The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.2078  Tuesday, 28 October 2003

From:           Anthony Burton <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 27 Oct 2003 10:11:12 -0500
Subject: 14.2068 no spirit dares stir
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.2068 no spirit dares stir

I have been following this discussion with the pained fascination of
someone watching security guards remove a deranged, nude, and disorderly
spectator from the stage at a public theatrical performance.  There
seems to be little doubt that there is a great deal of overlapping in
the meanings of "ghost" and "spirit," and that neither one has an
exclusive meaning that excludes the other from being used in the same
sense.  And yes, it is helpful to invoke the King James bible as a
criterion of usage at very much the same time Shakespeare did his

But unless I've missed a key contribution, it seems that no one is
invoking the principal witness, William Shakespeare, that "ghost" really
does mean "spirit" in the broadest of theological senses and isn't just
a Hollowe'en spook.  He uses phrases like "ghostly father" and "ghostly
confessor" repeatedly, when "ghostly" is clearly used in the sense of
"spiritual;" twice in MM, once in 3 Hen VI, and three times in Rom. &
Jul.  And isn't that the obvious reading of "vex not his ghost" at the
end of Lear?

I know people who claim -- convincingly to me -- that they have seen
spirits of the dead (i.e. ghosts).  If their existence was widely
believed in during the 16th-17th centuries, why is it so important to
argue that some people did not believe in them, or urged theological
reasons not to trust them as being free from malign and possible
diabolic influence (and thereby conceding ground to the believers)?

We can turn to Fox News and see evidence of malign and diabolic
influence anytime we like.  But there it is.

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