3
Faith and Revelation

In Shakespeare's late work characters find things that are terribly important to them; in this chapter broader ramifications of the theme of finding and discovery will be examined. In these works it often seems as if grand, powerful ideas are being put forward, ideas that promise rejuvenation and new security. However, these new directions are not proposed without being questioned, and a rich ironic texture results. One of these sets of ideas is a religious and spiritual one, and this version of discovery has a particular intensity in Pericles, not least because the play itself also seems to enact and indeed to be a kind of discovery. It is usually seen as the earliest of the romances, and has a position therefore at a kind of dividing line in Shakespeare's career. For it to be seen as a genuine starting-point in a larger sense, a first step (or a forerunner) of a new direction, it needs to have some other features that communicate its difference and its novelty. Things are made more complicated by the fact that Pericles is partly by George Wilkins, which hampers any argument about Shakespearian innovation, and which causes more simple problems to the reader trying to unscramble the text of a patchy Quarto printed in 1609.1 In addition, Pericles is not included in the 1623 First Folio edition, which casts circumstantial doubt on its centrality in any account of Shakespeare's work.

However, the problems of the text and authorship of Pericles form part of the experience of reading the play, and they contribute to the feeling that it does indeed represent a new departure. It is hard to read without focusing on certain moments of trauma and discovery, moments that seem to have greater intensity than is required by the plot, an impression that is actually helped by the uncertainties that

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Shakespeare's Late Work
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Oxford Shakespeare Topics - General Editors: Peter Holland and Stanley Wells Shakespeare S Late Work iii
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • Contents ix
  • 1: The Late Shakespearian Canon 1
  • 2: Seeing is Believing 30
  • 3: Faith and Revelation 55
  • 4: Family Romances 81
  • 5: Conservative Endings 99
  • 6: Shakespeare, Middleton, and Fletcher 116
  • 7: Shakespeare, Early and Late 138
  • Further Reading 156
  • Notes 160
  • Index 171
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