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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: October ::
Re: References to the Bible in Shakespeare
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.1742  Thursday, 14 October 1999.

[1]     From:   Carol Barton <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 13 Oct 1999 12:24:30 EDT
        Subj:   Re: References to the Bible in Shakespeare

[2]     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 13 Oct 1999 10:36:45 -0700
        Subj:   Re: References to the Bible in Shakespeare

[3]     From:   Tom Bishop <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 13 Oct 1999 13:14:14 -0500
        Subj:   Re: References to the Bible in Shakespeare

[4]     From:   Karen Peterson-Kranz <
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        Date:   Thursday, 14 Oct 1999 06:57:44 +1000
        Subj:   Re: References to the Bible in Shakespeare

[5]     From:   John Drakakis <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 13 Oct 1999 23:11:31 +0100
        Subj:   Re: References to the Bible in Shakespeare

[6]     From:   Peter Holland <
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        Date:   Thursday, 14 Oct 1999 09:44:22 +0100
        Subj:   Re: References to the Bible in Shakespeare


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Carol Barton <
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Date:           Wednesday, 13 Oct 1999 12:24:30 EDT
Subject: 10.1737 Re: References to the Bible in Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1737 Re: References to the Bible in Shakespeare

David Lindley writes that, "in the UK at least, the familiarity with
language of the Book of Common Prayer and the Authorised Version has, in
a remarkably short period (say twenty years) slipped away, so that a
whole area of linguistic and rhetorical resonance has disappeared."

Yes, David, sadly, here too: the biggest problem with getting students
to recognize Biblical references/resonances is that they have no
coherent baseline in the first place.  Some don't even know the story of
Adam and Eve!  I made reference to Genesis in a business writing class
last week (we were discussing ethics), and wanted to use Original Sin as
an example of unethical behavior.  One of my students (an otherwise
bright and accomplished man in his 40s) told me that Adam and Eve had
two sons and four daughters . . . and I have held World Lit Survey
classes in rapt attention by telling them that the OT unspotted paschal
lamb whose blood on the lintel guarantees protection from death in
little is the same as the NT Agnus Dei, whose blood in communion
guarantees protection from Death at large.

<sigh>

Carol Barton

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Wednesday, 13 Oct 1999 10:36:45 -0700
Subject: 10.1737 Re: References to the Bible in Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1737 Re: References to the Bible in Shakespeare

I enjoyed David Lindley's quotation of Deborah Shuger on the importance
of Biblical sources to the ideological background of the plays.
Shuger's use of the term "cultural system," however, distinguishes her
concerns from those of Thomas Thurber, Junior, the editor of the
school-text which Abiquail Quart quoted earlier, who specifically asked
the student to draw conclusions "as to Shakespeare's knowledge and use
of the scriptures."

Shuger lives after the death of the author.  Another way to put this is
that she lives after the reification of society (or politics, ideology,
or whatever) into a sort of metaphysical all-purpose explanation for
everything, and ground of the "real."  In Shuger's argument, which
you've quoted, religion has importance "as part of a cultural system."
In this description, she abolishes the radicalism of religion, as
something standing over and against society.

On the other hand, the society she's describing is "theocentric".  A
theocentric mind shouldn't, however, appreciate religion as a strand of
social organization, but as something prior to society and more
important.  It isn't, unlike our own time, centred on society and social
forces.  Luther didn't (if he did) say that he stood in the presence of
God and could do no otherwise if he thought of his faith as a construct
of social pressures and norms.

In summation, to properly understand the importance of religion to the
early modern world, it isn't sufficient to recognize it as one set of
social norms among others, or even as the most far-reaching set of
social norms, but as a faith.  To the Renaissance mind, religion isn't
merely a convenient source of social order (though it is this, to
writers such as Hobbes and Machiavelli), but also an imperative, coming
from outside society, the self or the world (as it is for Luther, or any
number of martyrs).  Since New Historicism has tended to implicitly
agree with Machiavelli and Hobbes, it misses the other side of religion,
as the most potent locus of alterity in the Renaissance mind.

Cheers,
Se

 

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