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Home :: Archive :: 2009 :: May ::
Shakespeare and the King James Bible
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 20.0265  Wednesday, 27 May 2009

From:       David Basch <
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Date:       Sunday, 24 May 2009 20:51:09 -0400
Subject:    Shakespeare and the King James Bible

Aaron Azlant posed the question: "Is anybody on the list aware of any 
literature on the relationship between Job and King Lear?"

I have some information for him, but it is incomplete. I personally read 
in an anthology of articles on King Lear the words of one commentator 
that mentioned that, of all the literary works on this theme, 
Shakespeare's King Lear comes closest to capturing the sense of Job. 
This was not his exact words but is somewhat near to capturing the gist 
of it. I have tried to find the book and article but without success so 
far. Perhaps someone can help beyond this.

As an aside, I would call attention to a site someone showed me of 
older, scanned books, in which I read portions of a book by E H 
Plumptre, ECCLESIASTES, Or, THE PREACHER (1888), discussing this 
Biblical work, referred to often under its Hebrew name, Koheleth. In his 
Appendix I, "Koheleth and Shakespeare," pages 231-249 (especially pages 
244 on), he presents many parallels in Hamlet to the words of Ecclesiastes.

Plumptre reveals the many such parallels in Shakespeare's works, showing 
Shakespeare's high regard for this book of the Bible. I had before come 
upon many such parallels in Hamlet and concluded that the so-called "Ur" 
version of Hamlet that some scholars have been searching for is in fact 
the Bible's Ecclesiastes. The play Hamlet is in a sense a parable based 
on this Bible book, with Prince Hamlet exemplifying in his character 
flaws that violate certain of Ecclesiastes' key precepts how even "good" 
persons can bring about their own undoing. This is the tragedy presented 
in the play.

Parts of Plumptre's book discussing Hamlet can be read at the following: 
http://books.google.com/books?id=7Cc2AAAAMAAJ&pg=PA247&dq=Ecclesiastes

David Basch

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