Seeming Knowledge: Shakespeare and Skeptical Faith

By Dunne, Ashley | Anglican and Episcopal History, December 2008 | Go to article overview

Seeming Knowledge: Shakespeare and Skeptical Faith


Dunne, Ashley, Anglican and Episcopal History


Seeming Knowledge: Shakespeare and Skeptical Faith. By John D. Cox. Studies in Christianity and Literature 1. (Waco, Texas: Baylor University Press, 2007, Pp. xvii, 348. $39.95.)

Critical interest in the possible religious beliefs and allegiances of William Shakespeare is far from a new phenomenon within that amorphous field of scholarly enquiry known as "Shakespeare Studies." There has been a resurgence of critical interest in Shakespeare and religion, most particularly in the relationship between Shakespeare and Roman Catholicism. Such a resurgence is almost inevitable given the dual, and perhaps at times contradictory, imperatives provided by almost three decades of critical ascendancy enjoyed by new historicism and cultural materialism and the so called "religious turn" in theory. Rather than offering arguments or evidence for Shakespeare's Roman Catholic or Protestant beliefs or applying anachronistic theoretical understandings and insights to Shakespeare's plays, John D. Cox's impressive contribution in Seeming Knowledge instead presents a much more suggestively nuanced understanding of the relationship between Shakespeare's works and Christian faith (s) via a re-examination of the bard's assumed skepticism.

Cox's magisterial volume questions traditional understanding of sixteenth-century skepticism as "a narrative about a deluge of disbelief" (1). He traces a history of skepticism that emphasizes its paradoxical inextricability from faith. Cox demonstrates the existence of a sixteenthcentury tradition - encompassing figures as diverse as John Foxe, John Bale, Desiderius Erasmus and Thomas More - within which faith and skepticism were mutually enabling discourses. Although in agreement widi the general assumption that Shakespeare's philosophical position was one of skepticism, Cox's historically grounded re-assessment of traditional narratives of sixteenth-century skepticism lead him to propose "suspicion" rather than "scepticism" as more germane to the assessment of Shakespeare's diought. Cox argues that while the application of doubt to the knower was an innovation of the advanced skepticism of the nineteenth century, it has important affinities with a much older category of doubt: the suspicion of (fallen) human nature that is intrinsic to Christian thought, and that gave rise to early modern skepticism in the first place. Cox shows that Christian ideas as to the impossibility of perfection for the fallen human self, self-deception and self-division were widely available cultural images via their literal embodiment in the medieval morality plays. Such plays stage the drama of the self-divided within an explicitly Christian narrative. This tradition of religiously inspired doubt is shown to be available to Shakespeare not only in its theatrical incarnations, but, crucially, also in the work of Erasmus and More. These are exemplars of what Cox denotes "skeptical faith." As he argues, "Skepticism for these two did not supplant their faith; rather, skepticism and faith complemented one another as essential aspects of the same vision of the human situation. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Seeming Knowledge: Shakespeare and Skeptical Faith
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    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.