The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.1737  Wednesday, 13 October 1999.

From:           David Lindley <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Wednesday, 13 Oct 1999 08:24:55 GMT
Subject: 10.1728 Re: References to the Bible in Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1728 Re: References to the Bible in Shakespeare

I wonder why it should seem so self-evidently risible to ask students to
consider Shakespeare's use of the Bible?

It might not hurt many of our contemporary students to recognise the
complex significance of such intertextual play.

As Debora Shuger remarks in a recent essay (in the collection Religion,
Literature and Politics in Post-Reformation England, ed. Hamilton and
Strier, Cambridge, 1996):

'The recent lack of interest in the religious significance of
Shakespearean drama stems in part from a suspicion that it possessed no
such significance .... But if it is not plausible to read Shakespeare's
plays as Christian allegories, neither is it likely that the popular
drama of a religiously saturated culture could, by a secular miracle,
have extricated itself from the theocentric orientation informing the
discourse of politics, gender, social order, and history.  The issue
which has been ignored is ... how religious ideology, understood not as
a uniquely privileged "key" but as part of a cultural system, functions
in these plays'.

This seems to me a just, judicious and necessary statement.  It is
particularly necessary at the simplest level since, 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.

David Lindley
School of English
University of Leeds

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