The Ghost of Pasquill: The Comic Afterlife and the Afterlife of Comedy on the Elizabethan Stage

Andrew David Hamilton Gordon* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In Dekker’s Old Fortunatus (1599) the character of Andelocia provides a compelling image for the Reformation of the dead in sixteenth-century England. For this prodigal youth in Dekker’s patriotic drama the absence of ghosts is a liberating achievement of the reformed graveyard. The abolition of Purgatory by decree had denied doctrinal legitimacy to ghosts in their affiliation to the souls of the deceased. In recent years, however, we have learned to set doctrinal developments alongside the lived experiences of religious change, uncovering the ways in which radical modifications in liturgy and practice mapped onto a shifting landscape of belief.2 Reconceptualizing the Reformation as a long and contested process of cultural adjustment has shed light on the extent to which various pre-Reformation habits of thought and modes of social action persisted within ostensibly reformed areas. In the scene from Dekker’s play we find a comic working through of these contradictions. The material vision of Reformation as a series of security measures to contain the dead reveals the conceptual debt of the young Andelocia to the old ways: the absence of ghosts here stems from a vigilant act of suppression that is satirically paralleled in the son’s disregard for the wishes of the deceased.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Arts of Remembrance in Early Modern England
Subtitle of host publicationMemorial Cultures of the Post Reformation
EditorsAndrew Gordon, Thomas Rist
Number of pages18
ISBN (Print)9781306069953
Publication statusPublished - 7 Sept 2013

Publication series

NameMaterial Readings in Early Modern Culture


Dive into the research topics of 'The Ghost of Pasquill: The Comic Afterlife and the Afterlife of Comedy on the Elizabethan Stage'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this