The Church of England did not recognise the ritual of exorcism, while the Roman Catholic Church has always done so. Some radical Puritan ministers performed exorcisms; but some leading Puritan writers, such as William Perkins , opposed the ritual, while accepting the underlying theories, for example about witchcraft. The term Protestant dispossession is also used, which allows for the differences from Catholic practice.
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Orthodox for the Church of England, and more broadly for followers of the Protestant Reformation , was that the cessation of miracles after the apostolic times ruled out the resort to exorcism or casting out of devils. The Book of Common Prayer from made no mention of it. This procedure was accepted by some who would reject completely Catholic priestly exorcism.
Fasting became important in Puritanism exorcism, but was not present in earlier Elizabethan procedures. The exorcism in Norwich by its bishop John Parkhurst , in , may have introduced a fast day in this context.
The Beliefs in the Devil During the Elizabethan Times | The Classroom
It became a sine qua non of the Puritan approach to exorcism. Blessed be the man that spares these stones, And cursed be he that moves my bones. A significant part of the draw of the curse, as it existed in a licit context, was the idea of appeal to a higher power. Even in a modern society, with supposedly reliable access to the machinery of justice, a significant gap exists between law and practise. In medieval and Early Modern England, with courts convened cyclically, laws poorly understood, and where justice could be put on hiatus by anything from heavy rains to plague, an extra supernatural deterrent would have been reassuring.
This post comes with apologies for my not having posted anything last week. I gave the talk with a skilled and patient actor friend, Suzanne Marie , and pending permissions I hope to make the whole thing available on Sound Cloud. For heroes we have educated doctors and humanists fighting fanatical magistrates, bringing modern wisdom to backward country farmers. Despite that, there are no mentions of magic or the supernatural in the Paston Letters — written by a family living in 15 th and 16 th century Norfolk.
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Whereas the Church of England denied the role of the human body as a locus of religious experience, the body could adopt a central position within Puritan religiosity. Thus, in his Discourse of the Subtill Practises of Devilles , George Gifford denounced exorcism as spiritually useless because it was directed solely at the body:. As all the workes of God are good, and unto right good end: so of necessitie all Satans workes be evill and to most devilish purpose. If he have power given him to possesse and to plague the bodie: he is not driven out, for Satan doth not drive out Satan but healeth the bodie, to the end he may the more fully possesse and destroy the soul.
His charitie and his pitie are no better. O miserable health so recovered. O wretched men so relieved: they do imagine that the devill is driven out of them and he hath entred in deeper. For can that which is devilish, as a charme, drive out the devil? Satan uses the seemingly benign physical effects of exorcism to cover up a more insidious attack on the human soul. The pro-exorcism party in this treatise believes that Satan is capable of physically entering a human body, and even of physically inserting himself into a demoniac's mind.
Deacon and Walker go to great lengths to deny the possibility of this kind of possession. They go beyond purely religious arguments, and draw extensively upon natural philosophy.
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The laws of nature, they argue, preclude the physical processes necessary for a literal demonic possession:. If the divell doth essentially enter into the very substance it selfe of the possessed mans minde: then necessarily there must be, either a confusion of substances, which to hold were absurd, or else a rending and separation of substances at least, called properly a vacuum, which were follie to imagine, but madness for any to avouch. Among its most important aims was the inculcation of a sense of spiritual interiority in the minds of common people.
The play cannot acknowledge exorcism as a valid healing ritual because it locates selfhood in an inwardness which an exorcism ritual cannot accommodate. Indeed, exorcism reproduces the very identity confusions in the play which need to be untangled. The Antipholuses and Dromios in the play are mistaken for each other because of bodily resemblances, and they are, therefore, in need of gaining access to that part of their selves which is not related to, or goes beyond the body. O, grief hath changed me since you saw me last, And careful hours with time's deformed hand Have written strange defeatures in my face.
O time's extremity, Hast thou so cracked and splitted my poor tongue In seven short years that here my only son Knows not my feeble key of untuned cares?
Both in the symptoms to which it responds and in the remedy which it proposes, however, Dr Pinch's exorcism, too, limits itself to the body, and offers no terms for addressing the immaterial. Only at the eventual appearance of Egeon does a solution to the identity chaos in the play begin to manifest itself. The dramatic irony established in the opening scene of the play, in which Egeon presents the audience with a long account of his misfortunes, is at last undone. The restoration of the past, and of memory, through narrative is the one effective healing ritual in The Comedy of Errors, the only antidote against the dangers of demonic metamorphosis.
Discrete selfhood is realised through a full knowledge of one's own individual past, one's own non-bodily traumas. On the one hand, possession is here seen as a form of self-loss.
God, speaking through a possessing devil, tells Magdalene that He will make her into a new person:. Thou shalt bee Magdalene no longer. Thou shalt be changed Magdalene, and as it were transformed from what thou art into a new forme. I am the Painter; shall not I mend this picture when it seemeth good unto me? At one stage it is true that Antipholus demands such a self-transformation and self-renewal of Luciana III. In its closing scenes, however, The Comedy of Errors does not seek the solution in creating anew a lost self.
Egeon's remedy suggests a retrieval, a re-awakening of the original self. Reactivating the memory of his wife and sons, Egeon helps them regain their former selfhood, not to fashion a new self. As Peter Milward claims, The Comedy of Errors alludes to Roman Catholic as well as Puritan rituals of exorcism, and its critique of rituals may, therefore, also be read as a critique of the materialist theology of Roman Catholicism.
That the restoration of the self in The Comedy of Errors goes hand in hand with a rejection of materialist Roman Catholic religiosity is also suggested by the figure of the Abbess.
In the closing scene of the play, Emilia, as she is now called, discards her role as Abbess. Indeed, as she herself claims, the moment marks her inauguration as mother:. Her formulation suggests that she thinks of her position as Abbess as an external role, forced upon her by circumstance, rather than as an innate part of her self. As Dromio and Antipholus regain their selfhood and their memories, so does Emilia, and the play implies that this self-recovery is at the same time a shedding of her temporary role as Abbess.
As Abbess, she was unable to restore the selves of her confused sons. Indeed, the Abbess's belief in the reality of demonic possession effectively places her outside the terms of closure which The Comedy of Errors provides. It is as mother, however, that Emilia is able to preside over the reunion of her family. This invisible, off-stage sanctuary contrasts sharply with the noisy, public exorcism performed by Dr Pinch. The Comedy of Errors seems to endorse a form of Roman Catholicism that does not partake in the theatrical, politicised religiosity expressed during exorcism rituals, but that seeks withdrawal from the public sphere.
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Miola ed. London, Penguin Books, , pp. Ashwin, London, John Rodker, , pp. John N. Kinney [ed. Hamilton argues that The Comedy of Errors expresses a tolerant stance towards religious nonconformity and that the play criticises the exclusions of Puritans by the Church of England.