Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Jason Gleckman: "Puritan Assurance"

Jason Gleckman

Malvolio and Puritan Assurance[1]

1> England in the late sixteenth century was a time when religious issues were keenly explored, including on the stage. Yet various factors – the May 16, 1559 prohibition on religious drama, the intricacies of theological debates that may be lost to future generations, and the inevitable exploration, within any dramatic text, of other themes alongside religious ones – make it difficult for scholars to understand how audiences living in the time of the most radical transformation in Christianity since its inception might have responded to the presentation of such topics in theatre settings.

2> The concept of the late sixteenth-century English ‘Puritan’ is a useful example of the difficulties of reading religion on stage. In the age of Shakespeare, Puritans could be seen in many ways, all of which stressed their extremism. First, in the most basic sense, one which could be termed ‘political’ in aiming for specific changes in the nation’s institutions, Puritans were identified with ‘non-conformists,’ those Protestants who (perhaps short of separatism) most strongly opposed the Church of England as an obstacle to the progress of true religion; it is primarily in this sense (as the OED indicates) that such opponents of what they considered ‘idolatrous’ church practices were termed “precisians” and “Puritans” by fellow Protestants who felt their efforts to purge the Church of England of Catholic residues went too far.[2]

3> In a more general sense, relating to theology and the religious beliefs that were most valued by Puritans, they could be identified as “hot Protestants” (a 1581 definition [Collinson, Elizabethan Puritan Movement 27]) or perhaps “high Calvinists” whose theological priorities differed from their “Anglican” opponents. In this context, Puritans quoted the Bible more than other Protestants did, searched their consciences more assiduously for signs of election, and were more fully convinced than other Protestants of the deep-seeded sinfulness of human nature. A third way of thinking about Puritans in this time period relates to their personalities, which, in tune with their general extremism, involved both strictness (austerity, a dislike of ornamentation, the rejection of sensual pleasure, a focus on self-discipline that perhaps extended to the disciplining of others as well) and zeal, expressed in the Puritan confidence that they constituted an effective avant-garde in terms of making England a fuller Protestant nation.

4> Yet, understanding the nature of late Elizabethan Puritans, both as they saw themselves and as they were seen by others, requires even more careful attention. For example, even when it comes to the most basic political sense in which Puritans opposed the practices of the Church of England, some ‘non-conformists’ may have objected most to the Church of England’s too-close associations with the nation’s government while others may have been more opposed to the Church’s lingering Catholic-inflected rituals; similarly, some non-conformists wanted England to move closer in spirit and laws to Calvin’s Geneva, but others felt differently. The question is which sorts of views can be grouped together and what sorts of terms can historians use to describe such groupings; “Puritan” remains a useful term, but its parameters still need further refinement.

5> In terms of theology as well, the difference between a ‘hot’ Puritan and a merely warm Protestant could obviously be indistinct. After all, searching into the conscience, attentively reading scripture, attending sermons, and trying to make better Christians of oneself and others were surely characteristic of most Protestants of this era. Trying to articulate a possible range of “Puritan” personality traits is even more difficult; Kristen Poole has even argued that Puritans (or at least ‘stage puritans’) were not actually characterized by asceticism and self-discipline so much as by being “drunken, gluttonous, and lascivious” (Poole 12). As Patrick Collinson summarizes this well-established sense of the stage Puritan, the figure was “in a word, hypocrisy incarnate” (“Theatre Constructs Puritanism” 167).

6> Unlike his contemporary Ben Jonson, Shakespeare does not offer many obvious presentations of Puritans in his work. The most commonly referenced candidate is Malvolio from Twelfth Night, but as with other matters relating to Elizabethan Puritans, such a perception has been questioned by scholars. Poole for instance, suggests that Falstaff is more like a Puritan than Malvolio (Poole 37). In a less extreme vein, Brian Walsh summarizes this important strand of perceptions on Malvolio when he says the character is not a Puritan in either “a technical or historically recognizable sense” (Walsh 95). Walsh’s evaluation is a sensible call for more linguistic specificity when it comes to thinking about what the term “Puritan” may have meant to Shakespeare and his contemporaries both within and outside the theatre. For instance, Walsh argues that to call Malvolio a “Puritan” based on such broad, frequently-found human traits as being divisive, sanctimonious, strict, and with a distaste for festivity (particularly when displayed “in the middle of the night in a house of mourning” as he pithily puts it [Walsh 101]), would be to render the term vague to the point of meaninglessness. As such, it would be better to see some of Malvolio’s more somber and precise qualities, such as “a sad face, a reverend carriage” and “a slow tongue” (3.4.72-73), as well as his “austere regard of control” (2.5.67) and the “demure travel of regard” (2.5.53) that describes his gaze, as perhaps the traits of a Steward rather than a Puritan.[3]

7> Despite the validity of such arguments, however, I believe it is possible and useful to see Malvolio as a Puritan, an approach that can not only shed more light on this particular character and his reception on stage, but on the depiction of Puritans generally and specifically about the ways that certain theological beliefs also tend to generate certain personality traits and overall value systems, many of which are developed unconsciously. In terms of such behaviors, Malvolio is Puritan-like in many ways, a possibility that Shakespeare clearly intended his audience to ponder given Maria’s description of him as “a kind of Puritan” (2.3.140). Malvolio carefully thanks God or Jove for his perceived blessings, especially when he fears he has crossed the line into presumption or sin: “I have limed her, but it is Jove’s doing” (3.4.74-75). He is equally alert to the presence of sin in others; at least from Olivia’s viewpoint, Malvolio sees Feste’s trivial “bird-bolts” as “cannon bullets” (1.5.92-3). Malvolio does not hesitate to catechize these sinful people either; as Paul N. Siegel plausibly notes, the phrases that Malvolio imagines preaching to Toby such as “you waste the treasure of your time” (2.5.77), are “an expression of the Puritan bourgeois ethic like the modern businessman’s ‘Time is money.’” (Siegel 220). Indeed, Malvolio, like other extremist Protestants, may go so far as to imagine others as reprobates; he implies that Feste will remain a fool “till the pangs of death shake him” [1.5.73-4]), incapable of receiving divine love even at the last moment.

8> Even in terms of the most easily-seen Puritan trait, a tendency towards schism in relation to the Church of England, Malvolio is a relevant figure. He references Isaiah 65.5 which includes (in the words of both the King James and the Geneva Bible), the famous phrase, “holier than thou”; to cite the King James Version: “Stand by thyself, come not near to me; for I am holier than thou. These are a smoke in my nose, a fire that burneth all the day.” In Malvolio’s words, “I discard you [...] You are idle, shallow things, I am not of your element” (3.4.90, 124-5). Like Isaiah, Malvolio makes bold and absolute distinctions between himself and those others who are unworthy of his gaze and will never experience the rejoicings of the elect.

9> To buttress the above arguments, we can also look at one element of Twelfth Night that has, since the time of Shakespeare, perhaps become obscured, seen now as yet another of the countless theological minutiae that obsessed the Reformers but which have since been relegated to the margins of history. This is the philosophy of ‘assurance,’ a Protestant belief specifically associated with ‘hot’ Protestants who intensely believed in the possibility of attaining a state whereby one was absolutely certain of one’s election. This was neither an Anglican nor a Catholic belief; in 1547, the Catholic Council of Trent stated that “no one can know, by that assurance of faith which excludes all falsehood, that he has obtained the grace of God” (Tanner 2.674; Session 6, chapter 9); when William Barrett, a young theologian at Cambridge University, was forced, by the ‘hot’ Protestants at his University, to recent a sermon in which he had claimed that no person could be secure of his salvation, Barrett’s position was generally supported by the Anglican Archbishop John Whitgift as well as his chaplains, Adrian Saravia and Lancelot Andrewes (White 102-105).

10> In contrast, it was a key mark of Puritan theology (and probably a major reason for the Puritan reputation for arrogance) to believe in assurance. Such a belief was heralded at the start of the Reformation when Luther, frustrated with the Church for being unable to ensure his salvation (and drawing on Augustine’s concept of the ‘perseverance of the Saints’), insisted that such certainty was within his grasp; he wrote, “we have the pure and true doctrine of the Gospel – an assurance of which the papacy cannot boast [...] Let us thank God, therefore, that we have been delivered from this monster of uncertainty” (Luther 386-7).

11> Other Protestants followed Luther in attacking Catholicism for its reluctance to encourage assurance among the faithful. Calvin wrote:

“But, it may be said, they [Catholics] do not take away hope, but only absolute certainty. What! is there any expression of doubt or uncertainty when Paul boldly asserts that a crown of righteousness is laid up for him? (1 Tim.iv.8). Is there anything conditional in the words, when he declares that an earnest of our adoption has been given us, so that we can dare with loud voice to call God our Father?” (Calvin “Acts” 137)

12> English ‘hot Protestants’ such as William Perkins also opposed what they considered to be lukewarm Catholic language relating to ‘hope’ or ‘conjecture’ of salvation; to Perkins, assurance was as infallible as the God who bestowed it:

“when God by his Spirit is saide to seal the promise in the heart of euery particular beleeuer, it signifieth that he giues vnto them euident assurace [sic] that the promise of life belongs vnto them.” (Perkins 541)

13> The pervasiveness of a doctrine of assurance is further attested by its incorporation into various Protestant documents and confessions, such as the 1595 Lambeth Articles which stated that “the true believer, i.e. one who possesses justifying faith, is certain, by the full assurance of faith, of the forgiveness of his sins and of eternal salvation through Christ” (“Lambeth” 400) The 1619 Synod of Dort likewise concluded that “the elect, in due time [...] attain the assurance of this their eternal and unchangeable election [...] by observing in themselves, with a spiritual joy and holy pleasure, the infallible fruits of election pointed out in the word of God [...].” (“Canons” 459).[4]

14> Another possible origin for the ‘hot’ Protestant concern with assurance derived from the high Protestant stress on double predestination, the sense that God had determined each person’s fate, as elect or reprobate, before the origin of the world. In such a context, imagining oneself as a reprobate involved not only, in the traditional Christian manner, considering oneself a sinner – but especially as a sinner who could not choose to be otherwise, whose heart God was continually hardening to justify one’s future punishment. Such a fear that one might be a reprobate, unchangeably and eternally created as an enemy of God, would require an equally strong confidence in one’s status as elect. As Calvin phrased this psychological need:

“The conscience, if it looks to God, must either have sure peace with his judgment or be besieged by the terrors of hell. Therefore we profit nothing in discussing righteousness unless we establish a righteousness so steadfast that it can support our soul in the judgment of God. When our souls possess that by which they may present themselves fearless before God's face and receive his judgment undismayed, then only may we know that we have found no counterfeit righteousness.” (Calvin, Institutes 765; 3.13.3)

15> Yet, as Calvin’s remarks indicate, attaining such a state of assurance was not easy. Rigid Protestants, with their continual awareness of sin, could readily fall into despair concerning their own possible fates. In addition, there was the danger of presumption, of taking for granted that one was saved and living in the illusion of a “carnal security” rather than a truly “spiritual security.”[5] Consequently, Protestants, following earlier Christian thinking, felt one’s confidence in salvation must be accompanied by an ever-present fear of God. Calvin and Luther may have taken joy in the possibility of being fearless before God’s face, but Calvin also noted that the conscience should never fully rest in “peaceful repose, undisturbed by any tumult at all.” (Calvin, Institutes 562; 3.2.17).

16> Malvolio nicely represents, in a secular context, the complexities of this religious belief. He is, first, a man who seeks assurance. As Douglas Trevor says, “Malvolio reads Olivia’s love [...] as the puritan elect read God’s love for them” (72); one key quality of such a love is its indefatigable, absolute nature. Thus as Malvolio reads Maria’s forged letter he first hopes to find signs of his election (“if this should be thee, Malvolio!” [2.5.103-4]). But Malvolio goes further, trying hard as Protestants did, to distinguish this sense of election from its evil doppelgänger, namely a misguided belief that he is saved. As Sean Benson notes, if Malvolio’s reading practices can be called Puritan, they should not be termed so in the superficial sense of simply finding in the text what one expects to find, an accusation made against Puritans in Shakespeare’s day.[6] In contrast, as Benson argues, Malvolio’s reading practices are both cautious and careful; his “use of both written and oral contexts is surely the mark of a conscientious reader” (276). Malvolio’s joyful exclamation, on finally attaining assurance, is as follows:

“Why, everything adheres together, that no dram of a scruple, no scruple of a scruple, no obstacle, no incredulous or unsafe circumstance – what can be said? – nothing that can be can come between me and the full prospect of my hopes.” (3.4.78-83)

17> These words register the necessary high level of confidence that Protestants felt was required to turn mere hope into solid assurance. Malvolio’s praise of Jove for granting him this prize (“Well, Jove, not I, is the doer of this, and he is to be thanked” [3.4.83-4]) likewise conveys the cautious language of Protestants who did not attribute their attainment of assurance to anything within their still sinful selves. In contrast, to have “greatness thrust upon” one (2.5.146), as in Malvolio’s case, was to be chosen for glory through no virtue of one’s own.

18> The specific means of Malvolio’s quest for assurance again stress a Puritan approach, namely engaging in extremely ‘close reading’, particularly in the context of a sacred text. The aim of such reading was, as George Abbot, Archbishop of Canterbury, put it in 1600, not to find evidence that “Christ is a savior but for what am I the better for that – but a savior unto me” (Tyacke 263). Thus, like other Protestants seeking assurance, Malvolio feels that careful reading can reveal a deeply held secret (“No man must know” [2.5.102, 103]), and more importantly a secret specifically about himself: “If this should be thee, Malvolio” (2.5.103-4). Thus he approaches the letter with an appropriately hushed tone of awe: “By your leave, wax. Soft!” (2.5.94), Softly! (2.5.122). He also continually reminds himself of these sacred words and quotes them to himself and to others (3.4.68-71), to persuade himself that his reading practices are reliable.

19> In such ways, Malvolio dramatizes the situation of the seeker of assurance, finding himself on the cusp of a long-sought enlightenment, and prepared for the most glorious possible Christian experience, namely conversion. It is this experience that Malvolio refers to when he feels his prayers have been answered and he is to be henceforth directed by a powerful and loving force that will guide his otherwise sinful will and make it righteous; “with a kind of injunction [she] drives me to these habits of her liking” (2.5.169-70). In this state, Malvolio “will be proud [...] will read politic authors [...] will baffle Sir Toby [...] will wash off gross acquaintance [...] will be point device the very man” (2.5.161-4). The repetition of the word “will” stresses, as avid Protestants did, both the helplessness of the sinful will to turn to God, but also the possibility that the will, when purified by God, will act in conjunction and harmony with God’s will. Seeing himself in this latter position, Malvolio is prepared to “cast” his “humble slough, and appear fresh,” (2.5.148-9); he will henceforth be clothed in Christian armor, “even with the swiftness of putting on” (2.5.172-3).[7]

20> As a text, Twelfth Night does not seem to admire Malvolio’s approach; as scholars often point out, Malvolio is more than willing to “crush” his sacred text “a little” (2.5.140) to “make that resemble something in me!” (2.5.121). In addition, Malvolio’s personality does not benefit from his attainment of assurance. Basking in its effects, he sees himself as no longer “idle” or “shallow,” properties of “things” driven wholly by sin; rather he believes he has ascended to a higher “element,” presumably fire or air, stressing his elect status in relation to others (3.4.124-5). Fabian’s blunt aside to the audience following Malvolio’s final display of rapture (“if this were played upon a stage now, I could condemn it as an improbable fiction” [3.4.128-9]) reminds members of that audience that such ‘improbable’ encounters with assurance did take place in religious circles, as Protestants struggled to attain a sense that God had chosen them for greatness. Alas, this quest might have appeared to others as it does to Fabian, as analogous to ‘madness’ – a harsh judgment that must have intensified, as Donna Hamilton has argued it did, tensions between Puritans and other members of the English nation.[8]

21> An alternative method of approaching the quest for assurance in Twelfth Night is seen by the behavior of Sebastian in the play. While Malvolio is assured that he is saved, Sebastian is equally confident that he is damned, a Jonah whose presence on board the Captain’s ship may have been the reason for its destruction and the death of his sister, Viola; as Sebastian says to his friend Antonio:

“my stars shine darkly over me; the malignancy of my fate might perhaps distemper yours; therefore I shall crave of you your leave that I may bear my evils alone.” (2.1.3-6)

22> Yet, judging from Sebastian’s eventual good fortune in contrast to Malvolio’s degradation, it would appear that even resigned assurance of reprobation is a better alternative than seeking for assurance of election. Sebastian obtains the wife Malvolio had sought; moreover, he suddenly finds himself in possession of assurance after all. The “flood of fortune” he suddenly encounters at his lowest point does “exceed all instance, all discourse” and so Sebastian is “ready to distrust mine eyes,/And wrangle with my reason” in order to preserve his newfound sense of election (4.3.11-14). In contrast, the man who pursued assurance and moreover held tenaciously to it – even to the extent of enduring, like a Christian martyr, the tribulations of solitary darkness and the mockery of unbelievers – finds only ignominy, discovering his scripture was written by a serving maid and his Christian armor only yellow garters.

23> Yet, in the end, despite the mockery Malvolio is subjected to because of his foolhardy quest, the need for assurance he displays is not fully dismissed by the play. In the fallen world early modern Protestants felt they inhabited, even the most basic evidence of one’s senses could be deluded, and merely reaffirming simple empirical truths (as Sebastian says, “This is the air, that is the glorious sun,/This pearl she gave me, I do feel’t and see’t” [4.3.1-2]) was by no means a simple matter. Indeed, without being able to assure oneself of these basic truths, one might go mad, a condition both Malvolio and Sebastian come close to experiencing and which Malvolio apparently earlier wishes upon Orsino in the play, urging Viola to put him “into a desperate assurance she will none of him” (2.2.7). Malvolio’s evil will is implemented when Orsino apparently does go somewhat mad, threatening to “kill” (5.1.117) first Olivia and then, apparently, Cesario (5.1.127-8) for making clear to him the hopelessness of his quest to be assured of Olivia’s love.

24> As we see, assurance was needed by Puritans not only to comprehend their eternal fates, but even to exist daily in the world. “Plight me the full assurance of your faith” (4.3.26) says Olivia to Sebastian, reminding him and all husbands of the necessary high level of assurance required in marriage. Indeed, Shakespeare plays such as Much Ado About Nothing, Othello, and The Winter’s Tale all posit the loss of absolute and total assurance in the fidelity of one’s beloved as a potent sign of one’s own sinfulness.

25> In this light, Malvolio is perhaps not to be over-mocked for trying to see, in the course of his earthly fortunes concerning possible marriage to Olivia and the enhancement of his social power, something deeper and more significant about his role in God’s universe. He is confident that there exists a text which outlines the path to assurance and which its author cannot repudiate (“Write from it, if you can, in hand, or phrase – / Or say ‘tis not your seal, not your invention: / You can say none of this. [5.1.331-3]). His plaintive cries to Olivia – asking her to explain “Why you have given me such clear lights of favour [...] Why have you suffer’d me to be imprison’d, / Kept in a dark house” (5.1.335, 340-1) – reflect the anguish of the religious person who comes so close to what he perceives as the attainment of grace, only to find it snatched away; there are echoes of Job and even of Psalm 22 (“My god, my God, why hast thou forsaken me”) a Biblical passage of such potency it rarely finds its ways into Shakespeare’s plays.[9] In this context, audience laughter at Malvolio is also a nervous laughter, directed at our own most deeply held quests, and the fear they too may be the obsessions of fools.

Works Cited:
Benson, Sean. “’Perverse Fantasies’?: Rehabilitating Malvolio’s Reading,” Papers on Language and Literature 45.3 (2009): 261-86.
The Bible. Authorized King James Version, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.
Calvin, John. “Acts of the Council of Trent with the Antidote,” trans. Henry Beveridge. Works and Correspondence, Tracts and Treatises in Defense of the Reformed Faith. 3 vols. Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1844-51; 3.17-188. Charlottesville, VA: InteLex Past Masters Series, Electronic Edition, 2002.
---. Institutes of the Christian Religion. Trans. Ford Lewis Battles. Ed. John T. McNeill. Library of Christian Classics, vols. 20 and 21. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960.
“The Canons of the Synod of Dort, 1619,” trans. Philip Schaff and Gerald Bray. Documents of the English Reformation. Ed. Gerald Bray. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1994. 453-78.
Collinson, Patrick. The Elizabethan Puritan Movement. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967.
---. “The Theater Constructs Puritanism.” The Theatrical City: Culture, Theatre and Politics in London, 1576-1649. Ed. David L. Smith, Richard Strier and David Bevington. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995. 157-69.
Hall, Basil. “Puritanism: the Problem of Definition.” Studies in Church History 2 (1965): 283-96.
Hamilton, Donna. Shakespeare and the Politics of Protestant England. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1992.
Hamlin, Hannibal. The Bible in Shakespeare. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.
“The Lambeth Articles, 1595,” no translator noted. Documents of the English Reformation, ed. Gerald Bray. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1994. 399-400.
Luther, Martin. “Lectures on Galatians, 1535, Chapters 1-4,” trans. Jaroslav Pelikan. Luther’s Works, American Edition. Ed. Jaroslav Pelikan, Helmut T. Lehmann, Christopher Boyd Brown, et al. 75 vols. St. Louis, MO: Concordia Press; Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1955-. Volume 26.
Montagu, Anthony. “A Booke of Orders and Rules,” in Sussex Archaeological Collections, Relating to the History and Antiquities of the County, vol. 7 (London: John Russell Smith, 1854), 173-212.
Patterson, W.B. William Perkins and the Making of a Protestant England. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.
Perkins, William. “A Discourse of Conscience.” The Workes of [...] William Perkins. 3 vols. London, 1626-31. 1.515-554.
Poole, Kristen. Radical Religion From Shakespeare to Milton: Figures of Noncomformity in Early Modern England. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000.
Shakespeare, William. Twelfth Night. Ed. J.M. Lothian and T.W. Craik. Arden Edition. London and New York: Methuen, 1975.
Siegel, Paul N. “Malvolio: Comic Puritan Automaton.” Shakespearean Comedy. Ed. Maurice Charney. New York: New York Literary Forum, 1980. 217-230.
Simmons, J.L. “A Source for Shakespeare’s Malvolio: The Elizabethan Controversy with the Puritans.” Huntington Library Quarterly 36.3 (1973): 181-201.
Stanglin, Keith D. Arminius on the Assurance of Salvation: The Context, Roots, and Shape of the Leiden Debate, 1603-1609. Leiden, Netherlands: Koninklijke Brill NV, 2007.
Tanner, Norman, ed. Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils. 2 vols. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 1990.
Trevor, Douglas. “Self-love, Spirituality, and the Senses in Twelfth Night.” Shakespearean Sensations: Experiencing Literature in Early Modern England. Ed. Katharine A. Craik and Tanya Pollard. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013. 64-82.
Tyacke, Nicholas. Aspects of English Protestantism c. 1530-1700. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2001.
Walsh, Brian. Unsettled Toleration: Religious Difference on the Shakespearean Stage. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016.
“Westminster Confession of Faith, 1647.” Documents of the English Reformation. Ed. Gerald Bray. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1994. 486-520.
White, Peter. Predestination, Policy and Polemic: Conflict and Consensus in the English Church from the Reformation to the Civil War. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992.
Winship, Michael P. “Weak Christians, Backsliders, and Carnal Gospelers: Assurance of Salvation and the Pastoral Origins of Puritan Practical Divinity in the 1580s,” Church History 70.3 (2001): 462-81.


[1] This essay was fully supported by a grant from the Research Grants Council of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China (Project No. CUHK444611).

[2] Basil Hall, drawing his definition from Thomas Fuller’s 1655 Church History of Britain, says that “before 1642 the ‘serious’ people in the Church of England who desired some modifications in Church government and worship were called Puritans” (289). More recently, W.B. Patterson defines Puritans in the late Elizabethan and early Jacobean period “as an ideologically articulate and self-aware group of clergy and laity who formulated detailed plans for the reordering of key features of the Church’s polity, liturgy, and discipline” (34).

[3] Anthony-Maria Browne, the second Viscount Montagu (and a Catholic), speaks, in 1595, of the duties of the household steward in ways that presage the creation of Malvolio: “I will thatt in civill sorte he doe reprehende and correcte the negligent and disordered parsons, and reforme them by his grave admonition and vigilant eye over them” (Montagu 186).

[4] See also the “Westminster Confession of Faith, 1647” which provides an extensive discussion of the necessity for Protestants to obtain “infallible assurance,” despite the challenges one faces in doing so (“Westminster” 500).

[5] For this distinction, which he argues was implemented by the Reformation, see Stanglin, 168, 171-2. Winship makes a similar point about Perkins who formulated the concept of “unconscious hypocrites” who “sincerely thought themselves among the saved, but in reality they had only temporary faith” (Winship 475).

[6] See for example J.L. Simmons, who makes an argument that many scholars have accepted: that Malvolio represents “the comic and dramatic equivalent of Richard Hooker’s charge that Puritans rack and wrest the Bible for ‘what strange fantastical opinion soever at any time enter[s] their heads’” (182).

[7] The letter’s reference to “cast thy humble slough, and appear fresh” brings to mind passages such as Zechariah 3.4: “Behold, I have caused thy iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment.” The image also suggests a snake, shedding its skin.

[8] Hamilton’s argument is that the cruel treatment of Malvolio could serve to remind Shakespeare’s audiences of Twelfth Night that wiser approaches to Puritans would be needed than those practiced by Sir Toby and his crew; as Hamilton puts it, “Toby thought only to suppress and contain challenge, not make it more visible, permanent and threatening” (Hamilton 106).

[9] See Hannibal Hamlin for a discussion of Psalm 22 (and Psalm 68.15) in relation to Antony’s line in Antony and Cleopatra: “O that I were/Upon the hill of Basan, to outroar/The horned herd” (3.13.126-8); (Hamlin 222).

Jason Gleckman is Associate Professor of English at The Chinese University of Hong Kong. His research interests include, as in this essay, Shakespeare and the Protestant Reformation. His essays on such topics have recently appeared in the journals Shakespeare and Reformation. His monograph on the subject is in preparation.

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