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Faith and Shakespeare


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Spinning off from the experience of film thread ...

What can we infer about Shakespeare's "faith," or lack thereof, from his works and the scant details of his life? When Shakespeare addresses religious or spiritual matters, is his point of view (assuming that we can infer it) more often consonant or dissonant with what we understand to be a Christian point of view? Discuss.

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Thanks for raising a question I pondered quite often while I was taking a Shakespeare class in London.

I thought about this the most when we were reading Measure for Measure, which arguably has the most overt religious content of any of his plays: its main characters are a nun, a duke who pretends to be a friar most of the play, and a pharisee, essentially...religious hypocrisy, death, and forgiveness are main themes, and even its name is a biblical allusion. But it's such a morally and spiritually ambiguous play, and it leaves me with no clear idea of what he was trying to say about anything.

Part of me is attracted to the 19th century interpretation of Measure for Measure as allegory, with the Duke as Christ and both his pardoning of everyone at the end and his proposal to Isabella as a spiritual metaphor. If it were true, it would be Shakespeare's most overt statement of faith in his writing.

But... Shakespeare never really wrote allegory in his plays, did he? And the duke acts like a real jerk too often for him to be a portrayal of Christ (a reverent one, anyway). So I'm back to having no idea what to make of that play. Anyone have a good interpretation?

That's all I've got for now, I'll think a bit more about the other plays tonight.

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