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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: November ::
Re: Shakespeare's Bible
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.2209  Wednesday, 6 November 2002

[1]     From:   Dave Johnson <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 05 Nov 2002 06:29:06 -1000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.2200 Shakespeare's Bible

[2]     From:   R. A. Cantrell <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 05 Nov 2002 12:07:50 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.2200 Shakespeare's Bibl

[3]     From:   Martin Steward <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 5 Nov 2002 17:53:28 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.2200 Shakespeare's Bible

[4]     From:   John W. Kennedy <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 05 Nov 2002 15:01:45 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.2200 Shakespeare's Bible


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Dave Johnson <
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Date:           Tuesday, 05 Nov 2002 06:29:06 -1000
Subject: 13.2200 Shakespeare's Bible
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.2200 Shakespeare's Bible

Christine:

Based on work I did some time ago (secondary sources only), I think the
Geneva Bible was the most popular Bible in England during Shakespeare's
day.  If Shakespeare was Anglican, as he probably was, he would most
likely have had the Geneva Bible, or possibly the Bishops' Bible.  If he
were Catholic, as some think, he probably would not have owned a
Bible.   While I see many biblical references in Shakespeare's work,
they are the type of references that one brought up in a Christian
environment would probably have absorbed.  I don't see evidence in
Shakespeare's writing of serious biblical study.

Below, I have copied descriptions of the Geneva Bible and the Bishops'
Bible which I found on the web this morning.  I cannot vouch for their
accuracy.

The Geneva Bible (1557-1560)

Geneva was the place at which the next link in the chain was to be
forged. Already famous, through the work of Beza, as a center of
Biblical scholarship, it became the rallying place of the more advanced
members of the Protestant party in exile, and under the strong rule of
Calvin it was identified with Puritanism in its most rigid form.
Puritanism, in fact, was here consolidated into a living and active
principle, and demonstrated its stength as a motive power in the
religious and social life of Europe. It was by a relative of Calvin, and
under his own patronage, that the work of improving the English
translation of the Bible was once more taken in hand. This was William
Whittingham, a Fellow of All Souls' College, Oxford, and subsequently
dean of Durham, who in 1557 published the New Testament at Geneva in a
small octavo volume, the handiest form in which the English Scriptures
had yet been given to the world. In two other respects also this marked
an epoch in the history of the English Bible. It was the first version
to be printed in roman type, and the first in which the division of the
text into numbered verses (originally made by Robert Stephanus for his
Greaco-Latin Bible of 1551) was introduced. A preface was contributed by
Calvin himself. The translator claims to have made constant use of the
original Greek and of translations in other tongues, and he added a full
marginal commentary. If the matter had ended there, as the work of a
single scholar on one part of the Bible, it would probably have left
little mark; but it was at once made the basis of a revised version of
both Testaments by a group of Puritan scholars. The details of the work
are not recorded, but the principal workers, apart from Whittingham
himself, appear to have been Thomas Sampson, formerly dean of
Chichester, and afterwards dean of Christ Church, and A. Gilby, of
Christ's College, Cambridge. A version of the
Psalter was issued in 1559 [the only two extant copies of it belong to
the Earl of Ellesmere and Mr. Aldis Wright], and in 1560 the complete
Bible was given to the world, with the imprint of Rowland Hall, at
Geneva. The Psalter in this was the same as that of 1559; but the New
Testament had been largely revised since 1557. The book was a
moderate-sized quarto, and contained a dedication to Elizabeth, an
address to the brethren at home, the books of the Old Testament
(including Apocrypha) and New Testament in the same order as in the
Great Bible and our modern Bibles, copious marginal notes (those to the
New Testament taken from Whittingham with some additions), and an
apparatus of maps and woodcuts.  In type and verse-division it followed
the example of Whittingham's New Testament.

The Genevan revisers took the Great Bible as their basis in the Old
Testament, and Matthew's Bible (i.e. Tyndale) in the New Testament. For
the former they had the assistance of the Latin Bible of Leo Juda
(1544), in addition to Pagninus (1527), and they were in consultation
with the scholars (including Calvin and Beza) who were then engaged at
Geneva in a similar work of revision of the French Bible. In the New
Testament their principal guide was Beza, whose reputation stood highest
among all the Biblical scholars of the age. The result was a version
which completely distanced its predecessors in scholarship, while in
style and vocabulary it worthily carried on the great tradition
established by Tyndale. Its success was as decisive as it was well
deserved; and in one respect it met a want which none of its
predecessors (except perhaps Tyndale's) had attempted to meet.
Coverdale's, Matthew's, and the Great Bible were all large folios,
suitable for use in church, but unsuited both in size and in price for
private possession and domestic study. The Geneva Bible, on the
contrary, was moderate in both respects, and achieved instant and
long-enduring popularity as the Bible for personal use. For a full
century it continued to be the Bible of the people, and it was upon this
version, and not upon that of King James, that the Bible knowledge of
the Puritans of the Civil War was built up. Its notes furnished them
with a full commentary on the sacred text, predominantly horatory or
monitory in character, but Calvinistic in general tone, and occasionally
definitely polemical. Over 160 editions of it are said to have been
issued, but the only one which requires separate notice is a revision of
the New Testament by Laurence Thomson in 1576, which carried still
further the principle of deference to Beza; this revised New Testament
was successful, and was frequently bound up with the Genevan Old
Testament in place of the edition of 1560.

Bishops' Bible, 1568. Matthew Parker et al., The holie Bible, conteynyng
the Olde Testament and the newe, Imprinted at London in povvles
Curch-yarde, by Richard Jugge, printer to the Queenes Maiestie. Cum
privilegio Regiae Maiestatis. London, 1568.

The "Bishops' Bible" was a revision of the Great Bible done by several
bishops of the Church of England under the direction of Queen
Elizabeth's Archbishop, Matthew Parker. The project was undertaken as an
attempt to create an official version that could compete with the Geneva
Bible. The Geneva Bible was generally acknowledged to be the most
accurate version, and it had become far more popular than the officially
sanctioned Great Bible, but it was unacceptable to the bishops on
account of its anti-episcopal notes. The Bishops' Bible failed to
achieve its purpose, however, as the Geneva Bible continued to be the
most popular version in England.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           R. A. Cantrell <
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Date:           Tuesday, 05 Nov 2002 12:07:50 -0600
Subject: 13.2200 Shakespeare's Bible
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.2200 Shakespeare's Bible

>Is it safe to assume that Shakespeare would have read/used/owned the
>Geneva Bible?

It is probable, but not safely assumed. If you want a long course, use
Richmond Noble, Naseeb Shaheen, and Lewis Lupton. The Geneva and
Bishop's Bibles are the usual suspects, but there were a few other
Bibles around at the  time. Also, there were so many Geneva Bibles
around by the 1590's that no  assumption may be made as to which
edition Shakespeare might have used.  I think Noble and Shaheen comment
on this problem, but  a quick look at Eason's Notes will illustrate the
difficulty.

To all Shakespeareans who have not  at least surveyed it, I heartily
recommend Lewis Lupton's History of the Geneva Bible, particularly
Professor Collinson's introduction.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Martin Steward <
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Date:           Tuesday, 5 Nov 2002 17:53:28 -0000
Subject: 13.2200 Shakespeare's Bible
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.2200 Shakespeare's Bible

"Is it safe to assume that Shakespeare would have read/used/owned the
Geneva Bible?"

Yes. One of the reasons James gave the go-ahead to the new, authorized
translation at the Hampton Court Conference in 1604 was that the Geneva
(or "Breeches") Bible was the one that nearly all anglophone readers
used, and it was ideologically (and, some might argue, theologically)
suspect: for an account, see William Barlow, The Summe and Substance of
the Conference, which, it pleased his Excellent Majestie to have with
the Lords, Bishops, and other of his Clergie... in his Majesties
Privy-Chamber, at Hampton Court, January 14, 1603 (London 1604). Whether
Shakespeare would have been able to use a Vulgate is a moot point;
whether he would have switched to the new translation once it became
available in 1611 is even mooter - and, as he had just about retired by
that poitn anyway, fairly irrelevant to any but a retrospective reading
of his work. Of course the 1611 translation follows Tyndale pretty
closely (with a dash of Wycliffe), so it could be argued that
Shakespeare had access to a sort of ur-AV; but the popularity of Geneva
would seem to inform against this. If you are one of those who's
convinced that WS is a Popish recusant of some sort, I guess you'd find
it difficult to believe he'd sanction such a heretical artefact,
however.

m

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John W. Kennedy <
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Date:           Tuesday, 05 Nov 2002 15:01:45 -0500
Subject: 13.2200 Shakespeare's Bible
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.2200 Shakespeare's Bible

Christine Gray <
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 > asks,

>Is it safe to assume that Shakespeare would have read/used/owned the
>Geneva Bible?

It is the one he seems most often to quote, apart from the Psalms, where
he generally uses Coverdale (which continued to be the standard Psalter
of the Church of England until modern times).

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