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The Gospel according to Shakespeare

Piero Boitani

Publication Year: 2013

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.

Published by: University of Notre Dame Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

Note on the Texts

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pp. ix-x

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Preface to the American Edition

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pp. xi-xiv

For several years i had been thinking of writing a small book with a title like the present one and had indeed written various pieces that dealt with these themes. Confronting Shakespeare, and his last plays in particular, is almost impossible, and to couple him with the Gospels and with the whole of Scripture is definitely foolhardy. Yet they are ...

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pp. 1-8

Shakespeare’s romances bring good news, and they do so in a most immediate sense, as they all have a happy ending. these late plays constitute his good news, his Gospel. although Shakespeare has constantly in mind the Christian Gospels, he composes, as the supreme and free playwright that he is, a testament (these are his last works)1 that is truly ...

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Chapter 1: Amen for the Fall of a Sparrow

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pp. 9-24

What happens to Hamlet during the voyage that should bring him from Denmark to England but then leads him home? What—I ask specifically—happens to him on a psychological, mental, and moral level? What happens to his inner self, his way of thinking? Because, more or less, we know what happens materially. His uncle Claudius— brother of Hamlet’s father, usurper of his throne and too-soon husband...

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Chapter 2: God’s Spies

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pp. 25-40

Lear is Job and the Christ in whom, in the New Testament, the character of Job finds its figural fulfillment. The Book of Job is, among all the books of the Hebrew Bible—what Christians call the Old Testament— that which has most scandalized the Western mind. There is nothing as extreme in Greek tragedy, with the exception, perhaps, of Sophocles’ ...

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Chapter 3: Music of the Spheres

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pp. 41-56

Pericles opens under the dark shadow of incest, and with an escape. the prince of Tyre’s misfortunes begin when he goes to Antioch to try to win the hand of king Antiochus’ daughter by solving a riddle. if he does not succeed, he will be condemned to death. however, realizing the dreadful secret of the incest between father and daughter, Pericles ...

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Chapter 4: Divineness

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pp. 57-74

In Cymbeline, Shakespeare performs a series of extraordinary theatrical experiments, combining and juxtaposing genres: history, love story, the tragedy of jealousy, and pastoral elegy. Here too, however, the action is dominated by death and ends in rebirth, in recognition, and in the reconstitution of philia—of affections and of love. On its primary level...

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Chapter 5: Resurrection

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pp. 75-88

The Winter’s Tale is governed by an unstoppable imagination, which seems to mock any kind of coherence, be it spatial, chronological, mythical, or even fantastic. Bohemia is on the coast, and on its shores there lurks a murderous bear, which the audience sees on stage. the time in which the play is set is that of classical antiquity, and a...

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Chapter 6: Epiphany

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pp. 89-124

The Tempest brings unusual and complex Good news. in this multi-form, metamorphic, and ungraspable play, in which Shakespeare’s fantasy moves freely in many directions, there is both the telling of a human gospel and also the staging of something that possesses a sacred aura. Before claiming as much, however, we must read The Tempest at-...

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pp. 125-132

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that i do not know whether Shakespeare believed, in his most intimate self, in the immortality of the soul or in the resurrection of the flesh. he does, however, make flesh resurrect here, now, before our very eyes, in ...


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pp. 133-138

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 139-146


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pp. 147-156

Back Cover

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p. 172-172

E-ISBN-13: 9780268075682
E-ISBN-10: 0268075689
Print-ISBN-13: 9780268022358
Print-ISBN-10: 0268022356

Page Count: 152
Illustrations: NA
Publication Year: 2013