Shakespeare and QAnon

by the Rev. Amber Carswell


Shakespeare’s Othello and Much Ado About Nothing are two sides of the same coin. Both stories feature couples in love and evil antagonists who plot to thwart that love by sowing lies amidst the good wheat. Much Ado‘s comedic arc, where the lovers overcome Don John’s shadowy machinations to ultimately be joined in marital bless, mirrors the tragic arc of Othello, where Iago’s manipulations remain unexposed long enough to lead to the deaths of the protagonists.


(Did I mention Missy and I were working our way through the Shakespeare canon during quarantine? I’ll catch up to chatting about Schitt’s Creek in about 400 years.)


These two stories came to mind when I read the following piece that says everything in the headline: Study reveals half of pastors say they’re hearing conspiracy theories in their churches (https://religionnews.com/2021/01/26/about-half-of-pastors-say-theyre-hearing-conspiracy-theories-in-their-churches-survey/)


Now, you’ll be glad to know I’m in the half not hearing conspiracy theories in my church. Thank God for you. But I hear them elsewhere, and likely you are, too. Yesterday, a friend told me he hoped that after the prophecies of the End Of All Liberty!!!!! to be brought about by the new administration were clearly seen as false prophecies, that after the events of January 6 unfolded, there would be some soul searching. One commentator said the reconciliation that must happen between Q-anoners and those of us who love them might be likened to a relationship with a suspected infidelity that had never transpired.


This brings me back to Shakespeare and my realization that these are two stories about the ways conspiracy theories play out. But will this be a comedy? Will the light of truth shine and reveal that it was all much ado about nothing? Or are we living into more of a tragic arc, the supposed infidelity equally nonexistent but the ado still leading to irrevocable consequences?


Iago famously vows silence when caught at his deceptions. There will be no explanation given for his behavior. This seems true to me — as much as we want explicable motivations for human behavior, the explanations always leave us left wanting. The problem was not enough love as a child (til the same thing happened with one who was coddled), exposed to too much violence on television (but this one had grown up in a time without it), not enough education (but here’s a Harvard grad saying the same thing), a life of poverty (but that one lives in a mansion), the list goes on. We want to put our finger on a verifiable, governable first cause so that we can change and negate that cause.


As it turns out, Christians are already provided a root cause for destructive behavior. The task given us is a much more serious burden: to shine a light in the darkness, to proclaim that is the truth that will set us free. Truth, if we learned anything from postmodernity or Pontius Pilate, is apparently something harder to see than we thought. I’m not sure how you’ll be working to spread the truth of God’s reconciling, sacrificial, faithful love, but I pray you’re thinking about it and acting on it in all the ways you can. It’s the only thing that has a chance to change the arc of this story.

11 thoughts on “Shakespeare and QAnon”

  1. Wow, I am amazed at your clever thought process with the connection of two of Shakespeare’s villains and understanding Q. I think when we are back in church for Sunday classes, you and Missy should lead a series of classes connecting Shakespeare’s works to our lives today. I used to be on the Adult classes committee for Calvary and from that experience I think this would be very popular.
    Also, I just discovered Schitt’s Creek a month ago and have not laughed so hard in a long time. Such a clever show about the importance of family and caring about the people in your community. Thanks again.

    1. I am definitely no Shakespeare scholar! But maybe we could find someone in town who is and get a class going. I’d be thrilled to be a part of a group like that.

      And I really will get to Schitt’s Creek someday in this life, or the life to come…

  2. Much appreciated. I must admit that the last year has felt like living in a dystopian novel, whether political or science-fiction. Putting on my interfaith hat, I’ll mention that some groups of Jews use the phrase “to repair the world” in much the same way as you use “to shining a light into the darkness”. Both very much needed today.

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