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288 CHRISTIANITY AND LITERATURE TheGospelAccordingto Shakespeare.ByPieroBoitani. Trans.Vittorio Montemaggi and Rachel Iacoff Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2013. ISBN 978-0-268-02235-8. Pp. xiii + 156. $27.00. Piero Boitani's study of Hamlet, King Lear, and the four late romances is a beautiful work ofliterarycriticism. Thelearning isprodigious, the prose elegant,and the insights thought-provoking and memorable. Boitani focuses on Shakespeare's Christian themes as developed in these plays; on characters who seem to be modeled on biblical figures, including Job,Christ, and God; and on biblical echoes in wording and in idea. The study leaves the reader with new insights regarding Shakespeare's works, and, with its focus on the Gospel, or Good News that the incarnation brought, should be of major interest not only to readers of Christianity and Literature but also to readers in general. Boitani, an eminent Italian scholar and literary critic specializing in medieval literature, is Professor of Comparative Literature at the Sapienza University of Rome. Among his numerous books on Medieval literature and the classics are the Cambridge Chaucer Companion (1986), original essays by European and American scholars intended to introduce the reader to Chaucer's work, a collection which he edited with Jill Mann; and Medieval and Pseudo-Medieval Literature (1984), another series of essays by medieval scholars, though the subject matter is broader in including medieval European culture-this series edited with Anna Torti. In The Bible and its Rewritings (in Italian, 1997;trans. Anita Weston, 1999), Boitani anticipates The Gospel According to Shakespeare as he finds in Pericles' recognition of his daughter Marina a retelling of Mary Magdalene's recognition of the resurrected Jesus near the tomb in the Gospel of John. The Genius to Improve an Invention: Literary Transitions (1999 in Italian; 2002 in English) complements the previous Rewritings, continuing the theme of recognition in Shakespeare as it discusses Hamlet and KingLear. In 2002, Boitani was awarded the Feltrinelli Prize for Literary Criticism. Published in Italian in 2009, Il Vangelo Secondo Shakespeare was awarded the 2010 De Sanctis Prize for literature. In this study, Boitani shows an incredible grasp of classicalliterature, medieval literature, Renaissance literature, and the Bible as well as literary criticism, both major works of the past and contemporary theory. He argues that in Hamlet and KingLear the Christian message of "faith, salvation, and peace" is presented as if from a distance but that in the romances "the themes oftranscendence, immanence, the role of the deity, resurrection, and epiphany are openly, if often obliquely, staged" (xi). He relates the plays to Homer, Sophocles, Euripides, Plato, Aristotle, Parmenides, Gorgias, Virgil, Lucian, Marcus Aurelius, Dante, Appollonius, John Gower, and Christopher Marlowe (especiallyDoctorFaustus). The chapter on Hamlet focuses on the change in Hamlet after his return from the aborted voyage to England with the pirates. Before that voyage, he was BOOK REVIEWS 289 melancholy and indecisive, pretended to be mad, and failed to act; after Hamlet's return, the reader finds Shakespeare "meditating on providence, on forgiveness, and on goodness and happiness, and ... doing so in Christian terms" (2). Boitani points out that Hamlet's pivotal speech in Act 5, Scene 2, when he tells Horatio that God is concerned with the fall of a sparrow, is an allusion to Jesus' statement, "Arenot two sparrows sold for a penny? Yetnot one of them will fall to the ground unperceived by your Father:' When Hamlet continues that "the readiness is all:' he is referring to the Christian's trusting Providence as "there's a divinity that shapes our ends:' Boitani also notes that the "Let be" with which Hamlet ends the "readiness" speech means "amen" (20-21). The chapter on King Lear focuses on sacrifice, suffering, and purificationthemes developed further in the romances. Relating King Lear to Job and Christ, Boitani sees the playas exploring "the total gratuitousness of human suffering or of the existence of evil in the world" (25). Because of his folly at the beginning of the play,Lear becomes in the middle a victim of the tempest, both of Nature and of his own mind. Pointing out that Gloucester is symbolically resurrected after Edgar makes him believe he has fallen off a...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2056-5666
Print ISSN
0148-3331
Pages
pp. 288-291
Launched on MUSE
2020-02-04
Open Access
No
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