The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.0887 Friday, 6 May 2005
Date: Thursday, 5 May 2005 16:45:01 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Shakespeare's Biblical References
With Hardy's indulgence, I wish to start a thread on Shakespeare's
Biblical references. I will begin by stating the obvious, Shakespearean
scholar Naseeb Shaheen has presented us with his tome *Biblical
References in Shakespeare's Plays* on the subject stating, in his first
sentence of his introduction, "This study of Shakespeare's biblical
references differs from previous ones in that it considers Shakespeare's
references in light of his literary sources." He footnotes this
sentence, thusly, "The most important study of Shakespeare's use of the
Bible thus far has been Richmond Noble's *Shakespeare's Biblical
Knowledge and Use of the Book of Common Prayer,* published in 1935."
I have broadened the subject to include all of Will Shakespeare's works.
I would recommend Shaheen's introduction as a good starting point for
those who are not aware of Shakespeare's indebtedness to the Bible.
Shaheen separates out from formerly accepted literary allusions to the
Bible those he finds that Shakespeare borrowed from another source, such
as, to quote him, "Plutarch, Holinshed, Cinthio, or Boccaccio."
In general, Shakespeare appears to have borrowed equally from the Old
Testament and the New. Shaheen cites chapter and verse from the Bible,
and act, chapter and lines from Shakespeare's plays. Shaheen's
introduction is commendable on the history of the Bible in England just
prior to the time of Shakespeare and during. In my opinion, he leaves
no doubt that Will Shakespeare *intended* his works to rest upon the
teachings of the Bible, and that his works therefore can be best viewed
in this context. His 2002 book, with editorial revisions, contains this
portion of his bio, "He is now Professor of English Literature...As a
result of his research into Shakespeare's biblical references, he owns
one of the world's largest collections of early English bibles that
includes more than one hundred copies of the Geneva Bible in addition to
numerous editions of other pre-King James Bibles."
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