Translated by Vittorio Montemaggi and Rachel Jacoff
In this slim, poetically powerful volume, Piero Boitani develops his earlier work in The Bible and Its Rewritings, focusing on Shakespeare’s “rescripturing” of the Gospels. Boitani persuasively urges that Shakespeare read the New Testament with great care and an overall sense of affirmation and participation, and that many of his plays constitute their own original testament, insofar as they translate the good news into human terms. In Hamlet and King Lear, he suggests, Shakespeare’s “New Testament” is merely hinted at, and faith, salvation, and peace are only glimpsed from far away. But in Pericles, Cymbeline, The Winter’s Tale, and The Tempest, the themes of compassion and forgiveness, transcendence, immanence, the role of the deity, resurrection, and epiphany are openly, if often obliquely, staged. The Christian Gospels and the Christian Bible are the signposts of this itinerary.
Originally published in 2009, Boitani’s Il Vangelo Secondo Shakespeare was awarded the 2010 De Sanctis Prize, a prestigious Italian literary award. Now available for the first time in an English translation, The Gospel according to Shakespeare brings to a broad scholarly and nonscholarly audience Boitani’s insights into the current themes dominating the study of Shakespeare’s literary theology. It will be of special interest to general readers interested in Shakespeare’s originality and religious perspective.
“This is an incredible book, written by one of the most learned and, at the same time, passionately elegant Italian scholars. I enjoyed reading it in Italian; it is a pleasure for eyes and soul to savor it in English. And you don’t need to be a theologian to appreciate it and keep it on your desk.” — Edmondo F. Lupieri, Loyola University, Chicago
“This volume displays to the full that unique combination of comprehensive reference and precise application that we have happily come to expect of Piero Boitani’s writings. There is, however, an especial urgency at work in these pages and a confidence not merely in the ways that theology can illuminate Shakespeare’s texts but also in the ways that Shakespeare’s plays can lead to a fresh understanding of what the Gospel is. The sheer energy of Boitani’s vision, argument and phrase (made accessible by an excellent translation) immediately engages the attention of the reader, who will surely return to Shakespeare’s original work with a sharpened appetite for its poetry as well as for its Christian meaning.” — Robin Kirkpatrick, University of Cambridge
“This brilliant beautiful book unfolds the unique theological vision of Shakespeare’s late plays. The gospel according to Shakespeare, the “good news” is immanent: on earth, in historical time, and achieved through the recognition of love. Boitani’s vision weaves Shakespeare’s imagery among the plays, the Bible, and the classics, producing a reading experience of such plenitude that it is akin to the world he describes." — Regina Schwartz, Northwestern University
“This is a passionate and insightful reading of Shakespeare’s late plays, beginning with Hamlet and culminating with The Tempest, by one of Italy’s leading literary scholars. Rather than engaging in extended critical debate with either prior theological visitors to Shakespeare or with the contemporary secular hegemony, Boitani embarks on a more personal and intimate reading of the plays that includes extensive retelling of their basic narratives with an eye to disclosing their gospel themes of love, hope, faith, charity, and rebirth. What makes the book distinctive is the voice of the author and the ‘lectura’ mode, which will garner a different, broader audience for this book than that achieved by scholars working similar terrain in a more academic mode.” — Julia Lupton, author of Thinking with Shakespeare: Essays on Politics and Life
“This English translation of the 2009 Italian edition broadens Boitani’s examination of the Christian themes found in Shakespeare’s later work. . . . This book is intended for a general audience and includes thorough plot summaries and many quotations from the plays. However, it is not an introductory text. Boitani’s study will be appreciated most by readers who are already familiar with the work discussed here.” — Library Journal
“This charming translation from the Italian edition . . . is an elegant, unabashed case for the overtly Christian elements of the plays, culminating in the argument that from Hamlet forward, Shakespeare consciously sought to develop his own gospel, using the Bible as ‘signpost.’ " Highly recommended. — Choice
“Piero Boitani, a professor of comparative literature who has written books on the Bible, Homer, Dante, Boccaccio and Chaucer, wants to persuade us that, from Hamlet’s return in the fifth act through King Lear to the four Romances, Shakespeare was ‘engaged in developing his own Gospel,’ parallel to the Gospels of the New Testament, but proposing a redemption that is this-worldly, however mysterious, and has to do with love, forgiveness and reconciliation.” — Times Literary Supplement
“Boitani is a highly regarded comparatist whose learned, lifelong work on Homer, the Scriptures, and Dante informs his intriguing new study of Shakespeare’s romances.” — Renaissance Quarterly
“A short and intriguing book, Piero Boitani’s The Gospel According to Shakespeare is written by a major scholar for everybody: for scholars, for non-scholars, for us all. . . . There really is a ‘Gospel according to Shakespeare’ in these six plays, and Boitani explains it with clarity and elegance.” — America
“In this wonderful, cultivated, even wise treatment of Shakespearean allusion to the Bible, Boitani retells the stories of six plays, commenting upon their gospel verbal echoes to show us a Shakespeare who, whatever his actual beliefs, casts his human actions with a divine, distinctly Christian light.” — Sixteenth Century Journal
“Sprinkled bountifully with terminology grounded in the conventions of classical rhetoric, Boitani’s book also ably demonstrates his knowledge of literary traditions and meaningful interpretive analysis, coupled with keenly observed overt and embedded scriptural references throughout the plays.” — Catholic Library World
“. . . [Boitani] produces pages full of insight.” — English Studies
“In The Gospel According to Shakespeare, Piero Boitani offers a close critical look at William Shakespeare’s ‘re-scripturing’ of the Gospels in his work. For Boitani, Shakespeare’s works are a meditation ‘on providence, on forgiveness, and on goodness and happiness’ and this is achieved ‘in Christian terms’… Boitani argues that Shakespeare, particularly in his plays after Hamlet, is engaged in creating his own Gospel.” — Parergon