Greenblatt’s “Shakespeare and the exorcists”

English 305

Dr. Fike


This article contains 57 paragraphs and an appendix.


  1. The article is the study of what two texts?




  1. What are the tenets of the New Historicism?
    1. Par. 2:  “For me….”


    1. Par. 3:  “History cannot…” (two sentences).


    1. Par. 5:  Find the sentence with “interaction” in it.

  D.  Cf. Bedford Companion 93. 




  1. Exorcism had been an expression of _______________________ and was a


    primarily _______________________ phenomenon (pars. 7-8)


  1. Harsnett’s position is that exorcism is a ______________________.  He actually


      locates evil in “_______________________________________” (pars. 9-10).


      “Eliminate the ____________________ and you eliminate the 


       ________________________” (par. 13).  He wants to exile exorcism to the 


       ______________________________________ (par. 13; cf. pars. 22-23).


  1. How does Harsnett handle the fact that Jesus exorcised demons in Mark 5:1-19 (par. 13)?



  1. Exorcism’s most important impact is on the _______________________ (par 14).  It is


__________________________ in par. 18 (i.e., hollow, false, illusory), much like the


Catholic church.  The result is kenosis or ______________________ (pars. 21 and 22).


  1. Shakespeare saw exorcism as a fraud too but made use of it in his plays.  a) Edgar pretends to

          be a madman.  b) Shakespeare incorporates names of demons.  c) And the cure of Gloucester

          at "Dover" reflects exorcism but empties it of its meaning.  See the effect on G at the "white cliffs" (pars. 33-34).

  1. In what way does Harsnett’s attack depend on “an officially designated commercial theater” (par. 26)?


  1. What is the relationship between Edgar and the kind of demoniac that Harsnett is


writing about?  “Edgar’s possession is a _________________________________


[two words], exactly in Harsnett’s terms” (par. 53).


  1. This is the homology that Greenblatt wants us to grasp:


Edgar:Gloucester::priests:supposed demoniacs::theater:audience.


The common element is credulity, the suspension of disbelief.


  1. For Greenblatt, evil comes not from __________________________________


(two words) but "from this world, the world of the court and


_____________________________________" (par. 35; cf. par. 43).


  1. Although King Lear is set in a __________________________ universe (par. 49), the


ending expresses a “vision of universal redemption through Cordelia,” and


Greenblatt stresses the “________________________________ [two words] of


redemptive hope” (par. 49).


  1. Harsnett’s criticism and Shakespeare’s appropriation of it move exorcism from


the literal to the literary (theater), and from the sacred to the secular (theater 


again).  Theater, in fact, is a natural medium for exorcism because theater is “a


fraudulent institution” (par. 54) that “______________________________ [two


words] the center that it represents” (par. 57).