Shakespeare and Religion

Early Modern and Postmodern Perspectives

Edited by Ken Jackson and Arthur F. Marotti

The topic of Shakespeare and religion is a perennial one, and the recent “turn to religion” in historical and literary scholarship has pushed it to the fore. Besides speculating about Shakespeare’s personal religious beliefs and allegiance, historians and literary critics writing about early modern England are reexamining the religious dynamics of the period and emphasizing the ways in which old, new, and emerging religious cultures coexisted in conflicting hybrid and unstable forms.

The contributors to Shakespeare and Religion: Early Modern and Postmodern Perspectives deal with the topic of Shakespeare and religion from two points of view not always considered complementary—that of the historical approach to Shakespearean drama in its early modern contexts, and that of postmodern philosophy and theology. The first illuminates the culture-specific features of the plays, whereas the second emphasizes their transhistorical qualities and the relevance of the deep religious and philosophical issues surfacing in early modern culture to contemporary religious struggles and awareness.

Ken Jackson is professor of English at Wayne State University.

Arthur F. Marotti is Distinguished Professor of English at Wayne State University.

Contributors: Sarah Beckwith, Lisa Mybun Freinkel, Hannibal Hamlin, Ken Jackson, James A. Knapp, Gary Kuchar, Joan Pong Linton, Julia Reinhard Lupton, Arthur F. Marotti, Richard McCoy, and Robert Miola.

Shakespeare and Religion: Early Modern and Postmodern Perspectives is lively, provocative, and original, and sure to occupy an important scholarly place within ongoing efforts to reinterpret religion in Shakespeare’s works and world. The authors push scholarship on religion and Shakespeare past new historicism in productive, compelling directions.” — Phebe Jensen, Utah State University

“Religion has assumed a surprising centrality in contemporary Shakespeare studies, generating an abundance of historical insights alongside a burgeoning interest in the spiritual possibilities of the plays for us today. This collection eschews either take on the field, preferring a more comprehensive view. It brings together nearly all the people one would most want to read on the topic, and the essays are notable for their lively seriousness. Here, the topic of Shakespeare and religion is a burning brand with which to illuminate the past and the present. A stimulating book!” — Ewan Fernie, The Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham

“This collection brings together a distinguished body of scholars to consider Shakespeare’s treatment of religious issues, as read against his times and our own. Its essays offer innovative, sharp, and sometimes startling revaluations of familiar texts and topics, likely to capture the interest of students as well as academic researchers. The recent ‘turn to religion’ in early modern literary studies, and the related move towards seeing Shakespeare as an author deeply engaged with religious matters, is powerfully exemplified in these pages.” — Alison E. M. Shell, University College London


“Like Beatrice Groves in Texts and Traditions, the contributors argue that nailing down Shakespeare’s confessional identity is neither possible nor, in the end, productive. Instead, the collection divides between various historicisms and more ‘universal’ readings, many of them inspired by phenomenology, that address the functions of religion—including the term ‘religion’ itself—in Shakespeare and their fruitfulness for thinking about 21st-century religious culture.” — Choice

“The essays included in this volume reflect theoretical sophistication and serious critical and scholarly engagement, and they reveal the wide spectrum of ideas and approaches prevalent in the turn to religion in Shakespeare criticism.” — Huntington Library Quarterly

“The essays in Shakespeare and Religion are admirably eclectic, both in their methodology and in their engagement with the plays and their historical context. They range from Hannibal Hamlin’s exhaustive historical discussion of the Book of Job in early modern English theological discourse and in King Lear to Julia Reinhard Lupton’s phenomenological treatment of the same Biblical allusions in Lear, Timon, Merchant of Venice and Othello, this time drawing on the philosophical work of Maurice Merleau-Ponty.” — Literature and History

“Shakespeare and Religion bridges a gap within Shakespeare studies by bringing under one cover early modern and postmodern perspectives on religious experience. Its hybrid vision pushes beyond the binaries of entrenched doctrinal and scholarly positions to show that the search for community is a past and present concern, a particular and universal quest.” — Renaissance Quarterly

“These discussions are impressive and valuable in that they range over a variety of different religious perspectives from the Catholic to the Calvinist and they lead to the conclusion that in his plays Shakespeare reflected a substantial accumulation of contemporary religious problems. The essays promote the view that there are many skeptical elements in Shakespeare’s religious position but that he did not come down firmly in support of a particular stance.” — Ecclesiastical History

“Any scholar interested in Shakespeare, or religion, or both will find an essay or ten to pique her interest in this collection. I recommend treating this volume as an Advent calendar, devoting time to slowly savor each critical treat on its own rather than devouring it all at once. The most engrossing moments in the collection occur when, as in transubstantiation, the historical, material aspects meet spiritual, theological matters and when we can see both strands of thought functioning dialectically.” — Sixteenth Century Journal