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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: May ::
Shakespeare's Biblical References
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.0972  Monday, 23 May 2005

[1]     From:   Jack Heller <
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        Date:   Friday, 20 May 2005 14:48:32 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0957 Shakespeare's Biblical References

[2]     From:   Peter Bridgman <
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        Date:   Friday, 20 May 2005 22:12:48 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0957 Shakespeare's Biblical References


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jack Heller <
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Date:           Friday, 20 May 2005 14:48:32 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 16.0957 Shakespeare's Biblical References
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0957 Shakespeare's Biblical References

Sometimes, it might help to know what other dramatists were doing. In
1609, a pamphlet of Biblical passages linking Old and New Testament
passages was printed. Its title was The Two Gates of Salvation. The
Bible passages came from three sources-the Geneva Bible, a revision of
the Geneva Bible by Laurence Thomsom, and the Bishop's Bible. A 1620
reprint with a new title (The Marriage of the Old and New Testament) and
different page headings was credited to Thomas Middleton, which
attribution is now generally accepted. There never really was another
serious candidate for its authorship, other than an argument that a
different Thomas Middleton wrote the pamphlet, because it just couldn't
be that the playwright responsible for A Chaste Maid in Cheapside and
Michaelmas Term would have written anything quite as devout as a
Biblical pamphlet. (Much of this is discussed in an article by Paul
Mulholland in a 1985 issue of English Language Notes.)

I would be reluctant to specify any particular translation as the
"Shakespearean Age Bible." Why not Tyndale's translations, from which
the KJV translations sometimes borrowed? Or, for that matter, might an
Elizabethan get much of his or her Bible knowledge filtered through the
Book of Common Prayer?

Jack Heller

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------


John Briggs is right about the online Rheims being Challoner's revision,
rather than the original.  It appears then that we have no online source
for researching the influence of the Rheims NT on the plays.  This is a
pity.

The only instances of possible influence I have come across are in Peter
Milward's 'Shakespeare's Religious Background'....

"The Rheims use of the word 'cockle' in Matthew xiii. 25, where the
Protestant versions [Wycliffe, Tyndale, Coverdale, Geneva, Bishops, KJV]
have 'tares', may be echoed in Love's Labour's Lost, 'Sowed cockle reaps
no corn' (iv. 3), and in Coriolanus, 'The cockle of rebellion' (iii, 1)
- but these passages could be explained with reference to a country
proverb. Other echoes are clearer.  In Alls Well That Ends Well the
Clown's distinction between the 'narrow gate' and the 'broad gate' (iv.
5) follows the wording of the Rheims version for Matthew vii. 13, where
the Protestant versions have 'strait' and 'wide'.  In the Tempest
Ariel's assurance, 'Not a hair perish'd' (i. 2) is closer to the Rheims
version for Luke xxi. 18 or Acts xxvii. 34 than to the Protestant
versions, which have 'fall' instead of 'perish'."

Milward adds a note of caution ...

"Shakespeare's use of these phrases from the Catholic version is perhaps
to be explained rather by conversation with Catholic friends than by
personal reading of the Rheims Testament."

Peter Bridgman

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