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Shakespeare and the Apocalypse

R M Christofides

DOI: 10.5040/9781472555229

ISBN: 9781472555229

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By connecting Shakespeare's language to the stunning artwork that depicted the end of the world, this study provides not only provides a new reading of Shakespeare but illustrates how apocalyptic art continues to influence popular culture today.

Drawing on extant examples of medieval imagery, Roger Christofides uses poststructuralist and psychoanalytic accounts of how language works to shed new light on our understanding of Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth, and King Lear. He then links Shakespeare's dependence on his audience to appreciate the allusions made to the religious paintings to the present day. For instance, popular television series like Battlestar Galactica, seminal horror movies such as An American Werewolf in London and Carrie and recent novels like Cormac McCarthy's The Road. All draw on imagery that can be traced directly back to the depictions of the Doom, an indication of the cultural power these vivid imaginings of the end of the world have in Shakespeare's day and now.

'This lively and compelling book shows Shakespeare in an entirely new light. Subtly attentive to the language of the tragedies, Roger Christofides captures resemblances between early modern culture and our own, tracing in the dramatist's world and ours some of the most urgent hopes and anxieties.'

'A remarkably graceful exploration of difficult ideas, this refreshing and original study illuminates the connections between English church iconography, Shakespearian tragedy, and our own preoccupation with the end of the world. By showing how the notion of the Apocalypse shapes both language and genre, Mr. Christofides leads us though a subtle and intricate analysis to a genuinely new understanding of four of Shakespeare's greatest plays.'

'Shakespeare and the Apocalypse is a breathtaking read.  From its daring opening salvo-that the structure of language itself is apocalyptic-to its surprising ending, the book baffles expectation, constantly taking us to places we've never been in Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth, and King Lear.  Using stunning images of "the Doom" gleaned from pre-Reformation art and architecture, Christofides illuminates Shakespeare's darkest tragedies, re-reading them as models of the apocalyptic sensibility that artists, writers, and filmmakers have sought to emulate ever since.  Shakespeare and the Apocalypse is rigorously researched and engagingly written; it is essential reading for anyone interested in Shakespeare, popular culture, religious studies, or art history.'

Shakespeare and the Apocalypse will be most useful to readers interested in the intersection between post-structural linguistics and early modern studies...references like the 'The Three Living and the Three Dead' offer a tantalizing glimpse of early modern cultural history. The Shakespeare Newsletter

... an interesting and entertaining read ... it opens up several interesting avenues of exploration into the nature of Shakespearean tragedy. English, theater, and pop-up culture scholars will all find something worthwhile in its pages. Sixteenth Century Journal

Shakespeare and the Apocalypse by R. M. Cristofides is as much, if not more, about language as it is about images of doom from pre-Reformation England, via Shakespeare, to instances in modern popular culture . . . The book's many references to popular culture . . . are supplementary in both senses. They are additional readings of doom which show how the language of the apocalypse still haunts audiences today . . . Cristofides' contribution, therefore, is important in terms of its informative content and its methodological example. The Year's Work in English Studies, vol. 93