Catholic Theology in Shakespeare's Plays

Catholic Theology in Shakespeare's Plays

Catholic Theology in Shakespeare's Plays

Catholic Theology in Shakespeare's Plays

Synopsis

Explores and reexamines Shakespeare's theology from the standpoint of revisionist history of the English Reformation.

Excerpt

Over the past sixty-five years the dominant view of SHAKESPEARE’S theology has been fashioned from a Reformed Protestant perspective and set in the context of the “Whig” version of the English Reformation. Influential scholars have dismissed and overlooked medieval and Counter-Reformation sources or blended them with Reformed sources without attending to certain crucial differences and distinctions. Thus Richmond Noble’s Shakespeare’s Biblical Knowledge (1935) overlooked references to the Rheims New Testament. E. M. W. Tillyard’s The Elizabethan World Picture (1943) synthesized medieval Catholic and English Reformed sources. in Shakespeare and Christian Doctrine (1963), Roland M. Frye dismissed the possibility of any Roman Catholic influence on Shakespeare, oddly omitting, for example, any mention of the purgatorial background of Hamlet in his list of theological topics. and R. G. Hunter in Shakespeare and the Comedy of Forgiveness (1965) fused Aquinas and the Church of England into a fictive “orthodoxy” on the question of penance. More recently others have continued the trend, claiming, for example, that Shakespeare satirized and demystified monastic life and that he was “profoundly nourished” by the Book of Common Prayer, the Homilies, and English translations of the Bible.

Contrary to the conventional approach based on the texts and Reformed theology of the Elizabethan Church, this study explores Shakespeare’s plays from the perspective of Roman Catholic theology and the revisionist history of the English Reformation. It provides positive evidence of Catholic theology in the plays, concentrating on several important points of difference in theological doctrine, sacramental liturgy, and devotional practice. Thus, the first chapter takes up Shakespeare’s treatment of the sacrament of penance, a crucial point of difference between Catholic and Reformed theologians. It calls attention to numerous points in the plays where Shakespeare is at serious odds with the Homilies. There follows in . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.