Mascot for #DevilDiss

Mascot for #DevilDiss
Mascot for #DevilDiss

Sunday, January 25, 2015

What a No Good, Horrible, Very Bad Week Looks Like as a PhD Student

Perhaps there's an irony that just as it seems the #DevilDiss is getting into high gear, just as I was looking forward to laser-locked focus, it just all seems to come crumbling down.

I've been feeling pretty good going into comps. I'm prepared. I've written sample answers. I review minutiae with my color-coded flash cards.
I have felt good about where #DevilDiss is. The prospectus I've spent five years on was finished except for last edits. I'm 80+ pages into writing the actual dissertation. I'm at a revision stage, adding notes of where to put outside scholarship and footnotes.

I had two writing projects, one a revision, one to actually write, to complete before comps started in February but I felt good about how I had budgeted my time.

And Monday it all came crashing down. And the week went downhill (mostly) from there.

I received some feedback that sent me into a spiral. Instead of finishing the revision project Monday, and getting some studying done I spent the day wondering if I even belonged in my program. If I just did not have it in me.
There's a fair amount of self-doubt that comes with the PhD process, more so I think if you have no support system to help take some of the edge off or pull you back from the edge. I was lucky enough to have a meeting the next day with my dissertation director who I am infinitely grateful for as we solved two problems on Tuesday- I regained my equilibrium and by talking through the entire dissertation (with the handy use of a picture of my whiteboard) we determined that the best thing to do was to toss the dissertation prospectus and start over.
So I did. I threw the document out. It was chunky and there was no through line. You could see that it was a document I had built in stages since 2010. I could almost mark on the page where additions and revisions had been made. My director suggested writing it from scratch, as a letter, as though I was explaining the project to her.
So I sat down on Wednesday morning and did just that. And it was amazing how easily the argument came together and flowed. The new prospectus is clear and contains a more complete argument.  I sent it off to my director, and am hoping that the notes are for some spots to expand, and minor, but otherwise good.
As a result, I also redid my whiteboard.
And while I'm ecstatic  about these moves, it also means that I've now added another chapter I have to write. And while I think my bad week started on Monday, the stress started Wednesday.
This has been my working timetable:
  • January 2015: CH 1 and 2 to copyeditor
  • February 2015: Comps, get notes from copyeditor, revise
  • March 2015: Defend prospectus, CH 1 and 2 to committee, turn CH 3 from conference paper into chapter and send to committee
  • April 2015: Write Milton chapter as conference paper for MTSU, turn into chapter, give to committee
  • May 2015: Notes on drafts back from committee
  • Summer 2015: Revise dissertation based on notes
  • Fall 2015: Second drafts to committee, revise again
  • January 2016: Defend
Except I've had to stop working on CH 1 and 2 notes in order to get my semester started. So I won't get them to the copyeditor this week. And I still haven't finished the revision and writing project I need to get done before February (and by that I mean this week). And suddenly there's an extra chapter to write and I'm feeling overwhelmed.
Don't get me wrong- this is a temporary condition. I still think this is a good timeline, I still think I can stick to it. I have this week to get the revision project done, that's my focus. I can at least get that finished. The other paper is the Twin Peaks paper for SCMS which isn't until March. So if that gets punted a little, I'm not worried (although I have other, smaller In Focus tasks to do).
One of the things that I said to my director Tuesday was that I needed to cut myself some slack which I'm horrible at doing. Yes, I'm racing through my PhD program. And yes, I've mostly done that by placing a ridiculous amount of pressure on myself. But I need to learn to give myself some credit.
So the revised timeline looks like this:
  • This week: notes on Twin Peaks drafts, Skype with co-editor. Finish revisions on chapter and send to editor
  • February 2015: Comps, finish #DevilDiss notes on CH 2, type up, CH 1 and 2 to copyeditor, get notes from copyeditor, revise. Finish SCMS conference paper.
  • March 2015: Defend prospectus, CH 1 and 2 to committee, turn CH 3  from conference paper into chapter and send to committee
  • April 2015: Write Milton chapter as conference paper for MTSU, turn into chapter, give to committee
  • May 2015: Notes on drafts back from committee, , write pamphlet chapter and send to committee
  • Summer 2015: Revise dissertation based on notes
  • Fall 2015: Second drafts to committee, revise again
  • January 2016: Defend
So, I managed to get my stress level down from going nuclear for the end of the week.
One of the other things that my director and I talked about was connecting chapters one and two to Milton so it didn't read as though Oh Look- Chapter Four Has Milton! The way I decided to do this was to return to the text, to frame those chapters with Miltons' physical descriptions and personality descriptions of Satan in Paradise Lost. So that's what I spent my #DevilDiss Friday time doing and I felt much better. I still have to finish the CH 2 notes and type all the revision notes up before I can send to the copyeditor, but that's maybe a day or two of work, so I feel good about it.

Then the weekend hit. This semester I'm trying two new things. The first is that I am closing work email tabs in the evenings and keeping them closed on weekends. I will not be on the job 24 hours a day 7 days a week. It's exhausting, irritates me, and has no positive returns. The second is that I'm aiming to take Sundays completely off. I can't take the whole weekend off as Saturday is when I lesson plan and do my own schoolwork, but I'm aiming for Sunday.
But yesterday that fell apart.
I am always happy to help people, share things. But I get the feeling a lot (more recently than before) that people think I'm at their beck and call. That I should drop everything I'm doing (because it can't POSSIBLY be as important as their stuff) to deal with their stuff.
And I'm over that.
Social media exacerbates this. Tag someone, mention someone with the expectation that OF COURSE they will drop what their doing because YOU need something. It's the behavior we can't stand in our students, and yet turn right around and do it to other people. 
Especially because the people doing this are not my friends, so I really don't see WHY I should put myself out for them. Figure it out your damn self.
Plus, I wasn't in a great mood to begin with yesterday so...(and I'll just baldly state that if these people WERE my friends, they'd frakking have known that, but I digress...)

So that colored yesterday.
Then we get down to the meltdown of yesterday. I am using Old English as my language requirement which requires three semesters to demonstrate fluency. Last spring I took my first course. I was unable last semester to take the second because of a scheduling conflict. But I am in the seminar this semester. With people who DID take last semester's class. I'm doing better than I thought after almost a year off, but completing the translations on the weekends is time consuming. Yesterday I sat down at 10a to translate 164 lines of Old English Boethius and it was past 6p before I was finished. I couldn't concentrate, I struggled with the vocab, I had to go back and forth between the paper dictionary and the online dictionary. I felt as though I was having to look up every word which was just slow as hell.
It made me feel stupid.

Except for this language requirement, I was finished with required coursework last semester. So I really thought this semester would be easy. I had this course, and I'm taking a 17th century class with my dissertation director because I haven't had a chance to schedule a class with her yet. So when scheduling it seemed perfectly reasonable that all work could get finished on Saturday with Sunday off.
But that's not happening. Maybe it's because it's still early in the semester and there's no groove yet. Maybe it's because I do have a lot of lesson planning prep to do this early in the semester.

I'm avoiding thinking it's because I'm an idiot.
What all of this boils down to is that I do not have a day off today.
And it also means that the lesson plans I needed to finish, and that chapter revisions I wanted to get done yesterday didn't get done. It means that I was up at 6a today to finish reading chapters for my classes. It means I have a lot to do today.
It also means that while my stress level is more manageable, and I'm no longer bemoaning my fitness for my PhD program, this is still my attitude ending this week.
As I've always wanted to be Toby Ziegler when I grow up, I'm okay with this.

I will finish my lesson plans.
I will make notes on the pieces I need to.
I will finish my chapter revisions.
I will be ready for comps.
I will pass comps.

It will all be fine. Or not.
Don't want to tempt the wrath...




Friday, January 16, 2015

CH 1 of #DevilDiss

I felt really bad most of Christmas break because I did not feel as though I was making enough progress on the dissertation. While I read addition books for comp, and made comp review flash cards over break, none of these tasks felt as concrete as adding pages to the dissertation, although I realize those are important parts of the process.
As I sat down this morning to read, revise, and make additions, I realized how helpful these two months away from the actual writing of the dissertation have been. The time allowed me some much needed distance which I realized today allowed me to revise in a better place.

I keep page counts above my desk and the last time I logged a #DevilDiss page count was 14 November. But I more than made up for it today, revising and adding notes to twenty-seven pages. The next week I have one goal: finish revising/adding notes to CH 1 and 2 of the dissertation. Today I spent all day ploughing through CH 1, and CH 2 will get finished next week.
This is what CH 1 which focuses on the physical description markers of the devil from medieval to early modern period.
Since I am all about the process, here's what I did.
  • Blue was the color for this round, so both Post-Its and pen color were blue. It may seem silly but this allows me at a glance to look at what stage the draft is. I wrote notes/additions/revisions on the draft. Big blue Post-Its were for longer notes or notes/insertions that needed more space.
  • I used the legal Post-It flags for signature to mark where I needed to still insert outside scholarship. Blue means I have the scholarship (in book or printed out article) and just need to add. Yellow means I have a scholarship gap and need to find something.
Somehow seeing it all laid out like this, it seems like a real thing. As though the further I get in the process the more I can actually "see" this as a book.
I'm using manuscript images as placemarkers for my different sections. I keep going back and forth on whether or not I want to keep these in the actual dissertation/book. For now though they are handy for me keeping my place in the work and I think are helpful touchstones for making sure the work stays focused.
Once I finish the notes on CH 2 the next milepost is to take all these notes and type them up, adding in the research I marked as missing. Then CH 1 and 2 will go to the copyeditor, I'm hoping before the end of January.
The prospectus is just awaiting one last revision which I'm meeting next week with my director about and can easily revise that in February as I don't have any dissertation writing scheduled in February except expanding my ACMRS conference paper into CH 2B and sending THAT to the copyeditor.
Once I've gotten the edits back from the copyeditor which I'm hoping will happen by the end of February I will make those revisions and then send CH 1, 2, 2B to my committee.
That means March can focus on the dissertation prospectus defense. Then writing CH 3 which focuses on how Milton uses all of this in Paradise Lost. I'm writing that in a class with my dissertation director, so I feel goo about that. And the introductions to CH 1 and 2 which deal with the Anglo-Saxon texts I'm also writing in a class (my seminar) this semester, so I feel good about that.

End goal this semester is complete CH 1, 2, 2B, and 3 to committee to get back with feedback before summer so I can spend the summer working on revisions and the introductory and concluding chapters. That way I can get second drafts to my committee in August, and hopefully final revisions by the end of fall semester to defend the whole thing in January.

So today was a good day. Lots of forward motion.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Where #DevilDiss chapter on Shakespeare came from. Or how I inadvertently ended up with a canon chapter.

A friend today posted that she was going to start posting more about "process" of work, inspired by me. Aw shucks!

I've heard a lot about the "canon" chapter in dissertations. I did not start out having one. Rather, my chapter that addresses Shakespeare is an insert chapter- a chapter I only realized I needed after I'd gathered all my other close readings this summer.

It was only after completing all that work that I realized I had to address the fact that there are no devils in Shakespeare. So, my insert chapter which I've been calling 2B, but at some point need to call CH 3.

The picture above shows where the chapter started, as most things do with me, with doodlings in my writer's notebook.

It then got expanded into this, my presentation for ACMRS in February. This may get altered a bit as I've asked one of my committee members for notes if she has time between now and then.

I was taught, by the best mentor in the world, Will Banks, that if you start with your conference presentation, then YOUR argument is always at the forefront. A great "best practice" that I've always stuck to.

After the conference, once I've received feedback, I will then expand it into the dissertation chapter. Expanding the scholarship/literature review and situating my argument more.

So that's the most recent project, and keeping with the great advice by to focus on projects that advance my career. In this case, focusing on projects that are #DevilDiss all the time the next year. This allows me to get my argument out there at a conference, and then use this same work for the dissertation.

I was a little disappointed in MLA15, but not for the reasons you think

So I just got home from MLA 2015 in Vancouver. My stay was a little shorter than most because while I received a department grant to attend the year before the job market, that only covered airfare, and the MLA graduate student grant just covered my two nights at the hotel and meals. So I was not there the whole time.
However, as a first time MLAer, and a graduate students, and someone who will be on the job market fall 2015, it was interesting but a little underwhelming. Which is the opposite vision most people have of MLA.

We've all heard horror stories about MLA, and I'm sure there were interview horror stories this year.
But as I didn't participate in that, I want to talk about what my reactions were to what I experienced.

First, Vancouver is very pretty. And I would like to return and actually experience the city (something you rarely do with conferences, except PCA which always focuses on organizing city-related trips). The convention center was beautiful, and I heard on more than one occasion from members who had attended other MLAs that the technology and support was the best they'd ever had, so kudos to the Vancouver Convention Center.

I made sure to attend panels of dissertation committee members, and people I wanted to meet, as well as panels that were just interesting, as networking is supposed to be one of the big purposes at MLA. While I enjoyed all the panels I attended, I don't feel as though I networked MLA the way I thought you were supposed to.

One of the things I really liked was an idea brought up in one of the Chaucer panels (224. Why Chaucer Now?), that IF the MLA stops being focused on the job market (with Skype taking the place of initial interviews) then perhaps it can get back/refocus on what it used to turn in the 20s and 30s, focus on putting scholars together to produce great works of scholarship and scholarly editions. I also enjoyed that this panel approached Chaucer more from an idea of how we teach it (particularly @jeffreyjcohen 's paper). I think particularly in medieval and early modern it's important to share how we teach these works and keep them relevant, and I don't know how common this is at MLA, but I'd like to see more of it because I felt it was very helpful.

One of the bonuses for me of MLA was to attend the Milton panels. I was unable because of my finances to stay through Saturday night and the Milton Society dinner, but next year on the job market I'll be there the entire time so I'm looking forward to that.

I attended Milton and the Politics of Periodization (Session 189. Friday, 8:30–9:45 a.m., 112, VCC West) and enjoyed it. Session 347 Milton and Book History (Friday, 3:30–4:45 p.m., 204, VCC West) was a little intimidating- everyone in the room practically is on my works cited list for the #DevilDiss, and the panel presentations were interesting. I did notice that the majority of panels had a respondent, which I found a little confusing. I like more question and answers, and I don't really understand respondents, we just heard the papers, so why do we need a summary to tie them together? I don't know how prevalent it is at MLA, and I had no one to ask. Which brings me to my last issue.

I asked a Dundes question at the American Folklore panel about what "work" they saw the folklore motifs in their papers doing and no one answered it. In fact one person, with twenty minutes of Q&A left said "That's a big question, and we're short on time so there's no time to answer that" (Tip: don't do that). So I guess I'm doing something right.

I had thought before attending that MLA was about mentoring and introducing younger scholars to the older generation. Maybe it's because I'm not on the job market. Maybe it's because my mentors had other, more pressing students to prioritize. But I made a point to walk up to and make sure my mentors saw me, saw I was there, and I was brushed off by each one. I was not introduced to anyone. I was not sat down and talked to. I was not encouraged to attend some panels and not others. Now, it may be that this isn't how MLA works. That I am presuming something not in evidence. And if that's the case, that's fine, I'll know for next year. I did make sure I walked up and introduced myself cold to someone I know from Twitter but not in real life, because I like making those face to face connections.

I think part of the reason this bothered me more than anything else is that it hits close to a nagging feeling I'm starting to get. None of my mentors seem very excited about my work. I'm an extreme self-starter/hard-worker, so I don't require babysitting or reminding. But I thought (perhaps incorrectly) that part of the mentor-mentee process was to introduce me to journals I may not know, other scholars in the field, conferences I should be attending.  I also, on a personal level, want my mentors to find my work interesting enough that they are excited about sharing it with others. I guess I figure if they can't talk excitedly about it now, how are they going to talk about it in a few months for recommendation letters for a job.

Part of the reason this bothered me too was that I want to feel supported as well as challenged. And I don't quite. I know that's vague. And I'm not sure what the solution is. But, and maybe it's because two out of my three committee members were/are on sabbatical last semester, I'm feeling a bit all on my own.

Now, the practical stuff of #MLA15:
  • I saw a professor I hadn't seen in six years and went in for a hug rather than a handshake (because I'm naturally a hugger) but then worried the rest of the conference I had crossed a line. Oh well. 









 
  •  Having never traveled outside of the country, I did not know that cell phones from the U.S had issues in other countries. Because I was in panels all day I did not see the warning text from my phone company that I needed to change things for the different country. Or the text that said I was approaching data limits. Or the one that said I had $300 in data usage fees. I got them all at once and then panicked. Luckily, my phone company was lovely and we worked it out. And now I know for #SCMS15 in Montreal.



  •  U.S Airways completely screwed me on my return flight. I knew I couldn't afford a third night, but I had scheduled it so I could attend Saturday morning panels, and leave at 12p for my 230p flight home, getting in around 8p. When I went to check in for my flights, U.S Airways had changed my return flight to an 8a one because they no longer offer that afternoon flight. Without telling me. When I called to flip out they were unapologetic. Again, as a grad student I couldn't afford to change my flight to a later time because of extra charges. And because of Nehi I couldn't change my flight to Sunday. They had changed my flight to 8a-12p (Phoenix) with a seven hour layover before heading home. They then tried to change it to another early morning flight laying over in Los Angeles, not returning home until 11p. Which I couldn't do because of Nehi's crate limitations. It was only AFTER refusing all this she miraculously found an earlier layover flight leaving Phoenix at 130p and putting me home a little before 3p. But I still had to leave the hotel before 5a to get through security for the early flight. Which meant I missed out on at least two morning panels I was planning on attending.
 

I do feel as though this was a productive trip. Big conferences like this always set up the same, so I have an idea about general set up for next year. However, I don't know how much interviewees see of the conference.
So here were my take-aways-
  • Yes, it's a big conference. But so's PCA/ACA so I wasn't intimidated by that. I do recommend choosing panels before you go so you know where you're going. It will also help you focus on panels you're interested in and not get overwhelmed by the sheer size.
  • Let your professors, mentors know you're going and specifically ask if they can introduce you around. I was not successful with this, but perhaps it was because I'm a) not on the market this year and b) wasn't explicit about this.
  • Go to the panels of people you know from Twitter and introduce yourself. On a side note, I want to again stress the importance of having a presence on Twitter and using it. For example, I had a Twitter acquaintance "recognize" me before I walked up and introduced myself because I always wear a tie. And my avatar shows me wearing a tie. And my moniker is Tie-Girl on Twitter. It's little things. 
  • I can't live tweet panels. It's not a skill I have. I have to take handwritten notes. So I tend to fall of the grid on conferences. However, I do go back through my Twitter feed at night in the hotel to see if there was anything I missed and catch up.
  • Always leave early the first morning of the conference, so you have plenty of time to navigate to the convention site and to the specific room. I left the hotel at 730a so I could get coffee and have time to navigate to the Vancouver Convention Center for an 830a panel.
  • #MLA16 is in Austin, Texas which I'm excited about for several reasons. Because I'll be on the job market I will be there the entire time, and I hear Austin is cool (UT-Austin is a dream job) and I'll have more of a chance to look around. The flight will be cheaper, so good. The weather will be nicer i.e easier to pack for, no winter coats, one less set of things to schlub for interviews.
So those are my thoughts and reflections on #MLA15. Please share thoughts, comments, advice your have for graduate students attending.
Now it's just the long wait for #MLA16 and the job market stress that will accompany it.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Conference Hacks

This week is MLA so social media is full of tips for traveling to Vancouver and other conference hacks.
This got me thinking about conference prep in general.
I carry two bags when I travel- my leather briefcase and my leather bag. I don't check luggage to avoid any issues.
 My carry-on is the perfect size- I can stuff it with 4-5 days of clothes, and it's never too heavy to lug across airports.
It's also part and parcel with my belief that you should have a professional persona from airport all the way through to the conference. So my travel wear is always my work wear (shirt-tie). Bonus? It often gets me in the lesser security line.
The shirts and ties also makes packing easy. I try to stick to a color scheme. I'm not interviewing, so it's jeans, although I'm taking a grey pair of slacks for Friday (jeans for travel Thursday and Saturday). Wear jeans and blue shirt/tie/vest on travel day. Grey tie/vest for Friday. Brown tie/vest for travel day.
Because Vancouver may be rainy or snowy I'm wearing brown dress boots because they'll work regardless of weather. It's also why I'm taking my military coat versus the wool pea coat, because it can double for rain or snow.
I also splurged last  year and bought a clear toiletries bag which makes it easy for airport security, and goes last on top of the packing.
I don't sleep well in hotels, so Duckie travels with me. Often to the amusement of TSA. And housekeeping (who always tuck him in when they remake the bed which I think is adorable!)
I travel with my Surface because it's lightweight. Unfortunately I have a Surface RT which does not consistently connect to a projector so if I'm presenting, and have a PowerPoint I need to take my clunky, heavy laptop. Luckily for MLA I'm just looking around so Surface it is.
As much as I love technology, I'm a bit old school with hard copies. Every conference I attend gets a folder.
The folder includes hardcopy print outs of registration, hotel and flight info. I also rough out what the schedule is (inside has a more specific conference schedule of panels to attend). Also, this is my first international travel so MLA badge and passport are in the folder. The folder ensures everything is in one spot, easy to find and reference.
Despite loving Twitter have not mastered live-tweeting, and prefer to take handwritten notes in my binder during panels, so I like to have a new pad and a pen with plenty of ink. I also include extras of my business card, and Post-Its.
Each day of the conference, the handwritten notes get torn off and put into the conference folder.
A bonus of my Surface is the Kindle app, but I also carry at least a couple of hard copy books for a couple of reasons- I tend to use airport time to work, and all my work books are hard copy so I can highlight and make notes. Also, some airports still charge for wifi (which by the way is batshit crazy) and I rather read my book than pay for wifi.
So those are my conference hacks- what are yours?

Sunday, January 4, 2015

ACMRS Presentation “Hell is empty And all the devils are here”: The Absence of Devils in Shakespeare



“Hell is empty And all the devils are here”: The Absence of Devils in Shakespeare
The devil is so ubiquitous in medieval and early modern popular literature that his absence stands out. Even when devils are present, if a defining marker of the devil is absent it is obvious. As are variations of these demonic markers. There are no demonic figures in Piers Plowman (1360-1387) but there are two characters called Satan and Gobelyn. Satan in this case functions as adversary (his original role) and while Gobelyn has some demonic markers, he is more a folkloric figure. The devils in The Book of Margery Kempe (late 1430s) are not physically described  because the focus is on her experience, her faith. These absences are just as important as the presence to analyze however because they are clues as to the work the devil figure is doing within the text.  Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay (1589) has no physical description of devil, instead focusing on the pact aspect, necromancy and spirits, all associated markers with demonic figures. By far the largest absence is the fact that Shakespeare has no physical devil in any of his plays. This paper will examine how Shakespeare's lack of actual devil characters, and his move towards devilish characters such as Richard III, Aaron in Titus Andronicus, Shylock in The Merchant of Venice, Joan, Glyndŵr, and Falstaff from Henry IV Part 1,  and Iago from Othello reflect a move in the early modern period towards the interiority of (d)evil. This move towards an internal, rather than external, threat illustrates the internalization of people's fears and anxieties and the growing influence of Luther on the common people.
Past Scholarship:
Past scholarship such as the work of Neal Anthonisen, Ernest Jones, Stephen Ratcliffe, G.K Hunter, and Fredson Bowers has focused on the function of supernatural figures such as ghost, gods, spirits and fairies in works such as Hamlet, Macbeth, The Tempest and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The scholarship of Millicent Bell and Margaux Deroux has focused on the issue of blackness through a post-colonial lens or as a mark of Other/subaltern. I see my work as a continuation of Leslie A. Fiedler’s in The Stranger in Shakespeare. Fiedler details the evidence of women, Jews, Moor, and “New World Savage” as stranger or Other within Shakespeare’s text, analyzing the text through close readings and associating these close readings with the larger literary traditions. However, where I feel she does not push far enough in examining is how these Others represent the cultural and historical moment or what exactly how these Others of women, Jews, Moors, and Native Americans represent and the work these figures are doing within the text. I see my work as building on Fiedler’s work, extending it, connection these portrayals of Others/strangers, as early modern stand ins for the devil, and examining why and how any this point in time these devil figures represents the fears, anxieties, and desires of a particular point in time.
    In Shakespeare’s work there are all manner of supernatural figures- ghosts, spirits, fiends, and witches, but no devils. However, the folkloric devil in England, the devil of the people, can still be read in Shakespeare’s characters. The folkloric devil from c.1000 C.E up through the sixteenth century was identifiable through several key markers: he was physically distinct from people, appearing animalistic- dark in color, often with fur, cloven feet, claws, and a tail. He was often associated with the back, backside, or ass. He may be capable of magic, but is certainly capable of shapeshifting. He was also defined by his personality and actions- he is a tempter, a seducer, a deceiver, and is often identified by whom he makes pacts with (women and Jews). He acts as a counter to authority and often achieves his goals through cunning.
There is no way to know WHY Shakespeare did not include devils in his plays. It could have been because of stricter laws about showing heretical ideas onstage. It could be because Shakespeare is one of the few playwrights never jailed for heresy in his plays. It could be that his characters reflect a move towards the interiority  of evil in the early modern period. Regardless, the majority of these devil “markers” can be read in several of Shakespeare’s characters: Richard III, Aaron in Titus Andronicus, Shylock in The Merchant of Venice, Joan, Glyndŵr, and Falstaff from Henry IV Part 1,  and Iago from Othello. With each of these characters the markers of the folkloric English devil can be seen. Richard III and Aaron are described as either black, or a Moor. Shylock, Aaron, and Iago have beastly associations such as black dog, or bloody dog. Richard III, Aaron, Shylock, Aaron, Iago, and Joan are all named by others as being associated with the devil at some point, and Richard III, Aaron, and Shylock are also specifically tied to hell. Aaron, Richard III, Iago, and Joan are all named as tempters and Aaron and Richard are described as cunning. Aaron, Joan, and Glyndŵr are defined for how they counter authority.
Physical Descriptions
If we place the plays on a timeline from Richard III to Titus Andronicus, to The Merchant of Venice, to Henry IV Part 1, to Othello then we can examine the evolution of the characteristics of the English folkloric devil in Shakespeare. Starting with Richard III the psychality of the devil is emphasized but not necessarily the animalistic aspect of the English folkloric devil. Richard III states in the play’s opening that he is “deformed, unfinish’d” and he uses this as justification for his behavior, an explanation for why he is the villain. Later in the play he is described as a “monster of evil” (507) as well as a “fiend” (1.2.34) and a “foul devil” (1.2.50) and it is his monstrosity, his grotesqueness that first associates him with the devil. These physical markers can be read as evidence of his atrocities, proof of the state of his soul. Up until the reverse in  Act III, he is constantly associated with the devil and hell. From that point on Richard projects his demonic markets onto his enemies.
Aaron in Titus Andronicus is defined from the beginning by his blackness, the fact that he is a Moor, and these physical descriptions are linked to paganism (61) and his “vengeance,” “death,” “blood,” “revenge,” (38-39). There is not a lot of physical description for Aaron, as though the fact that he is constantly referred to as “Aaron the Moor” is enough to differentiate him from others. If Richard’s grotesqueness and monstrosity is what labels him and is meant to act as evidence of his sins and actions then the next step in the evolution of the demonic character is Aaron where his physical description automatically is equated with evil behavior. It’s not until Act 4 scene 2 that Aaron isn’t also identified as “Moor” instead he is linked to the “devil”- “Pray to the devils; the gods have given us over” (48) and when Aaron asks the Nurse about Tamara’s baby she identifies their child as “a devil” (62-64). Aaron is then later described as a “hellish dog” (77) and a “fiend” (78). By Act 5 Aaron’s transformation from Moor to devil is complete as he is described as “the incarnate devil” (40) and “fiend” (45). The fact that he is visually different is again tied to his behaviors, “Aaron will have his soul black like his face” (204). Lucius ties Aaron to animals and by doing so ties him to evil acts, “O barbarous beastly villains, like thyself!” (97). Aaron internalizes this characterization calling himself “a black dog” (122) and stating that he has no remorse for what he has done, “But that I cannot do ten thousand more” (141-144). He is unrepentant to the end, “If there be devils, would I were a devil,/To live and burn in everlasting fire,/So I might have your company in hell/But to torment you with my bitter tongue.” (147-150). Aaron’s representation of evil and connections between being black, being a Moor, and being the devil are all explicit within the text.
While Aaron embraces his demonic characterization Shylock’s associations with the devil are alien to him- it is the other characters describe him as a devil as a way ofmarking him as an outsider but Shylock does not see it. From Act I there is an association with Shylock and the devil from when Antonio states “The devil can cite Scripture” (1.3). Even Lancelot, the clown, who if we read through a Bakhtian lens is the lowest character representing a counter to authority, calls Shylock a “kind of devil” (2.2), and he is further described as a “fiend” and “very devil incarnate” (21).  Even Shylock’s own daughter, Jessica conflates her father, her home life, and Lancelot with demonic imagery: “Our house is hell, and thou a merry devil” (2.3). For these characters describing Shylock in this way serves to distance him from themselves, to show that he is not only Other but alien, totally separate and incomprehensible from them. He is also presented as a threat. It is Solanio who explicitly ties villainy to the devil and to Jewishness, “The villain Jew” (2.8) and “lest the devil cross my prayer-/ for here he comes in the likeness of a Jew” (3.1). With Shylock we see how devilish descriptions are used to stand in for descriptions of the Other/subaltern.
This overlay of the devil with the Other is refined in Henry IV Part 1 with the figures of Joan and Glyndŵr and to a lesser extent, Falstaff. Joan is a threat because she is French and a woman, as established by the Messenger in Act 1 (1.1.123), “The French exclaimed the devil was in arms.” Talbot explicitly links Joan as devil with Joan as witch from Act 1 scene 7 on describing her as: “Devil or devil’s dam, I’ll conjure thee./Blood will I draw on thee- thou art a witch” and “Foul fiend of France, and hag of all despite” (2.5.12).  Joan is an easily recognizable Other- she is French, female, and powerful so she is clearly a threat. There is no way to “hide” Joan’s devilishness because there is no way to hide the fact that she is female, despite the fact that she dresses as a male, another sin that condemns her as unnatural, and a force of shapechanging. With Glyndŵr there is no physical description, his Welshness and his use of the Welsh language is enough of a marker of difference. Falstaf, as the embodiment of vice covers four out of the seven: pride, sloth, gluttony, and lust. His physical appearance ties him to these vices as it did in medieval literature.
In contrast to Aaron’s “blackness” of skin and soul, Othello’s description as a Moor and hence his blackness, is countered in many ways by his conversion and his noble actions. While Othello’s blackness is emphasized and he is described as a devil, it is Iago who is the devil figure. Othello states that he is surprised Iago doesn’t have cloven feet (5.2) reflecting a move from the older, physical devil to something new.. Iago represents the culmination of the evolution of the English folkloric devil because we have moved from the monstrous grotesque of Richard III, to the blackness of Aaron’s soul due to his actions to the conflation of Jew and devil in Shylock, then the conflation of Other (female, French, Welsh, vice) in Henry IV Part 1, ending with Iago a white male who is devilish because of his actions and what he chooses to do, not because of his skin color, or because of his characterization as Other. While each of the previous devilish figures are equally defined by their physicality as well as their personality and actions, Iago is strictly defined by what he does.
Personality and Actions
In Act III, Richard III flips the devil characterization from himself to refer to the people who oppose him, “That do conspire my death with devilish plots/of damned witchcraft, and that have prevailed/Upon my body with their hellish charms?” (3.4.60-62). He goes onto say that they’ve bewitched him (3.4.68), describes the women who oppose him into witches (3.4.70-71) and conflate the idea of the devil with Turks or infidels (3.5.39). Once Richard flips the characterization the focus changes to the actions of devilishly characters with no mention of physical appearance. Richard’s adversaries become devilish because he describes their actions as such, and because they act to oppose him, not because of any physical markers. In this way we can read this flip as a projection of Richard’s own demonic nature. These characterizations are also demonic because they counter the authority figure- Richard III.
Aaron’s monstrous actions, his horrendous acts in Tamora’s name and at her bidding, are seen as inevitable within the confines of the play because of the blackness of his skin. There is no way for Aaron to escape his monstrosity, and he has no desire to. He not only orchestrates Lavinia’s rape and mutilation but these were his idea. He is able to deceive Titus into thinking that giving up his hand will spare  his sons’ lives. Aaron’s relationship with Tamora can also be seen as a trangression or taboo against racial boundaries. In this way Aaron’s actions counter natural order and authority, both for trangressing racial and moral  boundaries for continuing his affair with Tamora even after she is married to the Emperor.  Even when given the chance to repent in order to save his son he  gives Lucius the information he wants while at the same time specifically mentioning that he feels no remorse for his actions. With Aaron there is no separation between his physicality and his actions. Just as with Richard III they are marked as monstrous on the outside because they are monstrous on the inside.
While Shylock’s actions are viewed by others as monstrous, and he is certainly characterized as the villain, those perspectives are from the other characters in the play not his own perspective. From his own perspective Shylock is the victim in how the action plays out.. This presentation represents a middle ground between how the devil views himself, such as with Richard and Aaron, to how others view the devil figure, such as Joan,Glyndŵr and Falstaff, in Henry IV Part 1. Shylock also represents a change in perspective from a clear demonic figure presented to the audience to a more ambivalent demonic figure whose characterization is based more on the perception of other characters. In this way Shylock can be read as multiple projections of fear of the other characters- fear of Jews, fear of outside control of economic factors, and fears over conversion.
Joan’s characterization as a devil is innately tied to her sex and the concept of female as tempter, with her physicality as the reason for her actions, her sex the source of her weakness as it was with Eve. Alencon states in Act 1 scene 3, “These women are shrewd tempters with their tongues” (1.3.102). Joan is also read as a devil because she is a violation of the natural order, for her actions of woman as warrior, but also for the implication of Joan as whore, seen with the pun with “pucelle”/virgin and “puzzell”/whore. Despite accusations throughout the play the final condemnation of Joan doesn’t come until Act 5 and when it does it is because of the supposed power she, as a witch, has received from the devil. She is also defined as a demonic figure because she can do- enact spells, conjure up spirits  and curse people (5.3.2, 5.3.10, 5.6.86). Glyndŵr and Falstaff have no physical descriptions associated with the devil but their actions of threatening authority and the status quo can be read in line as how the devil functions. Glyndŵr is a threat because he is Welsh an Other marked different by his language, and by the threat his rebellion is a threat to the authority of the monarchy. While he is not specifically named as a devil the equation of Other with devil has already been established with Joan, and the reading can be applied to Other characters within the play. To a lesser extent, and not fully realized until Henry IV part 2 and Henry V, Falstaff represents a threat as Other because he threatens the monarchy himself with his corruption of Hal. Falstaff is not described as devilish but he is defined by his association with vices, and from medieval morality and mystery plays vices are often portrayed as minions of the devil.
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Iago is the culminating figure, in Othello it is Iago through his temptations and manipulations and pacts who is the devil figure. He is Vice. He is Envy. He is temptation. He orchestrates the actions of the rest of the characters to do his bidding. His manipulations of Cassio can be read as a type of devil’s pact. He is the ultimate representation of fear in the early modern period because he is not what he seems. He is the internal, not external threat. Part of the reason why he is so terrifying as a devil figure is because there is no way to know he’s the devil.
Conclusion
Starting at the beginning, it is the monstrous, the grotesque that is threatening. People fear that which is physically different. Portrayals of the monstrous represent anxieties of what is different or monstrous within ourselves. Riots rocked London in 1592, the year Richard III is performed, common people who rose up against people in power, poor soldiers and sailors who were adrift after the mobilization of the Spanish Armada.  Richard’s monstrosity can be read as a desire for all threats to be so easily recognizable. Coinciding with this the plague closing theatres so it is easy to read the physical monstrosity of plague victims against the monster within (the common people). In 1594, the year Titus Andronicus is performed the Nine Years War in Ireland begins- with Irish chieftain Hugh O'Neill’s rebelling against the oppression of the English government. The Irish are different because of their religion, their language, and their appearance. They are markedly different from the English. The presentation of Aaron as markedly different and his barbaric nature, as well as his function as the physical/martial arm of the Queen of the Goths, Tamora can be read as representing fears of Irish invasion and threat. When The Merchant of Venice and Henry IV Part 1 are performed in 1596-8 exterior threats are the biggest concern- food crisis and famine (causing Elizabeth I to call for the removal of all Africans from Britain), and the dangers of exploration and conquest (Cadiz, Jamaica). The Shylock as outsider/Other and the Welsh and Joan as the same represent fears and anxieties about these external threats. However, by 1604 and Othello, as work begins on the King James Bible and as the Anglo-Spanish War ends, there is a desire for national unity under the banner of religion and a turning away from external threats towards internal ones. In the end the devil is us. Iago represents the completion of the move of the devil from a visually different, easily recognizable threat/devil to an unknown, ubiquitous threat. In part this interior move reflects conversion fears or rather false conversion fears. Crypto-Jews, and false conversions are a form of shapeshifting that cannot be seen. Iago is the perfect example that people are not what they seem and the threat that represents. Iago is able with only the power of his words to bring down Othello, and by extension the military in general.
In the end, we can see that the devil is not absent from Shakespeare, he was simply been subsumed into the characters. From Richard III to Aaron to Shylock to Joan, Glyndŵr, and Falstaff to Iago each exhibits key markers of the English folkloric devil. However, it’s also clear from Richard III to Iago there is a clear evolution from a physical devil to an internal devil. This move reflects the larger trend through the early modern period, the influence of Luther and Protestantism. Examining these figures through this lens allows us to see them as part of a larger tradition of devil figures in English popular literature. By doing this we can view Shakespeare not as a gap in the narrative of the English folkloric devil but as a revision of the figure.




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