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Crimes of the Tongue: The Inquisitorial Trials of Cristóbal Duarte Ballester

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Cristóbal Duarte Ballester was tried twice by the Spanish Inquisition. To the principal accusation of blasphemy the prosecutor added Ballester's faulty observance of the basic precepts of Christianity: eating meat on days forbidden by the church, not confessing his sins, and not attending mass. The Inquisition assigned a moral value to what came out of Ballester's mouth—oaths—as well as to what entered it—certain foods at forbidden moments. The defendant's oral crimes of blasphemy and nonobservance of fasts were compounded by such suspicion-provoking verbal behaviors as Ballester's fluency in Arabic and his love of singing songs in that language.

Affiliations: 1: Princeton University


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