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Shakespeare Connected - Not to Be: Death in the Collection


In both Catholic and Anglican faiths there exists the ritual of anointing with holy oils on specific occasions such as baptism, ordination, and at the time of death. Shakespeare spoke of such holy oils in All is True (Henry VIII), 4.1.90, with regard to the coronation of Anne Bullen as Queen. When a person was in extremis, on their deathbed, the ‘extreme unction’ was dispensed in preparation for passage to the next life. The pewter flask marked with the ‘I’ was for this particular unction, or oil of the infirm (oleum infirmorum), administered as one of the last rites.

SBT 1992-10


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