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Religion Around Shakespeare

By Peter Iver Kaufman

Publication Year: 2013

For years scholars and others have been trying to out Shakespeare as an ardent Calvinist, a crypto-Catholic, a puritan-baiter, a secularist, or a devotee of some hybrid faith. In Religion Around Shakespeare, Peter Kaufman sets aside such speculation in favor of considering the historic and religious context surrounding his work. Employing extensive archival research, he aims to assist literary historians who probe the religious discourses, characters, and events that seem to have found places in Shakespeare’s plays and to aid general readers or playgoers developing an interest in the plays’ and playwright’s religious contexts: Catholic, conformist, and reformist. Kaufman argues that sermons preached around Shakespeare and conflicts that left their marks on literature, law, municipal chronicles, and vestry minutes enlivened the world in which (and with which) he worked and can enrich our understanding of the playwright and his work. Religion Around Shakespeare is the inaugural book in the Religion Around series. Books in this series examine the religious forces surrounding cultural icons from all facets of world history and contemporary culture. By bringing religious background into the foreground, these studies will help to give readers a more complex understanding and greater appreciation for individual subjects, their work, and their lasting influence.

Published by: Penn State University Press

Cover Front

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p. C-C

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-iv

Table of Contents

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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

Professors Darryl Gless, Norm Jones, and Richard Mallette read earlier drafts of the entire manuscript. Their kindness made me a more careful author; their criticism made this a better book. Parts of it profited from reviews and remarks by Kristin Bezio, Barbara Hanrahan, John Headley, Ritchie Kendall, Peter Lake, and Albert Rabil Jr. At Albion College, Samford University, the United States Military Academy at...

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pp. 1-6

I am not a literary historian, and what follows is not another interpretation of several of Shakespeare’s plays. For decades I have been studying the religious cultures of late Tudor and early Jacobean England, particularly what Alison Shell now calls the “fierce internal debate” that “beset” the established church, which was having problems...

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Chapter 1: Religion Around

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pp. 7-46

Historian Patrick Collinson suggests that “the succession was the question of questions” in late Tudor England, and I think he is quite right. For Shakespeare, who seems uninterested in the worship of— or administration of—churches around him, religion likely became newsworthy only when the whether and how of its survival in the ...

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Chapter 2: Around Shakespeare

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pp. 47-86

Identifying some of the religions around the realm—the last chapter’s task—was not at all as challenging as deciding which features of each likely surfaced in the conversations of ordinary yet alert subjects. Retrieving the religion around Shakespeare—this chapter’s assignment—would be easier if it were not so difficult to locate...

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pp. 87-88

The church got nothing in Shakespeare’s will; the academy has been a busy beneficiary. Historians have been left plenty of passages in the plays—characters and conflicts as well—that seem to be symptoms of or clues to the playwright’s piety. What Leah Marcus describes as “a fierce desire for decoding” the drama, which playgoers find forever...

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Chapter 3: Religious Authority

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pp. 89-122

Predictably, the “powder plot” got the government to tighten security. James’s English subjects, save the nobility, were required to swear an oath of allegiance to the new king’s regime—and the nobility’s exemption ended after Henry of Navarre, King Henry IV of France, was assassinated in 1610. Oath takers swore to “abhor, detest, and...

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Chapter 4: Religious Personality

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pp. 123-156

We have already come across Stephen Egerton preaching at Blackfriars. He was in that pulpit before Shakespeare came to London and still there in 1596 to oppose James Burbage’s plans to transform the great hall into a theater. He was preaching at Blackfriars when Shakespeare succeeded in 1608 where Burbage had failed. And, consistently,...

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Chapter 5: Religious Community

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pp. 157-186

Literary Historian Stephen Greenblatt recently time-traveled to the streets of London and conjured up an “unprecedented concentration of bodies jostling, crossing and recrossing the great bridge, pressing into taverns and theaters and churches.” He suggests that the clutter may be the “key to the whole spectacle” of crowds in Shakespeare’s...

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pp. 187-200

Archival excavations and speculation now tempt us to accept that Robert Devereux’s partisans commissioned the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, Shakespeare’s company, to perform his “great deposition play,” Richard II, early in 1601.1 Possibly, the idea was to get Londoners to acquiesce in a regime change, for Devereux, the Earl of Essex, was...


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pp. 201-222


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pp. 223-245


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pp. 246-256

Cover Back

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p. BC-BC

E-ISBN-13: 9780271060996
Print-ISBN-13: 9780271061818
Print-ISBN-10: 0271061812

Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 2013