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Shakespeare and Religion

Alison Shell

DOI: 10.5040/9781472555205

ISBN: 9781472568175

This book sets Shakespeare in the religious context of his times, presenting a balanced, up-to-date account of current biographical and critical debates, and addressing the fascinating, under-studied topic of how Shakespeare's writing was perceived by literary contemporaries, whose priorities were more obviously religious than his own. It advances new readings of several plays, including Hamlet, King Lear and The Winter's Tale, and draws on under-exploited contemporary analogues, ranging from conversion narratives, books of devotion and polemical pamphlets to manuscript drama and emblems.

This study describes a writer whose language is saturated in religious discourse but whose invariable practice is to subordinate religious matter to the aesthetic demands of the work. For Shakespeare, as for few of his contemporaries, the Judaeo-Christian story is something less than a master narrative.