the risk of religious persecution is an unmistakable sign of loyalty to the old established religion, the faith of our fathers. For Shakespeare as the author, a symbol of the Catholic faith of his father is having one of his characters wear a glove on his hat – John Shakespeare was the glove-maker, and now the glove belongs to “Williams.” As Ben Jonson wrote: “Look how the father’s face/ Liues in his issues, euen so, the race/ Of Shakespeare’s minde, and manners brightly shines/ In his well torned and true-filed lines:/ In each of which he seems to shake a Lance,/ As brandished at the eyes of Ignorance.” (To the Memory of My Beloved the Author William Shakespeare: And What He hath Left Us, First Folio, 1623)

 Passion scenes

As we have seen, Passion scenes abound in Shakespeare and it is interesting to notice that very often they are associated with a bloody napkin or handkerchief that is reminiscent of the Sindone (Holy Shroud), the Mandylion or the Veronica, bearing the imprint of the martyred Divine Image (Col 1:15)

Perhaps the most striking Passion scene comes from 3 Henry VI (Act 1, scene 4), when Queen Margaret takes her revenge on the Duke of York, who plotted to overthrow the legitimate but weak King Henry VI, successor to Henry V.[cli] York was indeed a traitor and deserved punishment – but a regular execution is not sufficient to placate the enraged Queen: before killing him, she wants to torture and drive him to madness by showing him a napkin soaked with the blood of his murdered son Rutland: “where is your darling Rutland?/ Look, York, I stained this napkin with the blood/ that valiant Clifford with his rapier’s point/ Made issue from the bosom of thy boy […] Why are thou patient, man? Thou shouldst be mad,/ And I, to make thee mad, do mock thee thus” (3 Henry VI I, iv, 79-82; 90-91). At the sight of the blood-soaked napkin, York of course breaks into tears, thus mingling blood and water as in the Passion of Christ. The scene is reminiscent of the piercing of the bosom of Christ, from which blood and water issued for the salvation (blood) and purification (water) of mankind.

Not content with this “abominable” act (I, iv, 134), Queen Margaret re-enacts other scenes from Christ’s Passion, namely the crowing with thorns and the mocking of the soldiers, while York is tied to a column as in the scourging at the pillar: “York cannot speak unless he wear a crown. (To her men) A crown for York, and, lords, bow low to him. (She puts a paper crown on York’s head)/ Ay, marry, sir, now looks he like a king.” (I, iv, 94-97) The scene is so moving that even her men are touched in spite of themselves – hence Northumberland admits: “Beshrew me, but his passions move me so/ That hardly can I check my eyes from tears.” (I, iv, 151-152, italics added). A crucial passage is when York calls Queen Margaret a “tiger” of “Hyrcania” (I, iv, 138 and 156), which in medieval bestiaries was associated with the devil. This is quite significant, also because the only other occurrence of a “Hyrcanian beast” in Shakespeare is in the symbolic Pyrrhus passage in Hamlet (II, ii, 453 ff.) as the Prince speaks with the players, indirectly expressing his fear to become another such savage murderer. The dynamic is the same: Shakespeare shows that even victims – a dispossessed Queen 3 Henry VI and a dispossessed Prince in Hamlet – can turn into savage beasts if they are driven by a desire for revenge, which is a prerogative of God: “’Vengeance is Mine, I will repay’ says the Lord.” (Rm 12:19)

Immediately after this remarkable Passion scene in 3 Henry VI, we have a double mimesis of Christ’s Passion in the image of a son killing a father (II, v, 55-78) and of a father killing a son (II, v, 79-93) – both unknowingly and unintentionally – while fighting for different factions in a country torn apart by a deadly civil war: “O, pity, God, this miserable age!/ What stratagems, how fell, how butcherly,/ Erroneous, mutinous and unnatural,/ this deadly quarrel daily doth beget!” (II, v, 88-91) With reference to the current political events, the bloody civil war becomes a clear symbol for the Protestant schism that divided the country, tore entire families apart and lacerated the physical bodies of hundreds of martyrs – a “deadly quarrel” “[e]rroneous, mutinous and unnatural” decided and commanded from above – as the son laments over his father’s corpse: “From London by the King I was pressed forth… Pardon me God, I knew not what I did;/ and pardon father, I knew not thee.” (3 Henry VI II, v, 67-70)

More Passions scenes – one tragic, the other two tragicomic – are found in The Winter’s Tale, As You Like It and A Midsummer Night’s Dream where the napkin or handkerchief still functions a symbol of the Holy Shroud or Mandylion. In The Winter’s Tale, the loyal servant Antigonus is torn to pieces by a bear, and the shepherd’s son gives witness to his death by showing King Leontes and his court the blood-stained handkerchief testifying to Antigonus’ martyrdom: “He [Antigonus] was torn to pieces with a bear. This avouches the shepherd’s son, which has not only his innocence, which seems much, to justify him, but a handkerchief and rings of his, that Paulina knows” (V, ii, 61-66).

Again, in As You Like It, Orlando misses his appointment to woo Rosalind in order to save his traitor brother Oliver, asleep under a tree in the forest of Ardennes. He saves him even twice, first from a snake coiling around his neck, and later by a hungry lioness that tears “some flesh away” from his arm, causing him to bleed and stain the handkerchief (IV, iii, 148). In this moving scene, the betrayed brother Orlando forgives the betrayer Oliver and converts him by his example of human compassion. “Kindness, nobler even than revenge” (IV, iii, 129) accomplishes the miracle that finally unites the two brothers in the name of godly mercy. At the sight of the blood-stained napkin, Rosalind faints, thus revealing her identity and her love for Orlando.

Finally, in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the main action involving the four young lovers is mirrored in the tragicomedy of the “mechanicals’” who impersonate Pyramus and Thisbe – a story that is tragic per se but tragicomic in its amateurish rendition.[clii] Also in this play within a play, Thisbe’s blood-stained mantle is mistaken for a sure sign of her death.

All these instances of Passion scenes work well to illustrate Shakespeare’s Catholic influence and inspiration, but perhaps the best example of the Shroud and Mandylion we find in Othello, the subject of Chapter Two. Desdemona’s marriage sheets, stained with her virginal blood and testifying to her virginity, also become her funeral shroud – “If I do die before thee, prithee shroud me/ In one of these same sheets” (IV, iii, 22-23). While the cursed handkerchief, decorated with strawberries that look like drops of blood, becomes the object of one Aristotelian peripeteia, or reversal of fortune, and one anagnorisis, or final recognition.

The Blessed Virgin, the saints, and the veil of classical myth 

Figurae Mariae and references to the Blessed Virgin are numerous in Shakespeare’s canon. Mary is a paragon of femininity, a poetic inspiration of innocence and virtue, and a donor of godly mercy, healing and salvation. She is the model for some of the most successful characters in Shakespeare: the “advocates” Isabella (Measure for Measure) and Portia (The Merchant of Venice), whose hand and fortune can only be won by choosing heavy lead over gold, the ruler of this world; the despised doctor’s daughter Helen (All’s Well that Ends Well); the dispossessed King Prospero’s daughter, Miranda (The Tempest); the abandoned and betrayed Marina, “Thou that begett’st him that did thee beget” (Pericles scene 21, v. 183); the slandered innocents Queen Hermione and Princess Perdita (The Winter’s Tale), Hero (Much Ado about Nothing), Imogen (Cymbeline) and Desdemona in Othello (Chapter Two). Perhaps due to the tragedy of his extended family, the theme of the slandered innocent was particularly dear to Shakespeare, who named his first daughter Susanna. References to God’s Virgin Mother, whose devotion was officially abolished by the reformed religion, are often given by the author under the veil of classical myth, e.g. Diana in Pericles (scene 22), after the established example of Dante’s Divine Comedy, where the classical and Christian traditions converge, e.g. God is often alluded to as Jove and the Blessed Virgin as Diana.

The religious schism tried to suppress, eliminate and even outlaw the veneration of the Virgin Mother of God. But apart from the fact that devotion for Mary’s Advocacy was ingrained in people’s hearts, Her authoritative model had a tremendous influence not only on artistic mimesis, since She was the paragon for any female character; but also on political and religious discourse, with the displacement and appropriation of Her power and divine attributes by Elizabeth I. As Espinosa remarks, “we would be hard pressed to believe that the swift erasure of the physical markers of the cult of the Virgin Mary in post-Reformation England translated into an equally precipitous erasure of that Marian influence from England’s cultural psyche.”[cliii]

Christianity revolves around the mystery of God’s Incarnation, which revolves around the mystery of the Virgin – Her preservation from the original sin; the perfection of all her faculties: will, memory, intellect, wisdom; Her complete obedience to God’s Will; Her Fiat of acceptance to face a destiny of suffering; Her Life within the Trinity as the beloved Daughter of the Father, the Virgin Mother of the Son, and the Mystical Spouse of the Spirit. From a theological perspective, erasing the Virgin was not only “an onerous undertaking,” but quite impossible without changing the significance of Christianity itself. And in fact, in pre- and post-Reformation Christianity, “the Virgin Mary remained.”[cliv]

Mary’s “religious and gendered influence” was vast and profound in Shakespeare’s culture, and deeply embedded in his text. Considering the interconnectedness of the theological and theatrical discourses at the time, Her powerful roles and attributes constituted the model and paragon for every female character – either positively and successfully like Portia; or negatively and abominably like Mistress Overdone in Measure for Measure, Mistress Quickly in the Henry plays and the Bawd in Pericles, Prince of Tyre.

Among the numerous Marian symbols employed in literature and in the arts, we remember: the Holy Tabernacle; the Arc of the New Covenant; the glorious Woman of the Apocalypse clothed with the sun, standing on the moon and crowned with a diadem of stars; the Mystical Rose; Gate of Heaven; the Ladder to God, as in the maxim Ad Jesum per Mariam; the Morning Star, which is the meaning of the name Miriam; also the rainbow is one of Her symbols, representing a renewed peace between Heaven and earth. But Mary – the wisest, bravest and strongest of creatures – is also symbolically depicted in Solomon’s Song of Songs as a “tower of strength” and a powerful “army” deployed for battle. She defeats the mad pride of Satan through everything that he is not – through humility, purity, self-sacrifice and obedience. Her chosen prayer is a Christological prayer, describing Christ’s Life, Passion and Resurrection. Mary elected the Rosary as the humblest, hence the most powerful weapon for human beings in the battle against God’s enemy, as in the Battle of Lepanto (Chapter Two).

Espinosa recognizes figurae Mariae in characters like Portia, the advocate (The Merchant of Venice); Ophelia, the sacrificial victim (Hamlet); Isabella, unwilling to compromise her virtue and also wise enough to understand that Angelo would never keep his promise anyway (Measure for Measure); Hermione, the slandered Queen of The Winter’s Tale; Desdemona, another victim of slander, as we will see in our analysis of Othello; Cordelia, also inspired by the virgin warrior Joan of Arc (King Lear); Marina, the abandoned and betrayed daughter in Pericles, so pure and humble in her demeanor that she is able, like St Agatha, to convert sinners even in a brothel.[clv]

Here we can add Titania, the goddess who falls in love with fallen humanity represented by a donkey-man (A Midsummer Night’s Dream); Rosalind, an “androgynous angel” who proves to be stronger than both men and women (As You Like It); Helen, the physician’s daughter able to heal by virtue of her father’s knowledge and skill (All’s Well That Ends Well); Miranda, the lady marvelous to behold in her encounter with Ferdinand (The Tempest); Emilia, the chaste “priest” and “knight” of Diana (The Two Noble Kinsmen); and Imogen, another slandered innocent and the personification of fidelity and loyalty to Rome:

“Although the victor, we submit to Caesar,

And to the Roman Empire, promising

To pay our wonted tribute, from the which

We were dissuades by our wicked queen [cf. Elisabeth]

Whom heavens in justice both on her and hers

Have lead most heavy hand.” (Cymbeline V, vi, 461-466)

Many secondary female characters in the plays are also inspired by the Virgin Mother. For instance: Emilia, the mother and abbess in The Comedy of Errors; the faithful Queen Catherine in Henry VIII; the generous and enlightened Countess in All’s Well That Ends Well; Princess Thaisa in Pericles, where Pericles’ device of a “withered branch, that’s only green at the top” (scene 6, v. 47) is reminiscent of St Joseph’s blossomed branch as a sign that he is the one chosen by God to protect the Virgin and the Child. And of course, after Dante’s example, whose genius unites the classical and Christian tradition, Mary appears under cover of Greek mythology as a protection in a time of religious terror, e.g. as Diana, goddess of chastity (Pericles); Juno, queen of the gods (The Tempest); Ceres, goddess of agriculture, wheat and bread (The Tempest); Iris, goddess of the rainbow as symbol of peace between Heaven and earth (The Tempest).

This is an established literary technique dating back at least to Dante’s Divine Comedy, where he often refers to God as Jove; Christ as Apollo, and the Virgin as Athena and Diana. The expediency of employing Greek and Roman mythology to refer to an outlawed religion in times of religious persecution is immediately understandable. Interestingly in Shakespeare this technique works in both ways: on the one hand he often employs classical references as a veil for Catholic figures and themes; and on the other hand, as Robert Miola and Eric Carlson have observed, he frequently maps Catholic theology – sacraments, virtues and values – on the classical world of Greece and Rome. Hence, for example, “the Romans value oaths and relics; Diana’s servitors practice a nun’s chastity; in Ephesus a miracle occurs; authorities explain sacred writings to bewildered laity in Cymbeline and The Winter’s Tale.”[clvi]

Not only is the figure of the Virgin able to cover a large spectrum of characters in Shakespeare’s theater, but Her regal attributes of majesty and power also had an important political significance. Regarding Queen Elizabeth’s appropriation of the Virgin’s royal attributes, Espinosa remarks that Mary’s “emblems and symbols” invested the earthly monarch with “specific attributes of authority.” Elizabeth’s legitimation strategy unambiguously targeted the image of the Blessed Virgin, appropriating Her attributes of virtue, power and authority in order to legitimate her weak position as the new female sovereign after her Catholic sister Mary, the first female monarch in English history. In this way, Elizabeth attempted to present herself in a role that was already familiar to her subjects – in fact, the only powerful role occupied by a woman in people’s minds, i.e. the powerful Virgin Queen of Heaven. The role of the Virgin Queen was indeed the most authoritative for Elizabeth’s aspirations. And if she certainly was not responsible for Luther’s iconoclastic attack against the Virgin, she soon realized that effacing Her visible presence would weaken Her veneration, while appropriating Her role and symbols would be the most expedient way to gain an aura of authority and legitimation in the eyes of the court, parliament, and subjects alike.

To exemplify the influence of the Virgin in Shakespeare’s art, we can briefly focus on the most brilliant female character in Shakespeare: Portia, the brilliant advocate from Venice-Padua in The Merchant of Venice, whose name (from Lat. porta, “door” or “gate”) alludes to Mary’s divine appellation as Porta Coeli. Her brave “good deed” to save the merchant Antonio shines in a world of darkness like the Biblical Light of Christ in the surrounding darkness. Her words – “That light we see is burning in my hall./ How far that little candle throws his beams,/ So shines a good deed in a naughty world.” (V, i, 89-91) – are reminiscent of John’s theology of the Logos as the Light of the world: “In the beginning was the Word… and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:1-5) Like the Virgin is the perfection of the human race, so Portia is a synthesis of all desirable qualities – “the pink, pearl, and perfection” of both sexes: she has wisdom, intelligence, wit, beauty, courage, perseverance and magnanimity. As the Virgin is God’s appointed Paraclete for fallen humanity, Portia advocates for Antonio in the trial for his life after he has entered a most dangerous pact. Her speech on the divinity of mercy is a compendium of Christian theology, and a powerful criticism against tyranny:

“But mercy is above this sceptred sway…

It is an attribute of God himself.

And earthly power doth then show likest God’s

When mercy seasons justice…

In the course of justice none of us

Should see salvation. We do pray for mercy.” (IV, i, 190-197)

When Shylock refuses to heed her warnings and show mercy, Portia saves Antonio through a literal interpretation of the law – the creditor must not shed any blood and must take exactly one pound of flesh: “If thou takes more/ Or less than just a pound…Thou diest, and all thy goods are confiscate.” (IV, i, 323-329) Shylock is trapped. He who was trying to take his revenge on an innocent discovers that the pact he has signed is written in a language that he cannot interpret, and which ultimately binds him to his own defeat.

Shakespeare’s artistic freedom expressed itself in a time of terror by growing in the space between the metaphorical and the literal interpretation of the word. And indeed all his artistic renditions and “translations” of the Blessed Virgin – as a figure of virtue and perfection, an intellectual concept of divine wisdom, as well as a focus of love – were subject to the same precautionary treatment, quite clear to all who had “ears to hear.”

  Macbeth and the scapular of Mount Carmel (1251)

In Macbeth (IV, iii, 154-160) a “doctor of physic” and Prince Malcolm, son of the murdered King Duncan and future monarch of Scotland, both describe the the King of England’s thaumaturgic virtue – after the Judeo-Christian tradition of the anointed Davidic-Solomonic king with thaumaturgic and prophetic powers, which was fulfilled in Christ as the King and Doctor of fallen humanity. “Such sanctity hath Heaven given to his hand,” (IV, iii, 145) that the English King has the power to heal the sick by means of a “golden stamp,” which he places “with holy prayers,” “about their necks” (Lat. scapula, “shoulder bone”). In this way he also leaves “the healing benediction” to his royal line and succession. “With this strange virtue/ He hath a heavenly gift of prophecy” (157-158), and the divine blessings that surround his person and “his throne” (159) are apparent to all. Many victims of “the evil” seek his help, “a crew of wretched souls” (142). To Macduff, Malcolm’s loyal help, who asks: “What’s the disease he means?” (147), the Prince replies: “’Tis called the evil –” (147). In the same way as in the Gospel of Luke, himself a doctor, the “evil” afflicting these “wretched souls” appears to be spiritual as well as physical, so that the victims must have recourse to the thaumaturgic power of the holy king, “full of grace” (160), and to his “most miraculous work” (148), cf. Christ’s cure of a crippled woman on the Sabbath:

He was teaching in a synagogue on the Sabbath. And a woman was there who for eighteen years had been crippled by a spirit. She was bent over, completely incapable of standing erect. When Jesus saw her, He called to her and said, “Woman, you are set free of your infirmity.” He laid his hands on her, and she at once stood up straight and glorified God. But the leader of the synagogue [was] indignant that Jesus had cured on the Sabbath… The Lord said to him in reply, “Hypocrites! Does not each one of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his ass from the manger and lead it out for the watering? This daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound for eighteen years now, ought she not to have been set free on the Sabbath day from this bondage?” When he said this, all His adversaries were humiliated; and the whole crowd rejoiced at all the splendid deeds done by Him. (Luke 13:10-17)

The “golden stamp” – which the thaumaturgic-prophetic king places “with holy prayers” on the sick, “about their necks,” in order to cure them from “the evil” – refers to the Scapular of Mount Carmel (1251), which the Head of the Carmelite Order in Cambridge, St Simon Stock, received as a divine gift from the Virgin. St. Simon had a vision of the Virgin as an answer to his prayers that She may grant a special privilege, a sign of protection, to the members of his Order. Not only did the Virgin answer his request, but with the Scapular She gave him a gift for all the faithful in the Universal Catholic Church. The Scapular is a visible sign that the person who wears it belongs to Triune God and the Virgin Mother of God according to Catholic orthodoxy. Many graces are attached to the Scapular devotion, if three conditions are met: first, wearing the Scapular at all times, except of course for serious causes; second, daily recitation of the Rosary; third, “observing chastity according to one’s station in life.” In this way the Virgin promises that “whosoever dies clothed in this Scapular shall not suffer eternal fire.” In other words, the Scapular is a promise of protection not only in this life, but for eternal life, with salvation.

The power of healing associated with the Scapular is first of all spiritual – God shields from maleficium (Chapter Two) directed against the victim, his family and his possessions, as Christ admonishes: “Behold, I am coming soon. I bring with Me the recompense. I will give to each according to his deeds. [..] Blessed are they who wash their robes so as to have the right to the Tree of Life and enter the City through its gates. Outside are the dogs, the sorcerers [who practice maleficium] the unchaste, the murderers, the idol-worshipers, and all who love and practice deceit.” (Rev 22:12-14) We will better understand the importance of these spiritual dynamics of maleficium, curse and healing in our analysis of Othello (Chapter Two) in light of Christian Catholic Demonology.

 The spiritual testament of The Tempest: “Let your indulgence set me free”

The interplay between the literal and metaphorical is crucial to appreciate the importance of another principle of Catholic theology found in Shakespeare: the doctrine of indulgences, which occupied so much of the religious debate of Reformation and Counter-reformation alike.

The Catholic orthodoxy on indulgences is expounded in the Enchiridion Indulgentiarum as well as in the official Catechism of the Catholic Church promulgated by Pope John Paul II (1994 § 1471-1479). An indulgence is defined as “the remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints;” “An indulgence is partial or plenary according as it removes either part or all of the temporal punishment due to sin;” “The faithful can gain indulgences for themselves or apply them to the dead.” (§ 1471, official English translation)

From the Old to the New Testament, the Scriptural basis for the expiation for the dead and the doctrine of indulgences is found in passages such as 2 Maccabees 12:38-46 and the Gospel of Luke 16:9. In the second Book of Maccabees we read:

“Judas and his companions went to gather up the bodies of the fallen and bury them with their kindred in their ancestral tombs. But under the tunic of each of the dead they found amulets sacred to the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbids the Jews to wear. So it was clear to all that this was why these men had fallen. […] Turning to supplication, they prayed that the sinful deed might be fully blotted out. The noble Judas exhorted the people to keep themselves free of sin, for they had seen with their own eyes what had happened because of the sin of those who had fallen. He then took up a collection among all his soldiers, amounting to two-thousand silver drachmas, which he sent to Jerusalem for an expiatory sacrifice. In doing this he acted in a very excellent and noble way, inasmuch as he had the resurrection in mind. […] Thus he made atonement for the dead, that they might be absolved from their sin.”

After a bloody battle Judas Maccabeus collected “two-thousand silver drachmas,” which he sent to Jerusalem in order to have an “expiatory sacrifice” – possibly involving livestock to be offered as sacrificial victims – to atone for the sin of idolatry of some of his men, who had consequently been punished and had died on the battlefield. “Thus he made atonement for the dead, that they might be absolved from their sin.” Judas’ actions – “he acted in a very excellent and noble way” – presupposes faith in expiation in order to be admitted to God’s presence, as well as faith in the power of intercessory prayer on behalf of the dead. This is also the meaning of passages such as Luke 16:9, cf. Lk 12:33, when – after the parable of the dishonest steward praised by his master – the Logos commands: “I tell you, make friends for yourself with dishonest wealth, so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.”

It is important to notice that indulgences are complex prayers. They require at least two Sacraments: a complete Confession and a Communion in the Grace of God; they require prayer, especially the Christological prayer of the Rosary, the Creed and a prayer for the Papacy; but the main requisite for the validity of an indulgence is a genuine conversion, i.e. spiritual detachment from venial and mortal sin. Works of charity are also contemplated – Spiritual as well as Corporal Works of Charity, as commanded by Christ in Matthew’s Gospel (25:34-46), in order to substantiate one’s faith with actual deeds, including helping the needy, visiting the sick and freeing the captive.

In Shakespeare’s time, faith in the power of indulgences worked as a dangerous “Star of David” to identify and ghettoize Catholic recusants. Hence it is not surprising to find references to indulgences in Shakespeare’s Spiritual Testament – which was not interred, like the Spiritual Testament of his father John, but buried in the text of his greatest masterpiece Hamlet (Chapter Three) and in Prospero’s Epilogue at the end of his last masterpiece, The Tempest.

With reference to Prospero’s Epilogue, David Beauregard commented on the technical meaning of the term “indulgence” for a Renaissance audience: “[i]n the religious context of Jacobean England and the court of James I, ‘indulgence’ was obviously an important and risky word, a word fraught with powerful theological implications to which Shakespeare could not have been insensitive.”[clvii] And Stephen Greenblatt observed that in Shakespeare’s time, “indulgence” had “the specific, technical sense that it still possesses in Catholic theology: the Church’s spiritual power to remit punishment due to sin,” which meaning is “strongly reinforced”[clviii] by the reference to prayer and forgiveness:

“Now I want

Spirits to enforce, art to enchant;

And my ending is despair

Unless I be relieved by prayer,

Which pierces so, that it assaults

Mercy itself, and frees all faults.

As you from crimes would pardoned be,

Let your indulgence set me free.” (The Tempest Epilogue, 13-20)

As remarked by Beauregard, this sublime piece of poetry powerfully condenses not only one, but four Catholic doctrines: the uncertainty of salvation; the value of intercessory prayer; the remission of sins; and of course the validity of indulgences for the living and the dead.

This is crucial to understand Shakespeare’s masterpiece Hamlet, and in particular the complex psychology of the Prince. As in the tradition of Greek tragedy, in order to create more pathos, the audience had to know more than the protagonists themselves. In the same way, Hamlet ignores – or perhaps “wipe[s] away” from “the table of [his] memory” (I, v, 98-99) – the most basic information on the doctrine of indulgences, which on the contrary was a matter of common knowledge for Shakespeare’s audiences. Hence in his Ulysses, for instance, Joyce called the Prince “Hamlet, ou le Distrait.” What did Catholic Joyce know that contemporary audiences, like Hamlet, have wiped away from the table of their memory?

Hamlet forgets that murder is a mortal sin (Ex 20:13); that only God can take revenge for sins committed against Him (Rm 12:14-21); and that the only way to relieve the condition of souls is to pray for their liberation by virtue of holy masses and indulgences. Furthermore, no penitent soul in the Grace of God could ever compel a human being to break God’s Law – but Hamlet forgets this basic fact too, together with the significance of his mother’s name, Gertrude, in connection with St Gertrude the Great (1256-1302). The German Benedictine Abbess was a renowned saint and mystic, and her name was traditionally associated with the Prayer for the Liberation of souls from Purgatorial fire: “Eternal Father, I offer Thee the most precious Blood of Thine Divine Son, Jesus Christ, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the Blessed Souls in Purgatory and for sinners everywhere: for the sinners within the Universal Church, for those in my house and within my family. Amen.” In early 17th century society, any commoner at the Globe was aware of these basic facts of religious survival; but Hamlet le Distrait erases them from his memory. How is that possible? We will discuss the multiple causes and effects of his forgetfulness in Chapter Three. 

Shakespeare as Everyman, “all in all,” “the genius of humanity”

One of the most significant figurae of the author is the character of Adam in As You Like It, the old faithful servant of his master’s son, the outcast Orlando – himself a Christological figure. The fact that Shakespeare wanted to interpret this apparently secondary role on stage supports Jeffrey Knapp’s account of the quasi-liturgical significance of Renaissance Theater (2002). Every time he reenacted the role of Adam, a clear Scriptural reference to the first man, Shakespeare took upon himself the condition of the entire humanity – a tragically fallen humanity, but renewed by God’s Sacrifice in the Passion and Resurrection. Shakespeare’s Adam is faithful and offers Orlando his talents, the money he spared over a lifetime of service: “Master, go on and I will follow thee” (II, ii, 70). The talents also symbolize the author’s artistic talent understood as a gift from God, which is meant to be returned to God for the glorification of His Name:

“I have five hundred crowns./ The thrifty hire I saved under your father… Take that, and He that doth the ravens feed,/ Yea providently caters for the sparrow/ Be comfort to my age. Here is the gold./ All this I give you. Let me be your servant. […] Master, go on and I will follow thee/ To the last gasp with truth and loyalty.” (As You Like It II, ii, 39-71)

Christian typology also explains the mysterious quality of universality that has so often been attributed to Shakespeare’s sublime art. He wrote of himself, in the figure of an usurped king: “Thus play I in one person many people” (Richard II V, v, 31); then Ben Jonson: “He was not of an age, but for all time;” Pope: “He writ to the people;” Samuel Johnson: “His characters… are the genuine progeny of common humanity;” William Hazlitt: “The striking peculiarity of Shakespeare’s mind was its generic quality, its power of communication with all other minds – so that it contained a universe of thought and feeling within itself. […] He… had in himself the germs of every faculty and feeling. […] He was like the genius of humanity.”[clix]

What is exceptional about Shakespeare is not only what he managed to accomplish artistically, but also the conditions in which he had to work and operate, in a time of terror, tyranny and persecution. Like the thaumaturgic king of Macbeth, such power “hath Heaven given to his hand” (IV, iii, 145) that he is able to leave “the healing benediction” and cure the sick, so to speak. Shakespeare ‘mends by evil’ like a spiritual vaccine, expressing the truth through indirection – a master of negative sublime, showing the effects of evil in order cathartically to purge his audience from it. As Desdemona says: “God me such uses send/ Not to pick bad from bad, but by bad mend.” (Othello IV, iii, 104-105)

Shakespeare accomplished all this and much more in spite of tyranny and terror – “He did make his appearance nevertheless” – using just enough linguistic ambiguity not to be accused of treason and murdered like his relatives Edward Arden, John Somerville and his Jesuit cousin Robert Southwell; while at the same time preserving enough transparency and intelligibility to be heard and understood by all who have “ears to hear.” As Thomas Carlyle wrote: “The Christian Faith, which was the theme of Dante’s song, had produced this practical life of which Shakespeare was to sing – for religion then, as it now and always is, was the soul of Practice; the primary vital fact in men’s life. And remark here, as rather curious, that Middle-Age Catholicism was abolished, so far as Acts of Parliament could abolish it, before Shakespeare, the noblest product of it, made his appearance. He did make his appearance nevertheless. Nature at her own time, with Catholicism or what else might be necessary, sent him forth; taking small thoughts of Acts of Parliament. King-Henrys, Queen-Elizabeths go their way; and Nature too goes hers.” (Lectures on Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History, 1841) Shakespeare was a master of indirection – as Richard Wilson remarks, “Shakespeare’s faith is like… his own Blackfriars property, with its secret passageways and priest-holes built to defy the grandest Inquisitions.”[clx]



[i] R. Levin’s essay was published in Shakespeare Left and Right, edited by Ivo Kamps. New York and London: Routledge, 1991; as well as in Professing Shakespeare Now, edited by Robert Merrix and Nicholas Ranson. Lewiston: Edwin Mellen Press, 1992. The references included in this chapter are taken from the Routledge edition.

[ii] Ibid., 18.

[iii] Ibid., 19.

[iv] De Tocqueville, Alexis. Democracy in America. Translated by Gerald E. Bevan, with an Introduction and Notes by Isaac Kramnick. London: Penguin, 2003, 300 ff.

[v] Ibid., 297.

[vi] Ibid., 298.

[vii] Ibid., 300.

[viii] Ibid., 299.

[ix] Ibid., 299.

[x] Ibid., 498 ff.

[xi] Ibid., 498.

[xii] Ibid., 499.

[xiii] Ibid., 499.

[xiv] Ibid., 499.

[xv] Bloom, Allan. The Closing of the American Mind. New York and London: Simon & Schuster, 1987, 397.

[xvi] Wilson, Richard. Secret Shakespeare. Studies in Theater, Religion and Resistance. Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 2004, 3.

[xvii] Hans-Georg Gadamer. Truth and Method. Second Edition. Translation revised by Joel Weinsheimer and Donald G. Marshall. New York, NY: The Crossroad Publishing Corporation, 1989, 209-301.

[xviii] Kastan, David Scott. Shakespeare After Theory. New York and London: Routledge, 1999, 17.

[xix] Cox, John D. Seeming Knowledge. Shakespeare and Skeptical Faith. Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2007, xii.

[xx] Cavell, Stanley. Disowning Knowledge. In Six Plays of Shakespeare. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1987, 4.

[xxi] Ibid., 4.

[xxii] For the current debate on the death of the humanities, see:

Alvin Kernan (The Death of Literature. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1990; What’s Happened to the Humanities. Princeton, N. J.: Princeton University Press, 1997; In Plato’s Cave. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999); John M. Ellis (Literature Lost: Social Agendas and the Corruption of the Humanities. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997); Robert Scholes (The Rise and Fall of English: Reconstructing English as a Discipline. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1998); Carl Woodring (Literature: An Embattled Profession. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999); Michael Berubé (Higher Education under Fire: Politics, Economics and the Crisis of the Humanities. Edited with Cary Nelson. New York and London: Routledge, 1995; The Employment of English: Theory, Jobs, and the Future of Literary Studies. New York: New York University Press, 1998); Andrew Delbanco (‘The Decline and Fall of Literature,’ The New York Review of Books, November 4, 1999)

[xxiii] Descartes, René. Meditationes de Prima Philosophia. Artur Buchenau, ed. Leipzig: C. Grumbach, 1913. Quotation from Meditatio III, ‘De Deo, quod existat,’ §56-58, translated by John Veitch, 1901, “for… the unity, the simplicity or inseparability of all the properties of God is one of the chief perfections I conceive him to possess. […] There remains only the inquiry as to the way in which I received this idea from God… it is not a pure production or fiction of my mind, for it is not in my power to take from or add to it; and consequently there but remains the alternative that it is innate, in the same way as is the idea of myself. And in truth, it is not to be wondered that God, at my creation, implanted this idea in me, that it might serve, as it were, for the mark of the workman impressed on his work.”

[xxiv] It is remarkable that the same conclusions – God’s existence as the perfect and benevolent Being; the existence of human dignity; the possibility of human knowledge – are arrived at by three great intellectuals of the Enlightenment: René Descartes (1596-1650), Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) and Isaac Newton (1642-1727) – as well as by the signers of the 1776 American Declaration of Independence. Presenting these philosophers as “atheists” and “skeptics” is an instance of ideology and “instrumentalized reason,” as discussed by Adorno and Horkheimer (Dialectic of Enlightenment, 1947).

Newton was deeply inspired by his Christian faith, and spent considerable time and resources studying Sacred Scripture – The Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms Amended, 1728; Observations upon the Prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse of St. John, 1733 – so much so that Biblical hermeneutics occupied him more than science and mathematics.

Pascal devoted the greatest part of the Pensées to a philosophical meditation on the mystery of Christ’s Incarnation and on its moral consequences for humanity. A father of the Enlightenment and one of the greatest mathematical geniuses in history, Pascal identifies reason with an act of the will directed towards realism. Rationality for Pascal also means accepting the in-built limitations of the human mind and its need for the transcendent as the element that gives sense to life, both individually and in the context of human society. Rationality for Pascal is seeking God: “Nothing reveals more an extreme weakness of mind than not to know the misery of a godless man. Nothing is more indicative of a bad disposition of heart than not to desire the truth of eternal promises. Nothing is more dastardly than to act with bravado before God…  Finally, let them recognize that there are two kinds of people one can call reasonable: those who serve God with all their heart because they know Him, and those who seek Him with all their heart because they do not know Him.” (Pensée 194) Pascal points out that even if the existence of God cannot be proven from a scientific viewpoint – i.e. apart from the four-thousand years of Judeo-Christian tradition and scholarship and its impact on Western culture and the global world – it is certainly also true that God’s existence cannot be scientifically dis-proven. In other words, there is no scientific proof of the non-existence of God. Hence, Pascal exemplifies the best use of human rationality with his Wager (Pensée 233), demonstrating that it is logically best to live as if God existed. If He exists and we live following virtue, we will gain everything in terms of heavenly reward; if we live following virtue and He does not exist, we will lose nothing. But if He exists and we lived a life of sin, we will lose everything in terms of eternal damnation.

In the 1776 American Declaration of Independence, it is only by appealing to God’s superior authority that the 56 representatives in congress were able to legitimize their metaphysical claim to freedom and equality, which – as Habermas remarks concerning the “meaning-endowing” function of religion – would not be demonstrable on a purely human basis. Hence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights… And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honour.” It is essential to realize that without the logical premise of human beings having been created equal by God as the Creator – whose supreme authority surpasses the authority of human law – there would be no United States today.

In his critique of skepticism De Tocqueville writes: “There is almost no human action… that does not originate in a very general idea that men have conceived of God, of His relations with mankind, of the nature of their souls and of their duties toward their fellow men. These ideas cannot be prevented from being the common source from which all the rest flows. Men thus have an enormous interest in forming for themselves well-settled ideas about God, their soul, their general duties toward their Creator, and their fellow men. For doubt about these first points would abandon all their actions to chance and condemn them in a way to disorder and impotence. […] When religion is destroyed among people, doubt takes over the highest regions of the intellect, and it halfway paralyzes all the others. Everyone becomes used to having only confused and unstable notions about the matters that most interest his fellow men and himself. […] For myself… I am led to think that if man has no faith, he must serve; and if he is free, he must believe.” (Democracy in America, Vol. II, Part I, Ch. V, § 27-29)

[xxv] Habermas, Jürgen. The Theory of Communicative Action, Volume 2. Lifeworld and System: A Critique of Functionalist Reason. Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1987. Originally published as Theorie des Kommunikativen Handelns, Band 2: Zur Kritik der Funktionalistischen Vernunft. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1981, 355.

[xxvi] Blondet, Maurizio. Gli Adelphi della dissoluzione: strategie culturali del potere iniziatico. Milano: Ares, 1994, 13.

[xxvii] Habermas, Jürgen and Ratzinger, Joseph. The Dialectics of Secularization. On Reason and Religion. San Francisco: Ignatius Press for Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2006. Original German edition, Dialektik der Säkularisierung: Über Vernunft and Religion. Freiburg im Breisgau, Basel, and Vienna: Herder Verlag, 2005, 4.

[xxviii] Ibid., 41-42.

[xxix] Ibid., 45.

[xxx]  “[W]e have the ethical abstinence of a post-metaphysical thinking, to which every universally obligatory concept of a good and exemplary life is foreign.” (Ibid., 43) Indeed philosophy has very much improved since the time of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. The first ethical value on which civil society is grounded is the idea of the “identical dignity of all men,” which can only be done by translating the theological concept of “man in the image of God” into philosophical discourse: “One such translation that salvages the substance of a term is the translation of the concept of ‘man in the image of God’ into that of the identical dignity of all men that deserves unconditional respect.” (Ibid., 45)

[xxxi] Ibid., 46.

[xxxii] Ibid., 45-46.

[xxxiii] Ibid., 46, cf. “In the Peace Prize speech, entitled ‘Faith and Knowledge’ (Habermas 2003), Habermas develops the idea that the secularization hypothesis has now lost its explanatory power and that religion and the secular world always stand in reciprocal relation. […] Habermas stresses… the fact that democratic majority decisions always depend on the prior ethical convictions of their citizens. Democracy depends on moral stances which stem from pre-political sources, for example from religious ways of life.” In: Habermas, Jürgen et al. An Awareness of What Is Missing. Faith and Reason in a Post-Secular Age. Cambridge, UK and Malden, MA: Polity Press, 2010. Original German edition, Ein Bewußtsein von dem, was fehlt. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 2008, 6-7.

[xxxiv] Ibid., 46.

[xxxv] Joseph Ratzinger (The Dialectics of Secularization, 77-79) discusses the “pathologies of reason” in the historical context of the devastations of the 20th century – especially Nazism and Marxism – and suggests a system of checks and balances between reason and faith, in which reason must be reminded of its potential excesses, thus avoiding the hybris that makes it pathological: “We have seen that there exist pathologies in religion that are extremely dangerous and that make it necessary to see the divine light of reason as a ‘controlling organ’… However, we have also seen… that there are also pathologies of reason, although mankind in general is not as conscious of this fact today. There is a hybris of reason that is no less dangerous. Indeed, bearing in mind its potential effects, it poses an even greater threat – it suffices here to think of the atomic bomb or of man as a ‘product.’ This is why reason, too, must be warned to keep within its proper limits, and it must learn a willingness to listen to the great religious traditions of mankind.           If it cuts itself completely adrift and rejects this willingness to learn, this relatedness, reason becomes destructive.”

[xxxvi] Habermas, Jürgen. Between Naturalism and Religion. Philosophical Essays. Cambridge, UK and Malden, MA: Polity Press, 2008. Original German edition, Zwischen Naturalismus und Religion. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 2005, 258. Habermas discusses here how to “confront chauvinists or racists,” but his discourse applies equally well to the academic sphere, and precisely in terms of tolerance for those who, as responsible intellectuals, are able to think independently and originally. In this case, tolerance is very simply a consequence of intellectual honesty – and if human knowledge is a collaborative enterprise, tolerance is the conditio sine qua non for its realization.

[xxxvii] Frye, Northrop. Anatomy of Criticism. Princeton, N.J. and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 1957-1990, 6.

[xxxviii] Frye, Northrop. The Great Code. The Bible and Literature. New York and London: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Publishers, 1982, xii.

[xxxix] Ibid., xvi.

[xl] Ibid., xvii.

[xli] Ibid., xiii-xiv.

[xlii] Ibid., xix.

[xliii] Chomsky, Noam. Chomsky on Miseducation. Edited and Introduced by Donaldo Macedo. New York and Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2000, 18-26.

[xliv] Ibid., 18.

[xlv] Ibid., 20.

[xlvi] Ibid., 16.

[xlvii] Buckely, William, F. God and Man at Yale, 50th Anniversary Edition. Washington: Regnery Publishing, 2002, 131.

[xlviii] Culler, Jonathan. “A Critic against the Christians,” Times Literary Supplement, Nov. 23, 1984.

[xlix] Culler, Jonathan. “Comparative Literature and the Pieties,” Profession 86 (New York: MLA, 1986): 30-32. Culler’s quotations are taken from this article.

[l] Battenhouse, Roy W. ‘Anti-Religion in Academia.’ Christianity and Literature 37, no. 1 (1987): 7-22.

[li] Kee, James ‘Postmodern Thinking and the Status of the Religious.’ Religion and Literature 22, no. 2/3 (1990): 47-60.

[lii] Ibid., 53.

[liii] Ibid., 54.

[liv] See Klee (1990: 53-54): “Measured by a Derridean standard of the postmodern, then, Culler’s attack on religion appears as a modern metaphysical gesture… For while Derrida’s thinking is hardly homogeneous, and it is certainly not yet complete, his texts have too often inspired a posture of ‘suspended ignorance.’”

[lv] Kee, James ‘Postmodern Thinking and the Status of the Religious.’ Religion and Literature 22, no. 2/3 (1990): 56.

[lvi] Ibid., 54.

[lvii] Ibid., 54-55.

[lviii] Ibid., 55. Klee includes in this part of his argument a significant reference to Gerald Bruns’s Heidegger’s Estrangements (1989), to the effect that the return of man to himself as mortal always happens within das Geviert, the quadrilateral formed by earth and sky, humans and gods: “this return… is ‘not of mortals only but of earth and sky, and the return of the gods as well’ (Estrangements, 85)”

[lix] Battenhouse remarks that “distortions are inevitable whenever a critic brings an anti-religious prejudice” to bear on authors who are foreign to it; and misreadings are bound to result when “a critic’s hostility to religious orthodoxy” is imposed not only on the authors but also on students, colleagues and readers who may have different conceptions of life and art. In relation to this topic, Battenhouse’s essay ‘The Relation of Theology to Literary Criticism’ (Journal of Bible and Religion 13, no. 1, 1945: 16-43. Oxford University Press) quotes John Henry Newman’s On the Idea of a University to the effect that only theology is able to represent the human situation in its entirety, in its relationship to God and other human beings: “Without theology,” says Newman, “the total field of experience cannot be explored and assessed.” There is no greater, more profound idea for the human mind to consider than transcendence; and no sublime art can exist apart from the existential problem of man’s relationship to transcendence. It is this relatedness between the human and the divine that should be conveyed – and Battenhouse emphasizes the importance of teaching literature in this way. Truths such as “debate cannot be an end in itself” have the power to leave us in awe, reminiscing about a past when teachers taught animated by the ideal of a noble vocation, and writers wrote not for greed but in search for truth.

[lx] Wright, Terence R. Theology and Literature. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1988.

[lxi] Frye, Northrop. Anatomy of Criticism. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 1957-1990.

[lxii] The distinction between religion and theology is more a formalism than a reality. In fact, the two are so interconnected that one cannot exist without the other: if theology is the discourse on and science of God, religion is the necessary application of that knowledge to human life. One implies the other in an unbreakable virtuous circle, a continuum without any fracture or interruption. This idea is also represented in Luke’s Gospel (10:25-37), when a scholar of the Law asks Christ how to save his soul for eternal life. Christ replies with a question: “What is written in the law? How do you read it?” The scholar gives a theologically correct answer: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” But because he wants to justify himself, he also asks who his neighbor is. Christ replies with the parable of the Good Samaritan. God teaches that without a practical application of the Law of Charity toward God and the other, there can be no faith, no theology and no salvation for eternal life.

[lxiii] Wright, Terence R. Theology and Literature. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1988, 3.

[lxiv] Ibid., 1.

[lxv] Ibid., 183.

[lxvi] Ibid., 3.

[lxvii] Frye, Northrop. Anatomy of Criticism. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 1957-1990, xix.

[lxviii] Howe, James. A Buddhist’s Shakespeare. London: Associated University Presses, 1994, 129.

[lxix] Ibid., 96.

[lxx] Ibid., 27.

[lxxi] Ibid., 200, cf. Buddhist sacred sculpture, architecture and mandala-drawing to teach impermanence.

[lxxii] Cf. Hall, Kim F., ed. Othello, The Moor of Venice. Texts and Contexts. Boston and New York: Bedford/ St. Martin’s, 2007, 171-172: “A powerful cultural and political force, as well as a spiritual one, religion was the dominant means by which early moderns understood and ordered their world. Prayers, sermons heard during mandatory church attendance, and popular entertainments that educated people in religious doctrine shaped their sense of family, community, nation, history, and politics. Religious solidarity… affected both alliances and antagonisms between nations. […] Religious habits of thought affected ordinary people.”

[lxxiii] Also thanks to the diffusion of King James’ poem, the Battle of Lepanto was present in the mental background of audiences attending the performance of Shakespeare’s Othello, cf. King James I, Lepanto. His Maiesties Poeticall Excercises at Vacant Houres. Printed by Robert Walde-grave, printer to the King’s majestie. Cum Priuilegio Regali. La Lepanthe de Iaques VI, Roy D’Escosse. Imprimé à Edinburg par Robert Walde-Grave, Imprimeur du Roy, 1591. Avec Privilège de la Majesté.

[lxxiv] Quoted in: Knapp, Jeffrey. Shakespeare’s Tribe. Church, Nation and Theater in Renaissance England. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 2002, 15. Knapp highlights the fact that Holinshed, as a historian and an intellectual tied to the monarchy, called for “Christian unity, which, he maintained, could be promoted by granting subjects ‘liberty of conscience, concerning matters of faith,’ and by using ‘the word’ rather than ‘the sword’ to decide religious controversies” (Shakespeare’s Tribe, 193).

The separation between public political loyalty and the private conscience of the citizens, which constitutes the foundation of contemporary democracy, was quite well known at the time. It was presented by the Jesuit Robert Southwell – William Shakespeare’s cousin – in his An Humble Supplication to Elizabeth I.           In his address to the Queen, Southwell states that there is no conflict between being a devout Catholic and being a loyal subject to the English crown. Political loyalty in the public sphere is perfectly compatible with freedom of conscience in the private realm – and in fact, Christ commanded to obey temporal rulers: “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar; and to God what belongs to God.” (Mt 22:21) Referring to Matthew’s passage, De Tocqueville thus commented on the success of Christianity as a religion which separates the private from the political sphere: “Mohammed brought down from Heaven and placed in the Koran not only religious doctrines, but political maxims, civil and criminal laws, and scientific theories. The Gospel, on the contrary, speaks only about the general relations of men with God and among themselves. Beyond that, it teaches nothing and does not oblige belief about anything. That alone, among a thousand other reasons, suffices to show that the first of these two religions cannot rule for long in times of enlightenment and democracy; whereas the second is destined to reign during these times as in all others.” (Democracy in America Vol. II, Part I, Ch. V, § 30)

[lxxv] From the Dedication of the King James Bible, Authorized Version (1611). As we read in Gordon Campbell’s Anniversary Essay, included in the quartercentenary celebratory edition (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press), “[a]lthough members of the companies are described as translators, they were in fact revisers. The rules specified that the version ‘commonly called the Bishops’ Bible [should] be followed, and as little altered as the truth of the original will permit,’ and that, when alterations were deemed necessary or desirable, phrasing should be drawn when possible from one of five earlier Bibles:  the Tyndale Bible (1526), the Coverdale Bible (1535), the Matthew Bible (1537), the Great Bible (1539), the Geneva Bible (1560, printed in England from 1576). The base text was the Bishops’ Bible first printed in 1568; forty unbound copies of the 1602 edition were made available to the translators. Each of the earlier translators drew on its predecessors, so the ultimate origin of much of the language of the King James Version is William Tyndale’s Bible.”

[lxxvi] Published volumes on Demonology were numerous at the time. Only in France, and only between 1580 and 1650, we have: Jean Bodin’s Démonomanie (1580); Nicolas Rémy’s Démonolatrie (1582); Henry Boguet’s Discours execrable des Sorciers (1602); Pierre de Lancre’s Tableau de l’inconstance des mauvais anges et démons (1612); Liste authentique des réligieuses et séculières possédées, obsédées, maléficiés (1634); Confessions et histoire de Madeleine Bavent, religieuse de Louviers, avec son interrogatoire (1652); and F. N. Taillepied’s Traicté de l’apparition des esprits (1600).

[lxxvii] King James I, Demonologia (Daemonologie, in forme of a dialogue, divided into three Bookes). Silvani, Giovanna, ed. Reprint of the 1597 Edinburgh edition. Trento: Università degli Studi di Trento, 1997.

The idea that a reformed Anglican text cannot or should not be cited in a scholarly study on Catholicism in Shakespeare shows disinformation and misunderstanding regarding the development of Christian theology in general and of Christian Demonology in particular. After fifteen centuries of Catholic scholarship and religious practice – Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses date 1517 – the theological speculation of the reformed religion evolved at first by elimination, i.e. eliminating Catholic doctrines and practices: first of all, the apostolic succession from Christ to Simon Peter, Vicar of God on earth, cf. “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will establish My Church, and the gates of Hell will not prevail over it” (Mt 16:18 ff.); then the veneration of the Virgin and the saints; the celibacy of priests; certain sacraments and prayers like the Christological prayer of the Rosary; and faith in miracles, cf. “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in Me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father. And whatever you ask in My Name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything of Me in My Name, I will do it.” (Jn:14:12-14)

In the field of Demonology it is important to remark that at the end of the 16th century, Catholic orthodoxy was imported in the Anglican Church almost in its entirety, with the exception of priestly exorcism and the projection of the figures of the Great Babylon and the Antichrist on Catholic Rome and the Catholic Pope respectively. In 1597 and after sixteen centuries of Catholic scholarship, James and his counselors were writing in an atmosphere still saturated with Catholic doctrine, which takes more than a couple of generations to erase. Also in the field of Demonology there was considerable doctrinal correspondences, hence for instance the key concept that virtue is better learned by looking at its opposite is found both in King James (“There can be no better way to know God than by the contrary,” Daemonologie II, vii) and in the Saint and Doctor of the Church Catherine of Siena (“things can be better known by looking at their opposites” Dialogue of Divine Providence, sec. 110)

[lxxviii] James I, Demonology; News from Scotland. Edited and with an Introduction by Donald Tyson. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 2011, 11-12.

[lxxix] Ibid., 13.

[lxxx] Milward, Peter. Catholicism of Shakespeare’s Plays. Southampton, UK: Saint Austin Press, 1997, 7-8.

[lxxxi] Devlin, Christopher. Hamlet’s Divinity. Carbondale, Ill.: Southern Illinois University Press, 1963, 22.

[lxxxii]Beauregard, David. Catholic Theology in Shakespeare’s Plays. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2008, 18.

[lxxxiii] Ibid., 19.

[lxxxiv] Ibid., 21.

[lxxxv] Paul Yachnin, ‘The Powerless Theater,’ English Literary Renaissance 21 (1991): 68, cited in Beauregard (2008, 20).

[lxxxvi] Beauregard, David. Catholic Theology in Shakespeare’s Plays. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2008, 21.

[lxxxvii] Ibid., 20-21.

[lxxxviii] Knapp, Jeffrey. Shakespeare’s Tribe. Church, Nation and Theater in Renaissance England. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 2002, 9-10.

[lxxxix] Milward, Peter. Shakespeare’s Religious Background. Bloomington and London: Indiana University Press, 1973, 11-12.

[xc] Knapp, Jeffrey. Shakespeare’s Tribe. Church, Nation and Theater in Renaissance England. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 2002, 9-10.

[xci] Ibid., 9-12.

[xcii] ‘Subversive Fathers and Suffering Subjects: Shakespeare and Christianity,’ in Religion, Literature, and Politics in Protestant Reformation England, 1540-1688. Donna Hamilton and Richard Strier, eds. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996, 46. Quoted in: Knapp, Jeffrey. Shakespeare’s Tribe. Church, Nation and Theater in Renaissance England. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 2002, 10.

[xciii] Wells, Stanley and Taylor, Gary, eds. The Oxford Shakespeare. The Complete Works. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988, xvii.

[xciv] Greenblatt, Stephen. Hamlet in Purgatory. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001, 249.

[xcv] One of the first to acknowledge Shakespeare’s faith was his friend and colleague Ben Jonson, himself a crypto-Catholic and Catholic sympathizer, who recognized the trace of John’s faith in William’s art.          In the preface to the first Folio edition of the plays, Jonson praised Shakespeare as the faithful son of his father. This passage is taken from the 1623 First Folio, To the Memory of my Beloued The Author Mr. William Shakespeare and What He Hath Left Us:

“Looke how the fathers face

Liues in his issue, euen so, the race

Of Shakespeares minde, and manners brightly shines

In his well torned, and true-filed lines:

In each of which, he seems to shake a Lance,

As brandish’t at the eyes of Ignorance.”

Jonson’s pun on Lance – Shake-spear and Shake-shaft – seems to confirm the fact that he could read between the lines and understand the deeper meaning of the author’s “double-meaning” prophecy. Another indication that Jonson was aware of Shakespeare’s faith was his comment on Shakespeare’s motto on his coat of arms, “Non sans droit,” which he cunningly turned into “Not without mustard” – with a Scriptural reference that must have been much clearer in the Renaissance than now: “Amen, I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to here,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you” (Mt 17:20); “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of the plants. It becomes a large bush, and the birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.” (Mt 13:31-32)

Both parables explain Catholic faith liking it to a mustard seed; and both images encapsulate and symbolize Shakespeare’s situation: a persecuted Catholic was the least likely candidate for immortal fame within an Anglican establishment, and yet he became a source of unending inspiration for generations to come, exactly like the great tree in Matthew’s parable.

[xcvi] Knapp, Jeffrey. Shakespeare’s Tribe. Church, Nation and Theater in Renaissance England. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 2002, 9-12.

[xcvii] Wilson, Richard. Secret Shakespeare. Studies in Theater, Religion and Resistance. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2004, 3. As an instance of this sort of ideological protectionism, Wilson records the “[h]ostile over-reaction to the conference on Shakespeare’s Catholic contexts held at Lancaster University in 1999,” in which the “pique of the critical establishment [was] deeply interested in building a Protestant canon centered on Spenser, Middleton and Milton, which remains, long after the world turned round again in Tudor historiography, a last redoubt of the Whig-Marxist version of English history.”

[xcviii] Cf. Shell, Alison. Catholicism, Controversy and the English Literary Imagination, 1558-1660. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999, 8-9, quoted in Wilson, 2004, 3-4.

[xcix] Kastan, David. Shakespeare after Theory. New York and London: Routledge, 1999, 16-17.

[c] Wilson points out that Shakespeare was “a member of one of the most militant recusant families, in a town which was a bastion of Elizabethan papist resistance. Local studies and biographies have now converged… to situate young Shakespeare at the epicenter of the English Counter-Reformation culture, which has itself been a recent rediscovery of historians such as John Bossy [Under the Molehill: An Elizabethan Spy Story, 2001], Eamon Duffy, Christopher Haigh and Michael Questier.” (Secret Shakespeare, 1) Regarding Catholic Warwickshire, Wilson also comments on Patrick Collison, “the leading authority on Puritanism,” according to whom “the notion of Shakespeare’s family’s conformity to Protestantism rests on mistaken, anachronistic perspectives of Elizabethan religious life. […] Thus, the poet looks representative, according to Collison, of a community where the majority of those in the church were ‘church papists,’ [who] if not ‘rank papists’ retained ‘still a smack and savor of popish principles’ [Collison, Patrick. ‘William Shakespeare’s Religious Heritage,’ in Elizabethan Essays. London, UK: Hambledon Press, 1994, 230 and 250-252]” (Secret Shakespeare, 4)

[ci] Patrick Collinson. ‘William Shakespeare’s Religious Inheritance and Environment,’ Elizabethan Essays. London: Hambledon Press, 1994, 246-247.

[cii] Fraser, Antonia. Faith and Treason: The Story of the Gunpowder Plot. New York: Doubleday, 1996, 114-115.

[ciii] Neale, John E. The Elizabethan House of Commons. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1963, 241.

[civ] Spenser, Edmund. A View of the Present State of Ireland. Renwick, W. I., ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1925, 162.

[cv] As Christopher Devlin points out, few scholars ever mention the fact that “Shakespeare was seriously accused in his lifetime of being a pro-Catholic propagandist.” (The Life of Robert Southwell, 11) Protestant historian John Speed, for instance, accused him of being the “Papist”’ poet of Jesuit Robert Persons: “this Papist and his poet, of like conscience for lies, the one ever feigning and the other ever falsifying the truth.” Devlin’s quote is from John Speed, History of Great Britain. London, 1611, Book 9:15.

[cvi] Beauregard, David. Catholic Theology in Shakespeare’s Plays. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2008, 15 ff. For these data on Stratford’s school, Beauregard cites:

Schoenbaum, Samuel. William Shakespeare: A Compact Documentary Life. New York: Oxford, 1987, 66; Baldwin, T. W. William Shakespeare’s Small Latine and Lesse Greeke, vol. 1. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1944, 488, n. 129; Stevenson, W. H. and Salter, H. E. The Early History of St. John’s College Oxford. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1939, 334. On Stratford’s Catholic schoolmasters, see also: Christopher Devlin, 126; Peter Milward, Shakespeare’s Religious Background. London: Sidgwick and Jackson, 1973, 41; John Henry De Groot. The Shakespeares and ‘The Old Faith.’ New York: Crown Press, 1946, 87.

The Stratford grammar school saw a succession of Catholic masters, whose influence contributed to the willing martyrdom of a number of students. “It seems likely that Debdale [Robert Debdale, seminarian in Rome and second cousin of Shakespeare], who would follow Cottam to the gallows in 1586, had been recruited for Rome by his teacher Hunt, so that, as T. W. Baldwin inferred, the Stratford Grammar School… [was] virtually a cell for these suicide missions.” (Secret Shakespeare, 52)

[cvii] cf. David Ellis, ‘Biography of Shakespeare: An Outsider’s View,’ The Cambridge Quarterly, 29:4 (2000), 302-3.

[cviii] Wilson, Richard. Secret Shakespeare. Studies in Theater, Religion and Resistance. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2004, 3.

[cix] Ibid., 3; cf. Devlin, Christopher. The Life of Robert Southwell, Poet and Martyr. London, UK: Longmans and Green, 1956, 18-19.

[cx] Devlin, Christopher. Hamlet’s Divinity. Carbondale, Ill: Southern Illinois University Press, 1963, 18.

[cxi] Wilson points out that in the 1590-s Shakespeare’s Warwickshire cousins were “decimated for their alleged treason.” (Secret Shakespeare, 64)

[cxii] Shakespeare’s alleged deer-poaching in Lucy’s park is only significant in that it highlights the existing tension between the Puritan magistrate and Shakespeare’s family, who suffered persecution at his hands. While the deer-poaching tale is unfounded, the persecution was real. Among other factors, this may have contributed to the negative portrayals of Puritans in Shakespeare’s plays. In the Scylla and Charybdis chapter of Ulysses, Joyce uses this fabricated detail to deride critics who project their private interests on the author.

[cxiii] Cf. Beauregard, Christian Theology in Shakespeare’s Plays, 17. The Preface to Southwell’s book of poetry contains an affectionate allusion to Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (V, i, 7) and Venus and Adonis. For a life of Robert Southwell, see Christopher Devlin, The Life of Robert Southwell, Poet and Martyr. London: Longmans, 1956.

[cxiv] For a realistic description of the persecution, tortures and executions suffered by Catholic martyrs, see John Carey, John Donne: Life, Mind and Art, 1981, 15-18.

[cxv] Cf. Steven Ozment’s The Age of Reform, 1250-1550 (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1980). Its front-cover symbolically reproduces The Burning of John Huss at the Council of Constance (from Ulrich’s Richenthal’s Das Concilium, 1536).

In Reformation history it is the brief reign of Mary I (1553-1158) that is usually demonized. But Mary I did not invent the practice of sentencing “traitors” to death. Her predecessors – e.g. Henry VIII – as well as her successors – e.g. Elizabeth I and James I – were all guilty of the same abomination. According to Ozment “[b]y the end of September, [Mary I] had Hooper, Coverdale, Latimer, Cranmer, and Ridley – the leadership of Edwardian Protestantism – in the Tower on charges of treason. Like Thomas More before them, these protestant leaders embraced martyrdom as the ultimate protest against an unjust ruler.” (The Age of Reform, 426) Apart from the fact that Thomas More died as a martyr of Catholicism and as such is venerated in the Roman calendar, Ozment overlooks the fact that in antiquity and in the Renaissance, it was common practice for newly established monarchs to eliminate their political adversaries within the court in order to avoid future plots. Hooper, Coverdale, Latimer, Cranmer and Ridley were first of all maneuvering political enemies who used religion, as well as the young king Edward, as pretexts to deflect attention from their own ambitions.

[cxvi] Nuttall, Anthony. Shakespeare the Thinker. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007, 16.

[cxvii] Carey, John. John Donne: Life, Mind and Art. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981, 15-18.

[cxviii] Wilson, Richard. Secret Shakespeare. Studies in Theater, Religion and Resistance. Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 2004, 1-2. Wilson’s quotation is from John Carey, John Donne: Life, Mind and Art, 1981, 15-18.

[cxix] Ibid., 64.

[cxx] Beauregard, David. Catholic Theology in Shakespeare’s Plays. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2008, 90.

[cxxi] Carey, John. John Donne: Life, Mind and Art. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981, 15.

[cxxii] Ibid., 18. The Catholic cultural milieu, family origin and education of Shakespeare and Donne are very similar; hence it is important for Shakespeare scholars to consider Carey’s text quite carefully. “Because of his family connections, Donne was dragged into the very center of the storm, and was forced to watch its bloody course with the closest attention. The victims were among the most gifted and intrepid of England’s youth: young men like Edmund Campion, executed in 1581, who had been sent to the Catholic colleges abroad for their education, and who returned on their suicidal missions, joyfully embracing martyrdom… Possibly young Donne witnessed these sights while in the care of the Catholic tutors whom his mother employed to educate him. Their purpose would be to arouse in the boy a spirit of emulation, for martyrdom was in his family and it might justifiably be hoped that… he would join the glorious company himself. […] [Donne] dwelt tirelessly upon [the martyr’s crown] and came to regard it almost as part of his inheritance” (John Donne: Life, Mind and Art, 19).

[cxxiii] Wilson, Richard. Secret Shakespeare. Studies in Theater, Religion and Resistance. Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 2004, 5.

[cxxiv] Cf. Chalmers’s Apology for the Believers in the Shakespeare Papers: “The conjecture that Shakespeare’s family were Roman Catholics is strengthened by the fact that his father declined to attend the corporation meetings, and was at last removed from the corporate body.” In: George Wilkes, Shakespeare from an American Point of View. New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1882, 53.

Chalmers saw clear evidence of Catholic faith in Shakespeare, linking the author’s Catholic education to his art. From the evidence of John Shakespeare’s dismissal from the Stratford Corporation, Honigmann and Beauregard also draw the conclusion that he was a practicing Catholic.

[cxxv] Schoenbaum, Samuel. William Shakespeare: A Documentary Life. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975, 38.

[cxxvi] Quoted in Wilkes, George. Shakespeare, From an American Point of View. New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1882, 52.

[cxxvii] Devlin, Christopher. Hamlet’s Divinity. Carbondale, Ill: Southern Illinois University Press, 1963, 13.

[cxxviii] Devlin remarks that “[t]here was a great hunger among English Catholics for devotional works from overseas.” And in fact “there is a letter from Persons in England to Allen in 1580 asking for hundreds more of ‘the testaments’ because there was such a demand for them.” (Hamlet’s Divinity, 14) The document was translated into English, and a blank space was left at the end for the signature of the faithful.

[cxxix] Taken from the accompanying instructions of the spiritual testament, quoted in Schoenbaum, Samuel. William Shakespeare: A Documentary Life. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975, 45.

[cxxx] The text of John Shakespeare’s Spiritual Testament is found in Wilkes, Shakespeare from an American Point of View, 57-59. Wilkes refers to Nathan Drake’s Shakespeare and His Times. Volume I. Reprinted by B. Franklin, New York, 1969. The opening and closing sections read:

Section I. In the name of God, the Father, Sonne, and Holy Ghost, the most holy and blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, the holy hosts of archangels, angels, patriarchs, prophets, evangelists, apostles, saints, martyrs, and all the celestial court and company of heaven; I, John Shakespeare, an unworthy member of the Catholic religion, being at this, my present writing, in perfect health of body, and sound mind, memory, and understanding, but calling to mind the uncertainty of life and certainty of death, and that I may be possibly cut off in the blossom of my sins, and called to render an account of all my transgressions, externally and internally, and that I may be unprepared for the dreadful trial either by sacrament, penance, fasting, or prayer, or any other purgation whatever, do, in the holy presence above specified, of my own free and voluntary accord, make and ordain this, my last spiritual will, testament, confession, protestation, and confession of faith, hoping hereby to receive pardon for all my sins, and offences, and thereby to be made partaker of life everlasting, through the only merits of Jesus Christ, my Saviour and redeemer, who took upon himself the likeness of man, suffered death and was crucified upon the crosse, for the redemption of sinners. […]

Section IV, and last. I, John Shakespeare, having made this present writing a protestation, confession, and charter, in presence of the blessed Virgin Mary, my angell guardian, and all the celestial court, as witnesses hereunto: the which my meaning is, that it be of full value now, presently, and for ever, with the force and vertue of testament, codicil, and donation in course of death: confirming it anew, being in perfect health of soul and body, and signed with mine own hand; carrying also the same about me, and for the better declaration hereof, my will and intention is that it be finally buried with me after my death. Pater noster, Ave Maria, Credo. Jesu, Son of David, have mercy on me. Amen.

Wilkes also reports Drake’s notation: “’From an accurate inspection of the handwriting of this will, Mr. Malone infers that it cannot be attributed to an earlier period than the year 1600, whence it follows that if dictated by, or drawn up at the desire of, John Shakespeare, his death soon sealed the confession of his faith; for, according to the register, he was buried on September 8, 1601. Drake, vol. 1, pp. 9-14.”

[cxxxi] As an instance of insightful criticism into Shakespeare’s psychology, see William Hazlitt, On Shakespeare and Milton, Lectures on the English Poets, 1818.

[cxxxii] Quoted in Beauregard, Catholic Theology in Shakespeare’s Plays, 17; cf. Schoenbaum, 1975, 222-223; Collison, William Shakespeare’s Religious Inheritance and Environment, 251; Duffy, ‘Was Shakespeare a Catholic?’ The Tablet, April 27 (1996): 537.

[cxxxiii] Again, James Joyce used this piece of malicious gossip for Stephen’s “Shakespeare Theory” in the Scylla and Charybdis chapter of Ulysses. In Joyce’s fiction, Stephen imagines an Anne Hathaway who “tumbles” a younger William Shakespeare in a “cornfield” – an autobiographical reading of Joyce’s early sexual experiences, but also an ironic self-projection on the author. In this way, Joyce ironically denounces those who project themselves on the author, trying to mold Shakespeare into their own image.

[cxxxiv] Parker, M. D. H. The Slave of Life: A Study of Shakespeare and the Idea of Justice. London: Chatto & Windus, 1955, 244.

[cxxxv] Cf. Baker, Oliver. Shakespeare’s Warwickshire and the Unknown Years. London: Simpkin Marshall, 1937; Chambers, E. K. ‘William Shakeshafte,’ Shakespearean Gleanings. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1944; Milward, Peter. Shakespeare’s Religious Background. Bloomington and London: Indiana University Press, 1973; Honigmann, E. A. J. Shakespeare: The ‘Lost Years.’ Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1985. In support of the Lancashire theory, Richard Wilson adds the historical evidence that he discovered, linking the Jesuit mission of 1580-1581 with both Stratford and Hoghton Tower.

[cxxxvi] Wilson, Richard. Secret Shakespeare. Studies in Theater, Religion and Resistance. Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 2004, 54.

[cxxxvii] Alexander Hoghton’s testament quoted in Wilson, Richard. Secret Shakespeare. Studies in Theater, Religion and Resistance. Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 2004, 49.

[cxxxviii] Ibid., 5.

[cxxxix] Devlin, Christopher. Hamlet’s Divinity. Carbondale, Ill: Southern Illinois University Press, 1963, 29. Rev. R. Davies (d. 1708) received the biographical collections from Rev. W. Fulman (d. 1688). The manuscripts were presented to the Library of Corpus Christi College, Oxford. As George Wilkes observes, “[s]urely it should require something more than mere incredulity on the part of Protestant biographers to annihilate this authoritative statement.” (Shakespeare from an American Point of View, 56)

[cxl] Devlin, Christopher. Hamlet’s Divinity. Carbondale, Ill: Southern Illinois University Press, 1963, 11.

[cxli] Speed, John. History of Great Britain. London, 1611, Book 9:15. Quoted in Munro (1909: 224-225), Knapp (2002: 5) and Battenhouse (1994: 5).

[cxlii] Devlin, Christopher. Hamlet’s Divinity. Carbondale, Ill: Southern Illinois University Press, 1963, 25.

[cxliii] Ibid., 25.

[cxliv] John Speed is quoted in Devlin, Hamlet’s Divinity, 25.

[cxlv] Cf. Among the works selected by Battenhouse, see Wilson Knight’s Wheel of Fire (1930) for a historically influential commentary on Christian symbolism; John Henry de Groot, The Shakespeares and ‘The Old Faith’ (1946); S. L. Bethell, The Winter’s Tale: A Study, 1947; M. D. H. Parker, The Slave of Life (1955); Patrick Murray, The Shakespearean Scene (1969); Peter Milward, Shakespeare’s Religious Background (1973) and Shakespeare Year Book I (1990); as well as Shakespeare and Catholicism (1952) by Mutschmann and Wentersdorf, who “concluded, on the basis of a large array of evidence both historical and dramatic, that he was a secret Catholic all his life.” (Shakespeare’s Christian Dimension, 5)

[cxlvi] Barraclough, Geoffrey. The Origins of Modern Germany. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1976, 237-240.

[cxlvii] Ozment, Steven. The Age of Reform, 1250-1550. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1980.

[cxlviii] See Thomas Nashe’s The Unfortunate traveller, esp. the crimes of Esdras of Granado in Rome, e.g. raping a matron on the (apparently) dead body of her husband – not even for lust, but for sheer love of evil.

[cxlix] Spini, Giorgio. Storia dell’Età Moderna, Vol. I, Torino: Einaudi, 1965, 121, my translation.

[cl] Evidence summarized from Alison Weir’s discussion in Mary Boleyn: The Mistress of Kings, New York: Ballantine Books, 2011.

[cli] And in fact the Epilogue to Henry V proclaims: “This star of England (King Henry V)… the world’s best garden he achieved,/ And of it left his son imperial lord,/ Henry the Sixth, in infant bands crowned king,/ Of France and England, did this king succeed,/ Whose state so many had the managing,/ that they lost France and they made England bleed.” (Epilogue, 6-12).

[clii] It is also interesting to notice the according to the Oxford Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet was the play immediately following A Midsummer Night’s Dream, presenting the same theme of the unfortunate lover committing suicide on the wrong assumption that the beloved may be dead.

[cliii] Espinosa, Ruben. Masculinity and Marian Efficacy in Shakespeare’s England. Farnham, UK: Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2011, 3.

[cliv] Ibid., 3.

[clv] The heroic life of St Agatha (246-261 AD) seems to have inspired the character of Marina, daughter of Prince Pericles. Proconsul Quinziano wanted to make Agatha relinquish her faith, and to this end he confined her in a brothel for a month, in the care of a certain “Aphrodisia.” The girl survived unscathed, but was later tortured and martyred, becoming a symbol for all abused children who lived before and after her.

[clvi] Quoted in: Beauregard, David. Catholic Theology in Shakespeare’s Plays. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2008, 15.

[clvii] Quoted in: Beauregard, David. Catholic Theology in Shakespeare’s Plays. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2008, 148.

[clviii] Cf. Greenblatt, Stephen. Hamlet in Purgatory. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001, 261.

[clix] William Hazlitt, On Shakespeare and Milton, Lectures on the English Poets, 1818.

[clx] Wilson, Richard. Secret Shakespeare. Studies in Theater, Religion and Resistance. Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 2004, 5.

 *** *** *** ANTIVIRUS 4.0 *** *** ***

Africans are perfectly FREE to use intellectual irony & satire to tell the truth about the crimes committed by stupid, white-trash racists. 

I’m from Western Africa, with African DNA and, as a victim of racially-motivated rape and sex trafficking, I know that using irony & satire against sex offenders: 1) helps other innocent victims, who can recognize the same criminal patterns and avoid those dangerous sex offfenders; 2) helps the affected victims, who can find closure in telling the truth; 3) helps society understand the dangers of sexual violence against people of color, women and LGBTQIA+ 

We must put an end to rape & sex trafficking, and it all starts by telling the truth. 

EROC, End Rape On Campus



Advanced graduate class on “Irony & Satire, Humanities 658”

The following is an example of intellectual irony & satire, on different levels, as explained below. 



This is a perfect example of irony and satire. One of the white-trash individuals who raped me was, in the end, found out and denounced by his wife, Yu-Lin Wang, who of course proceeded to divorce him and take everything. After that, his main priority was to cover his ass and do some “damage control.”

And in order to do so, Saussy stole my identity, maliciously slandered me and projected on me all his crimes, always taking advantage of the fact that I’m an African immigrant with African DNA.

To cover his ass and get away with murder, Saussy maliciously slandered and defamed me, claiming for instance that I was “too ugly to be raped.” That’s both ridiculously false and a pathetic projection, as can be gleaned by all the pix included here. Hence, this is the first level of irony and satire: rape is a pathological abuse of power, where deranged criminals want to destroy other human beings they see as “inferiors” — like women and children, people of color and LGBTQIA+ — and it has nothing to do with physical appearances.

As a second layer of irony and satire, I included many of my personal pix in “My Academic Resume,” which show that I’ve always been athletic and good-looking, and that reality is very different from Saussy’s malicious slander and defamation of character. 

And the third layer of irony and satire has to do with the fact that the crazy, ugly hag shown in the picture above is Saussy’s current partner, Miss Olga Solovieva, also known as Stupidieva: an ignorant, white-trash Karen from Russia, who’s only too happy to look the other way while Saussy abuses and molests other students and scholars of color. 

So, look who’s talking! These are dangerous white-trash racists, who want to abuse people of color! 

Comparative Literatures: 


Lord God!

According to Aristotle, the greatest form of genius is recognizing similarities between different entities… 

This is the end of Saussy’s malicious slander against LGBTQIA+ people of color from Western Africa.

And speaking of BLM v. Saussy, let’s have a look at his father’s KKK conspiracy theory in support of James Earl Ray, the convicted murderer of MLK, cf. Tupper Saussy’s Tennessee Waltz: The Making of a Political Prisoner (1987). Tupper Saussy (1936-2007) wrote Ray’s biography, and he was one of the most zealous affiliates of the Klan. 

Public records at the New Haven Superior Court show that, in order to make money with his father’s book sales, Saussy Junior set up a cover-up company called “Contrary Waltz, LLC.” And for all these years, he’s been making money with the Klan’s racist ideology, and is still profiting from the sales of his father’s crazy KKK conspiracies.

The point of hiding his name behind an anonymous company was to keep his unmerited job first in the comparative literature dep’t at Yale, and later at the University of Chicago. 

Eventually, Saussy was fired from Yale, but not because of his deplorable and scandalous connection to the KKK, which should have prevented him from getting ANY job ANY where in academia.  

In fact, Saussy had to relocate because it was discovered that he was having an extramarital affair with a Russian woman, whom he had previously hired as a “grad student’ in order to give her free fellowship money, and whose garbage dissertation on the “Body of Christ” Saussy had “supervised’ — or perhaps written and plagiarized? — in order to promote her and give her an academic job at the expenses of everyone else, with many illegal conflicts of interests, of course.  

Miss Olga Solovieva, aka Miss Stupidieva, is the less-than-good-looking individual (not the dog) portrayed above. 

Those two dangerous racists are still in close contact with students and scholars at Chicago, creating situations of abuse, violence and social injustice.     

And this is all public record at the New Haven Superior Court, Docket # FA-07-4027957S, see official documents in the Antivirus 3.0 below. 

After having been a victim of rape and sex trafficking at Yale, they offered me many perks to keep silent, but it was all contingent on a non-disparagement contract that I rejected, after discussing it with my husband. Of course, I have it digitalized, it’s Internet-ready, and it looks even worse in the age of BLM.  


These artistic pix were taken by my husband in October-November 2023. 

My husband is an international scholar, a tenured university professor of the Classics and a published author, whose scholarly publications are so popular that they’re on sale on Amazon. In truth, most ‘academicians’ can’t even sell 40 copies to university libraries, let alone Amazon…

I’m very proud of my racial diversity and LGBTQIA+ tattoos. 

This is an original pic without any filter, taken for Halloween 2023. 

I love my expensive LGBTQIA + tattoos, and I work part-time for an international modeling agency that specializes on tattoos & artistic ink, see my article on African Pride & Modeling




I’m originally from Western Africa, with African DNA, but having good genes doesn’t exonerate ppl from following a good diet & workout routine 🙂 

This is my home gym on expensive blue cement, creating what looks like a magical lake.

My equipment includes a Peloton bike, Sole Treadmill, Swedish ELEIKO weights, and of course the LGBTQIA+ and BLM flags. 

African DNA, European education, Global Citizenship, American real estate, Satire & Critique:




My Academic Resume w/ Prof. George Lakoff’s recommendation to Yale for his Metaphor Class at U.C. Berkeley: 




My Academic Resume w/ George Lakoff’s Recommendation to Yale for his Metaphor Class at U.C. Berkeley

To do some damage control and cover his white-trash ass, Saussy stole my identity and projected on me not only his own crimes, but also the crimes of his racist father, Tupper Saussy: an affiliate of the KKK, convicted felon and prison inmate, and personal friend and biographer of the same James Earl Ray who murdered Civil Rights Leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

No less than the murderer of MLK! 

The imbalance of power between an African, non-binary student on an immigrant VISA and a local scammer posing as a professor – in fact, nothing but a racist and homophobic sex-offender who’s 16 years older than his victims – is simply unimaginable. 

The “Stanford buddies” used to steal the passports of foreign students – including my E.U. passport – and they would use them to blackmail and force students to take OBGYN visits at a Planned Parenthood location, in order to check if they were free of STDs and if their genitals were shaped like a “Fleshlight,” a “masturbatory device” invented in the 1990s: https://www.fleshlight.com/  

And to conceal their violent crimes and get away with murder, the sex offenders engaged in even more crimes, such as:

Racism and racist hate crimes; discrimination against protected categories like race, gender, national origin and disability, cf. Americans with Disabilities Act and Civil Rights Act; defamation of character with malicious slander and libel; email fraud; academic and financial fraud; forgery; financial retaliation; blackmail with an illegal attempt at making me sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) in exchange for approving my original dissertation, which in the end I copyrighted at the U.S. Library of Congress. 

Many of these violent crimes could have been completely avoided if Richard Levin and Jane Levin at Yale had been transparent about Saussy’s affiliation with the KKK and his illegal conflict of interests with a Russian “grad student” called Olga Solovieva: a middle-aged individual who was in fact one of his mistresses, and whose “career” he promoted above that of anyone else, also financing it with dozens of fake recommendation letters in order to steal unmerited fellowships from many different universities. What a scam!  

But there was absolutely NO transparency and NO disclosure from Richard and Jane Levin — only a pathetic attempt to conceal their own racist crimes over the years. In fact, even now, Richard and Jane Levin have offered NO reparation for these racist crimes, and they are still pathetically trying to conceal Saussy’s illegal conflict of interests and his factual and objective affiliation with the Klan.

A hockey player, with Richard and Jane Levin: 

Are you really married with this thing here?”

Indeed, let’s talk about something objective, Miss Levin: Saussy’s father, Tupper Saussy (07/03/1936 – 03/16/2007), was a convicted felon and prison inmate, a conspiracy theorist diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, and the personal friend and biographer of the same James Earl Ray who murdered Civil Rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Indeed, Tupper Saussy wrote Ray’s biography, Tennessee Waltz: The Making of a Political Prisoner (1987), and was one of the most zealous affiliates of the Klan. 

Public records at the New Haven Superior Court show that, in order to make money with his father’s book sales, Saussy set up a cover-up limited liability company called “Contrary Waltz, LLC.” And to this day, he’s still making money with the Klan’s racist ideology, and still profiting from the sales of Tupper Saussy’s crazy KKK conspiracies. 

Saussy’s connection with the KKK is a deplorable and disgusting objective fact. Saussy’s still making money with his father’s KKK theories, so if there’s anyone who should pay Reparations to African Americans, that’s precisely white trash like Saussy – racist, ignorant, stupid and bigoted.  

The “Jane Austen Society” of Miss Levin — a big academic and financial fraud.  

Miss Levin is a multi-million dollar scam, both academically and financially — she’s nothing but an ignorant, white-trash Karen with a nonsensical and autobiographical dissertation on “Marriages in Jane Austen,” which was complete garbage, and nothing but a projection of her wasted life.  

But that gave her a pretext to steal millions of dollars in students’ tuition fees and taxpayers’ money, meddling in academic fields about which she knows absolutely nothing — not only in much more complex forms of literature like Shakespeare and James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, but even in global politics and the world economy! What the fuck does Miss Levin know about ANYTHING AT ALL with a worthless and irrelevant dissertation on Jane Austen? 


But Miss Levin certainly knows about RACISM: the numbers prove, as another objective fact, that she has never produced one single African scholar in her entire, worthless “career” at Yale, courtesy of her white-trash husband. 

“Sometimes making a critical comment in class… can entail thinking twice”???

You can’t even write, you worthless piece of shit.

The correct verb is TO REQUIRE, and that’s a double mistake, both at the level of meaning and of logic – or lack thereof, in your pathetic case.


Who’s this piece of shit?

Akbar Shit Ahmed

Before slandering non-binary people of color, first make sure you even know how to use a toilet, you dirty son of a bitch.


You’re racist, sexist, and have very troubling anti-social tendencies, Ahmed — you definitely need some antipsychotic drugs like Tupper Saussy: the convicted felon, KKK member, conspiracy theorist and biographer of James Ear Ray, cf. Tennessee Waltz: The Making of a Political Prisoner (1987), marketed by his son’s cover-up company, “Contrary Waltz, LLC.”    

So much money was wasted on that stupid piece of shit, which could have been allocated for African Americans!

But that’s what happens when people are NOT selected based on merit and/or race, but solely based on corruption and connections with someone inside Yale. Like this ignorant piece of shit, Ahmed, whose aunt (yes, his old aunt!) was acquainted with the late Sara Suleri Goodyear in the English dep’t. As a result, he was illegally admitted at the expenses of other African Americans who had all the credentials, and the merit, to deserve that opportunity.

Talk about racism and social injustice!

But slander didn’t pay very well…

How’s life back in Pakistan – can you find a decent toilet?

Do you know how to use toilet paper?

And how are your parents doing? Do they have toilet paper? Are they proud of your dirty ass?

The “Jane Austen Society” is one of the main academic and financial fraud of Jane Levin.

40 years ago, Miss Levin got into academia through the backdoor with a worthless and unpublishable dissertation about “Marriages in Jane Austen.” 

And thanks to her white-trash husband who gave her a job at Yale, she’s been stealing millions of dollars since, vomiting nonsense about any other topic, from Homer to world economy, taking resources and money away from African Americans and other people of color.

Talk about systemic racism and social injustice!



There’s a big problem with PUBLIC DEFECATION in Pakistan, cf. video documentary below.

Moreover, Pakistan is a failed state sponsor of terrorism, and there is NO SEPARATION OF POWERS between politics and violent religious ideologies, according to which 8 y/o children can be raped and given up for a polygamous “marriage” with an old pervert, exploited for slave labor, denied education and civil rights, and kept in perpetual ignorance and poverty — all in the name of “god,” yeah right.

Talk about bigotry! Who’s a bigot, you ignorant piece of crap! 

And FYI, meaning here “For Your Ignorance,” the separation of powers was theorized and implemented centuries ago in many other countries around the world. 

Not surprisingly, Pakistan is now a rogue state plagued by systemic poverty, ignorance, bigotry, racism and sexism, and battling against basic problems that were solved many centuries ago, in many other parts of the globe.   

The Pantheon, Rome

The Roman Empire lasted for one thousand years and laid the foundations for the legal code, especially for DUE PROCESS, as it is practiced in every democratic country where people are innocent until proven guilty. They also created Roman roads that are still transitable like Via Emilia, majestic architecture, aqueducts and plumbing, public baths, and public sanitation as the precondition for a flourishing metropolis like Rome. 

And the Romans were not white caucasians, which is another reason to admire their unparalleled achievements — especially when all other white-trash empires have already crumbled down, with their white-trash, fake puritan ideologies that were used to put a veneer of “Christian self-righteousness” on the extermination and enslavement of millions of people of color.  


Augustus of Prima Porta – Monumental statue of Caesar Augustus, Rome.

Ahmed is so fucking ignorant that I have to write captions for these famous pix, otherwise he’ll never even understand what they mean.  

Where was Pakistan 2500 years ago?

More or less where it is now.

PAKISTAN: Toilet woes

What a great culture – they don’t even have toilets!

Quoting from the documentary: 

“Poor law and order situation…”

“There is no water and no electricity.” 

“But the local government denies incompetence…”

“For now, the toilet project remains on paper.”

“Many have to respond to the call of nature by heading to the bushes.”

“They have to relieve themselves in the open behind a bush.”

Ribbonry, of course — an essential academic field. 

Now that Ahmed is “universally and objectively” unemployed, 

Miss Levin should give him a job as a secretary at the “Jane Austen Society” — a bunch of ignorant, stupid Karens:

They put on a ridiculous costume… 

They get drunk at the bar…  

And they pretend to be “intellectuals,” yeah right! :))) 



And who the fuck is John Rogers? 

Good question!

Nobody knows. 


Ignorant, white-trash puritans in the U.S. are always waiting for the end of the world — that’s the scam they came up with to steal money from the ignorant masses.   

Enough with this Tupper-Saussy-like conspiracy theory about the end of the world!

They should invent a different scam — a different fake ideology — if they want to keep stealing money :)))


You can’t do the classics because you’re ignorant; 

you can’t do the bible because “god” is just a narrative; 

you can’t do deconstruction because it has imploded,

revealing that it was just the white-trash cult of personality of the so-called critic;

you can’t do critical race theory precisely because you’re stupid white trash… 

So, what the fuck are you doing? 

He doesn’t even know. 

Please, BLM students, don’t get him fired or he won’t be able to pay off his mortgage! :))) 

Are these scammers still preaching their white-trash, fake puritan ideologies that were used to justify the extermination and enslavement of “Voodoo Niggers” like myself? 

Or are they hiding under a rock like snails, for fear of BLM?

Trying to repackage the old, racist shit in a new wrap to keep stealing money — but it won’t work. 

Please, do me a favor: get lost and disappear forever. 

I don’t even want to see your white-trash, ugly faces ever again, thanks! 

John Rogers is a white-trash, racist parasite who has never produced one single African scholar in his entire, irrelevant “career.”

He knows perfectly well that Miss Jane Levin — with her “Jane Austen Society” — is a multi-million dollar financial fraud,

and yet he’s been sucking her cunt for decades, trying to pay off his mortgage.

Good luck with that! 

This is the end of his racist and homophobic slander against a non-binary “Nigger” like myself. 

The Real Housewives of Jane Austen.

All the facts about Saussy are documented in public records available at the New Haven Superior Court, Docket # FA-07-4027957S.

After the scandal caused by Yu-Lin Wang’s divorce, Richard and Jane Levin tried to do some “damage control” by firing and getting rid of Saussy and Olga Solovieva. And after being fired, they relocated to the University of Chicago, where he’s still her “supervisor” in the same dep’t of comparative literature with numerous conflicts of interests, of course, both academically and financially.  

Another customer of Miss Solovieva’s. 

Miss Olga Solovieva from Russia is both a scammer and a self-proclaimed “expert in theology,” with a dissertation on the “Body of Christ” that was supervised, approved and passed by her 63-year-old boyfriend, Saussy. The two white-trash plagiarists are still working together at the University of Chicago, with an illegal conflict of interests that deprives so many women academicians of color of their opportunity, money and work.

And what’s even worse, the two are still in close contact with diverse students and scholars, creating situations of great danger and abuse, especially for diverse students and scholars: LGBTQIA+ and Africans like myself, women and other people of color. It is therefore essential to warn other innocent students and their families – especially Africans, the ethnically and culturally diverse, foreign students and scholars on a VISA, women and the LGBTQIA+ community – against this type of racially-motivated, violent crimes in U.S. colleges and universities. 


A rare picture of Ms. Yu-Lin Wang (b. 1959) back in the 1990s. 

Saussy and Solovieva got fired, but this partial act of justice did not come from Yale’s corrupt administrators, Richard and Jane Levin, who actually tried to minimize or even deny Saussy’s racist crimes for fear of losing money and academic standing.

No, this partial act of justice actually came from the self-interest of Saussy’s smart ex-wife, Ms. Yu-Lin Wang, as soon as she realized that he was cheating on her, and sexually abusing students and scholars of color like myself.

Saussy also had an affair — and an illegal conflict of interests — with a mature Russian “grad student” called Olga Solovieva (b. 1971), a white-trash Karen who was his “dissertation advisee.” In order to get his stupid girlfriend promoted, and make money with her additional salary after his financially devastating divorce, he wanted to “supervise”  — or perhaps plagiarize — her ridiculous dissertation on “The Body of Christ.” 

Now, what a paradoxical topic for a couple of stupid cheats!

And what the heck does Saussy know about Christian theology? 


Here’s Olga Solovieva admitting the truth:  

Why advertising your rotten teeth??? 

Too much Russian vodka, perhaps, Miss Olga Boozava? 

Well, according to your retarded friend, Ahmed: 

“Sometimes posting pix of your rotten teeth can entail thinking twice.” 

Thanks to Ms. Yu-LIn Wang, both Saussy and Solovieva were fired and kicked out of Yale.  

Then, it took Saussy 13 more years to rework that crazy and nonsensical rant about the “Body of Christ.” 

13 years stealing money and work opportunities away from Africans and other students and scholars of color. Now, Saussy is still “supervising” Miss Stupidieva in the same dep’t of comparative literature at the University of Chicago, with an illegal conflict of interests. 

What a massive academic fraud & financial scam! 

All international students and scholars should be very careful, since bigoted and white-trash racists like Saussy are often hidden in pseudo-liberal universities, promoting their own stupid mistresses to the detriment of much better candidates — and of course the main victims are always Africans and other people of color. 

But that’s not all — Saussy also slandered my relatives and family members calling them “Niggers” and claiming I should lose my job at Yale because “[my] relatives are all Niggers.”

That’s not just ILLEGAL and DEPLORABLE, 

but also extremely paradoxical considering that Saussy’s deceased father, Tupper Saussy, was a convicted felon and jail inmate, a KKK member, and an intimate friend and biographer of the same J.E. Ray who murdered Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.! 

And on top of that — as if that racist family background were not enough — Saussy’s brothers, Phil and Larry, are kitchen workers! 

Phil (first on the left) and Larry (first on the right), see picture below.  


Look who’s slandering and accusing others! 

These hypocrites should STOP projecting their own failures and mistakes on other people. 

This is THEIR fucked-up, racist and ignorant background — NOT anyone else’s.

Never throw stones if you live in a glass house, because the victims will always tell the truth. 



Saussy v. Saussy

Connecticut Superior Court Judicial District of New Haven at New Haven

May 29, 2009

2009 Ct. Sup. 8912 (Conn. Super. Ct. 2009)

Memorandum of Decision

Public court documents available at the New Haven Superior Court. 


“The court finds that the husband’s claim that the breakdown of the marriage was due to his wife’s lack of support is not supported by the credible evidence.

This court finds the husband to be at greater fault for the breakdown of the marriage, as evidenced by HIS MENTAL STATE

and by [his] extramarital relationship with another woman.”

(Memorandum of Decision, Further Findings and Orders, p.20)


FYI, it’s quite rare for a judge to mention someone’s “mental state” as one of the main reasons to assign victory to the other party — that means it must have been really bad. 


“The husband [Saussy] claims the breakdown of the marriage was caused by the wife’s lack of support in his professional life. He also claims that the wife [Wang] refused to join him at professional events, that she accused him of being selfish and self-indulgent, and that she put herself between him and the children.”

“He further claims that her lack of support for his career moves resulted in his suffering from SUICIDAL THOUGHTS and DEPRESSION, cf. Note 6.” 

“Note 6. Husband testified that in 2001 he had one year leave from Stanford (to write a book) and that he was so conflicted over whether or not to accept the position at Yale that he spent most of the year lying on the floor of [his] office being OBSESSED WITH THOUGHTS OF SUICIDE.”

(Testimony 12/15/08, p.119) 

“Mr. Farmer, a longtime friend of the husband, testified that husband had confided in him [sic] that he was unhappy with the marriage for a long period of time.”

“In 2001, the husband was TREATED BY A PSYCHIATRIST and was prescribed medications for DEPRESSION.”

“The wife claims, for the most part, that the parties had a happy marriage and shared a common interest in Chinese literature and family life, and that she always put her husband’s needs first.”

“She testified that she had witnessed EMOTIONAL INSTABILITY on the part of her husband throughout the marriage,

but she tried to support him in his work and was proud of how successful he had become as a scholar in ancient Chinese literature, cf. Note 7.”

“Note 7. The wife described her husband as VERY INSECURE and ‘SOCIALLY KIND OF WEIRD'” 

“She stated that while husband enjoys social events, HE DOESN’T KNOW HOW TO BEHAVE and that his ‘MOOD [IS] ALWAYS UP AND DOWN VERY MUCH.” 

(Testimony 1/6/09)

 “The wife also described certain TROUBLING CONDUCT by the husband during the course of the marriage,


Her claims regarding husband’s personality were CORROBORATED by husband’s aunt, Eugenia Commack, cf. Note 8.”

“Note 8. Ms. Commack described the husband as having been a very bright but VERY TROUBLED CHILD who was UNABLE TO SOCIALLY INTERACT.”

“Her testimony described the wife as a supportive and loving spouse.” 

“The wife claims she became aware of the magnitude of the problems in their marriage in the summer of 2007, after the daughter accessed her husband’s computer and discovered emails between her husband and another woman, cf. Note 9.”

“Note 9. The court accepts as credible the testimony of the wife, that in the summer of 2007, the daughter accessed the husband’s computer for her personal use and found the husband’s personal communications with [Olga Solovieva], evidencing the extramarital relationship, and that the daughter then shared this information with her mother.”

(Testimony 1/5/09, p.136)

“The testimony of the parties reveal a marriage wherein the husband controlled virtually every aspect of familial life. The husband brought his wife to the U.S. knowing that she was not fluent in the English language and he determined the family was to speak only Chinese in the home. He further determined that there would be no television in the home. The wife was often uncomfortable in academic and/or social settings because she did not become fluent in English and it is apparent that the husband BLAMES THE WIFE FOR HER DISCOMFORT…”

(Memorandum of Decision, pp.5-6) 


PAY ATTENTION TO THE PATTERN OF BLAMING THE VICTIM: first he creates a terrible problem — like depriving people of their freedom of expression, freedom of association and right to work in the United States — and then he blames his victim for that! That’s exactly what he tried to do against me, as an African and non-binary victim of rape.  

And banging his head against the wall?


Since Saussy “doesn’t know how to behave,” he should never have been allowed to be in contact with much younger students and scholars of color — they are at risk of being abused!  

“His mood is always up and down very much” — that’s the definition of manic depression. 

Therefore, don’t slander other innocent people by projecting on them your own problems!

Where’s Miss Bunis now?

Miss Bunis, B.A. – shown here in this bizarre and cringe-worthy picture – aided and abetted for racist sex offenders at Yale by maliciously defaming their African and non-binary victim.

But it didn’t work.

Now, this white-trash Karen is her mid-thirties and can’t even make ends meet without her daddy, who keeps paying and paying for nothing.

So much for so little! 

“Progressive ideals are based on empathy.”

“Empathy with all leads to equality: nobody should be treated worse than anyone else,” cf. George Lakoff.  



To: Jon Butler, Dean, Yale Graduate School […]


you are hereby commanded to appear for a legally noticed deposition at the law offices of Engleman, Noyes & Rubin, LLP… on December 11, 2007 at 9:00 am… 

AND YOU ARE FURTHER COMMANDED to bring and have with you at said time and place the following records: 

1. The complete personnel file for [Saussy]; 

2. The complete graduate student transcript and file for [Olga Solovieva];

3. All complaints and/or investigations of [Saussy’s] relationship’s with a student, including, but not limited to, [Olga Solovieva].”

(Subpoena Duces Tecum, issued 10/23/2007). 


The evidence proves that “administrators” at Yale knew everything about this massive financial scam, have never been transparent about it — as it is required by law — and instead tried to cover it up.

And in so doing, they didn’t care about Africans, LGBTQIA+ and other diverse students and scholars who were victims of Saussy and Solovieva. 



“The defendant [Ms. Yu-Lin Wang] moves that the court compel the plaintiff’s compliance with request for production of

all ACADEMIC and other RECOMMENDATIONS written or emailed at any time for [Olga Solovieva]

or any other person with whom [Saussy] had an extra-marital affair, dating or sexual relationship other than [his] wife,

from the date of marriage to the present time, dated October 23, 2007.” 

(Motion to Compel, issued 04/16/2008)


That illegal conflict of interests went unpunished, thus becoming a multi-million dollar academic and financial fraud. 


“…the plaintiff, Chairman of the Department of Comparative Literature at Yale University,

has admitted under oath to having an adulterous affair with [Olga Solovieva],

a graduate student in the department of comparative literature,

who [sic] he advised on her doctoral dissertation.”

(Motion to Compel Compliance with Subpoena Duces Tecum, Pendente Lite, issued 04/04/2008) 


That’s an illegal conflict of interests that creates a toxic work environment — especially for LGBTQIA+ students and scholars, Africans and other people of color — and there was absolutely NO transparency and NO disclosure about it from Richard and Jane Levin, as it is required by law. But what do they care about the law, right?  





“The defendant has testified in deposition on 12/11/07 that he had an adulterous affair with said woman during the marriage,

and that he intentionally deleted emails to and from said woman in August 2007,

immediately prior to commencing this divorce action,

and that since that time he has failed to save emails.

He testified that these activities occurred on his office laptop computer and his personal laptop computer.” 

“The hard drives from the computers will be examined by professionals at Enterprise Computers Co.,

specifically to retrieve and print out only emails to and from [Olga Solovieva].” 



These public court documents show an illegal exchange of emails between the “chairman” of “comparative literature” — no less! :))) — and his mature Russian mistress, who just so happens to be his “dissertation advisee” as well.

That illegal conflict of interests went unpunished, thus becoming a multi-million dollar academic and financial fraud, whose victims are above all LGBTQIA+, Africans and other students and scholars of color.

Where’s Ed Barnaby now? 

That racist, white-trash thief was fired immediately after he slandered an African and non-binary victim of rape at Yale, 

and had to relocate in Virginia in a hurry, living from paycheck to paycheck. 

Crime doesn’t pay, especially if you’re fucking stupid and retarded like these two morons. 

All white-trash thieves go to jail — send us a pic when you get there, you drunktards! 



Email Saussy to Olga 3/7/02 

Email Olga to Saussy 3/7/02

Defendant Wife’s Revised Exhibit List, issued 12/12/2008


These are recovered emails dating back to 2002, 

which was exactly 2 years before Saussy started at Yale, in 2004. 

And how about all the “unrecovered” emails in prior years? 

Did Saussy perhaps help Olga Solovieva get accepted at Yale on a 6-year fellowship 

by writing one of those fake “academic recommendations” quoted above? 

Did he help her obtain other fellowships and academic jobs at other universities? 

Did he help her “rewrite” her nonsensical dissertation on the “Body of Christ” — how objective is that, exactly? — and get a publishing contract for that garbage? 

Has he ever plagiarized other essays and papers for her, since they are in the same “comparative literature” department?

These are all very good questions.