In recent years, J. Sheridan Le Fanu's ghost-story collection In a Glass Darkly (1871) has been interpreted through its Gothic, medical and theological contexts. Yet the focus of these disparate literary and cultural discourses at the moment of death and – more pointedly – in the enactment of self-annihilation has never been explored. The first three narratives in the collection, ‘Green Tea’, ‘The Familiar’ and ‘Mr Justice Harbottle’, depict troubled, indeed persecuted, individuals – a diffident clergyman, a retired naval officer, a notorious and corrupt hanging judge – whose lives end prematurely following a personal contemplation of past actions known to themselves, but not to their contemporaries. This chapter will consider the deteriorating mental states of the Reverend Jennings and Captain Barton, the respective protagonists of ‘Green Tea’ and ‘The Familiar’, and the retrospective account which charts the final days of the unfortunate Mr Justice Harbottle. All three stories amply illustrate the complex relationship between introspection and self-destruction in the persecutory tradition of Gothic fiction.
This chapter pinpoints 27 December 1601 as the date of the first performance
of Twelfth Night – and demonstrates that Shakespeare wrote his play for two
audiences, one at Elizabeth’s Court, the other at the Inns of Court.