Servile Ministers: Othello, King Lear and the Sacralization of Service

Servile Ministers, by Michael Neill

“Servile Ministers”

Othello, King Lear and the Sacralization of Service

by Michael Neill


  • Spring 2004
  • ISBN 978-1-55380-015-6 (1-55380-015-X)
  • 5-3/4″ x 9″ Pamphlet, 40 pages
  • Literary Criticism

In his 2003 Garnett Sedgewick Memorial Lecture, Michael Neill takes us deep into the cultural complexities of Shakespeare’s world. With special attention to the two plays Othello and King Lear, Neill explores the various Elizabethan meanings surrounding the concept of “service.”

In the ordered, hierarchical world of the late sixteenth- and early seventeenth-centuries, the idea of service as a sacred duty to God and God’s representatives penetrated all of society so that each and every person was linked to others within a pattern of sacred service. But as Neill demonstrates, Shakespeare recognizes in his plays that service was becoming increasingly linked to “slavery,” that the sacralized world of service was slowly disintegrating. T

he fascination of Shakespeare’s plays, Neill suggests, lies in their multi-layered probing of the ways in which the ideal of service continues to exist even as the world which gave substance to the ideal was vanishing.

Garnett Sedgewick Memorial Lectures: