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Shakespeare Connected - The Material Faith of Shakespeare


The ‘superstitious’ association of images and objects with a protective function continued well after the establishment of Protestantism. Angels in particular were thought to keep a benign watch over human affairs and fend off evil spirits.

While images of saints and holy figures were forbidden in Protestant places of worship, angels often survived purges of church imagery especially if they were hard to reach. The carved wooden angel once stood high in the roof space of the Guild Chapel and would still have been visible in Shakespeare’s lifetime.


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The gold coin, known as an angel, dates from 1582 and is one example of how angels remained a powerful presence in Elizabethan England. The coin has an image of the Archangel Michael spearing a devil or dragon. The angel was sometimes presented by the monarch to people as part of the ritual of touching for 'the king's evil', or scrofula, because Michael was associated with driving out evil in the form of illness. These coins thereby became talismans against further illness.

SBT 2003-4/5


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