Below is text from one section of Douglas Galbi’s work, “Sense in Communication.”  This work includes text and images.  Some images may be missing (due to use restrictions) or improperly formatted below.  The full work in pdf format, as well as other text sections, are available at


IV. Mundane Limits of Will in Making Sense


A recent, prominent U.S. exhibition of Chola Bronzes from South India provides striking evidence of human sense.[1]  These bronzes – large, graceful, figurative sculptures – were created for Hindu worship under the Chola dynasty that ruled south India from the eighth to the twelfth centuries G.C.  Some forms of Hindu worship are intimately related to artifacts, actions, and bodily sense:

To honor a Hindu deity, devotees perform ritual worship known as puja.  Comparable to the hospitality one might offer to royalty or a highly esteemed guest, puja includes an elaborate bath, new clothes, jewelry, flowers, incense, lamps, music, food, and water. Hindu worship directs all the senses toward the object of devotion.  Puja involves admiring the fully adorned deity, smelling the incense and flowers, hearing the chiming of bells and the chants of devotees, and tasting food sanctified by the deity [2]

Bronze figures have played an important part in such worship.  Similar artifacts still do today:

Dressing bronze images in silks and adorning them lavishly with jewels and flowers prior to their participation in festival processions is a vital part of worship in south India today - just as it was over a thousand years ago. Since at least the sixth century, priests have ritually bathed the bronze deities in milk, curds, butter, honey, and sugar, followed by water from the Kaveri river; anointed them with fragrant sandalwood paste; draped them in colorful cloth; and shaded them from the sun with canopies during festival processions.[3]

A particular founder or leader did not invent such worship.[4]  Hinduism developed gradually in India over more than 3000 years of Indian civilization. 

      While persons in the U.S. today might calmly admire the beauty of these bronzes and be intrigued by the vitality and sensuousness of Hindu worship, similar artifacts and practices in Western culture have been a source of intense personal and social turmoil.  Nowhere was this more so than in sixteenth and seventeenth century England.  Popular shrines were destroyed and popular religious practices outlawed.  Altars were stripped, and the walls of churches bared and whitened.  Images were returned to churches, and then removed again.  These fitful actions followed orders of successive central authorities, who burned images, books, and persons.  Conflicts over sense in communication stirred great religious and political struggles.

      In sixteenth and seventeenth century England, disentangling words and images in common sense proved much more difficult than changing the physical environment, religious practices, and governing authorities.   Leaders fought vigorously over sensuous practices in religious worship, but in doing so they affirmed the integration of sense across sensory modes.  Many persons incarnated a contentious religious figure in a way that resists resolution into word, image, and significance.   Shakespeare’s theatre, while insistently questioning vision and words, pushed theatre-goers to recognize his characters’ real presence.  A central, recurring pattern of sense – that of another living body – naturally integrates sensory modes and exceeds representation.  Especially in circumstances of uncertainty and anxiety about sensuous choices, this sense of person contributes greatly to the economy of communication.


A. Battles over Common Sense


In the beginning of the sixteenth century, one of the most important shrines in England was Our Lady of Walsingham.  According to a ballad printed about 1496, this shrine originated in the visions of a widowed gentlewoman living in Walsingham in the middle of the eleventh century.[5]   Mary, the mother of Jesus, instructed the gentlewoman to build a replica of the house in which the angel Gabriel had announced to Mary that she would give birth to Jesus.  The gentlewoman employed carpenters to build the house, but they were unable to do so.  However, one morning the house was found to be miraculously constructed from the carpenters’ materials.  A statue of Mary was placed within this “Holy House.”  The statue of Mary, “Our Lady of Walsingham,” subsequently became a prominent object of pilgrimage and veneration.  In 1246, King Henry III had a golden crown made for its head.[6]   By the beginning of the sixteenth century, the statue of Mary was probably crowned, richly clothed, surrounded with burning candles and lustrous silver, gold and jeweled objects, and perfumed with incense.[7] 

      The development of this shrine indicates a more general pattern.  The Holy House of Walsingham was not itself the focus of pilgrim’s attention, but rather the statue of Mary.  Christian shrines throughout Europe predominately emphasize artifacts directly related to the human body, such as figurative sculpture, paintings, and human remains.[8]   Moreover, these shrines predominately concern veneration of Mary, the mother of Jesus.  Among late twentieth-century Christian pilgrimage sites in Western Europe, about two-thirds primarily concern Mary.[9]  Despite what was thought to be the miraculous construction of a replica of Mary’s house, the predominate sense of the Walsingham shrine was that of an adorned statue evoking Mary’s presence. 

      Mary’s presence in Christian shrines significantly enlarges representations of her found in canonical Christian texts.  Among the Christian epistles, some of which were written before the gospels, Mary’s name is not written.[10]  The closest reference to Mary is an adjectival clause describing Jesus “made of a woman, made under the law.”[11]  Mark’s gospel, probably the first gospel written, includes Mary’s name only once – in an astonished questioning of Jesus’ familial and social credentials.[12]  Another passage in Mark directs attention away from Mary’s distinctive physical presence.  With his mother standing outside, Jesus declares that whosoever shall do God’s will is his mother, brother, and sister.[13]  Neither of these passages provides an obvious basis for venerating Mary.  Only Luke’s gospel includes the annunciation of the angel Gabriel to Mary and other key passages characterizing Mary.[14]  The character of Jesus fills the Christian gospels to a greater extent than one character occupies other historically important literature.  Yet the response to the Christian gospels indicates a popular sense that venerating other figures, especially Mary, fosters communication with God.[15]

      The Christian gospels valorize sense that goes beyond words.   The Gospel of John proclaims Christianity with a radically expanded sense of text: “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”[16]   The original ending of Mark’s gospel may have dramatically pointed outside its own text.[17]  To the women who had come to Jesus’ grave, an angel declared that Jesus has been raised from the dead and will be seen again in Galilee.  The text apparently originally ended thus:

Then they [the women] went out and fled from the tomb, seized with trembling and bewilderment.  They said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.[18] 

Yet somehow Jesus was communicated among Christians, who have known the rest of the story since the first Christians.  Both the Gospel of Luke and the Gospel of John explain their text as means to convey vitally important eye-witness testimony, rather than as the word of God that has come to them and that they have recorded.[19]  The Gospel of John also states that texts cannot completely describe Jesus’ life:

There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world could contain the books that would need to be written.[20]

Christians believe that Christian scripture contains all that a person needs to know to have complete joy and the fullness of life, now and forever.  But the Christian gospels do not closely relate sense of communication with God to text.

      In contrast, the Book of Revelation, Christian scripture probably written only a few years after the Gospel of John, explicitly binds to words the sense of God’s communication with humanity.  The Book of Revelation records the Lord instructing its author to “[w]rite in a book what you see [in your vision].”[21]  In this way the text describes its own production as a divine command, rather than leaving to readers or human institutions to recognize the text as an inspired work conveying God’s words.  The author's vision includes the sight of God holding a scroll.[22]  This suggests God's communication with humanity is a transfer of a text.   The scroll is sealed with seven seals.  No man is worthy to read the scroll, but a figure of Jesus is worthy.  Text thus provides a means to identify Jesus.  The figure of Jesus opens the scroll and delivers its message.  This gesture closely ties the message of Jesus to a text.  The Book of Revelation ends with a warning about the boundaries of its text:

If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book.  And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city [23]

The words of the Book of Revelation describe fantastic visual images, and the significance of its words has long puzzled readers.  But there can be no question that the author of the Book of Revelation wanted readers to recognize authority in the communication of words.

      Tension concerning the sense of God’s communication with humanity goes to the beginning of Christianity.  The sense of the mortal human body naturally encompasses much more than words.  Since the development of writing, words have been able to provide eternal signs of sensuously limited authority.  Tension between words and the full sense of the body is deeply related to fundamental Christian beliefs and Christian scripture.  This tension has not prevented Christianity from flourishing.  But by the early sixteenth century, in England and elsewhere, sensuous aspects of Christian practices created extraordinary controversy.[24] 

      One prominent concern was that God was being reduced to a lifeless, if not venal, device.  In a satirical dialogue written by a leading European scholar early in the sixteenth century, a character, speaking often with the author’s knowledge and experience, describes Our Lady of Walsingham thus:

She has the greatest fame throughout England, and you would not readily find anyone in that island who hoped for prosperity unless he greeted her annually with a small gift, according to his means.[25]

Another dialogue describes a priest, who claims to have studied alchemy, preying on a wealthy churchman keen to succeed in alchemy.  The priest “suggested that their business would succeed better if he sent some gold crowns as an offering to the Virgin Mother who, as you know, is venerated at Paralia.”  “Paralia” is an illusion in Greek to the shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham.[26]  The priest takes the money and sets out on pilgrimage.  He goes as far as the next village, where he spends the money “in riotous living.”[27]  While the offering to the Virgin Mary yields no results for the patron’s alchemy, the priest, later caught flagrante delicto in a courtier’s wife’s bedroom, discovered that “the offering that we made to the Virgin Mother was not altogether wasted.”  The priest explained to his patron:

I would certainly have been killed if she had not come to my rescue.  The husband was breaking down the door; the window was too narrow for me to slip through.  In so imminent a danger I thought of the Most Holy Virgin.  I fell on my knees and implored her, if the gift had been acceptable, to help me.  Without further delay I tried the window again – my plight forced me to do so – and found it wide enough for my escape.[28]

Humans have a natural propensity to truck and barter, and a natural propensity to be interested in sex, especially in stories of sex involving priests.  Desires for money and sex undoubtedly were sources of corruption and controversy in early sixteenth-century Christianity.

      But money and sex probably did not make an unusual contribution to popular turmoil in Christian worshipin sixteenth-century England.  There is no evidence of a significant change in the relationship between Christian sensibility and sex in sixteenth-century England. As for money, in 1535 the offerings “in the chapel of the Blessed Virgin Mary” at Walsingham totaled £ 250.[29]  The offerings at Walsingham were more than at any other shrine in England, including the famous shrine of Thomas à Becket.[30]  However, measured by the value of offerings, Our Lady of Walsingham ranked rather low despite her great fame.[31]  The offerings to her amounted to about the income of two knights or six Cambridge professors.[32]  Scaled by per capita income, the offerings at Walsingham are equivalent to $3.7 million in the U.S. in the year 2000.[33]  That figure is about a tenth of the U.S. opening weekend receipts for the movie “Hannibal,” perhaps a fiftieth of the annual U.S. receipts of leading televangelists, and perhaps one-thousandth of annual U.S. telemarketing fraud.[34]  Popular attitudes toward images of Mary and other sensuous aspects of worship probably were only superficially related to sexual and monetary corruption.

      The center of controversy was the sense of words and images in Christians’ communication with God.  Printing technology greatly expanded possibilities for reproducing scripture, and translation of scripture into English meant that many more persons could read it.  The opening of scripture was no longer associated with a particular object in a particular place.  Scripture became accessible everywhere to persons with even minimal learning and motivation.  Some leading Christians began to denounce some aspects of worship as idolatry, superstition, hocus pocus, and ignorance:

some (which is greatly to be regretted) have venerated images to the point of putting their faith in them, being persuaded that they have extraordinary power and holiness, while others have made offerings to images and undertaken long pilgrimages in order to see them, believing that God, thanks to the image, will hear them better in one place than in another[35]

They sought to purify Christianity of doctrines and practices thought not to come from the word of God:

The Romish doctrine concerning purgatory, pardons, worshipping and adoration as well of images as of relics, and also invocation of saints, is a fond thing vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God.[36]

Rejecting what is false or wrong has traditionally and commonly been considered to be an admirable human activity.[37]  Many persons now consider many other Christian beliefs to be superstitious, ignorant, or merely highly imaginative in a way not deserving of respect.  A distinctive feature of sixteenth-century England was that central religious and political authorities associated distinguishing between true and false beliefs with separating the sense of words from other, corrupting senses.[38]  Arguments about beliefs and knowledge became arguments over the sense of communication with God.

      Confining sense to words was a difficult challenge.  It was not enough to call images false gods and to preach proper worship of God.  It was even not enough to present a different view of a venerated statue:

By Cromwell’s order the statue [of Our Lady of Worcester] was stripped of the gaudy trappings in which the mistaken piety of the ignorant people had arrayed her; and lo! It was no image of the Virgin at all, nor of any other female, but the statue of some long-deceased bishop of the diocese!  Superstition was thus laughed to scorn; yet there were some who could not, even by this exposure, be convinced of their folly.  On the eve of the feast of the Assumption of Mary, a citizen of Worcester came up to the figure, which had been the general laughing-stock for some days, and in a voice of strange emotion exclaimed, “Ah, lady, art thou stripped now?  I have seen the day that as clean men had been stripped at a pair of gallows, as were they that stripped thee.”  Then he kisses the image, and turns to the people, and says, “Ye that be disposed to offer, the figure is no worse than it was before.” [39]

This person’s sense defied visual discipline.  What he understood the statue to be shaped what he saw and how he acted.  Stripping the statue did not change his understanding: “the figure is no worse than it was before.”  Mary is a figure written in words of scripture.  But the Assumption of Mary is not described in scripture, nor is making offerings to her.  The sense of both developed over time in a way that could not be easily repressed. 

      In seeking to limit sense of scripture to words, national authorities created elaborate spectacles of idol destruction.  From 1535 to 1538, all Christian pilgrimage shrines in England were destroyed. A contemporary chronicle described one component of this action:

The images of Our Lady of Walsingham and [Our Lady of] Ipswich were brought up to London, with all the jewels that hung about them, at the King’s commandment, and divers other images, both in England and Wales, that were used for common pilgrimages [including famous images of Mary attracting pilgrims to Worcester, Doncaster, and Penrise], because the people should use no more idolatry onto them, and they were burnt at Chelsey by my Lord Privy Sea [Lord Cromwell].[40]

The images of Mary were burned, just like heretics – living persons – were burned.  An expansive sense of these images was affirmed as they were destroyed, not with words, but with flames.

      Another incident connected image and person more directly while bizarrely invoking the authority of words.  A wooden statue of Derfel Gadarn, much honored at his shrine in Northern Wales, was taken to London and burned along with friar John Forest, who had been confessor to Catherine of Aragon and refused to renounce Roman Catholicism.  Burning the statue of Derfel Gadarn along with friar Forest in part enacted a pun on a popular prophecy that Derfel Gadarn would one day set a forest on fire.  Present at the execution of the statue and the friar were an array of dukes, earls, bishops, and a crowd contemporarily estimated at more than ten thousand persons.  Hugh Latimer, who had been chaplain to King Henry VIII and was appointed Bishop of Worcester, preached a sermon from a specially constructed platform before the bonfire.[41]  This elaborate spectacle of destruction indicates lack of confidence in the sense of words alone.

      A confrontation in 1578 between Queen Elizabeth I and an image of Mary, the mother of Jesus, indicates the strength of non-verbal sense.  While traveling, Elizabeth stayed at a recusant’s estate.  As she prepared to leave, a search for a missing piece of royal furnishing discovered an image of Mary hidden in a haystack.  A notoriously anti-Catholic royal agent traveling with Elizabeth reported:

such an image of our Lady was there found, as for greatness, for gayness, and workmanship, I did never see a match; and, after a sort of country dance ended, in her Majesty’s sight the idol was set behind the people, who avoided: She rather seemed a beast, raised upon a sudden from Hell by conjuring, than the Picture for whom it had been so often and long abused.  Her Majesty commanded it to the fire, which in her sight by the country folks was quickly done, to her content, and unspeakable joy of every one but some one or two who had sucked of the idol’s poisoned milk.[42]

Elizabeth was honored with praise, iconography, and ritual similar to that used earlier to honor Mary, the mother of Jesus.[43]  Concern about idolatry focused on images of Mary.  Here the real presence of Elizabeth, full of sense, vanquished an image of Mary. 

      The power of Mary’s image was explicitly acknowledged.  The people avoided the image as if it were itself dangerous.  The iconoclastic royal agent sensed in the image not just a picture but “a beast, raised upon a sudden from Hell by conjuring.”  He also described the danger of sucking the idol’s poisoned milk.  This sensuous figure resonates with paintings of Mary nursing Jesus, venerated relics of the milk of Mary, and stories and paintings of twelfth-century Saint Bernard receiving Mary's breast milk in his mouth.[44]   Those who sought to confine sense to the words of scripture recognized other senses and struggled to repress them.

      Those who asserted the primacy of images no more successfully subordinated words.  A leading English scholar and statesman wrote in 1528:

they agree that the name of Jesus is to be reverenced and had in honor, then since that name of Jesus is nothing else but a word, which by writing or by voice represents onto the hearer the person of our savior Christ, fain would I wit [learn] of these heretics, if they give honor to the name of our lord, which name is but an image representing his person to man’s mind and imagination, why and with what reason can they despise a figure of him carved or painted which represents him and his acts far more plain and more expressly.[45]

Post-modern scholars have produced a deluge of words describing representation.  Just this one clause might cause rapidly spreading semiosis: “that name of Jesus is nothing else but a word, which by writing or by voice represents onto the hearer the person of our savior Christ.”  The same sentence above also indicates that the word is just an epiphenomenon, while the image is the mental representation: “the name of our lord, which name is but an image representing his person to man’s mind and imagination.”  Words, from this perspective, are just means to evoke an image.  This seems like a rather partial and cynical account of the verbal scholarly enterprise.  Surely most scholars seek to do more than just create images.  In sixteenth-century England, scholars who valued artifacts of religious imagery also in practice revered the word of God as a specific text.

      More traditional economic considerations supporting images also became entangled in words.  The same scholar noted that text can be corrupted and portions lost.  According to this scholar, God recognized this problem and provided living law: “and so was it convenient for the law of life rather to be written in the lively minds of men than in the dead skins of beasts.”[46]  Law and writing suggest words.  Persons communicating with each other might pass down through generations words not inscribed in texts, but words communicated in this way probably would be more likely to be corrupted or lost than words conveyed in text.  What is to be communicated thus seems to include an important sense of God not reducible to text.  Other evidence from the author’s text affirms a sense of God evoked by richly detailed and colored, three-dimensional figures.[47]  Yet this sense seems rather distant from the (verbal) metaphor “the law of life…written in the lively minds of men.” 

      Battling to affirm images in early sixteenth-century England, this scholar produced a staggering number of words.  Between 1528 and 1534, he produced perhaps a million printed words in dialogues, answers, and confutations defending Christian practices asserted to be beyond the sense of scripture.[48]  One of his works, written as a dialogue, begins with “a preface of bewilderingly self-conscious fictionality, analysing its own writtenness.”[49]  At first the author thought it enough to have a messenger relay orally the author’s “mind” to his interested friend.  But, thinking more, he recognized that his communication with the messenger had been “so diverse and so long,” and “suchwise intricate that myself could not without labor call it orderly to mind.”[50]  Because some parts of the matter “rather need be attentively read and advised than hoverly [lightly] heard and passed over,” and to insure against the messenger distorting the discussion, the author decided to put the communication in writing.[51]  Thinking further, the author recognized the possibility that adversaries might print and thus widely circulate a corrupt version of his writing.  The author decided to publish a text of his words to help ensure that they would be truly known.[52]  This scholar thus recognized that written and widely reproduced words play a key role in disciplining interpretation of a message and limiting possible distortions of it.

      Given the state of communications technology in early sixteenth-century England, publishing usually meant making public an artifact (book) that had a predominate sense of words.  The Book of Martyrs, however, championed a new/recovered fidelity to the word of God with highly successful use of illustrations and physical heft.  From the first edition in English in 1563 through the ninth edition in 1684, this work, also known as Foxe’s Acts and Monuments, was for its publishers an “unbroken and unqualified success.” About ten thousand copies of the book were sold, making it a best-seller for its time.[53]  Unlike all other major contemporary martyrologies emphasizing a similar sense of scripture, this work included more than fifty woodcut illustrations.  These illustrations were “immediately recognized as one of the book’s most effective and distinctive features.”[54]  The illustrations were enormously influential and became central to the self-understanding of Christianity in England.  The book also contained many words.  The second edition, printed in 1570, consisted of two large volumes, about 2300 pages, and 2.5 million words.[55]  It began with Jesus recognizing a rock upon which to build his church and traced a history of heroic fidelity to God’s words from this beginning to the present.[56]  The book was not structured as a narrative to be read from beginning to end.  Given its heft, the number of persons who have done so has probably been few.  But as a large physical object, the book provided an impressive sense of the solid foundation of the Church of England.[57] 

      Battles over sensuous practices in religious worship affirmed the integration of sense across sensory modes.    Images were not verbally deconstructed – explained into oblivion or by words rendered impotent.  Images were ritually removed and spectacularly destroyed.  Defenses of images and sensuous aspects of worship generated millions of printed words.[58]  Over time, the extent of sensuous stimuli in religious worship was objectively reduced.  Yet the effect was not to reduce sense to words:  “Extremist purifiers, aiming to free believers from the religious clutter that had endangered their forebears, found spiritual meaning in blank walls and silence….”[59]  Finding “spiritual meaning in blank walls and silence” does not imply limited physical capabilities.  It describes the making of a different sense.[60]  Because the nature of the living human body did not change, persons continued to make sense with all the sense of their bodies.


B. What’s in a Name?


Long after the destruction of Christian shrines in England, the sense of worship there endured.  Imagine: at a party, a young man sees dancing a young woman whom he has never before met, a young woman so radiant “she doth teach the torches to burn bright.”  While just moments earlier he had been in no mood for dancing, he immediately decides to take her hand for the next dance, “And, touching hers, make blessed my rude hand.”  Here are the words they speak when they meet:

Romeo [to Juliet]:      If I profane with my unworthiest hand

                                    This holy shrine, the gentle fine is this:

                                    My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand

                                    To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.


Juliet:                          Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much,

                                    Which mannerly devotion shows in this;

                                    For saints have hands that pilgrims' hands do touch,

                                    And palm to palm is holy palmers' kiss.


Romeo:                        Have not saints lips, and holy palmers too?

Juliet:                          Ay, pilgrim, lips that they must use in prayer.

Romeo:                        O, then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do;

                                    They pray, grant thou, lest faith turn to despair.


Juliet:                               Saints do not move, though grant for prayers' sake.

Romeo:                             Then move not, while my prayer's effect I take.[61]      

When this was written, it had been about sixty years since religious pilgrims (“palmers”) had visited the holy shrines of Our Lady of Walsingham and other saints.  There pilgrims touched holy statues, pressed palms together in prayer, and spoke requests to saints who did not move.  Sensuous forms of worship there, long repressed, appear here as figures in flirting between earthly persons.  The next quatrain plays out further this transformation:

Romeo:                        Thus from my lips, by yours, my sin is purged.

Juliet:                          Then have my lips the sin that they have took.

Romeo:                        Sin from thy lips? O trespass sweetly urged!

                                    Give me my sin again.

Juliet:                                                              You kiss by th'book.

This communication is by the book, and not at all by the book.  The senses of image and word are not resolved but enmeshed in the act of kissing.[62] 

      The common sense that encompasses image and word is the real, material presence of a person.  What is the significance of a kiss by the book, a kiss resulting from a dialogue that takes the form of a sonnet?  Juliet impatiently reasons that a name is no part of a person, and offers an extravagant trade for this mere word:

What's Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,

Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part

Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!

What's in a name? that which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet;

So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd,

Retain that dear perfection which he owes

Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,

And for that name which is no part of thee

Take all myself.[63]                             

Yet Juliet yearns to cry out Romeo, not to call the person but to fill the air with that name:

Bondage is hoarse, and may not speak aloud;

Else would I tear the cave where Echo lies,

And make her airy tongue more hoarse than mine,

With repetition of my Romeo's name.[64]

All these words were written for an actor to speak in a play.  Attempting to separate Juliet's name from sounds and images, whether on the stage or in one’s brain, would be as vain as to declare her significance.

      What is true for Juliet is also true for Mary in history.  As recorded in the text of Exodus, Miriam, the Hebrew source for the name Mary, was the name of the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, who led the women of Israel with a timbrel, song, and dance to celebrate the Lord’s triumph at the Red Sea.[65]  Miriam became a popular name among Jewish women in the time of the Second Temple.[66]  In the Christian New Testament, Mary is the most frequent name for a woman and the name of the mother of Jesus.[67]  Some early Christians, such as Mary of Egypt, a fifth-century saint, bore the name Mary.[68]  Mary is the only woman mentioned by name in the Qur’an.  Her name forms the title for surah 19 of the Qur’an.  In this surah she is associated with Aaron’s sister Miriam.[69]  The first documented use in England of Mary as a personal name was at the end of the twelfth century.  About 1350, the share of females named Mary in England was less than 1%.[70]  Among Christians in England prior to the sixteenth century, Mary was remembered and celebrated, not usually in naming persons, but through invoking this name in prayer and venerating Mary at shrines featuring richly decorated statues of her.[71] 

      The battle over common sense in England in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries directly concerned Mary.  In 1534, King Henry VIII repudiated Roman Catholic authority, declared himself head of the Church of England, and deployed royal power to change sensuous practices of religious worship.  All Christian shrines, including that of Our Lady of Walsingham, were destroyed from 1535 to 1538.[72]  A Royal Injunction in 1538 ordered clergy, in one sermon every quarter of the year, to exhort listeners 

not to repose their trust or affiance in any other works devised by men’s fantasies beside Scripture; as in wandering to pilgrimages, offering of money, candles, or tapers to images or relics, or kissing or licking the same, saying over a number of beads, not understood or minded on, or in such-like superstition[73]

Pilgrimages to shrines of Mary, placing lit candles and monetary offerings in front of images of her, saying with the aid of beads a repetitive prayer calling out to Mary, praising Mary, and asking Mary to join with the speaker in prayer (the “Ave Marie” or “Hail Mary”) – all these were popular Christian practices in England at the time of this injunction.  The popular sense of Mary thus became highly controversial.

      Controversy over Mary even spread to the text of the Bible.  In 1560, English exiles in Geneva completed a new English translation of the Bible.  This translation, known as the Geneva Bible, was the most popular bible in England for three-quarters of a century following its publication.[74]  The Geneva Bible came after the Tyndale translation (1525) and the Great Bible (1540), both of which challenged Roman Catholic authority.  Tyndale and the Great Bible translated the angel Gabriel's greeting to Mary as “Hail, full of grace,” echoing the Vulgate's “Ave, gratia plena.”  The Geneva Bible, in contrast, translated the greeting as “Hail, thou that art freely beloved.”[75]  This change emphasized God's choice, rather than Mary's merit.  In the Geneva Bible, an annotation included in a column to the left of the column of scripture explained why God chose Mary: “Not for her merits: but only through God's free mercy, who loved us when we were sinners, that whosoever rejoices, should rejoice in the Lord.”[76]  While Tyndale and the Great Bible translated Elizabeth's praise of Mary as “Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb,” the Geneva Bible translated this verse as “Blessed art thou among women, because the fruit of thy womb is blessed.”  A nearby annotation explained: “He shows the cause why Marie was blessed.”[77]  These new words of scripture and nearby annotations intensified controversy over the sense of Mary.

      The Rheims New Testament of 1582 and a burgeoning polemical literature responded to the Geneva Bible's treatment of Mary.  The Rheims New Testament re-affirmed the pre-Geneva translations of key Marian passages, including “Hail, full of grace.”  In doing so it challenged banning in England the prayer “Ave Marie,” which begins in English “Hail Mary, full of grace.” The Rheims New Testament included annotations emphasizing the merits of Mary and the importance of the prayer “Ave Marie”:

28. Hail full of grace.) Holy Church and all true Christian men do much and often use these words brought from heaven by the Archangel, as well to the honor of Christ and our Blessed Lady, as also for that they were the words of the first glad tidings of Christ's Incarnation and our Salvation by the same, and be the very abridgement and sum of the whole Gospel.  In so much that the Greek Church used it daily in the Mass.

 28. Full of grace.) Note the excellent prerogatives of our Blessed Lady, and abhor those Heretics which make her no better than other vulgar women, and therefore take from her fullness of grace, they say here, Hail freely beloved, contrary to all significations of the Greek Word, which is at the left...[78]

A related polemic in 1582 declared that banning the prayer “Ave Marie” was tantamount to banning (correctly translated) scripture.[79] 

      New polemics and new translations responded to the Rheims New Testament.  Just one year after its publication, a Cambridge professor produced a 607 page response.  This work, which also included marginal notes in Greek and Hebrew, stated:

The salutation of the Virgin may be said still, either in Latin or English, as well as any part of the holy scripture beside; but not to make a popish orison of an angelic salutation.  That we have translated “Hail Mary, freely beloved,” or “that are in high favor,” we have followed the truth of the Greek word, not so denying thereby, but that virgin Mary, of God's special goodness without her merits, as she confesses, was filled with all gracious gifts of the Holy Spirit, as much as any mortal creature might be....[80]

A 1602 edition of the Geneva Bible translates the greeting as “Hail, thou that art freely beloved,” but evidently saw the need to include a new annotation acknowledging the controversy:

It might be rendered word for word, full of favor and grace, and he shows straight after, laying out plainly unto us, what that favor is, in that he says, “The Lord is with thee.” [81]

The King James Bible in 1611 put forward a translation similar to that in popular English translations today: “Hail, thou that art highly favored.”[82]  The King James translation also restored Luke 1:42 to the text in the Rheims translation and in English translations prior to the 1560 Geneva Bible: “Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.”   The King James Bible did not include any interpretive annotations.[83]  In this way it encompassed different possibilities for making sense of these passages.

      While sixteenth-century polemics analyzed these passages as a matter of philology, these passages are deeply entangled in the life of Mary and in the lives of subsequent Christians.  The earliest texts of Luke's gospel are written in Greek.  Mary was a young, poor, Hebrew woman.  She probably neither understood Greek nor spoke Greek.  In communicating with the angel Gabriel, or in recounting what happened, Mary would have spoken Hebrew or Aramaic.  Christian scripture, which Christians understand to be the inspired word of God, records Gabriel's spoken greeting in Greek translation.  Understanding even just what is generally translated as “hail” requires dramatic sense and knowledge of the rest of the story:

The word the angel uses is chaire – the common Greek form of greeting, certainly.  But if the Hebrew source used by Luke had had the ordinary Jewish form of greeting, shalom, “peace”, he would very likely have translated it by the corresponding Greek word eirene.  Instead he used chaire – and, we are told further, Mary was troubled “and thought by herself what manner of salutation this should be.” ... On the lips of the angel chaire is not merely a simple greeting – indeed, it would seem absurd if he introduced his tremendous mission of announcing the birth of the divine Saviour of the world with words corresponding to “Good moring” or “How do you do?”  In the narrative of the Annunciation chaire retains the full force of its original meaning “Rejoice” – and this is how it is used in the great messianic prophecies of the Old Testament...[Zeph. 3:14, Joel 2:21, Zech. 9:9].[84]

“Hail” is a non-semantic marker of recognition typically preceding communication.  “Rejoice” is a call to celebration.  Christians believe that recognizing Jesus is the sure way to God, and that Jesus coming to be with humanity is reason for celebration.  The words of the greeting play across this sense of Christian life.

      In sixteenth-century English life, Mary had another, rather different, but also highly distinguished referent.  Queen Mary I, who reigned from 1553 to 1559, was the first female to be crowned ruler of England in her own right.  Mary struggled to turn England back to Catholicism after her father, Henry VIII, had repudiated Roman Catholic authority.  She married Philip I of Spain, a Catholic king with little respect for the nascent English Parliament.  She repealed Protestant legislation and burned about 300 persons as heretics.  This Mary, queen not of heaven but of England, was a polarizing figure, known by her many detractors as “Bloody Mary.” 

      Subsequent political developments contributed to tension between Catholics, who stressed the importance of Mary in Christian life, and Anglicans and other Christian communities, who sought to confine sense to the words of scripture.  Elizabeth I, who succeeded Mary I, supported the Church of England and Protestant forces in Scotland and continental Europe.  She had Mary, Queen of Scots, beheaded for conspiring with Catholics to overthrow her reign.  Elizabeth I’s supporters applied words and iconography that had developed in devotion to Mary, the mother Jesus, to Elizabeth.  Elizabeth was a virgin queen.  Elizabeth was the mother of the people.[85] 

      High political conflict continued after Elizabeth I’s reign ended.  When Elizabeth died in 1603, James I became king.  On November 5, 1605, Guy Fawkes and four other Catholic radicals were caught attempting to blow up the House of Lords and kill King James.  This day thus became marked as “Guy Fawkes Day,” celebrations of which often involved burning the Pope in effigy.  Tensions continued with Charles I’s marriage to a French Catholic princess (1625), the English Civil War and the establishment of a Commonwealth lead by the Puritan Oliver Cromwell (1649-58), the English colonization of largely Catholic Ireland, the Restoration of Charles II (1660), the ascension of the Catholic James II (1685), and William of Orange and Mary II overthrowing James II and becoming co-sovereigns to protect Protestantism in England (1689).

      In these circumstances of acute anxiety about the name Mary, parents named a much larger share of their girls Mary.  Prior to 1535, the share of females in England named Mary probably did not exceed 3%.[86]  The share of females named Mary probably rose slightly before Mary I ascended to the throne in 1553.  The share of females named Mary at least doubled during the reign of Mary I, and then fell sharply when Elizabeth I succeeded Mary I in 1558.  By the 1580s, while learned polemicists were arguing about the translation of key Marian verses and Elizabeth was reigning over a prospering England, the share of females named Mary rose to the level reached under Mary I's rule.  Despite continuing religious tension among Catholics, Anglicans, and other Christian communities, and no resolution of the significance of Mary, the share of females named Mary kept rising.  At the end of eighteenth century, 24% of females in England were named Mary.  Among parents who had a least one daughter, about 32% had a daughter named Mary.[87] 

Table 2

Share of Females Named Mary


All of England

Warwick County

Birth Years



Birth Years





































































      What is the significance of this development?  Perhaps the turn to the name Mary signifies the importance of Mary, the mother of Jesus, in popular religion, and represents a reaction from below to central authorities’ suppression of Marian devotion.  Perhaps the rapid growth in the use of the name Mary signifies desacrilization of the name Mary, which earlier in England may have been considered too holy for more than 1% of females to use as their names.  About 1580, when the name Mary increased in popularity relatively rapidly, Elizabeth was the most popular name, Elizabeth I was the queen, and Elizabeth I was being celebrated with words and images drawn from veneration of Mary, the mother of Jesus.[88]  Perhaps Queen Elizabeth pushed the significance of the name Mary close to that of the name Elizabeth, and hence boosted the popularity of Mary.  All these significations may have been significant.  Together they represent a complex, multiple, and ambiguous explanation for the rise in the share of females named Mary.

      The sense of this change, however, is more impressive than this now-standard style of explanation in the humanities.  Personal names are economic; they are regularly used in the human interactions that make up everyday human life.  About 1650, persons in England on average spoke and heard the name Mary about fifteen times more frequently than they did about 1500.  The significations of the name Mary in 1650 were much more complex, ambiguous, and anxiety-inducing than the significations of the name Mary had been a century and a half earlier.  Yet significations of the name Mary are not the full sense of that name.  The sense of the name Mary includes the sense of the presence of the persons who respond to the use of that name.  Popular incarnation of the name Mary historically followed fractures and tensions in its significance.

      A person by any other name is still present, or absent.  In England on February 5, 1511, John Alexander Webb, a landowner, a supporter of the Catholic Church, and a ranking officer in King Henry VIII’s army, celebrated the birth of a daughter named Mary.[89]  John, his wife, and many other English persons at that time would have said the “Ave Marie,” read books containing legends about Mary and her family, seen images of Mary decorating churches and other special places, attended festivals on days officially designated to honor Mary’s life, and made pilgrimages to Marian shrines, especially Our Lady of Walsingham.   It would be silly to think that this daughter represented Mary, the mother of Jesus, to John, his wife, and to those others who knew this Mary.  Yet statues, dressed in lavish costumes and expensive jewels, evoked among many persons a sense of another Mary.  A real person named Mary evokes a sense of Mary, too.

      In one line of Mary’s family, the name Mary, like images and invocations of Mary, was not perpetuated across the sixteenth century.  John’s daughter Mary had eight girls.  Mary’s husband was a member of two religious fraternities,[90] and Mary, the mother of Jesus, was probably an important figure in the activities of these fraternities.  Mary’s youngest daughter, born about 1540, was also named Mary.[91]  Hence she was named Mary about the time of dramatic national action to obliterate images and invocations of Mary.   Mary married a man from a nearby town where Mary, the mother of Jesus, figured prominently in the guild that ran the town and in the decoration of its church.[92]  Under royal orders, Mary’s husband in 1563 effaced at least one large image of Mary in the church.[93]  Across 1558 to 1571, Mary had four daughters of her own.  None of these daughters, however, was named Mary.  Instead, the daughters received traditional English names (Joan, Margaret, Ann), with the third-born daughter apparently named in memory of the first, who probably died young.  Mary also had four sons, who also received traditional English names (William, Richard, Edmund) and one more unusual name (Gilbert) that may have come from a wealthy godparent.[94]  Mary’s first grandchild, a girl, was born in 1583 to Mary’s oldest son William, age 17, and his wife of six months, Ann.  Their baby girl was named Susanna.  This was an unusual name.[95]  Three girls in their town received that name in that year, one a year earlier, and two more about seven years earlier.  No other instance of the name Susanna is recorded all the way back to 1558 in Stratford-upon-Avon, the place where this couple, Ann Hathaway and her husband William Shakespeare, lived.[96]

      Shakespeare and many others living in late sixteenth century England could hardly have avoided the sense of Mary entangled in confusion and tension of word, image, and person.[97]   For the population over-all, the changing and troubling sense of Mary led to an increasing share of females named Mary.  While the significance of this change defies compelling representation, this change undoubtedly meant more persons understood themselves to be Mary and to know Mary.  An important part of the genius of Shakespeare was to generalize the problem of Mary in his time.  Questions about sense of person that Mary so vigorously evoked became media by which Shakespeare communicated life.


C. Epiphany, or What You Will


In 1966, x-ray imaging of a portrait inscribed “Willm Shakespeare 1609” revealed that it was painted over an image of Mary with the child Jesus and John the Baptist.[98]  The images are on a relatively small elm panel.[99]  The image of Mary was probably painted early in the sixteenth century, or perhaps in the second half of the fifteenth century.  The style seems to be of central Italian origin.  The overlaid portrait of Shakespeare has been commonly thought to be an eighteenth-century forgery visually inspired by the engraved portrait of Shakespeare on the title page of the First Folio of 1623.  The artifact’s well-attested history dates only to 1892, and its reported provenance extends only to 1840.[100]  Since portraits claimed to be of Shakespeare, like persons asserted to be Shakespeare, are wearyingly numerous, one might despair of engaging reason or faith.  Instead of struggling to make sense of this doubled image, one might be tempted just to play with words: “Reader look, Not on his Picture, but his Book.”[101] 

      The full sense of what Shakespeare communicates requires, however, appreciation for the living human person in a way that goes beyond words or discourse.  Shakespeare had a human face.  Scientific knowledge developed in the field of law enforcement for identifying human faces indicates that the portrait inscribed “Willm Shakespeare 1609” is an authentic portrait of him.[102]  As a living human person, Shakespeare was vulnerable to disease.  To an attentive eye informed by the best current medical expertise, images of Shakespeare suggest that he suffered from a disorder of the lacrimal glands, a fine caruncular tumor in the left eye, and a disease indicated on the forehead.  These diseases appear in the portrait “Willm Shakespeare 1609.”[103]  Overall, the evidence suggests that this portrait depicts William Shakespeare towards the end of his life.

      This portrait, painted over an image of Mary, evokes a sense of presence that is central to Shakespeare’s creative work.  Under royal orders, Shakespeare’s father whitewashed Christian images in the Guild Chapel in Stratford in 1563, including an image of Mary.[104]  Shakespeare’s father made a “Spiritual Last Will and Testament” in the form written by Charles Borromeo, the Cardinal Archbishop of Milan.[105]  Shakespeare’s father may have acquired and preserved a small Italian image of Mary and passed it on to his oldest son, William.  Towards the end of his life, William may have decided to preserve this outlawed image, or to bring it to life, with his own portrait.[106]  Perhaps this is all just imagined.  Yet the problem of Mary in sixteenth-century England concerned imagination – the relation of images to words and life.  This concern is central to Shakespeare’s art.

      In his plays, Shakespeare explored extensively the sense of a player, a shadow, a mere picture, or a real, living character.  Consider Proteus, a protean male, wooing Silvia in the presence of the disguised Julia, to whom Proteus had offered his hand as a sign of his “true constancy”:

      Proteus                  Madam, if your heart be so obdurate,

                                    Voochsafe me yet your picture for my love,

                                    The picture that is hanging in your chamber.

                                    To that I’ll speak, to that I’ll sigh and weep;

                                    For, since the substance of your perfect self

                                    Is else devoted, I am but a shadow,

                                    And to your shadow will I make true love.


Julia [aside]    If’twere a substance, you would, sure, deceive it.

                                    And make it but a shadow, as I am.


Silvia               I am very loath to be your idol, sir.

                                    But, since your falsehood shall become you well

                                    To worship shadows and adore false shapes,

                                    Send to me in the morning, and I’ll send it.[107]

The substance of Silvia’s “perfect self” is her love.  Proteus declares that, without this love, he becomes a shadow like Silvia’s picture.  But falsely given love also makes persons into shadows, as the “true-devoted pilgrim” Julia bitingly remarks to the audience.[108]  Silvia equates herself with her picture in her loathing to be an idol.  Yet recognizing that her picture is a shadow, Silvia finds it appropriate for a shadow to love a shadow.  

      Shadows in Shakespeare are associated with players.  Macbeth, despondent upon news of his wife’s death, sighs, “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player / That struts and frets his hour upon the stage….”[109]   Watching a play of some “hempen homespuns,” “rude mechanicals,” one fairy exclaims, “This is the silliest stuff that ever I heard.”[110]  Another fairy responds, “The best in this kind are but shadows; and the worst are no worse, if imagination amend them.”[111]  With this speech, the actors move to the position in the theatre of those present, watching and hearing on the stage shadows, shadows who are yet able to take a place among those in the surrounding crowd. 

      A player is more than a picture, but even such a shadow can evoke the sense of a person.  Giving her picture to Julia, who is disguised as a page, Silvia declares:

Go, give your master this.  Tell him from me,

One Julia, that his changing thoughts forget,

Would better fit his chamber than this shadow.[112]

The second sentence might be paraphrased as “Tell him, that fickle man, that he should have Julia in his bedroom, not a picture of me.”  The actual utterance pushes together the two terms in each of these pairs:  “me” (Silvia) and “One Julia” (a unified sense of Julia); Julia and a picture of Julia (that to “fit his chamber”); and the actor playing Silvia and the picture of Silvia (“this shadow”).  These three pairs indicate a shifting sense of presence.  Just after Silvia exits, Julia measures herself against the picture of Silvia:

Here is her picture.  Let me see – I think

If I had such a tire, this face of mine

Were full as lovely as is this of hers;

And yet the painter flattered her a little,

Unless I flatter with myself too much.

Her hair is auburn, mine is perfect yellow –

If that be all the difference in his love,

I’ll get me such a colored periwig.

Her eyes are grey as glass, and so are mine.

Ay, but her forehead’s low, and mine’s as high.

What should it be that he respects in her

But I can make respective in myself

If this fond Love were not a blinded god?[113]

The comparison ends with Julia recognizing that Proteus’s love is shaped by more than sight.  Despondent, Julia addresses herself like someone reduced to a picture, or a player:

Come, shadow, come and take this shadow up,

For ‘tis thy rival.  O thou senseless form,

Thou shalt be worshipped, kissed, loved, and adored!

And, were there sense in his idolatry,

My substance should be statue in thy stead.

I’ll use thee kindly for thy mistress’ sake,

That used me so; or else, by Jove I vow

I should have scratched out your unseeing eyes

To make my master out of love with thee.[114]

Julia’s anger echoes the anger of those who exposed and burned adored statues of Mary.  Mixed with this anger is confusion of sense.  Julia wants her substance to be like that of an image (“statue”).  She considers defacing the picture’s “unseeing eyes” even though she recognized only a few moments earlier the limits of appearances (Proteus’s love is “a blinded god”).  Her iconoclastic impulse is diffused by a mundane epiphany of human communication: her sense of Silvia’s kindness toward her. 

      Many persons sense in Shakespeare’s plays the real presences of persons.[115]   Although Julia doesn’t represent anyone, everyone knows or has been Julia.  Her intertwining of sense is our sense of her, and our sense of ourselves in experiences of relationships with others.  Shakespeare’s Hamlet, or Hamlet’s Shakespeare, has been called, after Jesus, “the most cited figure in Western consciousness.”[116]  A vast number of persons recognize him, and remember him.  In Shakespeare, there are many others, less often encountered, but no less impressive in an encounter. 

      Consider the position of Mary and associated symbols and practices of communication in Shakespeare’s work.[117]  Shakespeare tends to choose names to supplement the development of plot and character.[118]  That Hamlet and his father are both named Hamlet helps to characterize the young Hamlet’s anxiety about his father and his mother.  That Shakespeare own son was named Hamlet is probably no more significant than that Shakespeare’s mother, and her mother’s mother, were named Mary.[119]  Shakespeare did not nurture any character named Mary.  One named Marina is a model of virtue, innocence and purity.[120]  Another named Mariana confronts evil with steadfast love, great mercy, and a humble but intense desire for the ordinary joys of life.[121]  Marina and Mariana have a sense close to Mary, but they do not encompass developments in sixteenth-century England. 

      Two other characters in Shakespeare’s oeuvre are named Maria.  Maria is recognized today as the Latin form of the name Mary.  In late sixteenth-century England, the prayer “Ave Maria” was also called the “Ave Marie,” and Marie was the usual form of the name Mary.[122]  Thus Maria and Mary were very close in sense as names.[123]  One Maria in Shakespeare’s plays is witty but not distinctively developed.[124]  But the other Maria is a foil to Mary, the mother of Jesus, in a way that provides fundamental insight into sense of presence. 

      This Maria has a secondary position in Twelfth Night, or What You Will.[125]  Scholarly discussion has for the most part overlooked her.[126]  She does not engage in cross-dressing and shows no signs of bi-sexuality.  Productions of the play have often failed to enact her faithfully.  She tends to be played as a lusty, spirited maid, naturally superior intellectually, morally, and emotionally to Sir Toby and Sir Andrew, usual male comic characters.   In short, Maria is played as a typical contemporary woman in typical circumstances.  Maria thus becomes just another minor character in a celebration of the Life Force:

As I attempt to peer into the heart, mind, and even soul of this play at this time in my life, I see, more than anything else, a celebration of the Life Force in all of us. I feel an active and energetic exploration of Love.  And I sense the irrepressible energy of a garage rock n' roll band.[127]

This keen sense of the play as a whole is also an apt, common sense of its characters, modulated to their individual tones.  But not Maria.

      Maria in Twelfth Night is different from a life force that irrepressibly manifests itself.  She consistently acts as an instrument to convey information or instructions, assert rules, or to explain or work devices.  Maria is a gentlewoman serving the head of the house, Countess Olivia.  In her first lines in the play, Maria speaks to Toby, to whom she later becomes married:

By my troth, Sir Toby, you must come in earlier o’ nights.  Your cousin, my lady, takes great exceptions to your ill hours.

In her first lines in her next entrance, she addresses the clown:

Nay, either tell me where thou hast been, or I will not open my lips so wide as a bristle may enter in way of thy excuse.  My lady will hang thee for thy absence.

Her next spoken entrance is this:

What a caterwauling do you keep here? If my lady have not called up her steward Malvolio and bid him turn you out of doors, never trust me.

When Malvolio is under the delusion that Countess Olivia loves him, Maria urges Fabian and Toby to “pursue him now, lest the device take air and taint.”  If in tormenting Malvolio they should make him “mad indeed,” then, according to Maria, “The house will be the quieter.”  Since Toby is the primary source of raucous revelry, and one that Malvolio had been attempting to quiet, “quieter” here suggests less conflict between Maria and Malvolio as rival governing authorities in Olivia's house.[128]  

      While Maria regularly invokes Olivia’s authority, she does so in pursuing her own objectives without respect for conventional authority.  Maria, who is unmarried, is having an illicit affair with Toby,[129] who has a solid social position, but lacks important characteristics of a good husband.[130]  When Toby directs Andrew’s sexual desire toward Maria, she implies that sex with her requires a payment.[131]   Maria herself devised and proposed the scheme to humiliate Malvolio.  Upon seeing the effects of her scheme, she exults, “I have dogged him like his murderer.”[132]  Maria is “truly malicious” in a logical, instrumental way.[133]  What she wills fully explains what she does.[134]  She offers no sense of presence, no epiphany of person.  She is a lifeless device.

      Maria’s smallness is repeatedly indicated.  Viola, speaking to Olivia, refers to Maria sarcastically as “your giant.”[135]  Toby, with affectionate irony, refers to her as “Penthesilea,” the queen of a legendary tribe of large women.  Toby also refers to her as a “beagle” (a small dog), “youngest wren” (a small bird), and “the little villain.”  Malvolio metaphorically figures her as a small crow in a figure of speech that does not depend on the size of the bird.  Maria’s physical stature has no significance for the action or relationships in the play.  The repeated references to her small stature indicate more generally the smallness of her person.

      By the end of the play, Maria is reduced to a blank.  Maria is silently present while the tormented Malvolio, locked up in darkness, pitifully cries for help in the penultimate scene of Act 4.[136]  With her last words in the play, Maria there notes that the clown might have tormented Malvolio without the curate’s disguise that she urged upon him, for “He sees thee not.”  In the long, ending scene of Act 5, all the named characters appear, except Maria, and perhaps Valentine, one of the Duke’s gentlemen.  Fabian even deceitfully erases Maria’s own willed actions:

Most freely I confess myself and Toby

Set this device against Malvolio here,

Upon some stubborn and uncourteous parts

We had conceived against him.  Maria writ

The letter, at Sir Toby’s great importance,

In recompense of whereof he hath married her.[137]

While Fabian’s deception may indicate only his own perverted idea of masculinity, perpetuating the deception is in Maria’s interest, even as it further diminishes her person.  Toby’s motive for marrying Maria indicates the gift that is her person: “I could marry this wench for this device….And ask no other dowry with her but such another jest.”[138]  Toby marrying Maria “in recompense” for her device has no place in the mad, vital love and coupling of the final act.

      Maria in part represents technology, economics, bureaucracy, and “masculine rationalism.”[139]  Influential critics in the sixteenth century argued that Mary had become a device that individuals and the institutional church exploited.[140]  True love is not a device.  England in the second half of the sixteenth century experienced rapid commercial development that depended significantly on personal relationships.[141]  Pure friendship is threatened by the pursuit of material profit.  Then, as now, one might lament persons seeking to control and manipulate the world to produce goods with their own hands.  But many persons, female and male, need to do such work to keep themselves alive.  Others enjoy contributing to the progress of science and technology, or building organizations and productive capacity.  Human flourishing, and mad, vital love, does not come from attempting to purge life of technology, economics, bureaucracy, rationalism, or males.  While technology, bureaucracy, and other forms of instrumental rationality do not contribute to sense of presence, they are valuable mechanics of life.

      While Maria is absent at the end of the play, she contributes significantly to its development.  Maria's device initiates and organizes a main thread of the play – the toppling of Malvolio.  Less often recognized is Maria's contribution to Olivia's development.  Editors and directors consistently assume, despite a contrary textual indication, that attendants other than Maria are present at Olivia's first meeting with Viola, who then is disguised as Orsino's messenger Cesario.  This meeting begins with Olivia, the head of the household, ordering, “Let him approach.  Call in my gentlewoman.”  Maria enters, and then Viola enters. Viola then queries, “The honorable lady of the house, which is she?”  Viola's inability to distinguish between Maria and Olivia, whom just earlier the clown had repeatedly and ironically called “good madonna,” is an important starting point for Olivia's development.[142]  Editors and directors obscure this starting point by placing other female attendants in this meeting.[143]  Viola's inability to distinguish between Maria and Olivia contributes to the evolving contrast between Maria and Olivia and between Mary as a device and Mary as a paragon of Christian life.

      Olivia undergoes extraordinary humiliation before she realizes love and re-asserts the institutional order of the house.  Olivia falls madly in love with Viola, disguised as Orsino's messenger Cesario.  Consider the extent of Olivia’s abjection:

Viola                            And so adieu, good madam.  Never more

                                    Will I my master's tears to you deplore.

Olivia                          Yet come again; for thou perhaps mayst move

                                    That heart which now abhors to like his love.

Olivia knows she will never like Orsino's love, yet she cannot accept never for her own, more outrageous suit.  Olivia has declared to Cesario, “I love thee so that...Nor wit nor reason can my passion hide.”[144]  After Cesario has emphatically rejected her, “Yet come again” is utter groveling. 

      Even more humiliating to Olivia are events in the final scene.  Olivia has arranged a quick marriage between herself and Sebastian, Viola's twin, whom she mistakes for Cesario.  After Olivia decisively rejects Orsino's love, she sees Cesario follow Orsino away from her.  Cesario explains where he is going thus:

After him I love

More than I love these eyes, more than my life,

More, by all mores, than e'er I shall love wife.

Olivia angrily sputters, “Ay me detested! how I am beguiled!”  She pleads pitifully, “Wither, my lord? Cesario, husband, stay.”[145]  At the beginning of the play, proud Countess Olivia had abjured the company of men and resolved to mourn for seven years in seclusion her brother's death.[146]  A mere messenger-boy causes all that pride and pretense to be stripped from her.

      The audience might recognize here the work of Mary's god.  They might sing with her:

He has shown might with his arm,

dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.

He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones

but lifted up the lowly.

The hungry he has filled with good things;

the rich he has sent away empty.[147]

Yet, “most wonderful”: Sebastian appears with Viola present.  “An apple cleft in two is not more twin / Than these two creatures.”[148]  With this epiphany, Olivia pivots again:

Will transformation.  Oh be inspired for the flame

in which a Thing disappears and bursts into something else;

the spirit of re-creation which masters this earthly form

loves most the pivoting point where you are no longer


Rather than running to Sebastian or even just crying out to him, Olivia instead focuses on doing justice.  She orders that the captain who rescued Viola be freed, that Malvolio be brought before her, and that his letter be read.  After hearing Malvolio’s testimony, she strongly affirms his position in the household order.  She tells him, in the presence of the others:

This practice hath most shrewdly passed upon thee;

But when we know the grounds and authors of it,

Thou shalt be both the plaintiff and the judge

Of thine own cause.[150]

In contrast to Maria, Olivia grows in the course of the play to become an extraordinary presence.[151]  By the last scene, she encompasses passion and institutional rule. 

      The epilogue of Twelfth Night replaces the extraordinary presence of Olivia with the ordinary presence of persons beyond the stage.  The clown sings:

When that I was and a little tiny boy,

    With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,

A foolish thing was but a toy,

    For the rain it raineth every day.


But when I came to man's estate,

    With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,

'Gainst knaves and thieves men shut their gate,

     For the rain it raineth every day.


But when I came, alas, to wive,

     With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,

By swaggering could I never thrive,

     For the rain it raineth every day.


But when I came unto my beds,

     With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,

With toss-pots still had drunken heads,

     For the rain it raineth every day.


A great while ago the world begun,

     With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,

But that's all one, our play is done,

     And we'll strive to please you every day.[152]

All but the last couplet sings universal human history.  In the last couplet, nature’s grinding on the “hey, ho” spirit is blithely dismissed, “I” is abruptly transformed into “we,” and history becomes just trying to please you every day.  Shakespeare’s epilogues typically recognize the presence of the audience and place them in the conclusion of the play.  This epilogue evokes and conjoins a universal pattern of life and a specific, mundane activity.  That is the same process by which a living human body makes sense of presence.

      The last scene of The Winter’s Tale also demonstrates that making sense of presence goes beyond will, objects, and symbols.  In that scene, Paulina, Leontes, and Perdita stand before the statue of Hermione, the wife that Leontes killed and the mother that Perdita never had the chance to meet.[153]  Perdita, who had been “standing like stone,” speaks to those present, and then to the statue:

                                    And give me leave,

And do not say ‘tis superstition, that

I kneel and then implore her blessing. Lady,

Dear queen, that ended when I but began,

Give me that hand of yours to kiss.[154]

Perdita sought only to look upon the statue of her mother, yet here she cannot help but act like a pilgrim before the image of Our Lady of Walsingham – outrageous and impossible action in early seventeenth-century England.  Perdita’s sense of presence defies the mere representation before her:  “The eye of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not seen, man’s hand is not able to taste, his tongue to conceive, nor his heart to report, what my dream was.”[155] 

      Yet Paulina makes sense of the statue in an even more dramatic way.  She offers to animate the statue, under these conditions:

It is required

You do awake your faith. Then all stand still

The conditions are fulfilled: all wake up and become still, and then the statue moves.  It silently embraces Leontes and “hangs about his neck.”[156]  Then Paulina, seeking to prompt the statue to speak, says:

                                    Mark a little while.

Please you to interpose, fair madam.  Kneel 

And pray your mother’s blessing. Turn, good lady;

Our Perdita is found.

“Mark a little while” is addressed to the whole group.  “Kneel / And pray your mother’s blessing.” is addressed to Perdita.  What Perdita prays is not written, but in early sixteenth-century England, Christians would have associated  “pray your mother’s blessing” with saying the prayer “Ave Marie.”  “Please you to interpose, fair madam,” like “Turn, good lady; / Our Perdita is found,” seems to be addressed to Hermione.  Hermione then speaks, responding like Christians in England had earlier understood Mary to do.  She interposes between Perdita and the gods and implores from the gods a blessing for Perdita:

You gods, look down,

And from your sacred vials pour your graces

Upon my daughter’s head!

In asking for this blessing, Hermione blesses Perdita with sense of her real presence.  Hermione, in turn, explains that what gave her the strength to endure for sixteen years had been the promise of Perdita's presence:

            for thou shalt hear that I,

Knowing by Paulina that the oracle

Gave hope thou wast in being, have preserved

Myself to see the issue.

Sense of presence here is a hope and a blessing, neither of which just will and particular objects can produce.

      This insight into sense of presence provides deeper appreciation for Hindu religious practices.  Hindus consider religious images to be capable of animation.  Hindus sense such images to be alive:

For many centuries, most Hindus have taken it for granted that the religious images they place in temples and home shrines for purposes of worship are alive.  They believe these physical objects, visually or symbolically representing particular deities, come to be infused with the presence or life or power of those deities.  Hindu priest are able to bring images to life through a complex ritual “establishment” that invokes the god or goddess into its material support.  Priests and devotees then maintain the enlivened image as a divine person through ongoing liturgical activity; they must awaken it in the morning, bathe it, dress it, feed it, entertain it, praise it, and eventually put it to bed at night.  They may also petition it, as a divine being, to grant them worldly benefits and liberation from all suffering.[157]

An anthropologist has argued that this sense of Hindu religious images is similar to the sense of images in other circumstances:

Hindu priests and worshipers are not the only ones to enliven images.  Bringing with them differing religious assumptions, political agendas, and economic motivations, others may animate the very same objects as icons of sovereignty, as polytheistic “idols,” as “devils,” as potentially lucrative commodities, as objects of sculptural art, or as symbols for a whole range of new meanings never foreseen by the images’ makers or original worshipers.[158]

However, in contrast to Hindus’ sense of a living presence in their religious images, these other objects have a sense like that of Maria in Twelfth Night.  A lucrative commodity represents monetary value, while sense of a living person cannot be limited to particular representations.  An object of sculptural art, an icon, or symbol, understood as such, sends a message, while sense of presence is not any particular message.[159]  As Shakespeare’s plays so powerfully demonstrate, sense of presence is an epiphany that you cannot will.


[1] The exhibit, “The Sensuous and the Sacred: Chola Bronzes from South India,” was organized by the American Federation of Arts and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.  It opened at the Sackler Gallery, then traveled to the Dallas Museum of Art, and finished at the Cleveland Museum of Art (July 6, 2003 through Sept. 14, 2003). An online presentation related to the exhibit is available at

[2] “The Sensuous and the Sacred,” online presentation, under links “Practice: Hinduism in India and America,” “Ritual Adornment.”

[3] Id.

[4] A poster in the exhibit described Hindus’ beliefs thus:

Hindus believe that God is a single being worshipped in multiple name and forms, in keeping with their view of the infinite as a diamond of innumerable sparkling facets with one facet appealing to an individual more forcefully than another.  The fact then that one Hindu may worship the God Vishnu, for example, does not negate the validity of other facets, such as Shiva, Durga Ganesha, the prophet Muhammed, or even Christ.  Multiplicity is as natural to Hindus as singularity is to monotheists.

There are many online sources of information about Hinduism, e.g. and

[5] The ballad is known as the Pynson Ballad.  My source for the subsequent account is Hall (1966) pp. 104-6, which describes the ballad.

[6] Id. p. 112.

[7] On the embellishment of images in Europe, see Erasmus, “A Pilgrimage for Religion’s Sake” (1526) at Thompson (1997) pp. 629, 638-40, Camille (1989) pp. 225-7, Freedberg (1989) pp. 244-5, and Nolan and Nolan (1989) pp. 213-4.  In 1451, the prior and chaplain in Carlisle, England, resolved to decorate a local statue of Mary:

inflamed by the zeal of pious devotion, [we] have resolved and wish, with the aid of God’s grace, to cover and adorn the image or statue of the glorious Virgin with silver plates, decorated with gold, jewels, rings and many other precious ornaments, to the praise of God and the increase of veneration, glory and honour of the aforesaid glorious Virgin, and also to ignite the devotion of the Christian faithful, by some ingenious and costly work.

Quoted in Webb (2000) p. 105.  Id. pp. 197-8, also describes gifts of jewels and clothing that wealthy persons bequeathed to various images of Mary, including Our Lady of Walsingham.

[8] Nolan and Nolan (1989), ch. 6.

[9] Id, p. 116-7.  This statistics is from a survey of Lutheran, Anglican, and Catholic pilgrimage sites.

[10] Paul’s first epistle to the Thessalonians, one of the earliest epistles, was probably written early in the 50s G.C.  Mark’s gospel, generally thought to be the first gospel written, was probably written in the early 60s G.C.  Luke's gospel, which provides the most detail about Mary, was probably written 80-90 G.C.

[11] Galations 4:4.   

[12] Mark 6:3.

[13] Mark 3:31-35.  From a Christian perspective, Mary did God’s will in a magnificent way. 

[14] Luke 1:26-56,  2:5-19, 34-35, 41-51,3:23-38.  Luke’s gospel probably had Mark’s gospel as a written resource.

[15] There is little evidence of Mary’s importance to Christians before the beginning of the fifth century G.C.  This is not strong evidence about the history of Marian devotion.  Mary might have a major figure in Christianity before then, or she might not have been.  The importance of Mary was clearly recognized at the Council of Ephesus (431 G.C.), which proclaimed her “Mother of God.”  Prior to the Edict of Milan (313 G.C.), persecution of Christians gave them an incentive to avoid creating widespread, enduring artifacts of popular devotion.  The earliest existing image of Mary dates to about 200 G.C.  It is in the catacomb of Priscilla, on the web at 

[16] John 1:14.

[17] Moloney (2002) ch. IX.

[18] Mark 16:8.

[19] Luke 1:1-4, John 21:24.

[20] John 21:25.

[21] Revelation 1:11, 19.  Note also the iteration of the verb “write” prefacing the messages to the seven churches (Revelation 2-3).

[22] Revelation 5.

[23] Revelation 18:19 (excerpt).

[24] O’Connell (2000) explores this controversy in relation to the theatre.  While providing fascinating analysis of sensuous choices in communication and emphasizing the importance of incarnation, he does not quite escape the scholarly tendency to pit senses against each other.  E.g. id. pp. 4-7, 128, 144.  For a review of such scholarship, see Chandler, n.d. 

[25] Erasmus, “Pilgrimage” (1526) at Thompson (1997) pp. 628-9.

[26] Erasmus, “Alchemy” (1524) at Thompson (1997) p. 550.

[27] Id.

[28] Id. p. 552.

[29] Dickinson (1956) p. 60.  The figure is from the Valor Ecclesiasticus, a comprehensive survey of religious establishments’ revenues in 1535.  A letter from a government agent in July 1536 reported that, from Saturday night until the following Sunday, visitors offered £ 6.67.  This figure implies yearly revenue about £ 290.  Neither figure includes the value of special gifts of jewelry, land, and other valuables. 

[30] Finucane (1977) p. 205.

[31] Monetary offerings were sensuously discriminating.  Offerings at Walsingham “in the chapel of St. Laurence” (probably St. Laurence O’Toole, a twelfth century Irish saint who was the first Irish bishop of Dublin and famous as a peacemaker) and at the relic of the “Holy Milk of the Blessed Virgin Mary” amounted to £ 8.45 and £ 2.11, respectively.  Dickinson (1956) p. 60.

[32] In 1540 Henry VIII established five professorships at Cambridge, each one with an annual salary of £ 40.  Dickens (1989) p. 177.  There were about 500 knights in England in 1524, and their normal range of income was £ 120 to £ 200.  Britnell (1997) p.  191.

[33] Mayhew (1995) estimates national income and population in England in 1526 as £5m. and 2.3m., respectively.  These figures imply per capita income of £2.17.  Offerings in the chapel of Mary at Walsingham were 115 times this figure.  Per capita income in the U.S. in the year 2000 was $32,600.  Multiplying this figure by 115 gives the scaled estimate.

[34] In its first three days shown, Feb. 9-11, 2001, “Hannibal” generated $58 million in box-office revenue.  See  Schultze (1991), pp. 29, 35, estimates that Jimmy Swaggert had an annual budget in 1986 of $140 million, and leading televangelists spent over $48 million per year on TV stations and TV networks.   Adjusted for consumer price inflation, these figures are equal to $226 million, and $78 million per year in year 2001 dollars.  Binny Hinn is currently a leading televangelist.  NBC News, Dateline, Dec. 27, 2002, stated that estimates of Benny Hinn's ministry revenue exceed $100 million per year.  Transcript available at   The U.S. Congress’s Committee on Government Operations cited estimates of telemarketing fraud ranging from $3-40 billion per year.  In about 100 federal cases that the FTC brought for telemarketing fraud from Oct. 1995 to Dec. 1996, the average annual consumer loss per case was  $2.5 million.  See FTC (1997), “Executive Summary,” and ft. 1.

[35] Archbishop Cranmer, article on “images,” composed about 1538.  See Bray (1994) p. 219.

[36] The text given is from article 22, adopted by the Church of England in 1571 and still an important part of Church of England doctrine.  Substantially the same article was issued in 1553 and 1563.  See Bray (1994) pp. 284, 297.

[37] An important recent scholarly development in the humanities has been to emphasize complexity, ambiguity, multiplicity, and contingency in one’s scholarly conclusions.  Contra Eccles. 11:3: “If a tree falls to the south or to the north, wherever it falls, there it is.” Trans. Kugel (1999) p. 115.

[38] Concern about sense covered all the capabilities of the living human body.  On idolatry of the mind, see Ashton (1988) pp. 452-66.  The Lollards in fourteenth and fifteenth century England criticized corrupt religious practices, including aspects of the use of religious imagery and the practice of pilgrimages.  But Lollard criticisms was narrower and more diffuse than sixteenth century concerns and did not create an organized, national political and religious struggle.  See Aston (1984) Ch. 5.

[39] Demaus (1903) p. 288.  One primary source is Letters and Papers, v. 14, part. 2, no. 402, p. 155, an account written by Lord Derby, which states, “Refers to Our Lady of Worcester which, when her ornaments were taken off, was found to be the similitude of a bishop, like a giant, almost 10 ft. long.”  Id., v. 12, part 2, no. 587, p. 218 documents the case of the citizens remarks.  Two different versions, that of a witness and that of the citizen’s confession, are given.  The quoted version is a slighted abbreviated version of the witness’s testimony.  Duffy (1992) p. 403 includes a sentence from the citizen’s confession.

[40] Wriothesley’s Chronicle, in entries for 1538.  See Hamilton (1875-77) p. 83.

[41] The above facts about the burning of friar Forest and Derfel Gadarn are from Aston (1993) p. 303 and Wriothesley’s Chronicle, entry for 1538, in Hamilton (1875-77) p. 78-81,

[42] From letter of Richard Topcliffe, 30 Aug. 1578, quoted in Hackett (1995) pp. 1-2.

[43] Id. explores in detail the relationship between representations of Elizabeth and Mary.

[44] On breast milk in stories and paintings, see Freedberg (1989) pp.288, 290, 305-6 and Erasmus, “Pilgrimage” (1526) at Thompson (1997) pp. 632-3, 636.

[45] Thomas More, Dialogue Concerning Heresies (1528) in Lawler, Marc’hadour and Marius (1981) pp. 39-40.  I have modernized spelling in this and all subsequent quotes to aid readers not fluent in English.

[46] Id. p. 144.

[47] See quote in previous paragraph, infra.

[48] Cummings (1999) pp. 833-4. 

[49] Id. p. 837.  The preface is Thomas More, A Dialogue Concerning Heresies (1528), preface, pp. 21-4 in Lawler, Marc’hadour and Marius (1981).

[50] Id. p. 21

[51] Id.

[52] Id. p. 22.

[53] Williamson (1965) p. x, xxv-vi; Haller (1963) p. 13-4.  Books written by academics today regularly sell less than two thousand copies.

[54] Pettegree (2002) p. 133-4, Williams (2002) p. 198.  Haller (1963) p. 13 states that the first English edition (1563) was illustrated “with over fifty woodcuts.”  The last edition that Foxe himself wrote had about 170 woodcut illustrations, some “very costly to produce.” Williamson (1965) pp. xx, xxvi.  

[55] Id. p. xxv.  The word count is from the description of an electronic version of the text, available at  A mid-Victorian edition, which was the most recently available edition before 1965, consisted of “eight bulky volumes, six thousand pages, and over four million words.”  Id. p. ix.

[56] The beginning section “To the Reader” explicitly refers to Matthew 16:18 and explains “which prophecy of Christ we see wonderfully to be verified, insomuch that the whole course of the Church unto this day may seem nothing else but a verifying of the said prophecy.”  Williamson (1965) p. xliv.  The recounted history of the Church emphasizes persons who were martyred by Roman Catholic authorities.  This understanding of Church and this appropriation of rock naturally tends toward a sense of book as rock.

[57] The Second Royal Injunctions of Henry VIII (1538), item 2, recognized the importance of textual heft.  The second item of those injunctions required to be place in every church “one book of the whole Bible of the largest volume” [italics added].  In Bray (1994) p. 179.

[58] Books were also spectacularly destroyed.  Cummings (2002) argues, “the history of iconoclasm and idolatry cannot be separated in mid-sixteenth-century England from a parallel history of bibliolatry and biblioclasm”  (p. 199).

[59] Aston (1993) p. 288.

[60] The Hebrew Bible associates an empty space with the place where God appears (Kugel (2003), ch. 4) and describes a sense of starkness as an important part of religious experience (id., ch. 6).  In the Christian Gospels, preparing for action and discerning God’s will is associated with desolate places (wilderness about Galilee, i.e. a desert, or a mountain top; see, e.g. Mat. 4:1-11, Mark 3:13, 6:46, 9:2, Luke 3:2). 

[61] This dialogue forms a sonnet, a leading poetic form in Shakespeare’s time.  All the quotations in this paragraph are from William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, Act 1, Scene 5 ( 1.5.44, 1.5.51, 1.5.93-106, 1.5.107-110), in the edition of the Pelican Text Revised, Harbage (1969).  All quotations from Shakespeare’s plays are from that edition, unless otherwise noted.

[62] To generalize slightly, “the word in living conversation is directly, blatantly oriented toward a future answer-kiss….”  Cf. Bakhtin, “Discourse in the Novel” (1934-35), in Holquist (1981) p. 280.

[63] Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, Act 2, Scene 2 (2.2.40-49).

[64] Id. 2.2.160-163.  Viola/Cesario similarly declares that she/he would cry out for his beloved:

Hallo your name to the reverberate hills

And make the babbling gossip of the air

Cry out ‘Olivia!’

Shakespeare, Twelfth Night, Act I, scene v, l. 258-60.

[65] Exodus 15:20-1.

[66] Yonge (1884) p. 23 cites the popularity of Miriam among Second Temple Jews.  Kugel (1997) p. 351 gives the fragments of a song attributed to Miriam and found among the Dead Sea Scrolls.  This is evidence of continuing high regard for Miriam.  A woman named Mariamne married Herod the Great in 38 B.G.C. and was executed by him in 29 B.G.C.  Jews had reason to admire Mariamne and despise Herod.  See Josephus, Antiquities, Book 15, Ch. 7.  Mariamne probably added to the popular value of the name Miriam.

[67] The name Mary occurs 51 times in the New Testament, and probably six different women are named Mary.  Lockyer (1996) pp. 92-108.

[68] On Mary of Egypt, see Catholic Encyclopedia, available at 

[69] In Maryam 19:27-8, the people address Mary thus: “O Mary! Truly an amazing thing Hast thou brought! O sister of Aaron!  Thy father was not a man of evil, nor thy Mother a woman unchaste!”  (trans. Abdullah Yusef Ali).  The phrase “O sister of Aaron” is used as an introductory exclamation subsequent to and in parallel with “O Mary,” and it precedes a sentence focusing on Mary’s virtuous genealogy.  “O sister of Aaron” does not imply mistaken identification of Mary as literally the sister of Aaron.   A more faithful and reasoned interpretation is that the honored memory of Miriam, the prophetess and sister of Aaron, is being evoked and associated with Mary. Cf. Pelikan (1996) pp. 72-5.  

[70] See Appendix A.

[71] Belief in Mary’s virginity, even virginity in partu, has not historically separated Mary from ordinary experiences of desire, sex, and childbirth.  Christians have long identified Mary with the woman in the Song of Songs, a sacred text that, as Kugel (1999) pp. 276-8 makes clear, is both intensely personal and “the holy of the holies.”  Popular relics such as “Our Lady’s girdle” brought Mary to personal concerns about pregnancy and childbirth.  See Duffy (1992) pp. 384-5.

[72] In 1535, royal commissioners confiscated, among other relics, Our Lady’s girdle, which women visited for comfort in childbirth, and “the boots of Thomas Becket and Saint Edmund’s nail-pairings and ‘other reliques in divers places which they [the clergy] use for covetousness in deceaphing the people.’”  Finucane (1977) p. 204.  As late as March, 1538, Henry VIII paid to have a candle burning and a priest singing before Our Lady of Walsingham (43s, and 100s, respectively).  Webb (2000) p. 289, n. 134.  By the end of July, 1538, the shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham had been destroyed, and the statue of Our Lady of Walsingham burnt.  All other shrines were destroyed by the end of 1538.

[73] Second Royal Injunctions of Henry VIII (1538), from item 6, in Bray (1994) p. 180.

[74] As Weigle (1964) p. viii states:

It became at once the people’s book, the household Bible of the English-speaking nations; and it held this place for three quarters of a century.  It was Shakespeare’s bible; and it was the Bible of the Puritans who settled New England.  Between 1560 and 1644 at least 140 editions of the Geneva Bible or New Testament were printed; and it lasted longer in competition with the King James Version than any other English version.

While the Geneva Bible is regularly called Shakespeare’s bible, Shakespeare’s highly developed theological sensibility suggests that he was familiar with the Vulgate, the Bishops’ Bible of 1568/1572, and the Rheims New Testament as well.  He may have assisted in the translation of the King James Bible.

[75] The quoted text is Luke 1:28, given in eight historically important translations in Weigle (1962).  Annotations on the pages of the books that embodied these translations are not, however, included.

[76] The Geneva Bible, facsimile edition of 1560, ant. f., placed after “for” in Luke 1:30, “for thou hast found favour with God.,” and printed to the immediate left of Luke 1:29-30.  See Berry (1969). 

[77] Luke 1:42.  See Weigle (1962) for translations.  The annotation is ant. c, placed before  “fruit” in the Geneva Bible, 1560 edition, translation of this passage.  See Berry (1969).

[78] These annotations, keyed to the verse number (28, i.e. Luke 1:28), are printed at the end of Luke, Chapter 1.  To  the left of the first is the marginal note, “Often saying of the Ave Marie.” Other notes, of a distinctively Roman Catholic character, and often polemical, are included on the right side of the single column of scriptural text.  To the right of the text of Luke 1:28 is a marginal note, “The beginning of the Ave Marie. See the rest v. 42.”  See Rogers (1979), a facsimile of the Rheims New Testament of 1582.  As elsewhere, I have modernized spellings to aid readers not fluent in English.

[79] “…what was ever more common, and is now more general and usual in all Christian countries, than in the Ave Marie, to say, Gratio plena, “full of grace;” insomuch that in the first English bible it hath continued so still, and every child in our country was taught so to say, till the Ave Marie was banished altoghether, and not suffered to be said, neither in Latin, nor in English?”  Gregory Martin, A Discovery of the Manifold Corruptions of the Holy Scripture (1582), point 4, in W. Fulke (1583), printed in Hartshorne (1843), p. 528.  Martin, an Oxford professor who fled to Douay in 1570 and became a Catholic priest, did the Rheims translation of the New Testament.  Unlike the first line of the prayer “Ave Marie,” the scriptural text of the angel's greeting does not include the name Mary. 

[80] Id.  Elsewhere, Fulke gives a catalogue of thirty-eight “popish books, either answered [34] or to be answered [4], which have been written in the English tongue from beyond the seas, or secretly dispersed here in England” since 1559.  See Gibbings (1848) p. 1.  The scholarly vitality of that time is every bit equal to that in some intellectual fields and administrative proceedings in the U.S. today.  For example, one of Fulke’s works is entitled, “A Rejoinder to John Martiall’s reply against the answer of Master Calfhill to the blasphemous treatise of the cross” (1580).  This work begins “To the Reader   Of all the treatises sent over within these twenty years from the Papists, there is none in which appeareth less learning and modesty, nor greater arrogance and impudency, than in this one book of Martiall.  Who, as he termeth himself a Bachelor of Law, so, more like a wrangling petty-fogger in Law than a sober student in Divinity, doth in a manner nothing else but cavil, quarrel, and scold.”  Id. p. 125.

[81] Note z, placed following “thou art” and to the right of the scriptural text (Luke 1:28).  Geneva Bible, 1560 edition, ant. f, cited earlier infra, was eliminated.  However, the exclamation in Luke 1:42 continued to be translated, “Blessed art thou among women, because the fruit of thy womb is blessed.”  The annotation was changed to “Christ is blessed in respect of his humanity.” (ant. p, placed following “because”).  See Geneva Bible, facsimile of 1602 edition of the New Testament, in Sheppard (1989).

[82] See Weigle (1962).  For an array of contemporary translations, see

[83] In 1604, James I ordered “That a [new] translation be made of the whole bible, as consonant as can be to the original Hebrew and Greek; and this to be set out and printed without any marginal notes, and only to be used in all churches of England in time of divine service.”  This order indicates the significance of marginal notes at that time.  The companies performing the translation drew up “The Rules to be observed in the Translation of the Bible.”  Rule 6 was: “No marginal notes at all to be affixed, but only for the explanation of the Hebrew or Greek Words, which cannot without some circumlocution, so briefly and fitly be express’d in the Text.”  See id. p. ix.   No notes whatsoever were attached to Luke 1:28-45.

[84] Graef (1964) p. 7-8.

[85] A scholarly literature has developed the concept of a “cult of Elizabeth,” described as a replacement for the cult of the Virgin Mary.   For a brief review, see Hackett (1995) pp. 6-10.  Id. suggests that words and images associated with the Virgin Mary were consciously recognized and flexibly deployed. 

[86] See Table 2, infra, and Appendix A. 

[87] Appendix B.  Daughters born subsequent to a (living) daughter named Mary generally were not eligible to be called Mary in mid-eighteenth-century England.  With large family sizes, this factor matters in interpreting the frequency of popular names.

[88] On Elizabeth figured as Mary, see Hackett (1995).

[89] Data from and Jim Webb’s genealogy, available at   Mary was born in Wilmcote, Aston Cantlow, three miles northwest of Stratford.

[90] Trust (2003) p. 11.

[91] Honan (1998) pp. 14-5, 412.  Mary married a man named John sometime between 25 Nov. 1556 and mid-Dec. 1557.  Id. p. 13.  Mary had her first child christened on Sept. 15, 1558, and continued to have children in two to four year intervals.  Her penultimate child was christened on 11 March 1574, and her last child on May 3, 1580.  The mean age at first marriage in Alcester, Warwickshire, 1550-99 was 24.5 years and 22.4 years old for men and women respectively (27.2 and 24.0 for a sample covering all of England).  Laslett, Costerveen, and Smith (1980) Table 1.2, p. 21.  John and Mary were both from relatively wealthy families, and hence had the resources to marry relatively young.  Mary’s mother died before 1548, and her father died in 1556.  These family circumstances would have provided an incentive for Mary to marry about 1557 as a relatively young woman.  If Mary was born in 1537 (as indicated in OneGreatFamily and other online genealogies), she would have married about age 20 and had her last child at age 43.  Honan (1998) p. 14 indicates that Mary was born “about 1540,” while Trust (2003) p. 1 suggests 1539-1543.  That her husband John was a householder by 1552 probably indicates that he was born before 1530.  Eccles (1961) p. 24.

[92] The Guild of the Holy Cross, Our Lady [Mary], and St. John the Baptist played a central role in the social and political life of the town prior to being dissolved by royal order in 1547.  See Bloom (1907) p. 1 and Carpenter (1997) pp. 62-79.  The fifteenth-century seal of this guild depicted Mary and John the Baptist.  Davidson (1988) p. 3.  The Guild Chapel included a wall painting of Mary on the side of the church opposite of a painting of the crucifixion of Jesus.  Id. plate 2 and p. 21.  In front of the church, up on the chancel arch, was also a large figure of Mary and John the Baptist.  In the fourteenth century, the town apparently included an image of Mary that attracted pilgrims.  Id. p. 3.

[93] Id. pp. 10-11.

[94] Honan (1998) p. 23.

[95] In 1603, Mary’s daughter Joan and her husband named their first-born daughter Mary.  Honan (1998) p. 412.

[96] Savage (1905) provides baptismal records, beginning in 1558, for Stratford-upon-Avon.

[97] For discussion of religious and cultural divisions in Stratford-upon-Avon, 1560 to 1640, see Hughes (1997).

[98] Betram and Cossa (1986) pp. 93-4.  This portrait is known as the Flower portrait. 

[99] The panel is 23.5 by 17.25 inches, with the top portrait done in oils, and the underlying image also probably done in oils.  Id. pp. 84, 94.

[100] Id. pp. 94, 93, 83, 87, 84.

[101] From Ben Jonson’s preface to the reader, First Folio (1623) [spelling modernized].  As O’Connell (2000) pp. 119-25 discusses, Jonson’s consistently privileged verbal sense over visual sense.  Cf. Boyle (1988) esp. p. 643.

[102] Hammerschmidt-Hummel (2000) pp. 52-3.  Hammerschmidt-Hummel has done extensive study of images of William Shakespeare.  Her work, most of which is in German, seems to be underappreciated in English language scholarship.  Her work is the basis for this paragraph.

[103] Id. p. 53-4, 57.

[104] Many of these images were found in a nearly perfect state when they were uncovered in 1804.  Images in the chancel, which was partitioned off in 1563, were not covered over.  The chancel became a “passage to [the Rev. Wilson’s] house, a playground for his children, a drying ground for his laundress, and a resort for his fowls and pigs.”  The images in the chancel thus deteriorated and eventually were destroyed.  Davidson (1988) pp. 10-1.

[105] Honan (1998) pp. 28-30.

[106] Bertram and Cossa (1986) p. 85 cites circumstantial evidence that the painter of the portrait was Flemish.  A Flemish painter, compared to a Dutch painter, would be less likely to overpaint a well-rendered image of Mary, a hundred or more years old, in order to save the cost of a blank wooden panel.

[107] Shakespeare, Two Gentlemen of Verona, 4.2.118-31.

[108] Id. 4.2.126-7, quoted above.  Julia refers to herself as a “true-devoted pilgrim” at 2.7.9.

[109] Macbeth, 5.5.24-5.

[110] A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream, 5.1.208.  The descriptions of the players are Puck’s at 3.1.68 and 3.2.9.

[111] Id. 5.1.209-10.

[112] Two Gentlemen of Verona, 4.4.16-18.

[113] Id. 4.4.182-94.

[114] Id. 4.4.195-203.

[115] E.g. Bloom (1998).  Greenblatt (2001) argues that old Hamlet evoked the sense of a person in purgatory, and that Shakespeare’s theatre did so more generally.  Recent telecom industry developments have also evoked a sense of persons in purgatory.    

[116] Bloom (1998) p. xix.

[117] Greenblatt (2001) p. 253 notes:

Not all forms of energy in Shakespeare’s theater, of course, have been transferred, openly or covertly, from the zone of the real to the zone of the imaginary. ... But the power of Shakespeare’s theater is frequently linked to its appropriation of weakened or damaged institutional structures.  It is conceivable that Shakespeare, with his recusant family background, his education in Stratford by teachers linked to Campion and the Jesuits, his own possible links to Lancashire recusants, felt a covert loyalty to these structures and a dismay that they were being gutted.

The institutionalized structure of Christians’ relation to Mary, the mother of Jesus, surely was weakened or damaged in Shakespeare’s time and place.  The importance of religious practices to Shakespeare’s theatre is only beginning to be adequately appreciated.  See id. and Beauregard (2000).

[118] Smith (2002).  Id. notes that, compared to his literary contemporaries, Shakespeare’s choice of names and use of names is less literal and more spontaneous and whimsical.  Shakespeare’s use of Mary is consistent with this general pattern. 

[119] Shakespeare’s son’s name is recorded in the parish register as “Hamnet.”  Other similar records indicate “Hamlet” and “Hamnet” as the first name of the same persons, i.e. Hamnet and Hamlet are not distinguished among first names.  See Eccles (1961) pp. 125-6.  As Rogers (1993) discusses, Shakespeare’s will indicates his great concern for family, which was also a central concern of his play Hamlet.

[120] In Pericles.  Pericles gave this name to the baby because she was “born at sea.”  Id. 3.3.12-13.  Erasmus mocked popular titles for Mary, the mother of Jesus.  See, e.g. “The Shipwreck” (1523) p. 355 in Thompson (1997).  One such title was “Star of the Sea.”   Sources for the name Mary in Hebrew and Chaldaic are associated with the sea, water, and bitterness or sorrow.  See Exodus 15:21,23, Numbers 20:13, Ruth 1:20, and Kolatch (1984) p. 378.  

[121] In Measure for Measure.  A minor character in All Well That End’s Well is also named Mariana.  She warns a young woman against the dangers of lustful seduction, immediately after which they encounter the pilgrim Helena going to Saint Jaques le Grand.  Pilgrimage in sixteenth century England included women and men traveling far from home and meeting other strangers in new circumstances.  Pilgrimage thus naturally provoked suspicion of sexual interests.   See, e.g. Thomas More, A Dialogue Concerning Heresies (1530), p. 100 in Lawler, Marc’hadour and Marius (1981).

[122] The Rhemes New Testament (1582) uses the term “Ave Marie.”  William Camden, in his Remains Concerning Britain (1605) lists “Marie,” but not “Mary” or “Mariana,” in his list of usual names for women in England  (Dunn (1984) p. 85).

[123] In Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, Maria, formally addressing Sir Andrew, states that her name is Mary (1.3.49).  Elsewhere in the play “Mary” seems to be a more formal invocation of Maria (1.5.10, 2.3.111).

[124] In Love’s Labour’s Lost.

[125] The phrase “Twelfth Night” is a reference to the feast of the Epiphany, January 6 G.C.  This ancient Christian feast, which for formerly pagan Christians replaced an ancient pagan feast, is associated with the nativity of Christ, the baptism of Christ, the Theophany of the Holy Trinity, the presentation of Christ to three wise men traveling from east of Bethlehem, and Christ’s first miracle at Cana.  Different Christian churches in different places emphasize different events associated with the feast of the Epiphany.  Twelfth Night, or What You Will, was probably first performed in the Middle Temple, London, on February 2, 1601/2.  See Arlidge (2000).  February 2 is the feast of Candlemas, which celebrates the purification of Mary and the presentation of Christ in the Temple by Mary and Joseph (Luke 2:22,27; cf. Exodus 12:3-6).  In the Middle Temple, it was also a day a wild male revelry.  While the revels of 1589/90 ended in violent disorder, the revels of 1597/8 were so cherished that a partial transcript of the courtly farces, romantic parodies, and the ribald jesting was preserved.  Id., ch. 5.

[126] Draper (1950) p. 70 explains, “scholars have generally passed her by with brief conventional formality, much as a caller passes a servant at the door.”  Osborne (1996) p. 140 notes that Maria’s “importance is all too frequently overlooked.”  

[127] Notes from Director Aaron Posner, regarding his production of Twelfth Night, which played at the Folger Theatre, Washington, DC, Jan. 3 to Feb. 9, 2003.  The Notes are available at  I had the good fortune of attending this production, which consistently sold out and was extended a week.

[128] Twelfth Night, 1.3.3-5, 1.5.1-3, 2.3.66-8, 3.4.123-6.  Maria also appears rather eager to thwart Orsino's wooing of Olivia, which, if successful, might threaten her power in the house.  Maria treats Viola rudely when Viola, in disguise, first comes to plead Orsino's love (1.5.204-5).  Early in Viola and Olivia's dialogue, Maria interjects with an attempt to eject Viola: “Will you hoist sail, sir? Here lies your way.” (1.5.192)

[129] An illicit affair is the subtext for the banter between Maria and the Clown, 1.5.24-8.  Toby’s statement “Come by and by to my chamber” (4.2.70-1), which follow lines by Maria, has sometimes been interpreted as indicating this affair.  But Toby’s statement is best interpreted to be spoken to the clown.  Toby’s lines 4.2.65-71 show him anxious, turning and addressing the clown, then back to Maria, and then to the clown again.  The First Folio (1623), the earliest available text, does not include such stage directions, but the Pelican Revised text does. 

[130] Besides being a drunk, Toby treats Maria badly.  He refers to her as a “wench” and urges Andrew upon her, referring to her as “my niece’s chambermaid.”  (1.3.39, 47, 2.5.168)  In contrast, the dramatis personae in the First Folio describes Maria as a “waiting gentlewoman.”

[131] To Andrew’s laughable wooing, Maria responds flirtatiously, “Now, sir, thought is free.”  1.3.63.

[132] 2.3.121-62, 3.2.68.

[133] Bloom (1998), p. 238, describes Maria as “truly malicious.”

[134] In Viola's well-known lines, "We men may say more, swear more, but indeed / Our shows are more than will; for still we prove / Much in our vows but little in our love" (2.4.128-30), the phrase "Our shows are more than will" has not received adequate critical attention.  This phrase obscures the contrast between Orsino's behavior and Viola's immediately preceding description of love ("pined in thought...smiling at grief. …Was this not love indeed?").  It skews parallels between Maria and Orsino, and Olivia and Viola, with respect to will and love.  It's not consistent with the over-all sense of will in Twelfth Night, or What You Will.  Twelfth Night has been transmitted only in the First Folio (no quarto versions of this play exist).  In transcribing a manuscript to print in the First Folio, "n'ore" (indicating "no more" or "not more") might easily be mistaken for "more".  The former provides a much more coherent sense of the phrase within its circumstances – from the specific speech, through its context in the play, to Shakespeare's over-all themes and historical situation.  However, the phrase "n'ore" occurs n'ere else in Shakespeare's work.  It's plausibility merits further consideration.

[135] The references to Maria’s size cited here are from 1.5.194, 2.3.163, 2.3.165, 3.2.59, 2.5.11, 3.4.32.

[136] Act 4, scene 1, 4.2.20-128.  Act 4, scene 2 is a short, happy scene that begins with Sebastian’s blissful wonder at Olivia’s love for him, and ends with Olivia leading him to a hasty marriage.

[137] 5.1.350-4.

[138] 2.5.68, 70.

[139] Associating Maria with masculinity can obscure universal aspects of human being and, in particular, deprecate the emotional life of males.  The actions of Peter in John 21:3-8 are similar to those of Olivia in 4.3.22-31.

[140] See infra., Section IV.A.

[141] Muldrew (1998).

[142] 1.5.156-207.  Twelfth Night is the only text in which Shakespeare uses the word “madonna.”  From 1.5.38 throught 1.5.31, the Clown refers to Olivia as “good madonna” three times, and “madonna” six times.

[143] Aaron Posner’s production of Twelfth Night at the Folger Theatre, Washington, DC, Feb. 2003, did this, as did a production of the Shakespeare Theatre’s Academy of Classical Acting in Washington, in autumn, 2002.  The First Folio (1623) does not indicate anyone else present in addition to Olivia, Viola, and Maria.  The Pelican Revised text does not either.  King (1971), however, adds “[and attendants, A]” to the stage directions “Enter Lady Olivia with Malvolio” after 1.5.29.  The New Folger Library edition (1993) of Twelfth Night does likewise.  Olivia’s line “Give us this place alone” (1.5.218) is taken as the cue for “Maria and Attendants exit” in King (1971), the New Folger Library edition, and the productions I have seen. 

[144] The quotations are 3.1.158-61 and 3.1.148-9.

[145] The quotations are 5.1.128-30, 5.1.133, and 5.1.137.

[146] 1.2.38-40, 1.1.27-33.

[147] Luke 1:51-3.

[148] 5.1.218, 5.1.216-7.

[149] Rainer Maria Rilke, The Sonnets to Orpheus, Part 2, XII, trans. in Mitchell (1995) p. 485.

[150] 5.1.342-6.

[151] This contrast gains additional definition from the contrast between the anonymous sea captain who greets Viola in Act 1, Scene 1, and Antonio, who is introduced with Sebastian in Act 2, Scene 1.  The anonymous sea captain is rather hollow.  In circumstances that would heighten sympathy in most persons, three times Viola apparently senses the need to speak of paying him (1.2.18, 52, and 57).  Antonio, another sea captain, shows enormous and gratuitous love toward Sebastian: “But come what may, I do adore thee so / That danger shall seem sport, and I will go.” (2.1.42-3). 

[152] 5.1.378-97.

[153] Leontes at first complains about the statue: “Hermione was not so much wrinkled, nothing / So aged as this seems.”  But then Leontes thinks of living another twenty years with this statue alive, and declares, “No settled senses of the world can match the pleasure of that madness.” (5.3.28-9, 71-3) 

[154] The Winter’s Tale, 5.3.43-6.  Most persons typically do not make this type of request before a lucrative commodity or an object of sculptural art.  Subsequent quotations are from id. 5.3.94-95, 112, 118-9, 121-3, and 125-8 .

[155] Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Bottom, 4.1.208-11.  Cf. Isaiah 64:3, 1 Corinthians 2:9.

[156] While the tenderness of these gestures is obvious, hanging about the neck also has a disturbing sense of being less than fully human, like a silent pendant, a spirit from below, or a predator that seeks to take a person’s life rather than to communicate.  Cf. 5.3.113 and Hamlet, 1.2.143-5.

[157] Davis (1997) pp. 6-7.

[158] Id. p. 7.

[159] Id. p.13 argues:

One need not believe Hindu theological premises concerning divinities entering and enlivening icons to accept that Indian religious images are, in some important sense, alive.  If I convince the reader that these objects may be animated as much by their own histories and by their varied interactions with different human communities of response as by the deities they represent and support, I will have achieved my purpose.

The argument here is that Hindus’ sense of God in their religious images is like the sense of a person, a sense that is universally incarnated in the human body and continually iterated in daily, mundane communication.  Cultural history and prevailing opinion among a group of persons do not determine that sense.  Moreover, icons of sovereignty, lucrative commodities, objects of sculptural art, and symbols do not make sense in that way.

[160] From Ban Gu (32-92 G.C.) , “Yi Zhi,” as translated in Fairbairn (2000) [footnotes omitted, original term “yi” used in place of translation “go”].

[161] This game, known as wei-chi, go, and pa-tok, is still popular today.  There are perhaps 100 million players world-wide, with the largest numbers in China, Japan, and Korea.  Information in English about the game, and translations of the game to a computer, are available at and

[162] All the quotations in this paragraph are from Gornick (1994).  Gornick is a prolific author and has taught for many years non-fiction writing in graduate-level university courses.

[163] Peters (1999) pp. 270-1.