Shakespeare Survey Vol. 54, Shakespeare and Religions. .
This magisterial edition of Shakespeare Survey contains twenty-one essays, sixteen of which are devoted to the theme "Shakespeare and Religions." It also contains sections on "Shakespeare Performances in England, 2000," "Professional Shakespeare Productions in the British Isles," "The Year's Contributions to Shakespeare Studies," and "Books Received."
Most of the sixteen theme essays fall into two categories: the question of Shakespeare's religious views (a concern, unsurprisingly, of a majority of the pieces) and the appropriation or adaptation of Shakespeare's works by other cultures. What most impresses about the first group is their diversity of approaches. Refraining from labeling Shakespeare Catholic or Protestant, David Daniell, challenging theist view that the English Reformation was merely a cloak for the continuance of Catholicism, argues that Shakespeare's England was "officially, aggressively and massively Protestant" (2), as evidenced, for instance, by the new English Protestant nationalism stimulated by such influential historians as Holinshed and Foxe. "In choosing to write, and to rewrite, English history, [Shakespeare could not] help being in [that] Protestant stream" (9). Gary Taylor and Robert Miola explore pagan aspects of the Elizabethan stage, Taylor arguing that the Protestant ban on divine representation fostered the use of pagan de ities to reflect Christian divinities and values. According to Taylor, Shakespeare's late plays exhibit "the commodification of a specifically Catholic affect," as illustrated, e.g., by the "sainted" statue in The Winter's Tale, which "is allegedly the work of the Italian artist and papal architect, Julio Romano" (24). Miola explores the "cultural drift" characterizing the paganism of the Greek and Roman works, noting, for example, the equation of pagan superstition with Catholicism, an equation illustrated by Titus Andronicus, in which dismembered body parts evoke "the current controversy over relics" (35). Tom McAlindon sees Falstaff's portrayal as inspired by Protestant hagiography's treatment of the trial of Sir John Oldcastle, Shakespeare "in effect [taking] the Catholic side in a sectarian dispute about the character of the nobleman who was burned as a heretic" (100). For Peter Milward, Shakespeare's choice of the Forest ofArden for the setting in As You Like It similarly suggests Catholic sympathies. J effrey Knapp, conversely, investigating the paradox between the Protestant ban on biblical drama and the extensive participation of churchmen in play production, finds in Shakespeare a total absence of sectarian commitment, which he attributes not to secularism but to a fear of the potential divisiveness such sectarianism could provoke. Richard McCoy uses Hamlet, "a text-book demonstration of the theological irresolution and liturgical failure of the Elizabethan compromise" (123), as a stepping stone to a larger consideration of Reformation commemorative practices. Donna Hamilton suggests that Shakespeare's adaptation of Anthony Munday's Zelauto and The Orator "produced in Merchant a critique of the physical and material advantages that [religious] intolerance gives to holders of power" (98). And Peter Lake argues that in Measure for Measure Shakespeare enlists elements and themes from Renaissance murder pamphlets to ally Puritan pretensions to godly rule with the similar pretensions of Jacobean absolutism.
In the five theme essays dealing with the cultural appropriation or adaptation of Shakespeare, Paul Franssen explores two religiously antithetical Irish dramatic appropriations, Tetsuo Kishi demonstrates how differently "Shakespearian plays with suicidal characters are understood and appreciated ... when they are transplanted to a non-Christian culture" (109) (in this case, Japan), Boika Sokolova shows how in Russia Hamlet's twentieth-century stage history mirrors that nation's changing political/religious ideology, and Alfredo Modenessi argues the deficiencies inherent in the use of European Spanish to translate Shakespeare for Latin American audiences. Also focusing on translation, Hanna Scolnicov contends that in translating Othello into Hebrew, Isaac Salkinson, a Jew turned Christian, brings out both "the drama of the Moor's conversion" and Salkinson's "own, Jewish convert's parallel" (189). In the remaining two essays, which fall into neither of the above categories, Richard Foulkes considers Shakespeare in the context of nineteenth-century religious/scientific debates, and Peter Davidhazi investigates in what sense Garrick might be considered the founder of the "new quasi-religion" of bardolatry.
The five non-theme essays encompass a variety of topics: the possible stylistic similarities between English and mainland-European productions of Shakespeare in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (Janette Dillon); how Shakespeare uses water imagery to illuminate character (William Poole); how Friedrich Durrenmatt's Konig Johann (1968) can illuminate our reading of Shakespeare's King John (Laurence Lerner); "the influence of Aristotle's Polities and other paradigms of exile on The Tempest" (Jane Kingsley-Smith, 223); and the centrality of Act 2, Scene 3 to the interpretation of All Is True (Thomas Merriam).
This volume is not without flaws: Poole, for instance, incomprehensibly alleges that "By The Tempest, that which had destroyed Timon becomes common cognition" (211), and Daniell, in an otherwise masterful piece, attributes the infamous 1570 bull of Pope Pius V excommunicating Elizabeth to Gregory XIII. But such flaws are secondary in a volume whose essays are on the whole substantial, impeccably researched, and collectively indispensable to any study of Shakespeare's religious--and not so religious--concerns.
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|Author:||Parker, Barbara L.|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2003|
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