Shakespeare’s Anti-Christian Satires: The Virgin Mary Parodies

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In the Hamlet portion, the light from the eyes of Hamlet/Helios makes Ophelia conceive like the Virgin Mary. L: Anna Wood; R: Alexandra CohenSpiegler. Photo by Jonathan Slaff.

On September 5 and 12, 2009 The Dark Lady Players (www.darkladyplayers.com) will perform “Shakespeare’s Anti-Christian satires: The Virgin Mary Parodies,” extracts from their Shakespeare Miscellany that illustrate newly discovered satires in the characters of Ophelia, Desdemona and Juliet.

The discoveries are revealed in revolutionary new dramaturgy by John Hudson, an English Shakespearean researcher, that presents a 16th century Marrano/Converso Jewish woman as the real author of Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets. Amelia Bassano Lanier (1569-1645), the so called Dark Lady who was the first woman in England to have a book of her poetry printed (“Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum,” 1611), has been previously known to scholars only as a poet and early feminist critic of the Christian gospel and the long term mistress to the man in charge of the English theater. New research by Mr. Hudson, conducted at the Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham and documented in his 800 page biography “The Dark Lady,” presents her as the author of Shakespeare’s poems and plays, which are also shown to contain allegorical anti-Christian satires. This production, guided by this new dramaturgy, is made up entirely of Amelia/Shakespeare’s purported spoofs of the Virgin Mary.

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Amelia Bassanio Lanyer. Courtesy Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

The Dark Lady Players has previously staged demonstrations of Jewish allegories in “Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “As You Like It,” but the Virgin Mary allegories in “Othello,” “Hamlet” and “Romeo and Juliet”, are being acted live for the first time.

Before the first staging, on September 5 at 2:15 pm, the company will precede its performance with an outdoor event, “The Virgin Mary Mystery Play Procession,” based on the York Mystery Plays, starting at the southern end of Washington Square near the chess boards and leading the audience to Manhattan Theater Source, where “Shakespeare’s Anti-Christian satires: The Virgin Mary Parodies” will be unveiled.

The Dark Lady Players have staged the underlying allegories using meta-theatrical devices. Their aesthetic is drawn partly from Gordon Craig’s early 20th century concept of the actor as the “uber-marionette,” but more significantly from the Elizabethan theater of the early 1590s, when the first Shakespearean plays were being written. This includes using actors sort of like human puppets.

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VISIBLE SYMBOLS- Hamlet’s letter to Ophelia reveals her to be an allegorical Virgin Mary. L: Anna Wood; R: Alexandra Cohen-Spiegler. Photo by Ellen Rolfes.

This performance is offered as a “proof of concept” demonstration. It is directed by Jenny Greeman, who is the resident director of the Dark Lady Players. The cast includes Alexandra Cohen-Spiegler, Anna Wood, Mimi Hirt, Megan McGrath and Riah Werner.

Using scribd.com, a variety of presentations of Hudson’s research can now be accessed online, which should be good news to directors of Shakespeare, dramaturgs and just about everyone interested in the most recent thinking on these questions. To look them up, search online for “Amelia Bassano Lanier: A New Paradigm for the Shakespearean Authorship” and a variety of Hudson’s other writings, including treatises on “As You Like It” and “Midsummer Night’s Dream.”