Friday, July 24, 2009

Godless Shakespeare

Ok, well, I’ve heard it debated about whether Shakespeare was gay, and whether he was Catholic, but whether he was atheist is a new one on me.

Sorry, wait, got to get the terminology right:

The Bard can't be said to be an atheist but he comes across in his plays as "skeptical to negative" about religion and gives many clues that he's not inhospitable to the supernatural — demons, ghosts, uncanny things that can't be explained by science, even today."

Aren’t these two things somewhat incompatible?  He’s skeptical-to-negative about religion, but not inhospitable to ghosts?  What exactly does that mean?  Wouldn’t any support of ghosts imply an inherent soul/afterlife belief as well?  Hamlet and Brutus don’t just claim to believe in ghosts, ghosts actually show up on stage.  But I suppose the argument then is “Shakespeare was just giving the audience what he knew *they* believed in, it still doesn’t show his own personal beliefs.”

I think, and I’m at work so it’s always hard to fully digest these articles on a quick scan, that they’re arguing not so much a “no religion” point, but rather a “Shakespeare like other great thinkers wasn’t in such a hurry to just mindlessly offer it all up to God like he was supposed to according to popular culture.”

[UPDATE : I wonder if issues like these bring the Authorship folks together?  “Ok, Oxford wrote Shakespeare’s plays…but he was not a gay atheist!”]


Christopher said...

"Methinks sometimes I have no more wit than a Christian..."

YLS said...

I just heard from Ira Zinman whose book Shakespeare and the Bible will be out soon here:

He reminded me of what Helen Vendler in her book the art of the sonnets said that the sonnets are the last piece of text of shakespeare's to be thoroughly studied.

Indeed normally people know a few and that's it. Or they've been mined as fodder for the authorship connection.

Plus here is a review of a good book called Godless Shakespeare.

it's part of triptych of books designed to bridge the gap between scholar and interested layperson. here's a link to a blog i did on one of them, Shakespeare's thinking:

ok now i've linked 3 things in this comment one to my own blog. is that cool? is there a blogiquette that covers this area?