The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0275  Tuesday, 6 February 2001

From:           Sean Lawrence <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 05 Feb 2001 08:11:54 -0800
Subject: 12.0266 Re: Wittenberg and Paris
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0266 Re: Wittenberg and Paris

>At least, you COULD (as I do) understand the grim joke
>differently. When "Hamlet" was written, ALL of the differing confessions
>"unchurched" other Christians. John Donne, after leaving the Roman
>church, and before and after entering the English church, consistently
>expressed his fear that the effect of this "unchurching" would be to
>drive men into disbelief, by making God appear a tyrant (for reasons
>that were political, rather than religious).

This is fascinating, especially the reference to Falkland, which I cut
but read.

I'm wondering whether the move towards ecumenism should be confused with
a move towards atheism, however, as the quotation below seems to

>My own (frankly, helplessly speculative)
>guess would be that, if you want literary evidence for the practical and
>historical truth of Donne's fear about how good Christians would be (and
>were} driven into disbelief by the differing confessions, it is there in
>"Hamlet", "Macbeth" and "King Lear". In Shakespearean tragedy, not to
>mention plays like "Measure for Measure", the real or putative
>references to Christianity always and only increase the terror, and are
>never a source of consolation.

Could the characters not just be abandoning their all-too
providentialist or dogmatic faiths towards a view of the divine as
really transcendent?  The gods in Lear, especially, seem to have a
strong existential relationship to the characters who propose them.  But
abandoning such gods might be a positive step towards a view of God as
alterior, as something more than a political construct.


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