By Jean-Christophe Mayer (auth.)
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Extra info for Shakespeare’s Hybrid Faith: History, Religion and the Stage
The Duchess purchases occult knowledge of the future to serve her political ends, but she is outbid by Cardinal Beaufort, the Bishop of Winchester, and William de la Pole, the Duke of Suffolk. 43 One is therefore led to believe that one is about to witness a cunning spectacle, a false ceremony, similar to that which Reginald Scot calls a ‘publike confederacie’ in his Discoverie of Witchcraft: Publike confederacie is, when there is before hand a compact made betwixt diverse persons; the one to be principall, the rest to be assistants in working miracles, or rather in cousening and abusing the beholders.
Thus, the man who set out to expose the false miracle is himself exposed because of his wife’s occult practices, leaving the audience to wonder at the dramatic irony of an episode which has blurred reference points somewhat and shattered confessional certainties. The episode is not a denunciation of the crudeness of Catholic providentialism, neither does it seem to be a vindication of a Protestant interpretation of Providence. 26–7). During this scene, which is not devoid of humour – were it not for the ensuing death of the accused – much drinking is done by the supporters of each contestant and by the contestants themselves.
50 When adapting this scene for the stage Shakespeare significantly altered his source, turning the episode into a scene of exorcism and prophesying rather than of sorcery. There is good reason to believe that the audience of 2 Henry VI may well have expected a strong anti-Catholic undercurrent to run through the scene as it began to unfold before their eyes. 11–12). Yet Shakespeare seemingly adds another level of meaning to this scene by going beyond the mere satire of the wiles of politics, or the so-called practices of the Catholic Church.
Shakespeare’s Hybrid Faith: History, Religion and the Stage by Jean-Christophe Mayer (auth.)