"They being penitent" : Shakespeare's embedded religious hybridity as (re)habilitative for incarcerated actors.


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Shakespeare prison programs have been thriving for twenty years, yet scholarship is scarce concerning why Shakespeare plays are successful in rehabilitation. The answer lies within the plays. Shakespeare captures early modern questions about how to pay for sin, which are extremely similar to the concerns of American incarcerated individuals. The profundity of this link between Shakespeare’s stage and the study of his plays behind bars deserves further exploration. Examining the tensions within Othello surrounding the idea of “satisfaction,” and those surrounding the term “indulgence” in The Tempest, offers a powerful lens for Shakespeare’s work. And when those ideas are grounded in the experiences of men whose lives have been altered by seeking personal application from these plays, the influence of the text intensifies. This proves both Shakespeare’s timelessness and timeliness, and offers possibilities for how Shakespeare aids in social change, both behind bars and within university classrooms.



Shakespeare. Prison. Religious hybridity. Othello. Tempest. Early modern. Satisfaction. Indulgence. Rehabilitation.