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205 political background; biographical details. In the case of background and, more particularly, biographical matters, available information is brought to bear on texts and the conclusions drawn then contribute to a more substantial picture of the background and the individual life. This kind of interplay between intra- and extra-textual matters has inherent dangers and judgments will oftem be subjective. In the case of Hrotsvitha's play Agape, Chionia and Hirena (better known as Dulcitius), for example, Dronke finds that the character Hirena, as a weak woman made strong by God's grace, is more or less a projection of Hrotsvitha herself. This dual interpretation of both character and author must remain in the realm of opinion, although here, as throughout the book, Dronke argues with apparent logic and recourse to such factual information as is available to make a plausible case. The serious pitfalls of this kind of judgment are avoided because Dronke tempers enthusiasm with carefulness and makes it clear from the beginning that what is offered is a personal view. The result is a totally readable, fascinating book which will reveal new truths to most of us and greatly encourage further work in this area. Diane P. Speed Department of English University of Sydney John L. Murphy, Darkness and Devils: Exorcism and 'King Lear', Athens and London, Ohio University Press, 1984, pp. x and 267. Darkness and Devils is an interesting book, if not always a lucid one. The interest lies in the author's new reading of King Lear, especially the roles of Edgar, Kent, and Albany; the lack of lucidity can be blamed partly on the range and quantity of the material on which he draws. The material includes well-known sources, and less-known possible sources, of Shakespeare's play; contemporary arguments about the succession to the English throne; details of political and theological differences between Protestants and Catholics, and between different groups of Catholics; alliances and divisions between families and factions in the upper strata of English society; and even dramatic performances by companies of strolling players in Yorkshire during the first decade of the reign of James I. The starting-point for the book is Samuel Harsnett's Declaration of Egregious Popish Impostures (1603), long known as a source of Shakespeare's play. Harsnett's aim was to discredit a well-known series of exorcisms carried out some years earlier by Catholic priests. Murphy, while appreciating the brilliance of 206 Harsnett's satire, and fully agreeing with earlier scholars on the importance of the Declaration as a source of King Lear, believes that Shakespeare resisted Harsnett's interpretation of his material: his own approach to the exorcising priests was more sympathetic. To support this view, Murphy cites a performance of King Lear in a well-known recusant household in Yorkshire at Candlemas, 1610. Sir John Yorke, the head of the family, was if anything inclined towards aggressively pro-Catholic plays: one performed at his house, according to his Protestant neighbours, had a reformed minister carried away on the devil's back. Would Sir John have wanted to see King Lear if it had really reflected the satirical, anti-Catholic approach of Harsnett? The exorcisms in 1585-86 were witnessed by large numbers of people, and evidently converted quite a few to the Church of Rome. Held as they were at such a dangerous time, they must have alarmed the authorities. The arrest, during the latter half of 1586, of Anthony Babington and others (several of whom had been present at the exorcisings) becomes more explicable in this context: they had been mixed up in underground activities which a panicking establishment mistook for systematically subversive ones. There was, Murphy believes, more smoke than fire in the Babington conspiracy and also in later "plots". In reality, Babington and other sufferers probably belonged to that moderate Catholic group which opposed the subversive faction led by Father Persons. Members of the former group may have believed that Mary, Queen of Scots had a better claim to the throne than Elizabeth, and they certainly believed that she - and, later, her son - was first in line of succession to the Protestant queen. But they did not plot to...


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pp. 205-208
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